HL Deb 16 May 1994 vol 555 cc78-123

House again in Committee.

Clause 4 [Breaches of requirements of supervision of persons subject to secure training orders]:

On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Elton

I have one question to put. I was not perhaps quite quick enough to ask a similar question on Clause 3, but it applies equally in respect of Clause 4. In subsection (3) (b) I see that the court may, impose on the offender a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale", just as in Clause 3(7) the offender is to be given notice by the Secretary of State. Those are rather remarkable things to be done to a 12 year-old in person. I wonder whether my noble and learned friend is sufficiently supported and advised to be able to tell me whether the imposition of the fine will, in the first instance, be. notified direct to the offender; and, secondly, under what circumstances an offender aged 12 will be expected to be able to pay a fine up to, level 3 on the standard scale"? If, as I expect, my noble and learned friend tells me that it will actually bite on the child's parent or guardian, perhaps he can tell me how. I hope that I have asked the question at sufficient length to enable my noble and learned friend to prepare, devise or possibly solicit advice from the quarter from which it is normally sent.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I hope that my noble friend will agree to me writing to him on the detail of the matter. In fact, this very morning I asked the question posed by my noble friend in respect of Clause 4(3) (b). Like my noble friend, when I read the clause I was somewhat surprised to think of a 12 year-old paying the fine. At that time I was given an assurance that it would in effect bite on the parents. I understand that that is so by virtue of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. However, I do not have the provision with me and I should like to give my noble friend chapter and verse in my answer. Nevertheless, that is my understanding. As to the other part of my noble friend's question and the other point that he raised, I shall have to write to him.

Lord Elton

I am much obliged. Perhaps my noble and learned friend will be kind enough to do so before we reach the next stage of the Bill's proceedings.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

We should all have the good fortune of reading the answer. As I understand it, the noble and learned Lord asked to be enlightened about the provisions of the clause this morning. However, I do not believe that he has received a full answer. Many other Members of the Committee will also be interested. I should be mildly surprised if it was the 1933 Act, but nevertheless I am not well informed on that particular point. No doubt the noble and learned Lord will write to me. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, will be similarly interested in that reply.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I shall be only too happy to scatter the correspondence about as appropriate. It was precisely because I was slightly surprised that it was the 1933 Act that I noted that fact in the margin of my notes.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Provision etc. of secure training centres]:

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Elton

I have another question in this respect. I am sure that I should know the answer, but we have been dealing hitherto with young people who have not achieved the age of 15; namely, 12 to 14 year-olds. However, Clause 5(2) (d) refers to, secure training centres, that is to say places in which offenders not less than 12 but under 17 years of age in respect of whom secure training orders have been made under section 1", and so on. I should like to know where those extra people are coming from and how my noble and learned friend defends the theory that children should be treated as children in a separate unit while they are flooding such units with 15 to 16 year-olds.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I hope that it is partly by virtue of arithmetic that the point arises. A young person can be made the subject of a secure training order if he or she is between the ages of 12 and 15. If an order is imposed on a young person who is just under 15—that is, at 14 and a bit—for two years then he will be 16 and a bit and still be subject to the order. Although no one can be of the age of 17 that is why a person can still be the subject of such an order at the age of 16.

Lord Elton

I believe that we shall need to debate at the next stage whether that changes the character which most of us thought such secure training centres had. If they are to be devised to contain young people up to the age of 17 we have moved from the lower to the upper school, so to speak, in education terms. It may not be appropriate for children aged 12 to be dealt with in the same place and in the same manner as young men of 17. I am sorry that I did not give my noble and learned friend notice of that question. However, I hope it will suffice for me to give notice that I shall want to ventilate the matter at the next stage.

Lord Hylton

I hope the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will be able to give an assurance—if possible tonight or, if not, at a later stage—that 12 year-olds will not be mixed with 16 and-a-half and 17 year-olds. There is a world of difference between people of those respective ages. For example, there is a whole difference between pre- and post-pubescence. Indeed, it could be most undesirable for the older element to have anything whatever to do with the 12 year-olds.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Is it the case that this is being done to make the centres more commercially attractive to the private sector? Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can help us in that respect?

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

It is not a question of making it more or less attractive to the private sector; it follows quite simply from the provisions of Clause 1 through which we passed a while ago without such a point being thought to be controversial. As one can see from Clause 1(1) the provision applies to young people, of not less than 12 but under 15 years of age". Moreover, on reading further into Clause 1 one finds that the period is not less than six months and no more than two years. As a result, I believe that, arithmetically, it is plain on the face of Clause 1 that there will indeed be children who may be up to the age that I indicated. Of course, I take the point that it will be necessary for the circumstances in the centres to be such that the people are all appropriately cared for. How exactly that will be done is a matter which will have to be assessed by the individual contractors. Where one has a range of ages, what is appropriate for one at the lower end of the scale will clearly not be appropriate for those at the upper end of the scale. Those are matters which clearly the contractors will have to take into account.

Lord Elton

Before we leave the question of arithmetic, I should like to point out to my noble and learned friend that Clause 1 states that only half the sentence shall be served in detention. Therefore the appropriate arithmetic is 15 plus 1 and not 15 plus 2, unless of course my noble and learned friend is allowing a whole year for the processes of justice to wind through by which time the phenomenon of frequent offending will, according to evidence from the Policy Studies Institute, almost certainly have gone.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

Although I cannot put my finger on it at the moment, I am pretty sure that somewhere in this Bill the Committee will find a provision to deal with the situation when someone is in breach of an order while he has been released and is in training. In that circumstance he may be called back to complete the balance of the training order in the training centre. So it follows that the people concerned may be nearly 17.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Who would be responsible for deciding whether there had been a breach of an order? The noble and learned Lord may remember our previous discussion. Apparently we shall have a situation whereby some of the employees of a private security organisation will have this responsibil-ity of aftercare. The question of whether someone is in breach of an order is, as the noble and learned Lord will be aware, of considerable relevance. Who will decide that matter? It will not presumably be the probation officer or the social services officer because they will not be responsible for the aftercare. I would be interested in the reply.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I believe the noble Lord will find some indication on this matter in Clause 4, which indicates that, where there has been a secure training order and it appears on information to a justice of the peace that there may have been a breach, he may issue a warrant for the offender's arrest requiring him to be brought before a court. If it is proved under subsection (3) of Clause 4 to the satisfaction of the youth court that the person has failed to comply with the requirements, that court may order the offender to be detained in a secure training centre. In that circumstance it would be the youth court which would take the decision. It is in that circumstance also that the fine— with which we began these interesting diversions—can be imposed.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I am much obliged but I am afraid that that does not wholly deal with the point I was putting. I apologise if there was any lack of clarity on my part. The point I was putting was a rather different one. It is not a question of what happens when the matter goes to the court. I understand that. That is determined in the same way as a probation order or a community service order would be determined by a court. The question is a different one. For the first time we will have a new group of people who will be in some cases responsible for the aftercare. They will not necessarily be probation officers or employees of social services departments. They may be employees of a private security firm. What I am asking the noble and learned Lord is this: who is responsible for taking that case to the youth court? After all, the employee of the private security firm may be 38, 40 or 50 miles away. Who will be responsible for ensuring that there is no breach, because, as the noble and learned Lord will be aware, a breach does not necessarily involve the commission of a criminal offence? There may be some inadequacy in terms of reporting arrangements or something of that sort. I would be grateful for any clarification which we could be given.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

