The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]
§ On Question, Whether the Title be postponed?
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
This Motion normally passes on the nod. However, Members of the Committee may believe that attention should be drawn to the fact that there is an amendment to the Title, which reverts to the earlier system whereby the Title was much shorter and indicated the purpose of the Bill. It was an aid to interpretation.
The new style is exemplified in this Bill and Members can compare the Title with the final amendment on the Marshalled List. It is the result of the draftsmen being instructed so to draw the Title as to limit as far as possible debate and amendment. The time to discuss the respective merits is not now but I thought that I should draw the Committee's attention to the amendment. So far as I can see, it will make no difference by way of limitation to any amendments which are tabled or likely to be tabled. Therefore, the Committee may well believe that the usual practice of postponing the Title is in every way apt today.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has discovered an ingenious device whereby he has been able to refer to his amendment, which is the last on the Marshalled List, before we have 11 reached the first amendment. I shall take note of what he said but if he believes that the matter is worth pursuing it may be best pursued via the Procedure Committee.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Clause 1 [Secure training orders]:
§ Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 3, line 14, at end insert:
("( ) When sentencing a young person to a secure training order under this section, the court shall take into account the distance from the child's home to the secure training centre; and the time that the child may have to wait before a suitable place in a secure training centre is available.").
§ The noble Lord said: I must say first that there is a strong need for secure training orders for the small number of young offenders who have a history of persistent offending and a failure to respond to community sentences. Clause 1 as it stands deserves and needs to be in the Bill. I shall expound on that more fully when we deal with the next item on the Marshalled List.
§ However, if the order is to be effective links must be maintained with the young person's family and the community to which he will return and in which he will serve the non-custodial element of the sentence. Continuity between community and institution and institution and community is vital. As I indicated on Second Reading, it is difficult to see how that can be achieved if only a small number of units are to be established to cover the whole country. If it is accepted that a very small number of offenders will receive a secure training order, there are unlikely to be many such centres throughout the country. It is not unrealistic to anticipate that a young person might be detained far away from home, with the severance of family and community ties and consequent bad effects on the family unit. Placement could be many miles from the offender's home and at a location not easily accessible other than by private transport. On Second Reading, I gave an example of a centre at Bristol for offenders from the Isle of Wight. I believe that the nearest centre will in fact be just about as difficult.
§ A difficult and expensive journey may well militate against even the most concerned parents and family members undertaking a visit. For the offender, receiving no visits may be seen as a rejection by the family. Significant travelling time may also present difficulties for the post-release supervision committee to attend appointments at the secure training centre and in the community with the offender's family, the receiving educational establishment and other agencies, organisa-tions and individuals. The complications are quite considerable.
§ Achieving a successful return to the community is facilitated if, during his stay at the centre, the offender maintains his links with his family, develops a constructive relationship with his post-release super-visor and is confident that plans are in place for the provision of education, training and job opportunities on his return home.
§ The first part of my amendment calls upon the court to take account of the distance and there may of course be examples where the particular kind of offender whom I described in my opening remarks still has to go to a 12 secure training centre. If that is so, so be it; but at least the court must know what it is doing. It is important that that should be in the Bill because it is a very important facet of what Clause 1 needs to contain to complement the basic setting-up instructions which are in the subsections.
§ The second point with which my amendment deals is the time for which a child may have to wait until a suitable place in a centre is available. Delay between a court making a secure training order and placement in a secure training centre leaves the offender unsure as to his immediate future. Late entry to the centre may result in the offender's assessment not being completed until well into the life of the order and thus will delay the meeting of his needs identified in the assessment by means of a training plan. Educational and vocational training plus addressing offending behaviour are key components of such a plan and need to be operative at the earliest opportunity in order to achieve the greatest benefit for the offender during his period of detention under the order.
§ I believe that the amendment is an important supplement to the current provisions of Clause 1 and I hope that the Minister will be able to give me some encouragement when he replies. I beg to move.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
Before my noble friend replies, perhaps he would consider these points. Obviously, the two factors which my noble friend mentioned are both important and relevant to a sentence of this kind. However, I cannot imagine a court not taking those factors into account, even if the Bill did not make such a provision. It is possible for the court to take them into account, although there is no obligation upon it to do so. If by any possible chance a court so forgot its duty to the offender or to the public that it did not take them into account, then that would certainly be the subject of a successful appeal.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
Like my noble friend Lord Mottistone and, I am sure, my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham, I strongly favour what is proposed in Clause 1. But I must confess that I have some doubts as to whether it is really desirable to place these two obligations upon the court. I am not quite sure that it is realistic to do so and I say that because the distances between the home of the offender and the nearest secure training centre to which the offender may be sent will vary enormously. Sometimes they will be quite close. My noble friend Lord Mottistone has very appropriately mentioned the distance between Bristol and the Isle of Wight. But that will be inevitable if we are to have five secure training centres for a very limited number of persistent juvenile offenders. That is unavoidable.
However, I think that for the court to have to refrain from making the appropriate order simply because of the distance may be defeating what those of us who believe in Clause 1 have in mind. Also, one should bear in mind that families vary enormously. Some parents will have done nothing whatever to deter their children from becoming persistent offenders. For the court to 13 say, "Oh, we must make sure that that family keeps in touch with the child", may not be the best thing in the child's interests or in the public interest.
There is a further point about the time factor. Of course, experience in the past showed that sometimes people sentenced to detention in detention centres had to wait in police custody until there was a vacancy. But that did not happen very often and, within my recollection, the waiting time was little more than a few days. But I suggest that if the Government are to have a system of this kind, they must make sure that they have available enough places in these secure training centres so that the courts do not have to wait. If the centres become rather full, then the Government must make more places available; and that could be done. Therefore, with deep respect to my noble friend Lord Mottistone, I have some doubts as to the practicability of the amendment.
§ Lord Avebury
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, referred to a young person being sentenced to be detained in Bristol when his parental home is on the Isle of Wight. That prompts me to ask the Minister whether he can give more detail about where the secure units are going to be located. In the various briefings that I have received, I have noticed only one reference to a centre in Oxfordshire which is supposed to cater for children from all over the South West. That creates obvious difficulties. For example, if the parental home is in Penzance, the parents would have to travel all the way from Penzance to London; they would have to cross from Waterloo Station to Paddington; they would then have to take another train to Oxford; and then they may have to take private transport from Oxford to wherever the home is located in the county.
Therefore, it is not merely a question of distance but also a question of convenience. If parents have to make a number of changes throughout their journey, that will necessarily lengthen it, and may lengthen it even to the point at which it is not possible to get there and back in one day. In that case, parents would face the additional burden of hotel costs. While the Secretary of State has said that he will frequently pay the fare for the next of kin to visit their children in the secure units as often as possible, I am not sure that that commitment would include the cost of overnight accommodation in a hotel. That may be necessary and I ask the Minister to consider that.
That is a consequence of the fact that there are to be only five units. I am afraid that there is nothing that the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, or the courts can do about that. If the court in Penzance is told that it must take account of the fact that it would take eight hours for the parents to visit their child in an Oxfordshire secure training unit and eight hours to get back, but the court nevertheless believes that the child merits that sentence, all the court can say is that it is too bad that it involves 16 hours of travelling. The number of times that parents are likely to visit their children under such circumstances is very small. I think it was New Approaches to Juvenile Crime which pointed out that, in many of the cases at which we are looking, the parents concerned will not be husband and wife visiting their 14 son: it will be a single parent possibly with several other children who will all have to be taken on the visit. That will be so inconvenient as to make it inconceivable that many visits will be made to the child in the secure training unit, even if the Home Secretary pays the bill each time.
If we accept the Government's proposals, we must recognise that the child will be isolated without family contact, which most people agree is an essential part of any form of rehabilitation. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that in some cases parents will not have done anything to deter the child from leading a criminal way of life. But that does not mean that it is always a good idea to deprive the child of parental contact. Indeed, it may be a stabilising force in the young person's development if he has continuing links with his family home, even if his parents are not doing anything positive to make him adopt a better way of life.
While I have every sympathy with the idea behind the amendment, I want parents to have continued contact with children. Everyone, including the Prime: Minister, has said that that is an essential ingredient in the pattern of training for any young person. Having decided on five secure units and no more, I do not think that there is anything we can do to alter the fact that those contacts will be intermittent or non-existent.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
With respect to my noble friend, perhaps I may briefly question whether such amendments are necessary or appropriate for the reasons given by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham. Surely, in any sentencing procedure the two elements correctly set out are wholly implicit. Indeed, I cannot imagine a magistrate, a recorder or a judge failing to take those elements into account.
§ Lord Elton
My noble friend's amendment: addresses two issues; first, the distance apart of the: proposed units, and, secondly, the possibility of delay in a place becoming available when a particular child has; been sentenced to attend one of them. As to the distance: apart, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, spoke as though that was on the face of the statute. Of course, it is not. It is in the literature handed out by the Home Office and the correspondence of the Home Secretary from which it emerges that there are to be five such centres. If, on that basis, you divide the British Isles into suitable chunks, you finish up with very large distances. However, as I said, that is not on the face of the Bill and it cannot be tackled by amendment. I suggest to the Committee that the whole Bill must be judged in the context of what the Government propose to do with it. As we understand it, there are to be five such units; there: will necessarily be lengthy journeys; and if there are only 200 places, there may or may not be lengthy delays.
As to delay, there is an additional factor that Members of the Committee should bear in mind. Following recent developments in the courts, I gather that what is said in Hansard is relevant. It is therefore worth bringing that to the attention of the Committee, even though, as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway said, much is implicit and need not be put on the face of the Bill. In their defence of what they now 15 propose, the Government have relied fairly heavily recently on a publication of the Policy Studies Institute called The Persistent Young Offender which describes in detail some of the children who are expected to fall into that net. One point that has arisen in respect of all of them—or, at least, with a great many of them—is that the period of persistent offending is apt to be very short. At page 123, the document goes as far as saying that,given the length of sentence, it is likely that some of the offenders may have ceased being persistent by the time they reach court".I merely ask that that should be placed on the record so that the sentencers may see that the creature who was captured is not the creature they are sentencing.
§ Lord Gisborough
I am surprised to hear that the courts will necessarily know and will be able to direct where such youngsters should go. I believe that it should be up to the Home Secretary to make that decision. Moreover, as there are to be only five units some may well be full. Therefore, it is possible that youngsters will be sent to units which are far away. That draws attention to something which will arise again; namely, the greater need to ensure that secure accommodation provided by local authorities is jacked up so that it can be a solution on the doorstep. The matter is raised in the next amendment. There is no doubting the fact that all authorities, especially those with experience, say that, where appropriate, parental contact is desirable and that contact with local social workers is essential.
§ 3.30 p.m.
I understand the purpose of my noble friend's amendment. My noble friend considers that family and community ties are important—I believe that we are all agreed on that—and that they will be stretched. My noble friend Lord Renton said that some families may be of no help. He is probably correct in that assumption. If young offenders go to such secure training centres because of the offences they have committed, one could argue that their families did not prove to be much help to them when they were close by. However, that does not mean to say that we should not do everything possible to encourage such family ties when the young offenders are in such centres.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, pointed out that a person may spend eight hours travelling from Penzance to Oxford followed by another eight hours on the return journey and that a single parent might have to take along all the other children on such a visit, thus causing considerable upheaval. I do not deny that. Indeed, we are providing a generous scheme under which the costs of visits by parents and relatives can be assisted by way of public funds. That will be a great assistance.
§ With regard to the two points behind my noble friend's amendment—
§ Lord Avebury
I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but when I spoke about journeys lasting as long as eight hours I asked whether the Government would pay the hotel costs of the single mother and her five other children.
The noble Lord is stretching a point a great deal. The details of exactly what costs are to be allowed are yet to be calculated. I certainly take on board the noble Lord's suggestion, but I cannot guarantee that I will accede to it in the way that he may wish.
I return to the two points behind the amendment. First, there is the distance between the parental home and the secure training centre to which the young offender may be sent; and, secondly, there is the possible time that the offender may have to wait before a place in a secure training centre becomes available. I agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham and my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. I do not believe that the latter are points which it would be appropriate for the courts to be required specifically to take into account in every case when they are deciding whether or not to make a secure training order.
With regard to the distance from home, as I said, we have been prepared to support families in their visits. We propose to create five regional secure training centres to cover England and Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, wishes to know where they will be situated. One is to be at Campsfield House in Oxfordshire, another at Gringley in Nottinghamshire and another at Medomsley in County Durham. A fourth is to be situated at Onley in Warwickshire. A decision regarding the whereabouts of the fifth, which will serve London and the South East, has yet to be taken.
The purpose is to ensure that each centre is of a size adequate enough to allow a comprehensive regime with sufficient resources and facilities to enable an individual's educational and training needs to be met. We have to balance the need to set up establishments of a reasonable size with the desirability of keeping young offenders as close to their home areas as possible. The secure training order is a sentence which will be used sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances. A court will not pass the sentence unless it is of the opinion that the offending by the juvenile has been so serious that only his removal to a secure training centre, where his needs can be addressed, will give the public a respite from his offending. When the courts have reached this view, it really does not seem right for them to be required to take into account the fact that a youngster may be sent to a place which happens to be several miles from home. I agree with my noble friend Lord Renton that it would not be right to prevent a secure training order from being passed just because of considerations of distance.
What a court would be invited by this amendment to do would be in effect to say, "Yes, this is a case in which the offending is so serious that only a secure training order is justified, but no—because of the distance of the secure training centre we will not make the order". I really think that would be a fairly strange position in which to put a court. What sort of distance from home might a court consider unacceptable? Would it be 10, 50, 100 or 150 miles? The scope for inconsistency and for subsequent appeals would be endless.
The second part of the amendment deals with a situation which arises when a place in a secure training centre is not available. Clause 2 of the Bill gives the 17 courts the power to commit an offender to alternative accommodation which can be specified by the Secretary of State. The Government hope that there will be little need to resort to these powers, but we think that it is only prudent to have a position to fall back on if, from time to time, the supply of secure training places is temporarily outstripped by the demand for them.
I agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham. I do not think it is sensible to require the courts to take into account the likely length of time during which an offender might have to wait before a secure training centre place becomes available before they determine whether such a sentence is appropriate in the first place. The role of the court is to pass the appropriate sentences, and the role of the Government is to ensure that facilities exist where they may best be served.
Courts have a power to mitigate an offender's sentence by taking into account any such matters which, in their opinion, may be relevant in mitigation. There is, of course, nothing to prevent the courts from considering whether the distance between the child's home and the secure training centre, or the length of time before a secure training centre place becomes available, are relevant factors in any individual case. That is a matter for the courts. However, I really do not think it would be right for the law to require them to be taken into account. I hope my noble friend will agree that that would be right.
§ Lord Shepherd
If an order has been made in regard to a child being sent to one of these places, but there is not a place available, where does that child stay until a place has been found, or, if there are no places—I understand that courts have had difficulties in this area as regards other children under other legislation—can a court say, "We will look at the matter again"? In which case, who brings the matter back to the court for further consideration if a place is not readily available?
Before sentencing a child, a court will take into account all the circumstances. If it is shown that there are no available places in the secure training centres, it will be possible for the court to send the child to another place which has the approval of the Secretary of State. That is in the Bill.
§ Lord Elton
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked a question which has only been partially answered. To what sort of place is the Secretary of State minded to direct that a court may send the child?
The sort of place where the child will be secure from his previous practices of getting out and into contact with the public.
Not for choice. It may be a place run by a charity or it may be a place run by a local authority, or it may be a place registered by the Home Secretary. All these places are possibilities but I have explained that it is not expected that more than 200 places will be 18 required. However, if more places are required, there are arrangements in the Bill to allow the Secretary of State to approve such places.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The Minister has been less than complete in his listing of the places which might be used. In the debate on Clause 2 in another place the Government specifically, and almost violently, resisted the suggestion that places in the prison service or in police detention should be excluded as temporary reception areas. If the list which the Minister has just given is the correct one, I hope that he will agree with Amendments Nos. 2 and 4, which we shall deal with later.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, always tries to make a crafty point. I was asked what sort of place we were talking about and I told the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, what sort of place we were talking about. I was not asked to give an exclusive list.
§ Lord Avebury
I am sorry to intervene again but I wish to clarify a point. The Minister said that the courts would know what places were available when they passed sentence. I want to imagine the case where the training centre which was appropriate to the location of the offence was full up and the court had to envisage: using another training centre. For example, if the: offender in question comes from Ramsgate, he would normally be located in the training centre which is; supposed to cater for the South East. However, if that particular centre were full, would the court know that the place to which the child would be sent would be County Durham, for example?