Without notice I cannot give a definitive answer. However, I shall be happy to write to the noble Lord. People who are charged with supervision will be people whom one might expect would bring this matter to the attention of the authorities. Therefore such a person might be a person who was acting as a supervisor, whoever he happened to be. I suppose also there could be other people—I suppose there could even be police officers—who would become aware of the fact that there had been some breach of the order. In that circumstance the: information might come to light through that means. 1 cannot give a definitive answer as to whether any other way is envisaged, but I am happy to write to the noble Lord on that matter.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Management of secure training centres]:

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 6, line 22, at end insert:

("( ) After subsection (3) there shall be inserted the following subsection—

  1. "(3A) Rules made under this section shall ensure that the education provided in secure training centres shall—
    1. (a) be suitable to the ability and aptitude of each offender;
    2. (b) satisfy the requirements of the National Curriculum;
    3. (c) include any special education provision which at the date of sentencing had been identified under the provisions of Part III of the Education Act 1993 as necessary to meet the special educational needs of the offender; and
    4. (d) be determined in consultation with—
      1. (i) the offender's local education authority, and
      2. (ii) where appropriate, teachers and other professionals involved in the offender's previous education, with a view to integrating the offender on his release in an ordinary local school".").

The noble Lord said: I move this amendment to draw from my noble and learned friend some further details about the intentions for the regime to be followed in these centres. Immediately I use that word I remind myself of all the dangers we have to avoid in establishing them because of course a regime is not something one finds in a school: a regime is something one finds in a prison. We are talking about school children of 12, 13, 14 and 15 years of age. We therefore have to remind ourselves what the purpose of their being there is.

We are all agreed that one of the purposes is to protect the public. However, not all of us are agreed that another purpose of equal importance is to try to retrieve these young people from the sort of lives on which they have embarked and to return them to productive lives within society, learning in their schools, co-operating with their friends and turning into good members of society. If we assume that they are irredeemable—I fear that some people in favour of these places regard them as receptacles for the irredeemably lost members of society—that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I do not believe that there are any such people who are not under some medical or psychiatric difficulty. It is a question of finding the right treatment. That treatment for people of that age must include education that is not only suitable to them but also compatible with education in the schools to which they will return at the end of their sentence.

If they do not go back to school, as I have already had occasion to say, they will rapidly come back to the detention centre. The purpose of the detention centre education programme therefore must be, first of all, to bring them back on course—most of them will be severely truanting children who will have lost a third or more of the education they should have received already. Secondly, they must be brought into step, as it were, with their fellow school pupils whom they will rejoin at the end of their period in detention. As I have already said, that requires close co-operation and co-ordination with the local education authority— wherever it is—in the case of each child.

I would be grateful also if my noble and learned friend in addressing this problem—I know he will say some reassuring things, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers said them earlier, and I should like to hear them again, perhaps at a slower speed—would tell us more about this. I believe that this would be a suitable occasion for my noble and learned friend—if it is he who will spring to his feet, and I cannot tell who it will be at this moment —to say whether the detention centre is under the education Acts to be a school. What is the relationship of the detainee, first, to his home local education authority and, secondly, to the local education authority of the education area in which the detention centre is situated? We cannot treat the child as being taken permanently out of the system without entirely prejudicing our hopes of getting him back into the proper behaviour we expect of him in society.

I have not perhaps addressed this question with the passion which it deserves. Perhaps that is as well because we want it to be dealt with with the cool precise logic that it deserves, but it lies at the heart of what a detention centre is for. I am tempted to move an amendment on Report which changes the term "secure training order" and "secure training centre" to "secure education order" and "secure education centre" as I believe that education is the central activity in such a centre to which training is added and not the other way about. If we do not understand that, we will get it wrong. I beg to move.

Baroness David

I am very pleased to support the amendment. I was amused that the noble Lord referred to detention centres and not secure training centres throughout his speech. However, that is really what they are. It was a very significant remark.

Ofsted is reported to have said that it is very anxious about the educational arrangements which will be provided in the centres. There are a great many questions which have not been answered about the education and training to be provided. For example, will HMI report on secure accommodation education? There was a report in 1992 which I read and which was extremely interesting. It was quite clear from the report that there is very good provision. There is also mediocre provision and some bad provision. But it can be very good.

Earlier, when we were discussing Clause 1, I described the education provided by Salters, which is the Cambridgeshire secure accommodation unit. At Salters they are doing all the things mentioned in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I am not sure whether the offenders' parents are consulted. I expect that they are, although that was not known to me. All the other points in relation to the national curriculum are happening. There is more than that. There is vocational help.

It is important that the factors we are discussing appear on the face of the Bill. Under Section 116 of the Education Act 1944 children in custody have no educational rights. Their parents, LEAs and the Secretary of State are all absolved of duties under the Act towards any child detained by order of a court. So it is important that primary legislation elsewhere secures their effective education.

We have been assured by the Minister on a number of occasions that there will be education and training. If the Government are sincere about that, they should be prepared to accept this amendment or at any rate say that they are prepared to come back at Report stage with something rather more positive than a vague reference to education and training.

It is also extremely important that these children should be able to go back to schools in their own area when they come out of what the noble Lord calls the detention centres. That is vital. That is why I believe it is better if they are somewhere near their home so that they can keep contact with their teachers, schools, probation officers, social workers and so on. It would be very much easier to integrate them when they come out than if they are miles away in a different part of the country. I strongly support the amendment.

Baroness Warnock

This amendment is at the heart of what might make the establishment of these institutions acceptable. There will be a great deal of overlap between people who are detained in the centres and people who attend schools for children who are emotionally and behaviourally disturbed. They will be the same kind of children, having probably been excluded from their schools or having truanted persistently because, as we have heard, most crimes by juveniles are committed when out of school. These children probably attended school only sporadically in the years before finally coming to what may seem like the end of the road for them. Therefore it is of enormous importance that their education should be central. I do not care whether it is called education or training; but it must be education.

It is a paradox that a number of schools for emotionally and behaviourally disturbed children have been closed as a result of inspections which have shown that they were not conforming entirely to the national curriculum. That was often because they could not immediately expect such children, who were incapable of learning, to follow the national curriculum. The children could not settle down to work and had to be introduced gradually to the national curriculum. Good schools have been closed for that reason. It would be extremely paradoxical if the national curriculum were mentioned on the face of the Bill as something which is at least a target for the children who will end up in the centres.

It is demanded in paragraph (c) of the amendment that any special educational provision which has already been identified should be included. It is my contention that there will not be a single child in one of these institutions who will not have special educational needs, whether or not those have been identified previously. The one thing of which one can be certain is that their life of crime means that they will not have got on with their school work. They will need special educational provision, particularly with a view to getting them back to where they should have been before they started their persistent offending. If one does not have the goal that these children should rejoin the mainstream at their school and take up their life again, there is no point in what is proposed and it would have to be acknowledged that the institutions are nothing but mechanisms for keeping the children off the streets for one or two years.

We must adopt an attitude of hope towards these children. The only way to give concrete meaning to that hope is by educating them, not just in the national curriculum but in all kinds of ways, including sport and music. That is so important that it must be detailed to some extent on the face of the Bill.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Hylton

I am very happy to follow my noble friend Lady Warnock because the point I want to make is somewhat akin to hers. I added my name as a supporter of the amendment because of my knowledge of a probation project near Farnham, Surrey, which has been running since the late 1970s. It is constituted as a charity and it continues today. It was visited by Mr. Douglas Hurd when he was Home Secretary.

The project has concentrated on the age group between 16 and 21. It was discovered as the project developed that virtually all of its clients had missed out on the benefit of the schooling which they should have received by the time they reached the project. That may have been due to truanting. It may have happened because their parents moved frequently, or because they were homeless. There may have been other factors. But the project's clients had not had the advantages of the development of mind and character which normal education should have produced in them. That was why to a large extent they found themselves either offending or at risk of offending. Therefore, the project built into its programme a system of remedial education tailored to the needs of each individual client.

There has been mention of the benefits of smallness and intimacy. Those are qualities which the project has consistently achieved, to the great benefit of its clients. It has been said from the Government side of the Committee that in the new system there will be 25 hours a week of education. I welcome that. It was also stated that there will be liaison with the local education authority before the release of detained persons. There was mention too of a training element in the programme as well as the educational element. Those seem to be reasons why the Government should find it quite easy to accept at least the spirit of the amendment. There may be defects in its drafting but, if so, perhaps we can rely on the Government to come forward with a better amendment at the next stage.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I support the amend-ment. It seems vital to have the educational requirernent written into the Bill; and I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said.

These are children of school age. They should have full-time education. If some children are in need of remedial education, it should be available. If a contractor such as Group 4 is to be in charge, I should be grateful if the Minister would tell the Committee a little about Group 4 and what experience it has in the education field. Education must be the best way to teach those young people to live within society; and it is the one link with normality. Surely we want these young people to be normal people who will grow up within society.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

This short debate has stressed matters upon which I believe we can all agree. It can only be a misunderstanding of the purpose of the provisions which leaves any noble Lord in doubt that the Government place great importance on training and education. Those concepts overlap, but nonetheless both have a role to play.

These centres are not to be thought of as oubliettes into which we shall confine and consign those children, forget about them and think that there is no hope for them. On the contrary, they are training centres and we hope that by instituting these centres we shall be able to train and educate those young boys and girls so that they come out of the system as people who are not so likely to offend again. That is the idea underlying the provision. It is in no sense an add-on provision, but very much part of the whole scheme which underlies the Bill.

It is fair to say that one does not find, for example, matters relating to education spelt out on the face of the Bill. It would also be true to say—noble Lords may think that it is equally a criticism of the Bill—that one will not find a lot of detail on the face of the Bill as to the accommodation to be provided for children. Yet the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has already addressed an important matter in connection with accommodation, this evening. The Bill proceeds on the basis that such matters will be subject to negotiation with the contractors in terms of a specification.

So far as one can trace the matters on the face of the Bill, for example, Clause 6 amends Section 47 of the Prison Act 1952. In effect it allows rules to be made for those secure training centres. Among the matters to be covered by the rules will be minimum standards. For example, minimum standards will be provided to back up the provision of education.

How will such standards feed through? The Home Office will provide a specification to the organisations, companies and people who wish to tender to run these centres. We have heard much of Group 4 this evening. It is gaining a lot of publicity and advertising. I hope that it takes comfort in thinking that it may be awarded the contract. But whether or not it is, as I stressed to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, at the end of the day, such contractors are not there simply to provide security services to lock up these boys and girls in these training centres. On the contrary, the contractors will have to meet the specification. They will have to say how they will provide the services required.

Baroness David

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble and learned Lord. Shall we be able to see the specification? That seems extremely important if we are to be convinced by what he says.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

The noble Baroness raises a point to which I was about to come. One of the difficulties for noble Lords in dealing with the matter is that they do not have the specification in front of them. When the Bill was in another place a draft of those specifications was available at that time and was taken into account. That specification has been subject to ongoing revision, as your Lordships appreciate. Therefore we do not have an up-to-date version for you. However, before we come to Report stage your Lordships will have the latest revision of the specification available in the Library of the House. I believe that that will assist somewhat the consideration of these points.

Baroness Warnock

Perhaps I may intervene to ask whether the specification has been drawn up by the Home Office in collaboration with the Department for Education, or has the Home Office done it entirely on its own?

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I cannot answer that question exactly, but given some of the matters that are contained within the specification, I should be surprised if there had not been consultation with the Department for Education. I shall verify that matter. If I do not have the answer before I sit down, I shall write to the noble Baroness.

Lord Irvine of Lairg

Perhaps I may intervene to ask the noble and learned Lord this. He has called attention to Clause 6(3) which sets out the rule which will provide for the inspection of secure training centres and the appointment of independent persons to visit those centres. Is it intended that there should be any rule which will define the standards, in particular in relation to quality of education and training, which are to be achieved by the contractors responsible for those training centres? First, will rules define these standards?

My second question is of more importance if the answer to the first is in the negative. Does the specification itself prescribe standards that are to be achieved in the areas of education and training which therefore would be a yardstick for the independent persons' inspection?