I ask that question because the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, might like to reflect on the difficulties for travel that that sort of journey would create. Of course one is thinking about the extreme cases but that is what: legislation is all about. We are not considering the normal circumstances where, as the Minister says, there would be adequate accommodation in each of the five centres and the number of offenders in each of the regions would accurately match the provision which had been made in that region. We are thinking about the exceptional circumstances where a centre in one particular region is full up and another has places to spare. As the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is well aware, this happens all the time in the prison system. Prisoners are not able to be allocated a place in a prison which is near their home and which therefore enables their relatives to visit them without inconvenience. We must envisage that the same thing will happen as regards the children we are discussing, particularly when there are only five establishments in England and Wales. What I would like to be sure of is that when the courts pass sentence they will be aware of which particular training centre the child in question will be sent to.
§ Baroness Faithfull
I do not wish to stray into the next amendment, but unfortunately these two amend-ments come close together. Even if the secure training units are set up, there will still be secure places run by local authorities. Therefore if it is not possible to gel: a child into a secure training centre—I disagree with that, but let us suppose that that were the case—local 19 authorities run good, secure centres which would be near the home of the child in question and where there would probably be vacancies.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Faithfull. She is, of course, perfectly right. I shall reply to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. When a person is going to be sentenced to a secure training order the chances are that the court will apprise itself of the position. I find it difficult to believe that a court would say, "That person will be sentenced to a secure training order" without it realising that all the secure training units in the country may be full up. Of course the court will discover that. It may be an option to send a child up to County Durham, or wherever it may be. That would be one of the reasons that the court may take into account in deciding whether or not to impose a secure training order as a sentence.
On the other hand the court may say, "Let us send this individual to a local authority secure accommoda-tion unit". The court could do that. It has a variety of different options. I understand the anxiety of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, to find out exactly what will happen but this will be a matter for the courts to decide. There will be secure training centres. Obviously a court will send a child to the one that is nearest to his home. It may be that it would have to be further afield, or it may be decided to send the child to local authority secure accommodation, or any of the other alternatives I have suggested.
§ Lord Mottistone
I thank my noble friend and other Members of the Committee who have contributed to this short debate for expanding so well on the problem. I shall read carefully in Hansard what has been said before deciding what to do at a later stage. At this point I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Baroness Faithfull
I rise to move that Clause 1 be deleted from the Bill which is before us today. As is known to the Committee, and has already been stated, Clause 1 recommends the setting up of five secure training units for children aged between 12 and 14. It is understood that they will be built on prison service land, and the locations of four of the units have been announced. My noble friend the Minister indicated where these would be. We understand that they will be run by a private sector firm, at a cost of £30 million a year for the next five years.
The Government tell us that the secure training order is intended for highly persistent young offenders, yet the Bill states that a child who has committed just three offences will be eligible for a secure training order. The children concerned will be those who have committed three or more offences.
Children who have committed serious offences such as murder can, of course, be sent by the court to one of the three treatment centres run by the Department of Health. We must applaud my noble friend the Minister 20 and his right honourable friend the Home Secretary for seeking to deal with the comparatively few offenders who commit breaking and entering offences and who damage cars and, as such, are an irritant to the public and to the police. We have sympathy with the police in dealing with such offenders. We have sympathy with the victims of such crimes. As one who has had her car stolen and the family silver taken, I feel for the victims. I am one. But to appease such victims it is proposed to set up secure training units which we believe will prove to be ineffective and in many cases may be the forerunner of a prison career.
Briefly, my reasons for opposing the clause are as follows. First, research carried out by the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Dartington social research department and criminology departments at many universities shows that incarcerating children far from their homes has proved to be ineffective. The approved schools and detention centres were closed because research showed that 75 per cent. of children re-offended within two years. There is no reason to believe that the new centres will succeed where similar institutions have failed and as a result have been closed.
On 2nd March 1993, Mr. Clarke, then Home Secretary, said that the secure training centres will be different from any other provision that has ever been made before. How different? For one thing, they will be within the orbit of a prison. They will be much worse. I cannot see that they can be much better.
Secondly, the secure training units will be far from the homes of the children. As has been said, a family in Plymouth or Penzance will have to travel to Oxford. During the previous debate parents were mentioned. Many of these parents find their children difficult to handle. Many are themselves inadequate. The parents need help as much as the children. If you are to help the children you have to help the parents. It is a dual role. If they are separated and parents are a long way from where their children are you cannot help them. Further, the Children Act 1989 provides that parents must be responsible for their children. Therefore, when working with the children we must also work with their parents. That is possible. It has been done and is being done.
Thirdly, children who lose contact with their families are those who on discharge tend to become homeless, meet up with a gang and re-offend. Moreover, research into suicides by young people in the prison system has shown that a frequent cause is depression, aggravated by lack of contact with the family.
Fourthly, will the private sector—for instance, Group 4 if that is the company which is to undertake this work —attract staff with training in and experience of the type of children they will have to deal with?
Fifthly, who will be responsible for the aftercare of such children? If it is to be carried out by the private sector, staff will not know or have working relationships with the schools, clubs, doctors and community in the area to which a child will return.
What, then, is recommended in place of the secure training order? We all agree that some children have to be held in secure accommodation. I hope that that is fully recognised. Secure accommodation must be available to the courts. Under the Children Act and the 21 Children and Young Persons' Act there is already a local authority structure under the umbrella of the Department of Health. There are in place 270 secure local authority units. The Secretary of State for Health has provided financial aid for 170 more places. There will therefore be two parallel services run by two government departments dealing with the same group of children. It is true that in the early 1980s some local authorities did not or would not set up secure units, in some cases on principle but in the main because of a lack of resources. How often do we cut back on current expenditure only to spend more in the long run?
We now have the assurance of the Association of Directors of Social Services and the British Association of Social Workers that their departments are committed to running and setting up local secure units and will work to integrate children back into their communities.
Sixthly, the Home Secretary has laid emphasis on education. I am not an educationalist. The noble Baroness, Lady David, will deal with that aspect, which is much better known to her than to me.
I wonder whether the Home Secretary's figure of 200 is correct. Until the passing of the Education Act 1994 the non-school attendance rate and exclusions from school were high. Under the 1994 Act teachers are enjoined to provide a service for non-school attendance and children excluded from school. Research on the Staffordshire truancy initiative showed that juvenile arrests dropped from 72 in 1992 to 37 in 1993. That means that many offences, although not all, are carried out during school hours by children who are not attending school.
I called at a secure unit recently where I spoke to a child of 12. I asked, "What are you here for?" He said, "I did breaking and entering jobs. I did 35 of them and I got caught on the 36th". I said that that was careless. I asked him what he stole. He said that he stole radios and such things and then sold them. I said, "Did you get a good price?" "Very good", he said. He was aged 12. He will go far. I asked, "What did you do with the money?" He replied, "I smoke". I said, "But you're only 12", and he said, "Yes, I know, but I like smoking". I asked him how long he had not been going to school because he had said to me, "If you behave badly and are really nasty to the teachers they push you out, so I behaved badly and I'm really nasty". He knew exactly what he was doing. He had therefore been excluded from school.
Before the latest education Act, children had to have only five hours' schooling a week. They were given three hours in one church school one morning and two hours in another; and then they were free. It was while they were free that they carried out most of their jobs. He said to me, "You always do your jobs then because all the ladies are out shopping and all the children are at school, and so are the teachers. So you can always break and enter". When the new education Act comes into force, those children will be dealt with in special units within the schools. The research from Staffordshire, which now has units in the schools, indicates that the numbers have dropped considerably.
There are innumerable schemes in the country which if developed would diminish juvenile crime. Instead, 22 those services are being cut back. Resources for the youth services and many other such schemes run by the voluntary sector are being cut back. My noble friend Lord Elton will speak on the success of community-based, supervised projects, which will prove effective but which, I think he will probably agree, also require resources.
Many noble Lords had wished to take part in the debate last Thursday, in particular my noble friend Lord Peyton. He wishes the Committee to know how worried he is about the £30 million being spent in this way when it could be spent in more profitable ways. I am not soft on crime. I do not believe that a crime can ever be excused. To excuse a man, woman or child is to diminish that person. But children require love and affection to enable them to feel for others and experience self-esteem. They should be given a structure and security and discipline.
The rights of the child have been underlined due in part to such episodes as were dealt with by Lady Justice Butler-Sloss in Cleveland and the other in Orkney. It is surely right that we recognise the rights of the child but we should also recognise that they carry responsibilities. I strongly support the argument that local authorities should continue to run secure units. I therefore say to my noble friend Lord Mottistone that if local authorities continue to act as at present, and have the money to spend, then the children will be near their parents and their homes and will be able to be reintegrated into their communities.
Finally, I recommend an overall inquiry involving the Home Office, the Department for Education, the: Department of Health and the voluntary sector. Discussions should take place and a report should be made to Parliament. I further recommend that in each local authority a panel should be set up to co-operate in the prevention of juvenile crime in the area. Early detection of children in trouble is essential. The Home Secretary is to be congratulated on achieving a grant of £30 million from the Treasury. But surely that money, which is to be spent on a hundred children, should be used to develop the service already in place in local authorities and could be used in ways which would go a long way towards diminishing and dealing with juvenile crime.
§ The Lord Bishop of Southwark
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln had hoped to speak in support of the amendment but the debate had to be postponed last Thursday and he is prevented from being here today. As duty bishop, the lot falls to me, although I wish to assure the Committee that I speak with personal rather than vicarious conviction.
I find myself in the uncomfortable position of supporting an amendment to the very first clause of the criminal justice Bill. That might at first seem a little churlish and I am slightly embarrassed in doing so. However, I do so because I believe that, while there is much in the Bill which will be of value, there is enough in the first clause to give me considerable cause for concern.
None of us would deny for one moment that for the seriously persistent offender tough measures need to be 23 taken. However, one of my concerns is that a vast amount of money will be needed to fund the secure training centres referred to in the Bill—a figure of £30 million a year has already been referred to—yet only a small number of offenders, 200, will be affected. I have to ask myself whether there is not a better way for those resources to be spent. By having only five centres throughout the country, children as young as 12 will almost certainly be kept at a considerable distance from their families, even if, as I believe will be the case, funds will be made available to pay the fares of relatives.
The circumstances of many families will be such that a long and complicated journey by public transport will not be undertaken on a weekly basis; and yet it is those very people who will be the main influences on the lives of the young people concerned when they are released into the community. Rather than spending vast amounts of money on a small number of centres, surely the focus must be to care for and rehabilitate the young offender in the community from which he or she comes.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln chaired a meeting in this House only a few weeks ago to enable some of your Lordships to meet the families of the boys who had tragically hanged themselves while in custody. Many of those families were under no illusions about the problems of rehabilitating their children into the community and were working with the professionals to help reform the children's characters. Those children who had taken their lives were for the most part driven to suicide by loneliness and separation from their families or had been so bullied by older boys that their lives had become intolerable.
Since 1989, 34 boys have taken their lives while in custody. That is a shocking figure and underlines the seriousness of separating the offender from the very support system—families and local probation officers —which could prove so vital at that stage. While there is a small number of boys who are convicted repeatedly of serious offences, the problem must be kept in perspective and constructive ways must be found to deter re-offending and to re-channel energies. Thirty-four deaths seems a high price to pay.
I find it disturbing that there is no hard evidence that confinement such as is proposed will actually work. Many alternative and successful facilities and premises which helped those young boys in their local surroundings have had to be closed for lack of funds. How much better it would be if that £30 million a year were put towards improving the local facilities, with sufficient secure accommodation on a local basis, and with more imaginative programmes aimed at prevention put in place. Children who offend persistently are often damaged emotionally, abused physically and limited intellectually. They need care and assistance, as well as strict supervision. Where there are families to whom the children will return, work needs to be done to ensure that the families are enabled to provide the necessary support. That can best be done locally, and resources need to be directed towards providing a protected and positive environment.
I firmly believe that the maintenance of the family links with the young offender are absolutely vital.
24 Secure training centres are strongly opposed by organisations actively working with young offenders. There is no hard evidence that the training centres will work and I believe that we need to find a better way.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
I should like to ask the Minister a few questions. The younger the offender is, the more difficult he or she is to organise; therefore, people skilled in child development are needed for their care. Will the staff wear prison uniforms? Who will be in charge of education? How much involvement will the probation service have? Who will be involved with the welfare of the children? Who will do the casework? Many of the children will have been abused and come from difficult families where alcohol and drugs are involved. Who will stop the bullying which, as we all know, is on the increase in normal schools? Will there be matrons? They are no longer employed in the young offender system.
If young children become part of the prison system at the ages of 12 to 14, some will come out boasting about prison life and be even more of a menace to society than when they went in. Can the Minister give any assurance that that will not happen?
§ The Earl of Longford
I strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. She speaks with unique authority and experience about such matters. However, I have considerable second-hand experience, I have with me a book which I wrote and which was published last year. It is called: Young Offenders, and is available to any Members of the Committee who wish to borrow it or spend the money on buying it. It may be seen from the book that I have visited most of the institutions that we have been discussing today. I have taken evidence from leading Members of this House, including the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, herself. So I speak with far-reaching second-hand experience.
I entirely agree that to place those children under the Home Office, bringing them into the penal system and making them young criminals, is something to be regarded as a crime against humanity. I am not altogether opposed to taking young children away from home. That is what people who suggest that they should be placed in secure units are proposing. A secure unit is custody, it is taking the child away from home, we should not mince our words. However, I consider what the Government have in mind is—I was going to say "a wicked move", but one must never accuse political opponents of wickedness—gross folly.
Let us consider for a moment whether there is any positive way forward. For the purposes of the amendment, there are enough opponents of the Government's plan and I hope that it will be destroyed and forgotten as time goes on. However, we must ask whether there is a positive way forward. Personally, I believe that the answer lies in the direction indicated by the noble Baroness at the end of her speech when she talked about the need for a national inquiry. She proposed that the Department for Education, the Department of Health and the Home Office should 25 collaborate in it. I should like to see independent representatives taking part, with an independent chairman, perhaps like the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I am thinking of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Everest, but the other noble Lord, Lord Hunt, would do the job very well, anyone called "Lord Hunt" would do as chairman of the committee!
What is the point of the inquiry? Anyone glancing at my book, if they do not find it distasteful, may read the reply given on behalf of the Department of Health in Parliament in January 1993. In that reply, the department sets out the local government provision which exists today: about 30 units are mentioned. But what of the provision? It is fantastic: the largest unit is Aycliffe, a world-famous centre with every kind of educational and psychological provision. The smallest unit is for two young offenders. Many of the units are small and the distribution around the country is hopeless, with hardly anything in the south of England, broadly speaking.
Thus it is no good saying: "Leave it to local authorities and pour a little more money in". That is not good enough, it is just laughing at the problem. We need a national inquiry and I hope that that will be conceded, after this ridiculous clause has long since been forgotten. Let it be forgotten and at the next stage let the Government turn their mind to the idea of a serious national inquiry with a view to rational, secure provision throughout the country. Nothing else would be worthy of this House or the country. That is what is required.
The problem of distance will remain with us always: it will never be simple. If we decide to have small units for those at home, then the provision will be much less adequate in terms of education and therapy. If we decide on large units, then the young offenders will have to travel too far. There will always be that problem, but that is where a national inquiry would provide the best answer available. I strongly support the amendment.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
No one would doubt for an instant the commitment, knowledgeability and humanity of my noble friend Lady Faithfull. However, as the debate proceeds, I have more and more grave doubts about the course which she and the right reverend Prelate propose to the Committee. This is not a debate about Clause 1 of the Bill, although that is what it is on paper. It is a debate about the first 22 clauses of the Bill. The amendment basically proposes taking out altogether Part I, which is one of the principal objects of the Bill. Let no one be in any doubt or under any illusion as to the seriousness, width and nature of what we are discussing.
My noble friend Lady Faithfull was at pains to say —and as always she spoke the truth—that she was not soft on crime. I accept that and assure her equally that I am not hard on crime and I should like to say why. The reason is that you do not improve a man's or a boy's character by taking away his liberty. Perhaps I may assert in the presence of lawyers far more experienced in the branch than I that it has always been my experience of the courts and of the policy adopted by appeal judges in dealing with the lower courts that custodial sentences —prison or otherwise —are only to be adopted as a last 26 resort. The term of sentence or the period of incarceration is always to be the shortest possible: compatible with the safety of the public. I believe that to be the right philosophy. You do not improve a man's or a boy's character by shutting him up. Even less do you improve him by shutting him up for longer than is necessary. Therefore, I think we can be agreed as to our basic philosophical identity on this point.