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

Yes, I believe I have already indicated that rules under Clause 6 will incorporate national standards. In turn, those will be reflected in the specification which will go to the people who will tender for the provision of these centres.

Lord Elton

Perhaps my noble and learned friend will forgive my intervention. But before we leave the matter perhaps I may refer to the point that I too was going to raise. I cannot see how what he says is encompassed by the provisions in the Bill. The rules are to provide for the inspection of secure training centres and the appointment of independent persons to visit secure training centres. There is no power in that provision to make a rule about the standards to be inspected. Will there be classrooms, pupil rooms or whatever? The provision relates merely to how they are to be inspected. That is what has aroused our concern.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

As my noble friend said, the provision in Clause 6(3) is inserted in order to provide for external inspection and so on. The rules for running the centre, including the standard of provision of education, will be made under the powers which will exist merely by incorporating amendments to the 1952 Act which are contained in the other provisions of Clause 6. That is a special provision to allow matters dealing with inspection to be covered.

The aim, therefore, is to set out all those matters in the specification. It may be that some matters, understandably raised by Members of the Committee at this stage, will become clearer when the Committee has a chance to study the specification, particularly in connection with education. That is what we are dealing with now. It will also cover matters like accommodation and training, so far as one can divide the two.

Education is absolutely fundamental to the develop-ment of the training plan for any offender. It will be essential that so far as possible one bears in mind the point which has been stressed by a number of Members of the Committee, including the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. That is the need to remember that, if the plan is to succeed at all, the aim must be that when the children end their time at the training centre and leave supervision after their training they will go back to join their fellows in schools. We hope that they will be better pupils than they would have been before that. We hope that they will be able to take their place fully in the normal school system.

For that reason, one of the points which the specification will contain is a requirement that the people providing education will need to take into account and assess an offender's educational needs. They will also have to devise a programme for him which, so far as possible, will reflect the national curriculum, for the reason which Members of the Committee have stressed. It will also be necessary for the centre to keep in touch with the local education authority from which the child came and even perhaps with the teachers who taught the child before he or she came into the centre and to whom he or she may return in due course. It will also be necessary to ensure that the course work for examinations which the child may have to take is maintained. All those are essential and are exactly the matters which will be provided for in the specification. Members of the Committee may, therefore, be reassured when they have a chance to see the specifications.

One matter which was raised was whether or not the training centres would be schools. As I understand it, technically they will not, but—and this may reflect more the substance of the provisions—they will be inspected by the officers of standards in education who are the successors of Her Majesty's inspectors. Thus the centres will be under the same kind of inspection.

9 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Will the reports be published?

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I am being given the signal from the Box that they will be published, so I can assure the Committee that they will. Therefore, in those circumstances, the Government have very much in mind the points raised by Members of the Committee. The scheme of the legislation is not to put such matters on the face of the Bill, and Members of the Committee should judge the matter when the specification is available. In the meantime, in the light of the explanation which I hope I have provided to the Committee, I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, why can we not call the centres "secure centres for education and training"? We all know that they will become known as training centres for a life of crime unless the term is spelt out.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I doubt whether simply changing the name in that way would change an erroneous perception anyway. The substance of the matter is as I have indicated.

Baroness David

Perhaps I may comment on what the noble and learned Lord has just said. We had expected that he would mention the rules, but unless this amendment or something similar is accepted, there will be no right to education for those young people. If the Minister is sincere in what he says, then he should accept an amendment which specifies that education is to be a right.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that I am sincere in what I have said. I am equally sincere in saying that it will be necessary for the children to have proper accommoda-tion. Neither of those matters needs to appear on the face of the Bill.

Lord Elton

There may be a difference here which we should address at a later stage. I do not believe that it is proper to have an order of this nature which leaves everything to trust and nothing to declaration. We must have on the face of the Bill what the legislation is for, otherwise, as we have often seen in the past, a provision is devised for one purpose but used for another. It gradually drifts away. I well remember the day on which my then right honourable friend Mr. Leon Brittan announced that there would be no prisoners left in police cells by the end of the year in which he spoke. That was true for about three or four days. Since then, the numbers have fluctuated between scores and hundreds.

One has to have more than a declaration of intention from a Minister, no matter how senior, how honourable and how well intentioned, if one is to achieve certain objectives. What we wish to achieve here is the proper education of children in a way that may enable them to be returned to society as productive members rather than as its enemies for quick return.

To deal with the other points, I am most grateful to all Members of the Committee who have contributed. I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady David, and to the Committee for referring always to "detention centres". The matter had arisen in a schools context; it was a natural reaction. I have to admit that I was perhaps a little flurried by having opened a letter from my former regiment shortly before I came to the House asking me to fill in the pro forma statement of what I wanted to be in my obituary. In a similarly Freudian way my reaction was to ask whether there was a deadline for this information.

More seriously, my noble and learned friend has agreed that the purpose of this sentence is corrective. That I applaud. He says that there is no reference to education in it because there is no detailed reference to accommodation. But of course there is provision. Accommodation is mentioned but is not spelt out. Education is not stated as an aim. We are not told what the purpose of the detention is. I believe that that has to be on the face of the Bill. My noble and learned friend has sought to give comfort to the Committee by saying that the specifications will be negotiated with the contractors. If the negotiation is only between a government department—the Home Office—and the contractors, it is not likely to contain a good deal that we may think desirable. I should like to know what education authorities and other experts in the matter will have been consulted and will have given a view on the specification before it is published and agreed upon.

My noble and learned friend said that the specifications will be published, to Members' comfort. What if they do not comfort us? Are they to be subject to a parliamentary process and will that process be the negative or affirmative process? If they are not subject to a process, or if that process is not to be the affirmative process, the fact is that we shall have no say at all in what happens in them. Therefore the moment for comfort is not then but now. I told my noble and learned friend that this was a probing; amendment. So it is. He has not addressed ways in which it might be approved. I fear that I shall have to bring it back. I shall invite my noble and learned friend to intervene before I sit down if he wants to correct me on any points that I have made so far. But, subject to that, I shall have to return with what I call a serious amendment at the Report stage. I would not be satisfied that this Bill should go on to the statute book without saying what it is for in this respect. I give my noble and learned friend an opportunity to intervene.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

There are just two points. In case by a slip of the tongue I suggested—as I may have done—that the specification would be subject to negotiation, it would be the particular terms of the contract in any case which would be the subject for negotiation. The specification itself will be a matter to be determined by the Home Office. As I said, Members of the Committee will of course have a chance to see it and will be able to debate matters further in the light of the circumstances when they see what is provided.