However, we must remember that we are talking about 200 cases at a time, if my mathematics are correct —probably they are not, but I am not far out as to the scale—and there are cases so serious that, as a matter of practical politics, there is no other way of dealing with the situation than by a proposal of this kind. It may be that which was preferred by my noble friend Lady Faithfull on a purely local basis, or the kind which is preferred by the Government in addition to the existing local places which are and, as I understand it, will continue to be in position.
I mentioned one, which I shall not mention again, on Second Reading. My noble friend Lord Ferrers mentioned others. He cited the case of a,14 year-old from Tyneside who has 28 convictions and who has escaped 22 times from local authority accommodation".He also referred to:Another 14 year-old boy in south London has admitted taking part in more than 1,000 burglaries of shops and homes in the past two years. On a single night he, and other teenagers, raided 23 branches of one particular store. He has stolen over 100 cars to ferry himself between burglaries, and the total value of all the goods stolen and the cost of damage caused is estimated to be in the region of £2 million. He has been arrested 40 times but is too young to be given a custodial sentence for the crimes he has committed".My noble friend's comment at Second Reading was,That is pretty hot stuff'.—[Official Report, 2.5/4/94; col. 381.]Whether it is hot, or not so hot, I shall not argue; but the public are faced with a serious practical problem as to how to deal with that situation. I am in support of my noble friend's solution.
My noble friend Lady Faithfull is perfectly right in saying that the secure places in local authority accommodation are essential and that such centres do good work, so far as good work is possible in this highly contentious and difficult field. But they are very small. There tend to be eight, 10 or 12 places in any given centre. If there were more it would mean that too many people were being sent there or that the centre was covering too wide a catchment area. This is a complement, or a supplement, to what is already in place. This is a reasonable proposal to put before the Committee as it is contained in Part I of the Bill.
It is said, truly, that in the ordinary course one would wish that a child who was given a secure place or a custodial sentence of any kind should be within easy reach of his family. I should think that in 90 per cent. of the cases that is true. But probably in a certain, and not unsubstantial, proportion of cases the family may be part of the problem. The treatment may require separation. Those cases exist too. In fact one has to deal with almost every variety of case. I am very far from thinking that this addition to the local authority structure is not a desirable way of carrying out the policy which has become a practical necessity.
27 There is one other factor that I would mention to my noble friend Lady Faithfull. Obviously, local secure places are not establishments that one would wish to abolish. The question is whether they should be supplemented. I ask my noble friend, without expecting an immediate answer: is it possible to have a consistent policy without a background of national involvement? These cases, which are the extreme ones, are those with which the present Part I of the Bill attempts to deal.
I do not mention the victims. I have been burgled seven times, so like my noble friend I can, in a sense, claim to be a victim myself. The public are entitled to be protected from the kind of case to which my noble friend Earl Ferrers referred at Second Reading. One cannot blind oneself to the fact that these constant offences, mainly against property, are nearly always in the end associated with a greater or lesser degree of violence, which is on the increase. Would this Chamber be wise to take away from the Government's Bill not a clause, which on paper is the subject of debate, but a whole part of the Bill to which the Government attach national importance?
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
I can assure the noble and learned Lord that I am very conscious of the importance of this Motion and of the impact that it would have on the Bill. However, I must confess that ever since Mr. Clarke announced this proposal I have felt uneasy about it. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, made a powerful case against the clause and against the reversal of the policies that were previously followed by this Government and by earlier administrations of both parties.
The proposals in this clause were not in the Conservative Party manifesto. I have checked that point. It seems to me that it is perfectly in order for this Committee, if it sees fit, to accept that there is indeed a problem, but to conclude that there are better ways of meeting it.
During my time in the Home Office I was not altogether unfamiliar with policies which failed to receive universal approbation. But I cannot remember one that has achieved such widespread criticism by professional bodies as has this proposal.
Without going over the ground that has been discussed, I should like to put forward quite briefly four of the more serious drawbacks as I see them. First, although I know that the courts are required under the Bill to pay regard to the existing statutory restrictions on ordering custody, the entry test—the breach of a single supervision order and three imprisonable offences— falls a good way short of the kind of repetitive criminal behaviour with which the noble Earl curdled our blood at Second Reading and to which reference was made in earlier speeches. Steal a bicycle, commit two minor shoplifting offences, and there you are!
Secondly, I am sorry to say so, but I find it very hard to accept the contention that, having learnt from previous mistakes, the Government really will see that these young offenders end up as law abiding citizens. "This time," they say, "everything is to be different.
28 The high quality training and education will do the trick". But in the course of a long career how often have I heard those hopes expressed of some new experiment; and how often have they come to nought. The Government claim that they are being tough on crime. The reality, alas, is that they are likely to be creating schools for criminals. After all, it is not many years ago since this Government published a Green Paper which said that even a short period of custody was quite likely to confirm young offenders as criminals—particularly as they acquired new criminal skills from more sophisticated offenders.
Thirdly, I cannot reconcile myself to the prospect of the centres being run by private firms. These children will be persistent offenders. But, contrary to what The Times seems to think (to judge by its leader today) most of them will also be emotionally and psychologically disturbed, just like other children who are in trouble. No outside firm will have had any experience of dealing with those children, who are some of the most difficult in the country, either in custody or under supervision. It is a very far cry from, say, running a remand prison.
My fourth point is one that we have discussed at some length and I need not go over it again. It is simply the fact that some of these children will be in custody far from home and far from the community, the doctors and the social workers who know them. The Government have said that the re-establishment of parental responsibility will be a prime objective, but I am afraid that this last minute concession about assisted visits is not calculated to achieve that miracle. The noble Earl has already conceded that in many cases the concession in practical terms will not be worth all that much.
I could continue for some time. Is what is proposed in consonance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? What is to happen about girls who are caught up by these provisions? That is a question which my noble friend Lord Acton asked at Second Reading, but answer came there none. How can Scotland manage without anything comparable? However, I must press on and talk about what might possibly be done.
The noble Baroness referred to the local authority secure units. I am very well aware that they are patchy in provision so that places cannot be found and are uneven in their standards. I realise that the extra places which the Secretary of State for Health is providing are not limited to very young children. But I am disposed to agree that developing the existing network of local authority units is to be preferred to the proposals envisaged in this clause. Those units came out rather well when research about young offenders was carried out by the Home Office.
Perhaps I may say that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was too dismissive of the units' possible contribution to this very difficult problem. The other day when two of my colleagues and I visited one of those units, we were impressed, first, by the standard of security. There had not been an escape for five years. That is perhaps more typical than is suggested by some of the myths that we hear and is perhaps more than some prisons can claim. We were impressed, secondly, by the amount of individual attention that it was possible to 29 provide with a generous staffing ratio. Unlike the Government, I feel that a small unit with adequate staff stands a better chance of success than one for 40 people with a prison environment. The Government's proposed centres would certainly be very hard put to it to match the standard of education which the local education authority was able to supply in the unit that we saw.
No one disputes that there are some young offenders who ought to be locked up. I believe that there is a need for a change in the law, in particular to give a specific power to the courts to order detention direct in a secure local authority unit. Indeed, I wondered whether it might be possible to amend this clause, leaving aside what follows, so as to make some such provision. However, I found that it was beyond my amateur efforts. On that approach, too, there is a clear need to boost the provision of secure local authority units so as to fill the gaps and achieve a general standard of performance—a consistent policy on a national basis, as the noble and learned Lord put it. There is also a need to have more resources for supervision, fostering and support. Magically enough, there seems to be plenty of money available.
Undeniably, there is a real problem of handling a small number of persistent young offenders. It is not surprising that the man in the street is fed up and feels that not enough is being done. But I cannot believe that these child gaols are the way.
§ Lord Carr of Hadley
I strongly support the opinions and the sentiments expressed by my noble friend Lady Faithfull. But I do not feel able to vote for her Motion, at least at this stage of the Bill.
As my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham pointed out, if this clause falls, so do the first 14 clauses of the Bill. We shall not be able to deal with them or consider amendments to them. Eventually, the Bill will go back to the other place. One must not try to forecast what the other place will do but I think that it would be a strong bet that the Bill would merely be returned to us with the whole of the first part reinstated. Then what can we do? It is essential that this Chamber should have the opportunity to go through all the clauses in this part of the Bill to see whether we can persuade the Government to make substantial amendments. I shall pick up on the final remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, about whether, within the framework of governmental policy, we can find a better way of achieving that end.
I for one do not need convincing of the need to take out of circulation—that is, put into safe custody—a small but significant number of persistent uncontrol-lable child criminals from whom we cannot protect the public at the moment. Therefore I am prepared to accept the concept of giving the courts power to impose a sentence such as a secure training order. But at present I am unable to accept the form of treatment which goes with the secure training order. As I understand it at the moment, I find it wholly unacceptable and am bound to say so. If I am to be convinced, I need very much more information and explanation from the Government than 30 as yet are available. I request my noble friend on the Front Bench to try to work on that area in replying to this debate and to others that we shall have on the Bill.
I repeat: do not labour the need more than is necessary. There is great unanimity in this Chamber. I believe that the majority of people in this Chamber feel that there is a need to put into secure custody for a limited time a small number of highly persistent child offenders. The public demand it and have right behind that demand. However, we must consider very carefully what we do.
As I see it, what is wrong with the proposal at the moment is that, first, as has already been mentioned, it will take many of the children much too far away from their home areas and parental contact. It is true that in some cases the parental contact is of such a kind that the children might be better without it. But they can be kept from it. It is much more difficult to bring good parental contact to bear if the child is; several hundred miles away from the home, school teachers and other figures of the local community who can influence him.
Secondly, I believe that there is grave danger of discontinuity of treatment in the proposal. We are to put young children into secure units for a maximum period of 12 months—the maximum period for a secure order. Then they are to be brought back to their home areas and handed over to intensive personal care. But by whom? How will the transfer take place? That is extremely critical. There is discontinuity in moving those very difficult children from one group of carers to another which could produce a gap in the treatment. That might be absolutely fatal, even if—it is a big "if—the custodial part of the treatment had achieved the best effect that was hoped for it.
There is something else which I feel is wrong. It is too dangerous, for the sake of those involved, to bring together into one place as many as 40 acutely disturbed criminal children. I have heard it said by those who defend the scheme that these units would be much smaller than previous institutions. Yes, thank goodness! But they are still much too large. It would be far better to treat these people in small groups of two or three in local areas rather than gather them together. That is a danger which has not been examined.
What I also feel is wrong is the extremely high cost. I shall not elaborate at this stage, but many Members of the Committee have already pointed it out. Consider what we could do with £30 million a year in expanding the best treatment which is given at the moment in some local areas but not, alas, in all local areas. Providing the best transfer system throughout the country would make a real impact on our attack on juvenile crime in this country.
Perhaps I may ask my noble friend a number of questions. What is the relationship to be between secure places in the new institutions and those in local authority units? Will there be an overlap? Will the courts be able to say which child goes to which form of secure unit? What was the thinking behind the proposal? What co-operation and joint consultation took place between the Home Office and the Department of Health? Almost at the same time as the Home Office announced the prospect of 200 secure 31 places in the new units, the Minister of Health announced making provision for 170 new secure places in the present local authority system. Was that a carefully weighed-out balance?
What does one sort of secure place provide for compared with the other? Is there some coherent thought about the relationship between the two? Without some kind of rationale in that regard the whole scheme falls to the ground. Also, what will be the difference in cost between a place in a new secure training unit and one in the local authority unit? In that regard, we are told that the cost will be £30 million a year. How will that be divided up as between premises and staff? I have a feeling that, with the enormous amount involved in the cost of premises, that will be where the greatest extravagance in the system will prove to lie.
Can my noble friend say what is special about the proposed new type of training? It is clear that the Government are thinking seriously about providing a standard type of treatment and education which has not previously been available. But what is it? Who invented it? Can we be told something about it? Until we know what is entailed, the proposal cannot carry conviction. What qualifications will the staff require? How and where will they obtain them? Is there not a danger that the new centres will merely recruit their staff by head hunting those already employed as local authority social workers, thus creating a crisis elsewhere? Otherwise, where are those people to be found and what will be their job specifications? Also, what will happen in respect of the after-care when the custodial part of the order is completed? I referred to the critical moment of transfer. Before we are asked to approve the Bill, the Committee should be told more in regard to how the transfer is to be carried out and what safeguards there will be to overcome the danger of discontinuity.
Finally, prior to setting up the new centres, the Government owe Members of the Committee a carefully reasoned argument as to why it will be better to spend £30 million a year on setting up the new secure units within the confines of existing adult prisons, rather than improving and strengthening small secure units in local authority areas throughout the country. I strongly urge the Committee to think further about the Bill. I stress my last point because in that may lie the solution to some of our difficulties.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Baroness David
I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Carr. He asked many of the questions I intended to ask. Although he said that he would not support his noble friend Lady Faithfull, he did a splendid demolition job on this part of the Bill. His criticisms were extremely well put. We are told that there is going to be training and education. But we have not heard how it will be provided or what it entails. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carr, that the fewer the children the better the education that can be provided.
I made it my business to find out what is the position at secure accommodation in my home county of Cambridgeshire. I refer to Salters, near Peterborough. It 32 provides full-time education which relates to the national curriculum and is adapted to the needs of each individual. At Salters there are six girls, whose ages range from 14 to over school age. Of course, their levels of education and attainment vary considerably. There is a high staff ratio—2.4 teachers for the six girls and a learning support assistant. There is a flexibility and a social dimension to the education. Educational targets are set for all the pupils. They work towards a national record of achievement and use the Associated Examination Board exams. They also use the ASDAM youth award scheme. That is different from the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme in that it includes academic and educational aspects as well as sport. There is a bronze, silver and gold award. Also, Salters receives European social funding for some girls over 16.
I spoke on the telephone to Miss Gillian Corsellis, an independent Visitor to the Salters establishment and at other local authority secure accommodation. She is a link person for Voice of the Child in Care and she has been a civil servant in the Department of Health. She has visited many units and says that extremely good work is going on in many of them; they supply the individual care and education that can be provided by smaller units. It may be that six is a rather small number but it is better than 40, which is far too many. It will be difficult to organise that well.
Also, who will teach and train in these establish-ments? Where will the staff come from? The social services are primarily responsible for secure accom-modation, but they have close liaison with local education authorities. There are also the children with special needs: there are a great many of them in these units. They must have the help of the local education authority to enable them to have the assessment and help that is necessary. I find it very difficult to imagine how anything like the services now provided by the local education authorities and social service departments can possibly be given in these new establishments. I hope that when the Minister replies he will explain in some detail how he will deal with this.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
I support the principle of Clause 1, although I accept that it should be subject to amendment, certainly in the realm of education and along some of the lines mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady David, and my noble friend Lord Carr. It has been said that the £30 million cost may be better used to help local authorities to provide more secure accommodation and that community supervision programmes have a better record of preventing re-offending than secure institutions —as though the one excluded the other. As I understand the Bill, that is assuredly not the case.
The provision by local authorities, although excellent in certain areas—the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, used the word "patchy", with which I agree —would be dependent on funding. In the long run it is probably dependent on the earmarking of grants from central funds for specific uses, which erodes the very autonomy of the local authority. Members of the Committee may well think—
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but he has just referred to me. It should be made clear that when we are talking about extra money —the £30 million or whatever it may be—we are not thinking solely of improving the secure units run by local authorities. We are thinking of boosting the educational and social services, the services which will look after these individuals when they come back into society.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I agree totally with the qualification he makes.
My next main point is that perhaps the Committee will think that there is need for some kind of uniformity in dealing with these persistent offenders, some kind of centralised control, and that there should be a national approach to the problem as distinct from a local approach, which, I understood, was the view of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham. It is only because the existing institutions have such a poor record in preventing re-offending that some new secure institutions must be set up. No one has used the word "deterrent". I propose to use it because we have come to the point in our society where there must be deterrence.
A new secure institution should constitute a form of deterrent, a form of punishment and a form of discipline as well as provide training and education in a secure environment. At least that is my personal opinion, and because of that I support in principle Clause 1 of the Bill. A disposal of last resort for the persistent offender with appropriate and extensive new provision for rehabilitation—that is the long-term important differ-ence between the regime proposed in these new centres and the old approved schools that did not work so well.
There is no alternative proposal in principle which can set aside all the criteria I have mentioned and all the legitimate expectations of government. The catalogue of crime to which victims have been exposed by persistent offenders is well known—to your Lordships, to the public, to the police and to the courts. It includes burglary, theft, serious assault and offences with motor cars which have become a source of danger not only to the life and limb of the public but also to the police. It is totally idle to claim that what is seen on television cannot fuel copy-cat crime, especially with the young, who are only at home with a gang because in no true sense have they a home. Is it not also idle to claim that drug taking has no relationship with the commission of crime by the 12 and 14 year-olds to find the wherewithal to purchase their drugs? Something has to be done which is relevant and effective to contain and reverse the trend of crime committed by those too young to be sent to prison when all other forms of disposal have been tried and have failed and where the disorder manifests itself in a settled intention, often associated with truancy, as has just been said, to continue to commit criminal offences as part of the ordinary way of life.
Subject to amendment—I would support many aspects of amendments concerned with education, training, control, monitoring and so forth—I roundly support the principle of Clause 1.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I wonder whether we can establish some common ground. A great deal of the diagnosis, if I may so put it, should be agreed, and that can inform the way in which we consider the solution we should be trying to find. Can we not accept that juvenile crime has been decreasing quite dramatically over the past 10 years or more? Indeed, I am surprised that that has not appeared in Conservative Party propaganda as being a great success of the Conservative Government. The number of juvenile convictions has decreased by well over 30 per cent. since 1979. In other words, the problem is not an increasing one, although no one denies that it is acute where it occurs. Secondly, can we not agree that incarceration does not work? Even the most dedicated staff, such as those at Lisnevin in Northern Ireland, where no one has anything but praise for the work that they do—
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The noble Lord raises an important point. I am talking about arrests whether or not they result in a caution. The decrease is not the result of cautions going up. It is the result of the number of offences going down.
Perhaps I may return to the issue of recidivism. Even at Lisnevin, which is staffed by devoted people, about 80 per cent. of those who leave are re-convicted, whereas—I come now to the noble Lord's point about cautions—the success of caution is quite remarkable. The proportion of arrests which result in cautions has gone up from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent., and 79 per cent. of those juveniles who are cautioned are cautioned once only. In other words, there is a 20 per cent. recidivism rate instead of the 80 per cent. recidivism rate after locking up. No one can deny those facts: they should form the basis of the judgment we have to make.
No one denies that there is a problem. But, surely, the judgment we have to make is whether the solution is to introduce new kinds of places for these children to go to or to change the powers. The Government have chosen to look for new kinds of places instead of changing the powers to send children to existing places. The debate that has taken place—
§ Lord Renton
The noble Lord may have overlooked Clause 20 of the Bill which enables the courts to send even those aged 12 to 14 to the same kind of local secure units as those of 15 and over.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
There are a number of points beyond Clauses 1 to 15 with which I actually agree. When we come to that part of the Bill, perhaps I shall be able to make that clear. At the moment we are debating Clauses 1 to 15, which refer to secure training centres and secure training orders.
I want to point out the difficulties which the Government have made for themselves in choosing to create a new kind of place rather than seek new powers. The danger of there being too few centres and of their being too far from the homes of the children concerned has been made absolutely clear. Secondly, there is the 35 problem that they are too large and too concentrated on those who have indulged in criminal behaviour. It is a common point that virtually all of these children will be disturbed themselves, coming from deprived homes and so on. If they go into local authority secure accommodation, they will be with other disturbed and difficult children who have not committed offences. The Committee may think that that is a problem for those who have not committed offences. I look at it the other way round. I suggest that, since they come from the same backgrounds, it is not the offence which is significant, apart from the need for incarceration, but the ability to deal with the deprivation and disturbance. It is easier to do that in a smaller, more local home.
The Government have also come up against the difficult question of the length of incarceration. Everybody who knows anything about it seems to be agreed that even when, as in Lisnevin, there is the power to provide for longer incarceration, a period of six to seven months is about the maximum that actually works; yet the Government find themselves obliged deliberately to increase the period to 12 months.
There is also the whole issue of the break with home, school, with supervision or supervision orders and with other action that has already been taken. We are not talking about children who have never come before the law in one way or another previously. There is also the issue of privatisation, but it is probably better to deal with that when we consider later amendments.
There are also all the difficulties with definition. There is the problem of what is meant by,three or more imprisonable offences",which could mean imprisonable offences which are entirely distinct or imprisonable offences which happened at the same time. There is also the issue—
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
On that point, I accept the noble Lord's problem and I should like clarification of that from my own point of view.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I am grateful for that, but it confirms my view that everywhere you look in the proposal for secure training orders and secure training centres difficulties are encountered that have to be dealt with; and there has been no answer to them from any noble Lord. Indeed, apart from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, is virtually the only Member of the Committee who has attempted to defend the provisions. Nobody has provided any answers to the criticisms that have been raised by Members on all Benches this afternoon.
With all those difficulties, why are the Government seeking to create new forms of placement and new forms of secure provision for children rather than looking at the powers? It would be so easy to deal with the powers. All that is required is an amendment to Section 12, as amended, of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, which would give a power to order placements in local authority secure accommodation combined with appropriate supervision orders. It is not difficult to do. Indeed, it is a more realistic thing to do. The money could readily be made available from the vast amount of money that will be needed for the 36 provision which is now proposed. Is it not better to cut the Gordian knot and not to seek to spend many hours amending in detail a proposal that falls at every hurdle that it approaches? Is it not better to seek to take out, as the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, is proposing, the whole clause and to enable the Government and Parliament to think constructively about the better use of existing provisions?
§ Lord Elton
The conclusive answer to the noble Lord's question has already been given by my noble friend Lord Carr: if we remove Clause 1 from the Bill we will not have the opportunity to amend a provision which will otherwise come back to us intact from another place. That is one reason why I cannot support my noble friend in her Motion with which I so warmly sympathise.
The other reason is that there is a baby in the bathwater that she proposes to throw out—that there is a requirement for a sentence of this sort. I am persuaded by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary when he said that while courts have a role in authorising placements in local authority secure units they have no powers whatsoever to require the local authority to make use of secure accommodation in particular cases; nor do the criminal courts have any sentence available to them in respect of 12 to 14 year-olds which involves detention other than in the case of the gravest of crimes. If we are to resort to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, we need to keep that opportunity open, which means not voting the clause out of the Bill.
I remind my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway and others that the person we are trying to deter is very often only just tall enough to see over that Dispatch Box upon which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, leans with such consummate and adult ease. We are talking about children—and small children at that. We therefore have a duty in conscience to ensure that what we commit them to is not something to which we commit them as we would commit a faceless criminal statistic. We are talking about children who are younger than most of our children and of an age of many of our grandchildren.
The question of how many such children there are now arises. We have not dwelt on it much and, in view of the passage of time, I shall not dwell on it for long either. The conclusion of the correspondence that I have had with my noble friend and the Secretary of State on this matter rested fairly heavily on the Policy Studies Institute's publication to which I have already referred, Persistent Young Offenders. That rested on three samples: one from a Midlands county and two from London boroughs. For the purposes of deciding the numbers to be provided for if the Government's proposed criteria were adhered to, the example from the London boroughs could not be applied for reasons of sampling, so the conclusions rest on the experiences of one Midlands county. Suffice it to say that there was a good deal of qualification about the conclusions that could be drawn from that, so I hope that the Committee will not think that 200 is the precise number of people who will turn up in any one year.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, asked what sort of people they would be and pointed out that 37 the criteria on the face of the Bill are radically different from the descriptions that we are given of the customer we are hoping to catch. When he replies, I hope that my noble friend will explain how it is that the sort of person he described in his Second Reading speech so far exceeds in criminality the sort of person described in the Bill.
My noble friend Lord Carr and many others have referred to the size of unit. I must put on record the fact that I have taught for 10 years; I was the Minister responsible for prisons for three years and I have spent five years trying to keep young children out of prison by charitable means. We are now coming to questions at the nub of the issue. Concentrating difficult children does not reduce the difficulty of dealing with them; it increases it. That applies both to the administrative whole—I cannot believe that there would be classes of 40; the classes would be very small—and to small groups. If everybody in a small group has the same distortions in their perceptions of reality and proper behaviour it is far more difficult to deal with them than if there is a spread and if each can look to another for an illustration of how to behave and what is reasonable.
I shall not dwell on that point either, except to say that deciding that 40 is the ideal number may make sense in terms of the cost of administration, the sort of contracts that the Government wish to let to tenderers, and the sort of accommodation for which they hope to get planning approval, but, despite the enthusiasm with which it is urged on us, it does not seem to me to be an advantage in terms of the treatment that these children —I repeat that they are children—should have.
The children who are to be subject to a secure training order should, in my view, be subject to a secure education order because every one of them will be of an age when education is compulsory and they must receive it. The training—however that is defined—is an add-on, not a substitute. It is essential that the children are taught in manageable small groups. It is a great advantage—in fact, it is very nearly essential—that they should be taught near enough to their home education authority for their curriculum to be such that they can then be re-injected into proper education. If we give up that objective, we give up the idea of redemption altogether. We must get them back into the system or we might as well lock them up forever—and we are not going to do that in this Committee.
Amendment No. 6 will deal with the educational regime, and I shall pass on from that.
I return to the question of "tough on crime". We all want to be tough on crime. We want to be strict with children, but we do not want to waste money. We want to do it in the most effective way. I say two things to my noble friend, one of which has been said already; that is, if we throw this out, we throw out the subsequent 14 clauses. Clauses 1 to 15, not the whole of Part I, would probably fall with this. Nevertheless, that is a gaping hole. That would be throwing out something which in toto has been warmly approved in another place.
We are not in the same place as we were with the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill which we were looking at first. This is a measure which is proposed to us by the other place, not just by the Government.
38 Therefore there is no prospect of throwing this out and then not seeing it again. I think it will come back. We want the opportunity to have back something better than what we have which is susceptible to small further improvement rather than something subject to a complicated procedure in which it is almost impossible to achieve any amendments. That is a procedural point of great importance.
The other thing that I would say to my noble friend is that I believe that that is rendered respectable in terms of what we want to do as well as procedural terms, because there is a need for this sentence and if we do not have it we have not addressed a problem which, though small, is severely difficult for those who suffer from it. The Committee will see from what I have said that I shall support my noble friend at this stage, but at the next stage I shall be hostile to many aspects of what is proposed.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
As one of the signatories to the amendment perhaps I may say a few words. The question before the Committee is a simple one. It is whether the proposition which is before us today can be improved significantly by amendment. My view is that it cannot be improved by amendment. It is a question of principle: do we believe that these new child gaols—because that is what they are—are desirable?
Perhaps I may begin by referring to the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsharn of Saint Marylebone. He made two points, and I agree with them both. First, he said that in the case of many of these young offenders the family is part of the problem. He is of course absolutely right. But that brings me to a point of comment upon that proposition: if the family is part of the problem, is it not rather important for us to consider the circumstances of, first, whether the family will remain in any form of contact with the child during the period of his incarceration? Secondly, where will the child go after it leaves the child gaol? It will go back to the family. Is it not therefore far more sensible for us to devote time and attention to considering how one can deal with the difficult problem of those disturbed children and often disturbed families? It is my view that it is far more sensible for local authorities to deal with this problem, as they do at the moment, and, if the child has to be kept in custody, for that child to be kept in local authority secure accommodation.
The second point the noble and learned Lord made was that the public are entitled to be protected. Of course he is absolutely right. I think that all of us, whatever our views on Clause 1, agree with that—a point made clear by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull.
What we know about this issue is fairly straightforward. There are a few children who repeatedly commit criminal offences. We accept that. A number of those children must clearly be kept in secure accommodation. There is no argument about that either. But that does not begin to justify Clause 1. There are three major objections to what the Government are proposing. First, why have the Government chosen to ask—this question has already been asked by others 39 —for parliamentary approval for the creation of these new child prisons rather than to develop the alternative of increasing the amount of local authority secure accommodation?
The noble and learned Lord referred to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, on Second Reading when he talked of a child offender who had escaped on 22 occasions from local authority care. That was entirely right. The second point, as I am sure the noble Earl will recognise, is that, as far as I am aware, that child escaped from non-secure local authority accommodation, of which there is a substantial amount.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
If the noble Lord will permit me to intervene in support of his argument, secure local authority accommodation is really secure. The example to which I should like to refer is Leeds. It has been going for a number of years. It has 27 children, and there has never been an escape.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I agree, and I am much obliged to the noble Lord for making that point. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, said also that local authority secure units are small. In most cases he is of course entirely right but, as the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, pointed out, most people who know anything about the subject agree on one thing; that is, that it is highly desirable that these children should be kept in small, intimate units. That is regarded as one of the substantial advantages of the present system. It was the Home Office who testified to that most vigorously. The Home Office Research and Planning Unit Paper No. 96 said that those units provided better education, training and regimes generally. That seems a fairly persuasive argument.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
I want to make this point lest there should be any misunderstand-ing between us. I was not condemning local authority units for being small, I was pointing out that the provision in Clause 1 was additional and complemen-tary to local authority provision.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
Yes, I am coming to that point, if the noble and learned Lord will forgive me, in a few moments. I shall be asking what is the purpose of the new units when we have such excellent arrangements already in existence. That argument has not so far been answered by anyone.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, will recall the debate which we on these Benches initiated on 6th July 1992 on the subject of child runaways. One of the arguments put forward on that occasion—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, will be glad to hear—was that the public deserved to be protected from the unsatisfactory arrangements which existed in such cases. We greatly regretted that the Government had not taken more vigorous action to deal with the problem. On that occasion, a number of peers from all parts of the Chamber said that a number of child runaways committed a substantial number of offences before they were recaptured. We pressed the Minister to increase the amount of secure accommodation in children's homes to deal with the problem caused by a few score children.
40 Unhappily, two years later, the Department of Health has still not been able to increase the amount of such accommodation. Indeed, the situation in some respects is even worse, because the amount of such accommodation has been reduced during the Government's lifetime. In 1980, there were 353 places in secure accommodation, now there are fewer than 300. Led by the London Borough of Wandsworth, which cut the number of places significantly, some councils merely shut them down to save money, and the Department of Health, I fear, just watched that happening without taking any vigorous action to deal with it. Now, I am glad to say, Mrs. Bottomley has initiated action to deal with that problem, and has decided to increase the number of secure places in children's homes. I welcome that, although I regret the fact that it has taken so long for corrective action to be taken.
However, if the proposal is to be carried out, why on earth has the Home Office become involved, asking Parliament to approve the creation of a parallel system? How can it be right to ask a court, when sentencing a child offender, to chose between these two parallel systems with establishments accountable to two different government departments? It is extremely difficult to understand the justification for this policy.
Secondly, why is it thought that this new custodial system for children will work any better than the others which were tried and which failed under governments of different political persuasions? There were borstals, which had failure rate in the region of 80 per cent., and approved schools, which had similar failure rates. There were detention centres and also short sharp shocks. At one stage we had children marching to classes. The only trouble with that was that it was immensely popular with the offenders concerned. They were most keen on the idea of pretending to be soldiers but were less keen on involving themselves in a course of serious education. In detention centres the failure rate was spectacularly high, as was the amount of bullying and intimidation of young offenders in many of these establishments. That is a critically important argument. Those establishments too were shut down.
Why, after that repeated pattern of failure, are the Government insisting on marching down that road once again? They say, "This will be quite different". They say that, for example, there will be a high-quality educational regime. But there is already good quality education in local authority secure accommodation, as the noble Baroness pointed out a few moments ago. As regards the Prison Department, there was a good educational regime in many borstals. Indeed, much of the early work in dealing with post-school illiteracy was done in borstals. It was pioneered there. However, closed conditions run by Prison Department establishments have repeatedly failed. If the clause is accepted —and I hope that it will not be accepted—nothing is more certain than that these centres will fail too.
It is wrong to repeat all the errors of the past. It is even more senseless when local authority secure units exist and when their number can be increased at no greater cost—and probably at a great deal lower cost 41 —than is involved in the new arrangement. That point was made a few moments ago by the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley.
I turn to the third objection to the proposal. It was dealt with in part during the debate on Amendment No. 1, which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. As the Minister confirmed, there are to be only five centres; in County Durham, Warwickshire, Oxford, Nottinghamshire and in the South East. As was said by my noble friend Lord Avebury, that means that a child offender from Penzance will have to go to Oxford and a child in Anglesey will have to go to somewhere in Nottinghamshire. What does the Committee imagine will happen to the family relationship in disturbed families in such situations? I fear that the effect will be extremely damaging. As regards many of these offenders, family relationships are poor and I fear that they will become even worse as a result of the creation of these new centres.