The only other matter that I would mention is that one finds in Clause 5(2) a reference to the fact that secure training centres are places where children may be detained and given training and education and be prepared for release. So the idea of training and education is very much there on the face of the statute.

Lord Elton

Returning to the specifications and to my noble and learned friend's assurance that there will be 25 hours of education available a week, I remind him that there are 168 hours of the week, for every one of which the contractors will be responsible. That leaves an awful lot of other hours to be disposed of and used profitably and strenuously in such a way as to get the young people ready for bed at bedtime and not ready for more mayhem. Their enthusiasm and interest need to be engaged so that they feel that they are doing something, and are not simply having things done to them— although in fact that is what is happening.

My noble and learned friend says that the specifications will come to the House, and that we shall be able to debate them and comment on them. Perhaps I may ask him, therefore, in what form they will appear. Is this to be a statutory instrument, which is of course not amendable in this Chamber? Or will it be some form of primary legislation? —which I cannot believe that it will be. How else are we to be able to have an opportunity to affect what goes into these orders? I am not trying to be difficult. If we are to have these places —which I regret—then I am very keen indeed that they should be effective, and that we should be tough on crime and not on the taxpayer. That is to say, we should get value for money and do some good for the children. I am not confident that we can rely on that being done if we do not have sight of this and have an opportunity to influence what is in it. If my noble and learned friend can say that a procedure will be devised which will enable us to do that, other than simply a statutory instrument, I shall be most reassured to hear it.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

All that I can say to my

noble friend is that the specifications will not be matters that are subject to an order, but they will be documents which have been put out for bids to be made to contract on them. I was saying that Members of the Committee will have an opportunity to see them and to comment on their adequacy or inadequacy. I am certain that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and all the other people who are involved in determining the specification will bear in mind the observations which noble Lords would have on these specifications.

There are a number of requirements under the specification, including the schemes which the contractors may have for doing the very thing that my noble friend mentions. For example, what is going to be done constructively with these children for the balance of time that is not devoted to education? That is an absolutely vital point. It is exactly the kind of thing that the specification will spell out. We will wish to see what the contractors propose. It is on the basis of what they propose—not the money; it is on the validity of the schemes that they will be proposing that the bids will be judged.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Seear

The noble and learned Lord has given us some reassurance but it is not enough. Perhaps he would look again at Clause 5(2) (d), which he will find on page 5 of the Bill. It is the amendment to the Prison Act 1952. It describes the secure training centres and goes on to say that they are places where offenders: may be detained and given training and education and prepared for their release". Perhaps the wording could read: may be detained and must be given training and education and prepared for their release". That may be a provision to which one could point as being required to be done. If "may" governs the giving of "training and education", they are still optional.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

With her usual perspicacity the noble Baroness has made a close point on the drafting. The point that I seek to make is that it is an empowering section. It says that these offenders "may be detained" but I read that as indicating that the detention is for the purposes of giving them training and education and preparing them for their release. In the light of the noble Baroness's point, I am quite happy to look at the matter and examine whether it may be made more explicit. But that is undoubtedly the point that is involved.

Baroness Seear

I am sure that it is intended—or rather, I accept that it is intended—but that is not clear as the passage reads. We are still very much concerned with getting the words right, even though, as we have been told, debates in this Chamber and speeches reported in Hansard are taken into account. It would be appreciated if the wording of that paragraph could be strengthened and the provision made into an obligation so that we could point to it and say that they "must" be given education and training.

Baroness David

It is the only occasion on which education is mentioned in the Bill.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

With regard to the specification, the noble and learned Lord told the Committee that the Standing Committee of the other place had the opportunity of seeing the early draft of the specification. He said very helpfully that we would have a copy of the new specification before Report stage. It is a point of some importance. Will that be the final specification or is it yet another draft? It would be helpful if he could clear up that point.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

That is in some ways a two-edged question. If I were to say that it was a final draft, then what I said about taking into account the observations of this Chamber on that draft might seem to have been falsely said. I can say that it will be the latest draft, the one which is as up-to-date as we can make it. If the Committee has any other comments to make on it which lead to those concerned with the matter thinking that there should be amendments, then I have no doubt that there will be amendments. But the specification may be changed in the light of experience in the running of the centres. It may be found that not everything in the specification is exactly as it should be. It may be open to improvement. Therefore, it cannot be said that it will never be changed. There will be the possibility of amending it and, we hope, improving it.

Lord Irvine of Lairg

As I understood the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, the specification will be a pre-contractual document. It will be an invitation for a tender which may or may not lead to a contract. He indicates that it will include standards which are to be achieved by the successful contractor in, say, such areas as education and training. Could he confirm that that is so?

Secondly, I seek clarification of the answer that the noble and learned Lord gave to my previous question. It may be my fault that I have to ask the question again. Did he intend to indicate that under the Prison Act 1952 there will be rules specific to secure training centres, that they are yet to come and that they will cover, among other things, standards in education and training? Are such draft rules, therefore—if such are intended—not much more important to our deliberations even than the specification which he promised that we should have sight of?

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

As the noble Lord will see, the purpose of Clause 6 is to enable rules for these new "creatures" to be made under the 1952 Act. If one did not have such an amendment, it would not be possible to make such rules. The rules will include the kinds of matters that I have already mentioned.

At the end of the day it is important for the Committee to consider what it is that we shall be asking the people who are tendering for the centres to provide. The Committee needs to know what are the specific matters the people who are contracting to run the centres will have to provide; for instance, the kind of accommodation, training and education.

Inevitably, a specification of that kind will be more detailed than a mere setting of standards. The Committee may find that most helpful. I am not able to say whether or not there is in existence at the moment a draft of any rules which will be made under the power in Clause 6; but from the point of view of considering the matter, what will be most helpful to the Committee is seeing what it is that the Government will require of the people who are to run these centres.

Lord Irvine of Lairg

But is it not the rules which will provide authoritatively the standards which the contractors must achieve? If so, are not the rules the primary document and the specification merely giving effect to them?

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

The rules, which will incorporate standards, will set the general standards to be met. But when one wants to find out how that will be worked through into practice and what we will actually require, the specification will be the important document. That will be closer to the people who will be providing and it will be that document which will be made available to your Lordships.

Lord Elton

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend. However, I take the point just made that the specification flows from the rules. It is no good being unhappy with the specification if its shortcomings flow from an inadequacy in the rules. Therefore, I hope that we shall have sight of the rules in draft before we have sight of the specification in draft.