I hope that the Committee will reject Clause 1. The proposal, if enacted, will do nothing but damage a number of vulnerable and disturbed children. It will not ensure that they will turn away from crime. The situation is quite the reverse. I believe that the right response to the problem of difficult child offenders— and it is a major problem—is to extend the range of secure accommodation in children's homes. I hope that the Committee will take that decision today.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Windlesham
I sense that before long the Committee would like to move towards resolution of the issue—
§ Lord Windlesham
It has been a notable debate and fully worthy of the significance and importance of the issue raised by my noble friend Lady Faithfull. I shall be brief and concentrate attention on one particular aspect that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, and touched on by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey.
We are all in agreement—and the Government have affirmed it—that the aim of this new power is to deal more effectively with a very small number of persistent offenders. Where in the clause is that aim defined? The word "persistent" is not defined. Clause 1(5) provides that:The court shall not make a secure training order unless it is satisfied",by three conditions. The second condition is:that the offender has been convicted of three or more imprisonable offences".The subsection provides for imprisonable offences, not indictable offences. This wider category includes all those offences which are punishable by a sentence imposed by the magistrates' courts of up to six months' imprisonment.
The new sentence relates not only to Crown Courts. It could catch the people whom the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and the Home Secretary in another place have described as being the target of these new powers. However, it could also cover a number of others. Should 42 the clause survive, which remains to be seen and will shortly be decided, will the Minister, in reply or at a later stage, consider whether Clause 1(5) (b) should not more properly be worded:that the offender has been convicted of an imprisonable offence on three or more occasions"?
§ Lord Gisborough
We are all agreed that some of this small proportion of youngsters must be kept out of circulation. However, the problem is that they come out again, as has been mentioned. The Committee has heard that the efforts of approved schools and the like have; resulted in 80 per cent. of those concerned re-offending If the proposal goes ahead, I hope that it will begin with a pilot scheme rather than the whole scheme. The result of one pilot scheme can therefore be judged at less cost.
Secure accommodation should be the answer, and Leeds is a good example. However, the problem is that many of these secure establishments are not secure. As regards the secure accommodation near my own home, boys go in one end and come straight out the other—it is like a sieve. The Government should place on local authorities a duty to make secure accommodation secure. When local authorities want to make cuts in their expenditure, that is where they skimp on costings.
Many Members of the Committee know about horses. The problem with a recalcitrant and difficult horse is usually the result of diet, food and exercise. If they are given the right diet, the right amount of food and lots of exercise it is extraordinary what can be done with them. Rarely have many of these youngsters had a regular, decent meal—they have lived on trash food. I should like to see a regime based more on the concept of Outward Bound courses than one which merely locks them up in prisons. I believe that that may work to some extent.
It is all very well dealing with the present but we must look to the future. It is interesting to note that in Michigan education is provided for three to five year-olds. By the time they reach the age of 27, only 7 per cent. of those educated between the ages of three to five are offending compared with 35 per cent. who were not educated at that age. It is reckoned that one dollar spent on that education saves seven dollars at a later stage.
I shall not vote in favour of this Motion because I believe that it is important that we should have further discussions on this clause. However, I support the noble Baroness in principle.
§ Viscount Tenby
In view of the words spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, which I gather received the approval of the Committee, your Lordships may be relieved to hear that I have torn up most of my notes.
I strongly suggest that what is needed is not five secure training units but more money spent on local authority secure accommodation. That should be available throughout the country and, most important, it should conform to uniform and centrally laid-down standards in matters like security, education and aftercare. I cannot emphasise that last point too strongly because it is absolutely crucial in putting forward an alternative strategy.
43 I suspect that the present committal system is what is wrong rather than the nature of the confinement. Youth panels have insufficient powers in respect of those matters. They are often required to remand cases to local authority care for assessment and a secure order can be made by the panel only if and when a local authority asks for it. Why cannot panels, like their senior counterparts, remand a case to custody in an appropriate local secure unit pending assessment?
I do not know how many Members of the Committee have visited secure accommodation. If they have not done so, they may well be suffering from the illusion that they are not as secure as perhaps a prison. Indeed, the tabloids are full of stories about escapes from such places. However, on investigation it usually turns out that those escapes are from non-secure accommodation. In proper secure accommodation, such as that which I suggest should be the norm throughout the country, the escape rate is rather less than in senior prisons.
I have also visited the impressive secure unit in south London mentioned by my noble friend Lord Allen of Abbey dale and there are others like it; for example, in my own county of Hampshire. But the blunt truth is that such accommodation is not available throughout the country, nor is it always of the same high standard. Indeed, it is not always used by local authorities in the way in which it is meant to be used.
I beg the Minister and his advisers to review the whole cumbersome and inadequate machinery in relation to the implementation of secure orders. Let us make sure that secure accommodation is available and used everywhere; that there are sufficient funds for young offender community support schemes along the lines of the initiative in Hampshire between the county and the National Children's Home in making available foster parent placements; and let us ensure also that bail support schemes are properly funded. If we do only that, mini-gaols, or whatever emotive phrase is used to describe them, will not be necessary. There will be a chance that some, although not all—I am afraid that I am a realist in these matters—persistent young offenders may be saved from a pointless and desperate life.
§ Baroness Seccombe
I do not wish to repeat what I said on Second Reading but this matter seems to have created a head of steam, so I feel it right to speak again in favour of secure training centres.
We are talking about comparatively few hardened young criminals. The vast proportion of young offenders are dealt with by the various options open to the courts. The implementation of this clause would give an independent judiciary a way to respond to the situation which exists because those young people have not responded to any other form of treatment.
Much seems to be made of the fact that children will be away from their families. Sadly, their families do not appear to be able to prevent them offending nor do they appear to have any control over them. In such circumstances, I believe that a period away to enable everyone to take stock would be a very good idea.
44 I understand that there would be generous visiting provision and travelling expenses would be reimbursed. I have been deluged by briefing, most of which concedes that a secure place is the only way to deal with some offenders. Indeed, on 11th January in another place Tony Blair said that the Labour Party did not disagree that those,out of control and making life hell … must be in secure accommodation".—[Official Report, Commons, 11/1/94; col. 39.]
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
That is exactly why the Labour Party in another place put forward a whole series of amendments, to which I have referred already, which would replace the Government's proposals by more effective local provision.
§ Baroness Seccombe
The difference is, however, that some people believe that secure accommodation should be controlled by the local authority. I must say that I find it rather arrogant of those agencies to criticise units being run by the private sector. Very stringent conditions and regulations will be laid down, and surely it is the quality of the people and the care which is important rather than who employs them.
I feel particularly strongly that those difficult and persistent offenders must not be allowed to continue and must not contaminate the minds of others in the local authority units who may be in those units for many reasons: some may not have committed any crime; some may have been abused; while others may be disturbed and needing care and protection. I believe that it is almost wicked to think of mixing them with persistent offenders, as that would only add to their troubles.
I am not quite sure whether I heard my noble friend Lady Faithfull correctly, but if I did it saddens me to hear that one young offender was told that he was careless when he was arrested for his 36th burglary. Burglaries are very traumatic experiences for everyone. Some old people who live alone never recover from such an experience. I wonder what effect such a remark had on that young person.
Having special centres, each of them larger than a local authority unit, will result in more suitable educational and training programmes being devised. The provision of such intensive care for a minimum of six months will allow a real opportunity to work with offenders, to try to turn them away from their offending and to make headway towards making them decent citizens of tomorrow.
We are not dealing with normal naughty youngsters. We are dealing with young criminals who cause distress and anxiety to decent-living people. There are many examples of their catalogues of crime. Last week I read of a boy from the North West, now aged 14, who since the age of 10 has committed 70 offences including theft, taking and driving away, burglary, aggravated vehicle taking and robbery. That has brought misery to a whole community.
We must take action because the situation cannot be allowed to continue. The police and magistrates are frustrated. Indeed, I believe that we are all frustrated and 45 helpless. Secure training centres are the best way forward and I urge the Committee to support that measure.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Merlyn-Rees
I should like to express my support for the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful!. However, because most of the arguments have already been put, I merely raise two points. One is based on the fact that I represented an inner-city area for 30 years in another place. Indeed, I lived in that inner-city area. Too often we heard, especially during the time before an election, "We are going to do something about the educational problems in the area" and some scheme would be put forward. Nothing happened. If it was not unemployment, then it was housing. But very little was done. In my view, the position is exactly the same with the current scheme. It looks good and it is on all fours with short, sharp shocks. When one looks at what has been done via the Home Office and the Department of Health over the years as regards recidivism among people who were held in secure accommodation, it can be seen that it did not work then. And it will not work now.
I know that people read in newspaper reports about inner-city problems. As I said, I lived in an inner-city area and I am concerned about crime in those areas, as, indeed, are the people whom I represented. They experience it every day. But the number of youngsters about whom we are talking is very small. I support Members on both sides of the Committee who have pointed out that secure accommodation is already available. Let us build on what we already have rather than have the proposed scheme.
I have another point to make which may be of interest to the Committee. With the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, who now sits on the Liberal Benches, I introduced secure accommodation in Northern Ireland. Perhaps I may tell the Committee about that experience. I presume that the Home Office has studied that experience, though I accept—and, indeed, I shall argue —that Northern Ireland is quite different from here.
When I arrived in Northern Ireland the general who had responsibility for young persons and prisons approached the noble Lord and myself. I then obtained the relevant figures. In the six months before the spring of 1974, when we arrived in office, 39 boys had been charged with terrorism or scheduled offences; that means murder, carrying weapons, playing a part in carrying explosives and, indeed, in detonating them. The general asked what we were going to do about it. I imagine that he had put the same question to previous Secretaries of State. It was not a new problem. So we introduced a Northern Ireland young persons Bill which was piloted through this place by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, who was the last person on earth to do anything repressive if there was another way of dealing with the matter. In fact, that was one of the matters that greatly influenced me.
That Northern Ireland young persons Bill stood for only one year and was allied with the emergency provisions legislation. It was introduced for only one year because we were not sure what we were doing. I 46 suggest to the Committee that the part of the Bill that we are now discussing should apply for only one year. It could then be further discussed in this Chamber and we could assess how things were going.
The officials concerned had to consult the Secretary of State and obtain his signature. The Secretary of State himself had to sign the form which would put the child into the Crumlin Road prison. It was the only place that was safe. In the normal remand homes para-militaries went in and pulled out the children the day or evening after they arrived. If I remember rightly, we used what had been a hospital in the Crumlin Road in the middle of Belfast.
We put the institution in the middle of Belfast so that parents visiting would not have to walk past the sectarian housing of another tribe, and vice versa, with the Catholics or the Protestants. We had to give thought to the situation because parents could not move about freely in the area.
From the figures that were given to us, we saw that, of 66 who absconded from ordinary remand homes, three had been sentenced for murder, two for attempted murder, 21 for firearms offences, 21 for armed robbery, five for explosive offences and one for intimidation, and there were many more. On those grounds, we set up a secure unit for the Province of Northern Ireland. We were right to do so. As much as I oppose what is being done at present, I would support secure units if that was what was happening here.
I wonder whether the Government have studied that experience. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, made sure that the educational provisions were good. That was 20 years ago, but I warrant that even now the same number of young children help with explosives and are involved in murder on both sides of the divide. All it did was stop them from offending for a while. No one pretended that it would convince anyone; indeed, you do not convince anyone in Ulster by locking them up. You do that for safety reasons and for nothing else.
I wonder whether I am wrong and whether that experience was a great success. Perhaps after a while when such youngsters were released they said, "We no longer support the UVF", or, "We no longer support the provisional IRA; we have learnt our lesson because we have been locked up". But I doubt it. The present proposal will not work. It is misconceived. Let us build on what we already have and use the money in mat way. My former constituents want something done. They do not want airy-fairy talk and pretence. Indeed, in recent years too much concerning law and order has been pretence based on emotion rather than reality.
§ Baroness Miller of Hendon
Perhaps I may tell the Committee about one of my many experiences in over 20 years as a magistrate in juvenile courts, or youth courts as they are now called. A boy in our area was a one-person crime wave. His modus operandi was so well known that there was no difficulty in recognising his signature on the burglaries that he committed—often several on the same day and often committed almost straight after his latest court appearance. He always freely confessed and openly sneered at the fact that there was nothing that we could do to stop him—until, that is, 47 on the last occasion when he came before me. He discovered that he had miscalculated the situation because now I did have the power to send him to detention, and I promptly did so. So far as I could discover, that young man was never heard of again, at least not in our area.
The latter is not an isolated incident; it is typical of experiences in every juvenile court. The majority of our young people, whatever their circumstances, are decent and law abiding and they will continue to be so for the rest of their lives. However, it is also a fact that the substantial part of the crime in this country is committed by juveniles. Furthermore, the majority of the crimes in any one area is often found to be the responsibility of just a very few youngsters.
I should like to remind the Committee of the present powers of the youth courts for dealing with juvenile offenders. I believe it to be most relevant to today's discussion. There are absolute or conditional dischar-ges; fines, which are often payable by parents; supervision orders, which many local authorities perform only perfunctorily; 10 to 15 year-olds can be ordered to go to an attendance centre for a maximum of 24 hours in two-hour units; and 16 to 17 year-olds can be ordered to do from 40 hours to 240 hours of community service or up to 36 hours at an attendance centre. Moreover, 15 to 17 year-olds can be sent to detention in serious cases for two to 12 months.
What happens at an attendance centre? There is one hour of PT followed by one hour of help with reading, if necessary, or the youngsters can do crossword puzzles. They are also shown how to fill in forms such as driving licence applications, job applications, tax forms and so on. For a large number of juvenile offenders, those penalties are sufficient. Indeed, 87 per cent. of them respond to the first caution, while others need just one visit to the youth court to administer the necessary shock to the system. But, regrettably, there is a hard core of what the American calls "scoff-laws"; in other words, persistent offenders who terrorise whole neighbourhoods by burglary, mugging and criminal damage and who sometimes kill themselves and innocent bystanders in car crimes.
I wonder whether any Members of the Committee saw "The Cook Report" on television last Thursday night. It included the story of the so-called "Sutton Posse" who admitted to a thousand robberies involving £300,000 in their neighbourhood. They even defiantly used to leave printed calling cards announcing that it was they who had committed the crime. The public simply will not tolerate the continued immunity of such persistent young criminals from punishment. Being sent to a secure training unit is a sentence of last resort and when everything else has been tried and failed.
Before such a sentence can be given, a juvenile must have committed at least three or more imprisonable offences and a supervision order must have been made and failed. It is a method of punishment in place of the defective and discredited theories which have certainly failed our young people and which, most importantly, 48 have manifestly failed to deliver the one thing that the public is entitled to receive; namely, personal protection.
I would like just briefly to touch on some of the objections to the provision of secure training units. We are told that we should deal with the causes of crime, and so we should if we could ever agree what those causes are. Has the world really ever been free of crime? The right reverend Prelate sitting here would tell us that the first crime was committed in the Garden of Eden. We shall not discover either the causes of crime or the cure overnight, if we are ever lucky enough to do so. But until that happy day arrives we still have to deal with the here and now. We must ensure that old age pensioners are not brutally mugged in the street, or beaten up, or tortured in their own homes by juvenile robbers, or that pedestrians are not mown down in the street by young so-called "joy riders" who are in fact car thieves.
We are told about the possible expense of the measure. But ask the victim of a burglary whether he thinks that the expense is a consideration, or ask the unfortunate parents of a persistent young car thief who eventually ends up in an horrific accident. In any case, a great deal of the expense will be incurred in the education, therapy and training which these centres will provide and that expense will be offset by the amount of crime that this measure will prevent.
Then there are those who are worried about possible cross-contamination of young criminals by others. But many of those who advance that argument also want these persistent offenders to be looked after by the same authorities who care for children with special needs or abused youngsters who have no criminal involvement whatsoever. The fact is that the best use of resources will be to keep these persistent offenders in a small number of specialised, highly disciplined units, with staff trained to deal with violent and anti-social criminals who have no respect for the law.
I wish to make one final point. However tolerant one is prepared to be and however understanding, that small minority of persistent young criminals who have been sentenced to all of the alternative penalties that the system has to offer and who have committed at least three offences that would have sent an adult to prison must be shown that it is no longer the case that there is nothing that can be done to them. A line has to be drawn and they must clearly understand that it is thus far and no further. I hope the Committee will put the public first and foremost by rejecting this amendment and by drawing that line.
§ Lord Annan
I have very little to add except to ask the noble Earl whether he does not think the time has come now when we might resolve this matter.
§ 5.45 p.m.
Whether or not I consider it is the right time is a matter for my own personal preference. The main point is whether the Committee thinks it is the right time to resolve the matter. I delayed getting to my feet because I noticed that one or two Members of the Committee and the noble Baroness were trying to get to 49 their feet. However, I shall take the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and do my best to draw this debate to a conclusion.
I think that all of us knew that we would have a fairly spirited debate on this subject and I do not think that we have been disappointed in that. Everyone knows of the knowledge and interest of my noble friend Lady Faithfull in this subject, and indeed of her expertise in and specialist knowledge of the subject. However, I was slightly amazed to read in the leading article in the Guardian today that she is described as,the Conservative Conscience of the Lords".That is a fairly generous attribute and one with which not everyone might necessarily agree. The article continued,They know she does not engage in campaigns against her party lightly".All I can say is that when I have stood at this Dispatch Box on almost every subject with which the Home Office has been involved my noble friend behind me has said almost always, "They are wrong". However, on this occasion I think that she is wrong and on this occasion I think that the newspaper was also wrong.
As the Committee is only too well aware, crime is now being committed by people at a progressively younger age. Often it is found that a high percentage of crime in an area is committed by a small number of people. Regrettably these people are often very young. As my noble friend Lady Miller of Hendon said, often the lives of people in a community are ruined by those young criminals. I believe it is a fundamental role of Parliament to ensure that the public are protected against crime and criminals as far as is possible. It is also the role of Parliament to ensure that the courts have the powers which they need both to protect the public and to deal with the offender.
When people offend—especially juveniles—it is usually right that they should first be given a chance to get back on the rails without being placed in custody. But when they offend seriously, constantly and continuously, and when they have rejected that which the courts and society have offered them to enable them to change their ways, and when they have continued to cock a snook at the law, the public and the society in which they live, then a different approach has to be taken. The public have the right to be given a respite from the activities of these people. That is what the secure training order is being established to do.
My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham reminded the Committee of the example that I gave at Second Reading and other Members of the Committee have given other examples. I do not believe that either the Government or Parliament should sit idly by and pretend that the existing arrangements are satisfactory for dealing with the youngsters we are discussing when clearly they are not, and everyone knows it. As my noble friend Lady Seccombe said, the police, magistrates and communities are frustrated but the youngsters just grin and pursue their nefarious activities.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway that something has to be done, and that is why we are proposing these new secure training orders. But 50 then of course came the great cry, "It will not work". My noble friend Lady Faithfull said "It will not work". The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said "It will not work". The noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, said "It will not work". And of course the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, as one would expect, said "It will not work". The noble Lord asked why the Government were going down this road as it would fail. I shall tell the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and the Committee why we are doing this—because something needs to be done.
It is all very fine to say that approved schools have not worked, community homes have not worked, borstals have not worked and detention centres have not worked. What are we then supposed to do—nothing? Of course not. We are proposing to establish these new secure training centres. But then the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark said, "Ah, but there is no hard evidence that these will work". Of course he is perfectly right. There is no hard evidence because they have not been introduced. They are a new idea and it is quite right that these new ideas should be pursued.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, also said the system would not work and that we could not believe that everything would be different because of this regime. I cannot guarantee that and I cannot even guarantee to find the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, in the Chamber. I see him now in his place. I thought that he had disappeared behind the Bar—not into the bar but behind the Bar in the Chamber. Of course one cannot guarantee that these new ideas will work, but that is no reason for not trying.
The contribution of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was to suggest having a national inquiry. I do not know where that would get us. All I would say to the noble Earl is that the Home Affairs Select Committee undertook a substantial inquiry into juvenile offenders only last year. We will of course agree to look at the arrangements for managing custodial establishments for juveniles. These new secure training centres will serve two distinct but equally important purposes. First, they will provide specific relief to the communities whose life can be totally ruined by the activities of these young people, and let no one underestimate the benefit of that. During the first half of the sentence the youngsters will be held in secure premises. They will be kept out of the way and for that period at least they will be unable to carry on their offending.
The second purpose is to try to break the pattern of offending. That is why the centres will provide these young people with the care, discipline and education which they so clearly need. There are those who say that this kind of sentence is not necessary and that it is even wrong and that these youngsters are after all only children. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark said that this measure will separate people from their families. But the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, said that many of these people and their parents are involved with drug and alcohol abuse. I agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham that sometimes it is necessary to separate these people.
51 But on other occasions it is necessary to continue the relationship with the family. That is why we are making special arrangements for that to happen.
I do not think that this kind of sentence is wrong. Most people agree that some offenders have to be locked up. There simply is no alternative. Even my noble friend Lady Faithfull said that. So did my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone and my noble friend Lord Carr, with all his experience as a former Home Secretary. The fact is that the courts have no powers to order the detention of 12 to 14 year-old offenders other than in the gravest of cases.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, referred to the offender I mentioned at Second Reading. The noble Lord said that he had escaped from insecure accommodation. That is precisely the point. The courts have no power to put a person into secure accommodation. It is up to the local authority to decide whether secure accommodation should be used. We believe that the fact that a person has absconded from insecure accommodation is a very good reason for having a secure training centre.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
It may also be a case for having more secure accommodation. If the noble Earl is saying that the present law is unsatisfactory as regards the powers of the courts to make orders in relation to local authority secure accommodation, why have they not addressed that in this Bill rather than create these new centres?
The noble Lord says that that is an argument for having more secure accommodation. But he said, in his usual pungent way, that we ought to vote against the Motion that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill. To do so would remove from the courts the power to sentence an offender anywhere, whether to a secure training centre or to local authority accommodation.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
Is the Minister saying that there is no way in which the Government could devise an amendment which would give the courts the power to sentence a child to local authority secure accommodation?
We have produced proposals, and they are in the Bill. If the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who is so dismissive of these suggestions, cares to read the Bill he will see that it is possible for the courts to sentence a person to a secure training unit or to any other place which has the Home Secretary's approval.
It is true that there are powers available to local authorities to place youngsters in secure accommodation, but those are the powers of the local authorities. They are not the powers of the courts. The courts can only permit a local authority to continue to keep a child in secure accommodation; they cannot require it to do so.
Clause 1 sets out the criteria for the secure training order. They are stringent criteria. The order will be made only when the person before the court is 12,13 or 14 years old, has been convicted of three imprisonable offences and has failed to respond to community 52 supervision, either because he has re-offended while subject to a supervision order or because he has failed to comply with the requirements of a supervision order.
The secure training order will be used only when the offending is so serious that only a custodial sentence will do or, in the case of a violent or sexual offence, such a sentence is required in order to protect the public from serious harm.
I know that a number of Members of the Committee, including my noble friend Lady Faithfull, feel that some of these children have to be locked up but that that should be done by adding to local authority secure accommodation rather than creating new places to be run by the Home Office. Many Members of the Committee said that. My noble friend Lord Carr was worried about the difference between the secure training centres and local authority secure accommodation. I say to him that at present the courts do not have the power to render a person liable to local authority secure accommodation.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
Perhaps I may try again. If the courts do not have those powers, is it beyond the wit of the Government to produce legislation which would give them those powers? If they did that, would that not solve the problem and remove the need for secure training centres?
If the noble Lord will contain himself a little longer I shall come to that point. The local authority accommodation deals with a variety of young people. Those young people have different needs and there are different reasons for their being there. Some are alleged offenders who are there on remand, some are there for their own protection, some are absconders, some are highly disturbed, and many are not offenders at all. We do not believe that it is right to put this category of persistent young offenders with that disparate group of people for whom local authority accommodation is provided.
The boy of 12 to whom my noble friend Lady Faithfull referred is a classic example of a child who needs special attention and should not be mixed up with all the other youngsters. Persistent young offenders need special treatment. They need a specific regime to tackle offending, and they need resources and activities which will help to deflect them from their previous life of juvenile crime.
We believe that that can best be done in five dedicated units, each of which will hold some 40 youngsters. The units will be large enough to ensure that they can provide good quality regimes. They will be specifically tailored to deal with those particular problems. That would not be possible if the offenders were dotted around the country in twos or threes in local authority units.
A number of Members of the Committee asked me what will happen. I can tell the Committee that secure training centres will not be part of the prison system. The staff will not wear prison uniforms. The staff in the centres will include trained teachers. They will be required to have the skills and experience to provide welfare and care work. The centres will be required to develop policies and systems to prevent bullying and 53 self-harm. As part of the assessment procedure the centres will work with probation officers and social services staff who are involved with the offenders.
Some noble Lords said that units for 40 people were too large. There will be small living units of eight to 10 places, individual bedrooms and intensive staffing. Those will be vital components in ensuring that a subculture of bullying does not emerge among the children. Contractors will be required to assess offenders on arrival at a centre for the risk of suicide and self-harm and to operate a monitoring policy. The Home Office monitor will ensure that those requirements are met and satisfactorily carried out.
In line with the principles of the Children Act, children in secure training centres will have free access to an independent complaints investigator. The secure training centres will require a multi-disciplinary team of staff—teachers and medical staff, residential super-visors and so forth—who will have to be appropriately qualified in their respective disciplines.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, was concerned about girls. Girls will be subject to the order as well as boys. They will be accommodated in the centres. The centres will of course be required to take account of their particular needs and requirements and will be involved in responding to and meeting those needs.
My noble friend Lord Carr asked what consultation there has been with the Department of Health. These are government policies, involving the expansion of the local authority estate necessary for remands, which used to be local because of frequent court visits, the need to see lawyers and so forth.
My noble friend was worried about discontinuity between the secure training centres and subsequent supervision. I can tell him that assessment of aftercare needs will begin during the secure part of the sentence, wherever the sentence is served, and whether the assessment is undertaken by the social worker, probation officer or another person. The Home Office will select the most appropriate supervisor and will take into account the need for continuity of treatment and the need to reinstate the child into the community.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
I apologise to the noble Earl for intervening. He referred to accommoda-tion for girls. Is it proposed that the secure centre for girls will be a single sex centre? If so, is it likely therefore that there will be only one such centre nationwide, or are they likely to be joint centres? If the latter is the case, can the noble Earl say what provision will be made for the obvious dangers to which that could give rise?
It is unlikely that there will be one particular unit for girls. I shall have to confirm this to the noble Baroness, but it is likely that they will be mixed sex centres. But of course there will have to be special provision in order to prevent the problems which the noble Baroness quite rightly has in mind.
In the Government's view the measures are entirely consistent with the United Nations Convention on the 54 Rights of the Child, the standard minimum rules for the administration of juvenile justice and the European Convention on Human Rights.
As regards education, the centres will provide 25 hours of education. Each youngster will be assessed on his educational attainment level and will receive a broad and balanced curriculum appropriate to his needs. There will be liaison with the youngster's local education authority when he returns to mainstream education on release. The education staff will be trained and experienced in teaching this age group.
Some reference has been made to cost. The system may well cost less than £30 million. However, it should be remembered that the cost will relate to running the project as well as the amortisation of the capital because the contractor will be providing the capital to build the building. The cost will depend on the results of the competitive tender. The crucial point is that everyone agrees that some of those children need to be put into custody. Some local authorities charge up to £3,000 a week and the average cost is £1,700 a week. We believe that the secure training centres will be cheaper than that.
I know that some noble Lords may be thinking of voting that Clause 1 should not stand part of the Bill because they think that local authority secure accommodation would be a better answer to the problem than the secure training centres proposed by the Bill. We have had many noble Lords saying that this afternoon. I say this to them on that.
To vote against Clause 1 standing part of the Bill will remove the ability of the court to order a child to be sent to secure accommodation anywhere, either to secure training centres, or to local authority accommodation as made by some noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, want. The power of the courts to order the detention of those children anywhere will be removed if your Lordships do not agree that Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill.
Your Lordships will no doubt wish to bear in mind that, although there was a full debate on Clause 1 and all that it contained in another place, there was not even a vote on the Question that Clause 1 shall stand part, either in Committee or on Report. Another place agreed that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill; and even the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, Mr. Blair, said,Our dispute is not about the powers. We agree that the courts need them".It is curious that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, should say this afternoon, "Let us vote against Clause 1 of the Bill".
The noble Lord, Lord Richard, says that that is exactly what the noble Lord said. The point I seek to make is that, when the measure was in another place, the party of which the noble Lord, Lord Richard, is such a distinguished member, was quite content that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, wants to do away with Clause 1. (I shall give way in a moment.) With regard to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, what did the Liberal Democrat Party do? In Committee, it was content that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill. At 55 Report there was no objection to any of the 15 clauses standing part of the Bill; and the Liberal Democrats were not even present at Third Reading. Now the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, says, "Ah, we must vote against this issue on principle". I think that the principles of both the noble Lords, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and Lord McIntosh, are poor.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. If he will recall what I actually said, I made the distinction between two possible approaches to a problem that we all agree genuinely exists. The two possible alternatives are these: to provide new places, as the Government propose; or to provide new powers, as we wish to do. There is nothing inconsistent in any way between that approach and the attempt by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, to remove the unamendable proposals (I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, on that) in Clauses 1 to 15. One cannot change them unless one recognises that the real danger is the attempt to deal with the problem by providing new places rather than new powers.
The noble Lord has tried to wriggle himself out of a hole. The actual fact of the matter is that in another place, his party was content to have Clause 1 stand part of the Bill and in this Chamber the noble Lord advises the Committee to vote against the issue.
I am bound to tell the Committee that it is your Lordships' duty—and it is the Government's duty to advise your Lordships too—to see that the Bill leaves the House in a sensible state. I am bound to tell the Committee that, if noble Lords were to remove Clause 1 from the Bill, then Clauses 2 to 15 could not sensibly remain part of the Bill. So, if Members of the Committee were to be moved to vote against Clause 1 of a Bill—and I hope that common sense will prevail —they would in effect be voting against the first 15 clauses of a Bill. I am bound to ask whether noble Lords think that that is the correct course to take. Your Lordships' House is, of course, a revising Chamber. But this is not "revising" stuff. It is not "amending" stuff. It is wrecking stuff. It is leaving out a great chunk of a Bill which has had the approval of another place. The Committee would be doing that on the very first occasion of debating the matter, without giving the Government or anyone else the ability to consider and ponder over anything that your Lordships have said today and without giving noble Lords the opportunity even to consider Clauses 2 to 15.
If another place were to decide not to accept the Committee's decision and to seek to put the clause back into the Bill, the first and only time that the House would be able to discuss Clauses 2 to 15 would be in the very restricted circumstances of Commons Amendments to Lords Amendments. Apart from any effect which the removal of Clause 1 to 15 will have on the Bill's attempts to deal with juvenile crime—and it is a very important part of the Bill—I suggest that it would be an unwise course for the Committee to take; and I 56 think that it might be seen to be highly provocative too. I therefore have no hesitation in advising that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill.
§ Baroness Faithfull
I shall be brief. I cannot possibly emulate the skill, rhetoric and humour of the Minister. I shall not deal with the individual points made. There is no need to go over them again.
However, I realise that many people on this side of the Chamber consider that it would be wrong to put my amendment to the Committee today because it would not give us the chance to amend the Bill. How could we amend the Bill? The Home Secretary very generously saw me on 24th March. He told me that there was no way that the Bill could be changed or altered with regard to secure training units. On 11th May the Home Secretary generously agreed that I could take a deputation to see him. The deputation consisted of a chief probation officer, a representative of the National Association of Probation Officers, a very experienced, outstanding London magistrate, the President of the Association of Directors of Social Services, representation from the British Association of Social Workers and the clerk to the North Hampshire Justices and chairman of the Criminal Law Committees Justices' Clerks. I did not take representatives of voluntary organisations. I have to tell the Committee that representatives of all the children's voluntary organisations—the NSPCC, the Children's Society, the National Children's Home and Barnardos—would have come with us. I am grateful to the Home Secretary in that he gave us an hour of his time. However, at the end of that hour he said, "We are going forward with the secure training units".
We know that he is going forward with them. He has the grounds in the grounds of prisons. He already has the specifications, which most of us have seen. We believe that he has put the plans out to tender. He obviously cannot accept the tenders until the measure has been through your Lordships' House. But how could we amend it? There is no way in which we could do so.