The situation seems to be analogous with occasions in other criminal justice Bills where the Secretary of State has been empowered to bring into force codes of conduct and your Lordships have requested and the Government have acceded, sometimes not too willingly, to publish in draft codes of practice before the Bill is enacted. I do not want to make difficulties. My noble and learned friend is now aware of all my concerns and my determination to do something more concrete about it at Report stage.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I can ask a question of his noble and learned friend. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, made a suggestion with regard to the draft rules and asked whether we can see them. It will obviously be a highly developed document. Can the noble and learned Lord say whether or not we shall be able to do so?

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I do not have the information as to whether or not they are available at the present time and therefore I cannot undertake that your Lordships will see them before Report stage. However, I have taken on board the points made about the Committee's desire to see the specific rules and I shall raise that matter and write to your Lordships accordingly. I have taken on board also the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, regarding the specification in the clause to which she referred.

I am now informed that, in fact, it is not envisaged that the rules will be drafted before Royal Assent on the Bill. It does not appear, therefore, that we shall have the rules before that stage.

Lord Elton

If I heard my noble and learned friend right, he said, most disappointingly, that the rules will not be available until after Royal Assent. I regret to hear that. It colours the mood in which I shall return to this matter on Report.

I have almost sat down so often before that I am hardly expecting to sit down now, but before I do so I shall add a gloss to something I said earlier. I referred to Leon Brittan and his undertaking to empty police cells. I did not say that I was the Minister for Prisons at that time and therefore shared the blame for the undertaking and failure to make it stick, but it is a good example of what can happen.

I am grateful to your Lordships and particularly to my noble and learned friend. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Contracting out of secure training centres]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 6, line 37, leave out from ("While") to end of line and insert ("a contract for the running of a secure training centre or part of a secure training centre is in force the centre or part").

The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment which clarifies the reference to a contract which is made under subsection (2) of the clause as being a contract for the running of a secure training centre or part of a secure training centre as opposed to the provision of a centre. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 7, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness David

Clause 7 enables the Secretary of State to contract out the provision and running of the proposed secure training centres. The clause simply refers, in line 33 on page 6 of the Bill, to "another person", but in practice no reputable child care charity has formally indicated an interest in running the centres. In practice, therefore, the clause implies the contracting out of secure training centres to private, profit-making companies.

We know that the running costs of the five secure training centres will be in the region of £30 million per annum. Despite the fact that Clause 7 has yet to be considered by this House, invitations to the private sector to tender were issued in April. That is confirmed by a Written Answer on 21st April in another place (at cols. 636 to 637 of the Official Report). The contracts themselves, as for private prisons, will be secret, reducing the level of public accountability to an unacceptable degree. Speaking in Committee in another place, David Maclean said he was willing to put cost per head information in the public domain but, and I quote him: I shall not publish detailed contractual information".— [Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee B, 25/1/94; col. 239.] Contracting out to the private sector flies in the face of a recommendation made only last July by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee in its report (Paper 441) on juvenile offenders. While noting the Government's view that contractual arrangements can result in high standards, the committee also referred to concerns, that private sector providers of secure training order centres may be more interested in profits than in the welfare of inmates". The committee continued (in paragraph 158 of its report): There have been some well documented difficulties with the introduction of the private sector into the erstwhile work of the prison service… we recommend that the Home Office learn from the lessons of private sector involvement in the prison service before granting any contracts to the private sector to run centres where secure training orders will be served". It is not possible to argue that the Home Office has learnt all it needs to know about private sector involvement in the prison service in the intervening nine months. There are two private prisons currently in operation. The Wolds, run by Group 4, has been operating for just over two years. Blakenhurst, run by United Kingdom Detention Services, has been operating for just over one. Similarly, Group 4's escort contract for the East Midlands and Humberside has been running for only 13 months during which time one prisoner, Mr. Ernest Hogg, has died in Group 4 custody, an incident without precedent. I believe that this weekend another prisoner was in danger of death. The inquest verdict was that lack of care had contributed to Mr. Hogg's death. Neither of the two prisons holds young offenders and Blakenhurst has yet to be visited by Judge Tumim, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons.

The judge's report on the Wolds painted a mixed picture. Staff/prisoner relationships were generally good, as were the physical conditions, which is not altogether surprising because it is a new prison, and the time prisoners spent out of their cells. However, the judge found significant drug use among prisoners, criticised the "corrupting lethargy" of the regime, and argued that it was impossible to say whether the gaol offered value for money.

Less has been written about Blakenhurst, but it is understood that the number of assaults on staff has been running at several times the rate of that in state-run prisons. In fact, we were told at the all-party penal group last Wednesday that assaults on staff and, indeed, on other inmates have increased over the last year or so. Following a disturbance at Blakenhurst in February 1994, the people running that prison incurred a penalty payment although neither the report on the disturbance nor the amount of the financial remedy has been made public.

The contracting-out of secure training centres would also be a further retreat on the Government's own commitment to treat privatisation as an experiment. Only three years ago, the then Minister for prisons said: If, and only if, the contracted-out remand centre proves to be a success might we move towards privatisation of other parts of the prison service".—[Official Report, Commons, 25/2/91; col. 720.] Leaving aside the issue of principle and the uncertain record of the private sector to date, there are important additional reasons why the privatisation of secure training centres should be opposed. Running any prison is a specialist task. Running custodial institutions for children—many of them far from home and in some cases aged as young as 12—will represent an enormous challenge. Yet no private company can demonstrate any experience in this field. As the Minister of State, David Maclean, claimed during the Commons Committee stage of the Bill, there is no real private sector provision of training or remand centres at present. That was said on 25th January this year.

The consequence of contracting out to the private sector would be a frightening social experiment on already vulnerable and damaged children. Furthermore, the central element in private sector thinking on prisons has been reduction of the number of staff. Applying that concept to secure training centres will be to run great risks. Bullying is likely to increase and there must be severe doubts about both the degree of individual care and attention that the children will receive and about the viability of the proposed regimes. There is also a danger that the staff will be isolated from mainstream child care, increasing the risk of bad practice.

In summary, privatisation is in its infancy. It has not yet been tested sufficiently to meet the objections of the Select Committee on Home Affairs which considered the contracting out of secure training centres. No private company has prior experience of running secure facilities for children. Any inclination to pare staffing levels presents serious worries about care for children and their treatment and development while held in the centres. The care of young people with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties is not a fit subject for competition and market forces. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Seear

I should like the Minister to clarify one point. What kind of parliamentary control will we have over the privatised institutions? The experience of the past is that once an institution of this kind has been privatised, it is very much more difficult to ask in either House of Parliament the awkward questions which need to be asked.