I am sorry that various members of my party believe that I am not recognising the convention of withdrawing the amendment and considering whether to bring it up at the next stage. But the Home Secretary is bound to say, "Resist it". He has no option; he has everything in place. Therefore it is with great sorrow but with conviction that I seek the opinion of the Committee.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 182; Not-Contents, 144.58
|Division No. 1|
|Aberdare, L.||Astor, V.|
|Addison, V.||Balfour, E.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Banbury of Southam, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Barber of Tewkesbury, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Birdwood, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Blatch, B.|
|Archer of Weston-super-Mare, L.||Bledisloe, V.|
|Arran, E.||Blyth, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Boardman, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Lane of Horsell, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Liverpool, E.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Long, V.|
|Brookes, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.[Lord|
|Caldecote, V.||Mancroft, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Manton, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Carlisle of Bucklow, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Miller of Hendon, B.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Milverton, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Morris, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Mottistone, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Mountgarret, V.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Munster, E.|
|Colnbrook, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Courtown, E.||Norfolk, D.|
|Coventry, E.||Norrie, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Cranborne, V.||Oppenheim-Barnes, B.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Palmer, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Peel, E.|
|Denham, L.||Pender, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Pike, B.|
|Digby, L.||Platt of Writtle, B.|
|Dixon-Smith, L.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Prior, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Quinton, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Elles, B.||Rees, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Renton, L.|
|Elton, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Fairhaven, L.||Rippon of Hexham, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Foley, L.||Romney, E.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Roxburghe, D.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Sainsbury of Preston Candover, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Goschen, V.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Grantchester, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Selborne, E.|
|Greenway, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Gridley, L.||Sharpies, B.|
|Haddington, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Hanson, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Hardinge, V.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Harmar Nicholls, L.||Stewartby, L.|
|Harmsworth, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Hayhoe, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Henley, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Suffield, L.|
|Hesketh, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Holdemess, L.||Swinton, E.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Tebbit, L.|
|Hood, V.||Teviot, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Hothfield, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Howe, E.||Tugendhat, L.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Ullswater, V. [Teller.]|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Killearn, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal]|
|Kimball, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Wharton, B.|
|Whitelaw, V.||Wyatt of Weeford, L.|
|Wise, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Wolfson, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Ackner, L.||Judd, L.|
|Addington, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Annan, L.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Kirkwood, L.|
|Ashley of Stoke, L.||Kitchener, E.|
|Avebury, L.||Lester of Heine Hill, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Bath, M.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Blackstone, B.||Longford, E.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Bottomley, L.||Mar and Kellie, E.|
|Bridges, L.||Mason of Bamsley, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Brimelow, L.||McGregor of Durris, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||McNair, L.|
|Callaghan of Cardiff, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Meston, L.|
|Carter, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Castle of Blackburn, B.||Mishcon, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Crook, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Dahrendorf, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Dainton, L.||Nathan, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Nicol, B.|
|David, B. [Teller.]||Ogmore, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Peston, L.|
|Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Donoughue, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Rea, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Richard, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Ewing of Kirkford, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Faithfull, B. [Teller.]||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Russell, E.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Scanlon, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Seear, B.|
|Geraint, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.||Serota, B.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Shaughnessy, I.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Shepherd, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Southwark, Bp.|
|Greene of Harrow Weald, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Greenhill of Harrow, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L,|
|Grey, E.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Strafford, E.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Haskel, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Healey, L.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Henniker, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Hilton of Eggardon, B.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hollick, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Holme of Cheltenham, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Hughes, L.||White, B.|
|Hunt, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Wilberforce, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Irvine of Lairg, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Jeger, B.||Windlesham, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Young of Darlington, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 1 agreed to accordingly.59
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Clause 2 [Secure training orders: supplementary provisions as to detention]:
§ Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 3, line 20, after ("place") insert ("other than to accommodation provided by the prison service or to police detention").
§ The noble Baroness said: If there were no vacancies in local authority secure places or secure training units, then Clause 2 would allow a child or young person to be helped for 28 days, and for that help to be repeated until a vacancy is found. This amendment would prevent children and young persons being held in police cells and police detention. There is already concern about 15 and 16 year-olds who are on remand being held in prison and there is an agreement to phase that out. If 12 to 14 year-olds are dangerous they can be held under Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and sent to youth training centres. In the present circumstances, 15 year-old boys can be remanded to adult prisons and remand centres. There is concern about the number of suicides among juveniles held in Her Majesty's prisons. This amendment is to safeguard the children being held in prison cells. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton
My noble friend just said that the aim was to prevent them being held in the prison service. But the amendment says, "or … police detention". They may well have been arrested by the police and have been brought to court by the police. That is a factor to which, if I may say so, she should apply her mind and let us know why she thinks that that would be wrong.
§ Lord Elton
Perhaps I may elaborate a little. My noble friend's amendment deals with a case in which a person comes before the court and where accommoda-tion in a secure training centre is not immediately available. I believe that the Committee will agree that it would be entirely inappropriate for a person of 12 or even 14 years—and these are the people about whom we are talking—to be sent back to police cells for an indefinite period of custody, where there would be no exercise and no education, and where they would receive no looking after as a child at all. Most Members of the Committee have protested about this treatment being served out to adult offenders. It must be doubly wrong for juveniles.
The alternative is one which, in the eyes of Members of the Committee, is perhaps a less horrible one; namely, sending them to prison service accommodation. The prison service has a variety of accommodation at its disposal, ranging from local prisons for adults to accommodation for juvenile offenders. My noble friend proposes that such children should not be sent to any of those places under any circumstances. At a later stage it may be as well to go into that question more closely. I would support her very strongly in not allowing children of 12 to be sent to adult prisons. I suspect that I would support her strongly in not allowing such children to be sent indefinitely to young offender institutions under this provision. This provision is only in the Bill because 60 it is thought that that sort of provision is unsuitable for these children. Therefore, it must be illogical for the Government to suppose that it should be.
It seems to me that my noble friend has to answer two questions. First, why should it be permissible under the Bill (if it is) to send a child to a police cell indefinitely? That is wholly unacceptable and I would vote against that with resolution. Secondly, what sorts of prison service accommodation has he in mind to which the court might be able to send a child if the Government have failed in their undertaking to provide sufficient places for the child to be sent to a secure training unit? On the latter part of the answer, my noble friend may with difficulty be able to persuade me to support him; but it will be a struggle.
§ Lord Renton
Before my noble friend sits down, I am sure that he would acknowledge that there may be a small practical difficulty. It is this. Between the court giving sentence and the child being seen in the secure accommodation under Clause 1, which may be many miles away, the child has to be cared for somehow. Having been in the hands of the police when being brought to court and having to remain in custody, and secure transport being needed to take him to the secure accommodation, to rule out any possibility of the police having a responsibility—which this amendment would give them—I should have thought would, quite frankly, be impossible.
§ Lord Elton
My noble friend will correct me if I am wrong. I believe the same difficulty arises with all sentences; namely, that there has to be somewhere for the prisoner to be disposed of in transit. That provision is already in statute. What this amendment seeks to remove is the power of the court to direct, of its own volition, that a prisoner shall be held in a police cell. As I understand it, as things are now if a person is given a sentence of penal servitude in a prison he is taken there by the police, and if the prison cannot accept him he is held overnight in a police cell. If that happened to a child it would not be by the direction of the court; it would be as a result of the administrative machinery by which the court order to deliver him to a prison was administered. And it would be subject to further provisions because of the age of the child. We shall address those provisions in a later clause, when the Government will seek to reduce the age at which there is an absolute bar to a child being held in prison accommodation.
I hope that I have made myself clear to my noble friend. I do not propose that the alternative is to let the child loose. The alternative ought to be to go to local authority secure accommodation and, failing that, to agree to a police cell.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, did the Committee a service in the debate on Clause 1 by reminding us that we ought always to be talking about "children", and really about quite small children aged 12 to 14. If we look at the experience of even 15 and 16 year-olds in young offenders' institutions such as Feltham or Glen Parva—and even more if we look, for example, at the terrible history of 61 the recent suicides of 15 year-olds in Swansea Prison —all of the arguments that apply against having children of that age in those institutions (arguments which were confirmed by the House of Commons Select Committee only last year in its report on juvenile offenders) surely apply in even greater force in the case of 12 to 14 year-olds.
§ Lord Murray of Epping Forest
There are only two choices for a child in a young offenders' institution. One is to be put on a landing where, most certainly, the life of a child of 12 or 13 years of age would be absolutely impossible in terms of bullying and harassment. Alternatively, such children would have to be segregated under Rule 53, which is equally unthinkable. To lock up a child by himself or herself in those circumstances would be utterly inhumane. I am certain that the noble Baroness is absolutely right in seeking to exclude that possibility.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Baroness David
Since the mid-1970s it has been an aim of successive governments to phase out remanding juveniles to Prison Service establishments when there is some secure accommodation available, as there usually is, with local authorities. In his annual report for 1989, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons wrote:Probably the most disturbing aspect to emerge from our inspections was the number of juveniles"—he was referring to 15 year-olds, not 12, 13 or 14 year-olds—who continue to be held in penal establishments… In many ways these youngsters have less in common with men in their late teens than is generally realised. They are often despised by the older group, resented for their childishness and become the victims of intimidation".He went on to say that if juveniles have to be held in custody, they should be in the care of the local authority. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
Clause 2(2) allows action to be taken in the particular circumstances when the secure training centres have no place for an offender who has been issued with a new secure training order. We hope and believe that that will not happen very often.
The criteria for the sentence are stringent ones. There will not be many candidates who will be eligible for the secure training order. But there could be circumstances in which a place in a secure training centre might not immediately be available.
The clause allows a court to commit an offender to alternative accommodation. It allows the Home Secretary either to direct where this alternative accommodation shall be or—this was a point raised by my noble friend Lord Elton—to contract with suitable providers of such accommodation (such as local authorities, child care organisations or providers of children's homes registered under the Children Act 1989) to look after the offender.
Subsection (4) of Clause 2 allows an offender to be transferred from a secure training centre to alternative accommodation where this is necessary; the offender, for example, may require emergency hospital treatment or psychiatric care. We would not envisage that prison accommodation or police cells would be appropriate in 62 either of those cases. However, I should be reluctant to rule out, by statute, that they should never be used. There could be quite exceptional circumstances in which there might be little other choice: for example, if there were a fire or some other emergency which totally destroyed the secure training centre, or,—heaven forbid!—if there were an outbreak of bubonic plague, and places had to be found for the offenders.
I can give the Committee an assurance that there is no way that either prison accommodation or police cells will be used in order to deal with an excess demand for secure training centre places. I hope that my noble friend will find contentment in that.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I hope that the noble Baroness will not do so because the noble Earl has used the kind of argument employed in 1980–81 to justify the power which at that stage did not exist. Following the industrial dispute when the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, was Home Secretary, a new provision was written into the statute book giving the prison department the power to put people into police cells.. Before that time, there was uncertainty as to whether or not that was lawful. Since then, we have had a new prison system established with literally hundreds of adult offenders being put in police cells. In the circumstances of the early 1980s, that was part of an emergency provisions Bill; but the one clause that remained in that Bill gave that particular power.
The noble Earl says that only in the most exceptional circumstances will anyone be kept in prison or in a police cell. We have heard that argument before. I repeat that hundreds of people on a regular basis are now being kept in police cells. We have to face that fact. If we do not have some limitation on this power, at some stage in the future we will find 12 and 13 year-olds either in a Prison Service establishment or in a police cell.
The noble Earl is well aware, because we have debated this point on many occasions, of the deep resentment felt in the police service that it is having to carry the responsibility of holding Home Office prisoners. That will be as nothing compared with the police service's attitude if it eventually finds that it is having to keep 12 and 13 year-olds in police cells. Then; is no conceivable apparatus within the police service to look after children in those circumstances.
I hope very much that the noble Earl will reflect on this matter between now and Report stage. I do not know what the noble Baroness intends to do. However, I hope that there will be some limitation of that authority. It will cause serious disquiet among many people concerned about this part of the Bill if there is no limitation at all on the use of Prison Service accommodation or police cells.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
Understandably, there has been a general consensus about the undesirability of young people of the age under discussion being in prison cells of any form. The noble Earl appreciated that, as one would expect. We welcome the fact that he said that it would not be routine and that it would not be the automatic reaction to a shortage of accommodation, even if temporary. It would only be a last resort. As the 63 noble Lord, Lord Elton, pointed out, the normal alternative should be local authority secure accommodation.
When a Minister gives the kind of assurance that the noble Earl gave, the desirable course is for it to be translated into an amendment of the Bill. It is not difficult to devise a form of words that would exactly express what the noble Earl assured the Committee. It is a mistake always to try to draft on the hoof. I hope that the noble Earl, before the next stage of the Bill, will have the draftsman devise an amendment that covers his assurances to the Chamber.
The point at issue arose much earlier on the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. I believe that most Members of the Committee now present were in the Chamber at that time. The question arose as to what would happen if the secure training centres were full. I understand that the question was put to the Minister by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. The noble Earl gave a number of examples of alternatives that might have to be used. He did not mention prison accommodation and he did not mention police cells.
The whole point of the amendment is not to create a situation in which it would be highly unlikely but to enable it to be completely out of order for the Home Secretary or the courts to make use of police cells or prison accommodation for children as young as 12 to 14 years-old.
§ Lord Elton
My noble friend undertook—he will correct me if I am wrong—that there would be no recourse to police cells except in very exceptional circumstances. It is difficult to imagine circumstances sufficiently exceptional to justify a child of 12, who has no doubt just come to court from a police cell, being put back into the police cell for a period not exceeding 28 days—for goodness' sake! That is what the Bill provides. I hope therefore that my noble friend will feel able to be more precise in the undertaking and establish it in statute. Although we now have a situation where what is said at the Dispatch Box has some bearing in the courts, nothing is so secure as what is written on the face of the Bill. The more strongly my noble friend says that it is unthinkable it should happen, the less objection there can be to putting it on the face of the Bill.
If my noble friend feels that that situation should never happen, I hope that he will table an amendment saying so—almost by tomorrow. In so doing, he will no doubt notice that there is a difference between the two amendments. He spoke to Amendments Nos. 2 and 4. As I heard her, my noble friend only addressed Amendment No. 2, which is the one I spoke to and which deals with the difficulty of disposing of children at the first instance. My noble friend then went on to Amendment No. 4, which deals with such cases as "bubonic plague" and lesser emergencies. I accept that those are different and possibly the terms of the undertaking might be less rigorous in those circumstances.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
Perhaps I may make a suggestion which is intended to be helpful to all sides and will therefore almost certainly be rejected out of hand. Clause 2, which we are discussing, applies—unless I have misread it and I nearly always misread everything nowadays, only,to a person … in respect of whom a secure training order … has been made under section 1".Surely the right way of approaching the problem is to make sure that the order is not made until the court has found a place available. It will be perfectly possible to ensure that that happens in one way or another and that may be a way out, because it will not be necessary to amend the clause. I am only trying to be helpful.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
If I may say so, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, is entirely right. A provision of that sort may well deal with the problem. What causes us disquiet—as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Elton, recognises—is a provision within the statute which provides an arrangement whereby there is a risk "in exceptional circumstances" (whatever that may mean) of a child being kept in either a prison or a police cell. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, suggested a way out of the problem and I hope that the noble Earl will indicate that he is prepared to look at it between now and Report stage.
§ Lord Renton
There is experience in the past which is entirely analogous to the experience we now anticipate. I speak with some knowledge of having had responsibility in this regard.
When in the past a court sentenced people to detention, it had first of all to find out whether or not there was a vacancy in a detention centre not far away. Sometimes the answer came back, "Yes, in three days' time". Meanwhile, the accused person, who was a young person, had to be kept in custody in police cells. That is what happened in practice. It was not the custom of the courts, certainly when I was exercising responsibility in a minor way as a recorder, to take no decision whatever until a place was found to be available in a detention centre. If it had done that, the accused person might have had to wait in police cells for much longer.
I should have thought that it was far better for the court, as envisaged in subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 2, to make the order but for the Government to provide what will happen in the meantime.
§ Lord Elton
My noble friend Lord Renton points out that the remedy of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham applies in all cases where there either is or is not accommodation immediately available. He then turns to the question of a situation where accommoda-tion is available, but not immediately. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Renton accepts that a child of 12 would spend the intervening time in police cells.
I merely ask the Committee not to agree with my noble friend. When I was a Minister for the Home Office I visited police cells where young adult offenders were detained. The conditions are not right for children. I may say that they are not right for adults either but would be disastrous for children with nothing to do and nowhere 65 to do it. No trained care whatever was available throughout the day and I ask my noble friend to put that alternative behind us.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
I obviously did not explain myself clearly. I said that if a court makes an order under Clause 1 and the accommodation is not immediately available, the arrangement should be made as envisaged by the Home Secretary in Clause 2. The question is whether or not those arrangements should, in exceptional cases, include police cells. We must allow a minor degree of flexibility for exceptional circumstan-ces and say that the Home Secretary should not be precluded from using police cells if necessary.
§ Lord Carlisle of Bucklow
I hesitate to disagree with my noble friend Lord Renton. However, my recollection is that in fact the court was unable to make a detention centre order unless it had earlier ascertained that such accommodation was available. It was not that the accused was then detained elsewhere. In the 1960s, before a court could make a detention centre order, it had first to inquire whether or not accommodation was available. If such accommodation was not available, then it had to find some other way of dealing with the individual. That is a possible way in which the concerns of my noble friend Lady Faithfull may be met on this occasion: that is, for the Bill to say, in effect, that the court must satisfy itself that secure accommodation is available before making a secure accommodation order.
§ Lord Renton
I agree with my noble friend. However, there were circumstances which were allowed for and envisaged when the court was told that accommodation would be available in a short time. The time was stated; the court was allowed to make the order, and it did so.
§ Baroness Faithfull
It is wrong to put a child in police cells under any circumstances. I feel very strongly about that, having spent a night in a police cell with a child whom I knew would be in a much worse state the following morning if no one was present.
Perhaps the Minister can explain something to me. As I understand it, the Department of Health has allocated funds for 170 more secure places which can be used as remand homes for remand cases. That being so, surely there is no need to use police cells. I shall be grateful if my noble friend the Minister can tell us about those 170 places, which 1 understood were to be used for remand cases.
My noble friend is quite right. Arrangements are being made for a further 170 places to be made available for secure accommodation. The reason for that is that an immense need for them has arisen. Your Lordships have often said so in the past. It would be wrong, on top of that, to overload those places with another 200 or so places which will be needed in secure training centres.
My noble friend is perfectly right that they could be used for people who are subject to a secure training order. Clause 2 of the Bill states: 66Where accommodation for the offender at a secure training centre is not immediately available… the court may commit the offender to such place and on such conditions … as the Secretary of State may direct".And the court may well direct a person to such a place. I understand the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and others, that nobody wants to see children placed in police cells. Nor do we. My noble friend Lord Elton is quite right when he says that they are not fit for children. They are not, and they are not designed for children. It is not the Government's intention that children should go there. However, I suggest to the Committee that it would be a pity to remove by statute the possibility of them ever going there in case of an emergency and something going completely wrong. I have given the Committee some indication of the kind of things that might happen. It is not our intention that they should be used but there could be circumstances when such offenders had to go somewhere and those were the only places available. It is not a question of leaving them there, as my noble friend Lord Elton suggested, for 28 days.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
I am still trying to be helpful. I pointed out that Clause 2 only arises after a secure training order has been made. If the court asks for information as to whether a training place is available, it ought not to make a secure training order at that moment of time until the secure training place is available. It ought to adjourn the proceedings. That lit can do from time to time in the ordinary course of magistrates' court or Crown Court procedure. That is what I was trying to suggest. There is a way out which does not contravene either side to this dispute.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham. I very much hope that the noble Earl will say that he will look at the proposal of his noble and learned friend between now and the next stage of the Bill. There is, as he will appreciate, serious concern on this question. I very much hope he will say, the noble and learned Lord having made this suggestion, that he will look at it between now and the Report stage.
§ Lord Hylton
Before the noble Earl replies, will he also address himself to the helpful suggestion previously made by my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale?
I recognise the concern that has been expressed and it would be wholly inappropriate if I did not undertake to consider what your Lordships have said. I realise that there is a point of anxiety, and, if that anxiety can be met, that will be fine. I cannot give any indication that it will be possible but I am certainly prepared to look at that point and also at the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
On the last suggestion, surely if the court withholds any kind of decision the child will remain in a police cell.
I would expect that before making a secure training order a court might well find out whether there was a place available. The warrant of committal by 67 the court will either commit the person to a secure training centre or, if no place is available, to such place as the Secretary of State may direct or arrange. In that case it will be for the Secretary of State to direct where that child should go. I do not believe that the Secretary of State would direct him to a police cell or to a prison.
§ Baroness Faithfull
There are other avenues open. I speak now as a former director of social services. My staff and I felt strongly that children should not go to police cells under any circumstances. In fact, we enlisted policemen's wives to look after these children temporarily until a secure place could be found. If we do not make it absolutely certain that they may not go to police cells, there will be lots of emergencies and it will always be said that there is an emergency. However, having said all that, I shall withdraw the amendment in the hope that the Minister will come up with something at the next stage of the Bill.
My noble friend Lady Faithfull and her friends may feel that under no circumstances should these children be put into police cells. She will realise that a great many people think that under no circumstances should these people who are due for a secure training order be let loose on the public. That is what we have to try to resolve.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
There are a number of other ways of dealing with that problem. I take the noble Earl's point but there are alternative methods. There is no conceivable reason why the police should become involved. As the noble Earl will be aware, there would be the most passionate concern expressed by the Association of Chief Police Officers if it started believing that it would have to deal with 12 year-olds in police cells.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 3, line 30, leave out ("that paragraph") and insert ("paragraph (a) above").
§ The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment which is consequential on an amendment made in another place. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Supervision under secure training order]:
§ Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 4, line 18, after ("person") insert (", being an employee of a registered charity which with a local authority has entered into a contract for the supervision of young offenders").
§ The noble Baroness said: This amendment deals with the aftercare provision of those leaving secure training centres. The amendment would provide that the aftercare should be carried out by the probation service, social services departments or a registered charity working in partnership with a social services department. When a child leaves a secure training unit, is it intended that the aftercare should be carried out by the staff of the secure unit or is it intended that the probation service or social services should carry out the aftercare? If private firms are to run the secure training 68 units I am against them providing the aftercare. They will not know the network of services that the child can and should receive in his local area. They will presumably have to travel far and will not be in close touch with the child on a weekly or day-to-day basis. I beg to move.
§ Lord Elton
Given the wide distance between the secure training units that we expect, I would very much hope that my noble friend will not be saying that it would be an employee of a private sector secure training unit who followed the child into his home area. I support my noble friend in advancing the cause of the use of voluntary agencies. The charity Divert, which I founded just over a year ago, is at present in the process of working with a lot of social work departments, the probation service and the voluntary sector in order to introduce each to other. Under the present Home Office policy of partnership in the community, there will develop, or it is intended that there will develop—my noble friend may be able to tell us more about it—a strong continuing support which is made up of the social work departments, the probation service and the voluntary sector. My noble friend's department has ring-fenced 5 per cent. of the probation service's money for the voluntary sector. This would be an extremely valuable way for that money to be used. I hope that he will look at this seriously.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
In moving this amendment my noble friend Lady Faithfull drew attention to the intention behind the amendment. The effect of the amendment would be to limit supervision to social workers, probation officers and employees of local charities who had entered into a contract with the local authority. That is to be contrasted with the terms of subsection (2) as it stands, which refers to, "such other person as the Secretary of State may designate". A measure of flexibility is built into the formulation of the clause as it stands which would be absent if the amendment were agreed to. My noble friend Lady Faithfull expressed her anxieties and asked what that formulation was. One of the thoughts behind the formulation in the Bill as it stands is that there may be occasions when the most suitable person for taking care of the supervision (even after the period in the training centre is over) would be the person who had been responsible for the supervision of that child while in the training centre and had thus got to know the child, his ways and the people who had been involved with him outside. That person would therefore have a particular knowledge of the child and would be a suitable person to provide the supervision.
However, I accept that, if the child came from a long way away, it might be difficult for somebody in the training centre to get away to carry out the required supervision. We have tended to talk of the extremes and of the cases where the children are hundreds of miles away, which is inconvenient, but there will be children who come from relatively close to the centres. In such cases and where the kind of relationship to which I have referred has been built up, the most appropriate person 69 to carry out the supervision may well be the person from the training centre. He or she could then provide the necessary supervision even when the child was outside. We think that such flexibility is desirable.
The formulation chosen in the amendment would be very restrictive because it would limit those who could be involved to people who were employees of voluntary organisations with a contract with the local authority. That would mean that people who were employees of voluntary organisations which had excellent reputations but which did not happen to have a contract with the local authority would be ruled out. It would also rule out the possibility of the supervision being provided by somebody who had previously been employed by such an organisation. Although having ceased to be so employed such a person could nonetheless be capable of delivering the service, having previously built up contact with the child.
It is for that reason that we think that the flexibility that is envisaged in the formulation in the Bill is desirable and why we think that the formulation chosen in the amendment would be unduly rigid. That is not to say that it would not frequently be the case that the most natural person to provide the service would be a social worker, a probation officer or an employee of just the kind of organisation which has been mentioned. That may very well often be the case, but the question is whether we should build into the Bill the flexibility of which I have spoken. I respectfully submit to the Committee that that amount of flexibility is desirable, bearing in mind that the supervision will be subject to inspection under the rules that will be made under Clause 3(9). Where that supervision is undertaken by a body other than a social services department or a probation department, it will be subject to social services inspection. In those circumstances, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, will ask one or two questions about that rather extraordinary reply. The noble and learned Lord must have used the word "flexibility" on about 12 occasions. But what does "flexibility" mean? It means, "to allow a Minister to decide and not be troubled by the language of the statute". That is what "flexibility" means.
What is being proposed here? Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can assist us. Given that the establishments are apparently to be run by private security organisations, is it being suggested that in some cases the aftercare responsibility will be passed to such a body? I should be grateful if we could be reassured on that point. I think that the Committee is entitled to a clearer answer—apart from one using the word "flexibility", if I may say so—about what precisely is suggested.
After all, in the debate on Clause 1 we heard that the 12 year-old of whom we were talking cannot go to such a centre until he has committed three previous criminal offences. That being so, he will certainly have been in contact with the local social services department and almost certainly with the local probation officer. That 70 child returns from Oxfordshire to, let us say, somewhere on the south coast of England. I shall not take one of the extreme examples. Is it being suggested that somebody who knew him well—I think that that is what the noble and learned Lord suggested —who presumably would be an employee of a private security organisation would in such circumstances supervise the case?
If that is not what is being suggested, I should be glad if we could be reassured on that point If the noble and learned Lord were to say that there is absolutely no question of such a person being involved, I should be content. However, as I am sure he realises, the formulation of the noble and learned Lord's argument created suspicion in the minds of even fair-minded people like myself. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can put our minds at rest.
§ Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
Although we have not yet discussed the matter in detail, perhaps I may explain that, when the running of the training centres goes out to tender, those who tender for the work will have to submit tenders that meet the requirements of the specification that will be put out by the Home Office:. That specification will require that the companies provide very much more than people who can just run a secure unit. It is not to be thought that they are all to be people like warders or those concerned solely with security. As has already been said, the companies will have to provide people who can provide education. Some of the people involved will be teachers and some will be responsible for training. Even if it were said that those people were technically employees of whatever company happened to be running the centre, they would not necessarily be security guards, as it were; they would be people with a particular skill in the area concerned, whether it be education or whatever.
What I was saying to the Committee was that where somebody had been involved in that way with an individual child while he or she was in the training unit, it might be appropriate for that person to continue to have contact with the child in the role of providing supervision. However, I also stressed that that would often not be appropriate because if the training centre was too far away it would be physically impossible for the person employed by the training centre to provide the aftercare. I also pointed out that, on the other hand, there would be occasions when the child, on returning to his local authority area, was nearby and where such supervision could therefore be provided by the training centre person. I was merely saying that such a person might be suitable, and therefore that degree of flexibility —I do not shrink from using the word—which would allow the Secretary of State to say that such a person in such a situation could provide the supervision, is desirable. That is not to say that it would be used often, but it would be available to be used in an appropriate case.
§ Baroness Seear
Does not the Minister recognise that the term,such other person as the Secretary of State may designate",is extremely wide and vague? After all supervision of such people is not something that can just be done by a well-meaning friend or someone who thinks that they 71 would like to take on the job of supervision because they have nothing better to do. Could not the noble and learned Lord think of some way of tightening this provision rather than just leaving it so open that almost anyone could be appointed, especially now that the matter is going out to contract? The contract could be with an organisation which would then arrange supervision, without there being any control over who it will be. We should have some guarantee that the person who will do the supervision has the background, experience and knowledge that skilled supervision requires.
§ Lord Elton
In answering that, will my noble and learned friend say whether the type of person described in my noble friend's amendment might in fact be employed even if the amendment is not in the Bill?
§ Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
Yes. I hoped that I had made it clear in my original answer that such a person would be the kind of person who would usually do it. I was saying that that amount of flexibility —to use the controversial word—would allow the Secretary of State to appoint someone who did not fall within one of those categories but who nonetheless had, for example, what the noble Baroness speaks of: the necessary training and skills. One might think of someone who might, for example, have been employed formerly by the social services department or the probation service but who may have left temporarily because, for example, she had had a baby, but who nonetheless had all the skills necessary to provide the required supervision. In such a case the Secretary of State might well designate such a person. That would be wholly desirable. It would be unfortunate if that were not possible because of the formulation of the provision.
I of course accept that it would be wholly wrong for the Secretary of State to designate people who did not have the appropriate qualifications. I do not believe for one moment that he would do so, always bearing in mind that there would be provision, as I have already said, for the inspection of the supervision. Therefore, it would be wholly unlikely that anyone who did not have such qualifications would be appointed.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
Is it a fact that the noble and learned Lord would be happy to accept an amendment requiring the Secretary of State to appoint only someone who has a recognised social work or other qualification?
§ Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
It would depend upon what the amendment said, but if the spirit of what I have said could be captured in an amendment then obviously the Government would examine that amendment. The power is designed to be used in the way I have suggested, and an amendment of the kind put down by my noble friend Lady Faithfull would be too restrictive.
§ Baroness Seear
Does the noble and learned Lord recognise that we need the word and not the spirit?
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The noble and learned Lord will also recognise that he has just given a series 72 of interesting answers, but if it applies to aftercare supervision it applies also to the qualifications of staff in a privatised secure training centre.
§ Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
That is obviously the case. The people who will be providing those services have to be suitable people. We have never said anything else. It is foolish to assume that the people who will be providing the services will all be security guards. The people who will be providing these services will be providing particular kinds of services.
§ Lord Wigoder
Before we reach the next stage will the noble and learned Lord be good enough to consider —I am not attempting to draft on the hoof, as was so vividly expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon—some expression such as, "the supervision of a probation officer, social worker, or such other similarly qualified person as the Secretary of State may designate"?
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
We may be missing the point, because good after care depends upon having a relationship with the child when it is in the secure training centre, or, alternatively, it means that the person who is dealing with the child before it went into the secure,training unit should have had a relationship with it. Good after care cannot be carried out unless there is a relationship between the child and the person who is carrying it out. Just to tell someone, whether trained or not trained, that they are responsible for the after care, if they know nothing about that child and do not have a relationship with that child, is not enough.
The amendment shows how wise it would have been had we not passed Clause 1, because then this point would not have arisen. Having said that, I wonder whether it can be stated, perhaps in advice or a schedule, that the person responsible for the after care should be appointed at the very beginning when the child goes into the unit. I simply do not know how someone in Plymouth will supervise a child in Oxford, unless the probation officer or social services person visits the child while it is in the secure unit.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I agree with much that the noble Baroness is saying. My noble friend Lord Wigoder and others have, as usual, been involved in a damage limitation operation. The substance of the argument put forward by the noble Baroness is right. Probation officers visit people who are in prison. They are then responsible for their after care when they leave prison. It is a strange procedure when we talk about appointing someone from within the establishment who will have no prior involvement in that child's life.
§ Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
The point which I sought to make was, in one sense, a reflection of the point made by my noble friend Lady Faithfull, which 73 was that there may be cases where the person who provides the supervision outside would most suitably be the person who had built up a relationship with the child while the child was in the training centre. I said that that might be wholly exceptional. I accept that it has always been envisaged that in order for there to be proper supervision it may be necessary to start building up the relationship early, and it might be appropriate therefore for just the kind of visits to occur which have been mentioned. It will be part of the scheme of the training centre that it should be making arrangements which will ensure that the training is suitable when the child leaves at the end of the secure period.
§ Baroness Faithfull
I think that we have gone as far as we can possibly go on this subject. I still ask my noble and learned friend whether something could be put into the Bill to ensure that the person carrying out the after care is, first, trained; and, secondly, has a relationship with the child, however that may be arranged. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I shall bring it back at the next stage of the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Lord Annaly
I beg to move that the House be resumed. I suggest that the Committee stage begin again not before 8.20 p.m.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.