I give the example of TECs. Whenever I have tried to raise a question about the operating practices of the TECs, I have been told that it is now entirely the affair of the TECs. There is no way of raising issues which, in the view of many of us, need to be raised. That is bad enough in connection with the training and education carried out by the TECs. When it comes to the very sensitive area of special units and the training and education of difficult youngsters, surely it is essential that the opportunity for parliamentary inquiry and probing should be there. Will it be there or not?

Baroness Faithfull

Perhaps I may ask a question because there seems to be some administrative confusion. As I understand it, the Department of Health will be responsible for inspecting the centres. What arrangements have been reached between the Department of Health and the Home Office about the setting up of the centres, given that the Department of Health is to be responsible? If the Department of Health inspectorate finds that things are going wrong, to whom does it report? Does it report to the Department of Health or the Home Office? Will they be Home Office penal institutions or will they be children's homes under the children's homes regulations? I am sorry, I am not clear about that, and the situation is not made clear anywhere.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has put her finger on what is one of the most fundamental problems of contracting out. She has pointed out that the regime—to use again the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, but in a rather different sense—under which the secure training centres will operate, is partly health, partly education and partly the Prison Service under the Home Office. It is the Home Office which is apparently putting up the specifications. This applies not just to the responsibility of Ministers, it applies to the skills required within those institutions themselves. There must be skills in guarding children (in keeping them there)—in other words, in security; skills in education; skills in training, if that is something different from education, and we still do not have that clear; skills in social work which may extend beyond the time during which the children are in detention into the aftercare period, as we have heard in earlier debates. All those factors require a huge range of different skills which come from different qualification regimes and different government departments. It is almost impossible to imagine how a specification can be issued which provides for the range of skills and qualifications necessary in such organisations.

The fact, as we learnt on the previous amendment, that we shall not see the rules themselves which contain the kernel of the matter—it is not the inspection that matters, it is the rules that matter—before Royal Assent, increases our concern greatly when we look at the privatisation proposals.

Baroness Faithfull

I am sorry to rise again on this question, but under the Children Act 1989 children's homes are inspected by the inspectorate of the Department of Health. Certain rules are laid down. Perhaps I may draw attention to one rule which is a difficult rule and one which will probably be altered: if a child accuses a member of staff of sexually abusing him in any way, that member of staff must be suspended, according to the Children Act 1989. If the Department of Health is inspecting, it will think of administering that rule. But is that the Home Office rule? Will the Home Office administer that rule? If the member of staff is suspended and there are not enough staff to run that home, who will be responsible? Who will be responsible if things go wrong? Will it be the Home Office or the Department of Health? If it is the Home Office, it will not have inspected the home. That point needs to be clarified.

Lord Renton

This is the first opportunity we have had to discuss in detail the suggestion by the Government, embodied in this clause and implied in nearby clauses, as to the part to be played by private enterprise in running these new homes. We are breaking entirely new ground here. As I said earlier, I am in favour of Clause 1 and the clauses that go with it I am also in favour of private enterprise, but I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend Lord Ferrers has to say about private enterprise being used in these new circumstances.

So far as I know, except where voluntary societies have been used to run children's homes, private enterprise has never before been suggested or used in this country to deal with delinquency of any kind. I may be wrong about that, but I do not recollect any instances.

We need to be told a great deal more than we know about the intentions of the Home Secretary. We should gather what we can from the Bill. In answer to one of the points made by my noble friend Lady Faithfull, the first point is that the Home Secretary will retain constitutional responsibility for what goes on in these homes—

Baroness Faithfull

Perhaps I may intervene. Let us suppose that the Home Office disagrees with the Department of Health. They have completely different roles. Under the Children Act 1989 a voluntary home is inspected by the Department of Health according to children's homes regulations. If the Department of Health inspects the premises, does not agree with what is being done under the Children Act 1989 and reports that to the Home Office, who takes precedence?

Lord Renton

That is a bit of a diversion from what I was attempting to impress on the Committee. Nevertheless, I shall do my best to answer my noble friend. Alas, it is not uncommon for government departments to disagree and for Ministers at the head of them to disagree. When that happens, the matter has to be taken to the Cabinet, or to a committee of the Cabinet, and resolved one way or the other. The Cabinet should then show its usual collective responsibility and it almost always does so.

Perhaps I may return to the theme that I was trying briefly to put before the Committee. According to the Bill and what the Government have expressed, we know that the Home Secretary is to be the responsible Minister. He may have to obtain the co-operation of others but he is the one ultimately responsible to Parliament for the running of these homes. The responsibilities placed upon him, and the powers that he needs in order to exercise those responsibilities, are contained partly in this Bill and partly in the Prison Act 1952, which the Bill amplifies in order to enable that to be done. I wonder about the personnel problem. How are the people to whom that responsibility is to be contracted out to be found?

There is no problem about the word "provision", which appears in the second line of Clause 7. The provision of the centres means the building or the leasing of them. I find no difficulty in that respect. Most prisons are built by private enterprise, sometimes with the help of government architects, but they are run by prison officers under the Home Office.

The situation will be different in this case. One hopes that there will be a sophisticated, select body of carefully chosen people who are not as yet in the government service and will not be in the government service for the purpose of this contracting. We should be told what the Government have in mind as regards the choice and, if necessary, the training of the people who will carry this difficult responsibility.

I could go on but I hope that I have said enough to indicate that all Members of the Committee will wish my noble friend Lord Ferrers to give a clear indication of what the Government have in mind in enabling private enterprise, which is in itself a good thing, to help the Home Secretary to carry out this responsibility.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I asked the Minister whether there would be boards of visitors because young offenders' institutions and prisons have such boards. He said, "No, but there will be visitors". Who will those visitors be and to whom will they be responsible? Boards of visitors are independent bodies appointed by the Home Secretary for the good of the inmates of an institution. They are independent and have direct access to the Home Secretary. Who will those visitors be officially responsible to and will they write a yearly report?

9.45 p.m.

Lord Hylton

The noble Baroness, Lady David, has been shown to be quite right to question both the wisdom and propriety of contracting out this major new experiment in child custody.

Clearly the Government have been thinking about this for quite a long period of months; since at least last September, if not longer. Therefore, what will happen if all the proposed contractors gang up together and say, "We are very sorry but we cannot provide education in this new system"? What will happen if they say, "We think that we shall have to sub-contract it out to yet a third party down the line"?

In connection with sub-contracting, I hope that the Government have already begun to learn from the not very satisfactory experience of the Campsfield detention centre near Oxford which takes detainees under the immigration Acts. There, the medical services have been sub-contracted out by Group 4 Total Security Ltd. Regrettably, when a hunger strike occurred in that institution, the results were far from satisfactory. Therefore, the whole matter needs further thought.

Lord Elton

I share the grave doubts of my noble friend Lord Renton about the wisdom of embarking upon the privatisation of the prison service, the education service or the health service, whichever it may be. Like my noble friend, I should like to hear a good deal more from the Minister about what steps are to be taken to allay the anxieties of the Committee, which are rightly aroused by the prospect of the incarceration of young children for profit. I recognise that public schools are also run for profit but the parents of a child at public school can remove him; and there are holidays. This is totally different.

I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, say that we had not been told what the training would be. I thought that I must have missed that. After all, training will account for about 80 per cent. of what is done at one of these institutions: 25 per cent. is to be spent on education, a proportion will be spent sleeping, and I assume that the rest of the time will be spent on training. Can my noble friend tell us what that training will consist of or tell us when we shall be told that? At present it is difficult to be told that we should authorise these institutions; that they will be run on certain lines; that they will be administered by certain people; and that there are certain purposes. Yet we are not told what is to be done there, and to be told that would be extremely helpful.

Earl Ferrers

The Government wish to ensure that the secure training units are run as efficiently as possible. We believe that the private sector has a crucial role to play in that. I know that there are Members of the Committee who believe that such facilities should be provided by the public sector alone, either through central or local government. I do not follow that argument.

For many years in this Chamber I have listened to debates on prisons in which there have been complaints on how badly run, inadequate and inappropriate they are. There are complaints about how the food is bad and about how slopping out is awful. I am asked why standards are not raised. When we then decide to change the system and bring in new ideas for contracting out some of the services in order to see whether the job can be done better by other people, everyone turns round and tells us that we should not do that because the firms will be making a profit. The noble Baroness, Lady David, referred to private profit-making companies as though there was something disparaging about that. Of course, if services are contracted out, the companies providing those services make a profit. They will not provide the services at a loss or for public benefit. They have to make a profit.

My noble friend Lord Elton surprised me—and not for the first time this evening—by also suggesting that it was running for profit. The fact is that either the state does it at a cost or the private sector does it at a cost. There is nothing wrong in inviting the private sector to see whether it can provide similar or better facilities, preferably at a cheaper cost. If it is a cheaper cost to the taxpayer, I cannot see what on earth anyone is complaining about. I have never understood what it is that is so particular about civil servants that they alone should be allowed to look after prisoners and take care of the education provision.

If such places are put out to contractors, they will have to show what they intend to do. They will have a specification. As my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate explained earlier, that specification will be laid in the Library of this place so that everyone will be able to see what we expect the contractors to do. The contractors will then say what they propose to do and how they propose to do it. Of course, it will mean that some matters such as health care will have to be, as the jargon says, bought in. There is nothing peculiar about that. If the Government and the Home Office set up a secure training unit, the civil servants and the Home Office do not provide the care; it has to come from elsewhere. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said that people will have to be skilled as regards keeping people in, skilled in education and skilled in organising people. That is perfectly true. However, that is not a prerogative solely of civil servants. I believe that it is quite right that we should ask the private sector to see whether and how it can play a part in the process.

My noble friend Lord Renton said that he believes that this is the first time the private sector has been used in dealing with delinquents. I daresay that he is quite right. Indeed, only a short while ago it was the first time that the private sector had been involved in prisons and in the process of transferring people in custody, and so on. Those are major changes. I do not deny that fact. But having had criticism of standards in the past, it is only right that we should see whether there are others who can bring in some ideas and some fresh thought.

Secure training centres are totally new institutions. We want to encourage new providers with new ideas who will be able to meet the high standards of education and training which are required. For example, the training will cover the tackling of offending behaviour; vocational training; social skills; anger management, and so on. There will be no set time allocated for training, but it will be an element of the individual training plan of each offender. The contractors will have to satisfy my right honourable friend that the staff have the skills, the training and the experience successfully to operate the centre to the required standards.

The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was concerned about visitors. Clause 6(3) allows the appointment of independent persons to visit centres, hear representa-tions and to report to my right honourable friend who may publish the report. For example, the visitors could be representatives of children's charities or local people of standing. However, no persons have as yet been chosen.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull was concerned about inspectors. The Department of Health inspectors will report to my right honourable friend. The centres will not be registered children's homes and the specifications will be in the spirit of the Children Act. I see that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, wishes to intervene. I give way.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am much obliged. Can the Minister tell us to which right honourable friend he is referring?

Earl Ferrers

I was referring to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I am sorry if I did not make that clear.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull asked what would happen if the inspectors complain to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my right honourable friend does not accept their complaint. My noble friend Lord Renton is quite right. People sometimes take differing views within departments. That does not occur very often but it has been known to occur in the past. But the fact is that, if an inspector complains to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary that something in an establishment for which he is responsible is not operating correctly, the buck stops with my right honourable friend. It is his responsibility and he has to take such action as is necessary.

The inspection will take place under the rules which are made by the Home Secretary in Clause 6. The rules will specify the persons to do the inspection. They will be from the Department of Health Inspectorate but they will be accountable to the Home Office alone for this purpose. I believe that that answers the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when she asked who would be responsible for this matter. In fact Ministers will be responsible. Of course the building and the running of the centres will be contracted out, but those operations will be contracted out according to the specifications put out by the Home Office and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be responsible for that.

The provision of secure training centres will be undertaken by a process of competitive tendering. As part of that process potential providers will be assessed as much on the quality of the regime which they propose to offer as on the cost. Their proposals will have to satisfy the requirements of the specifications for the design, the building and the operation of a secure training centre and they will have to comply with standards which will be set out in the contract.

Baroness Seear

The Minister implied that he had answered my question but I am afraid that he has not. I gave the example of the TECs. I have again and again tried to ask questions arising from the operation of the TECs. I have always been told that, because that is now contracted out from the department, there is no way that they can be controlled and I cannot obtain an answer to any question I may ask about what goes on inside the TECs.

Obviously Parliament will be very concerned—I suggest that it will be more concerned than about TECs —about an institution of this kind which is to deal with the youngsters that we are discussing. Many people will want to ask questions about what will happen. Are we to receive the stonewalling answers that we have been given as regards TECs; namely, that this matter is no longer the concern of the Government and that it is the concern of the private enterprise sector which has taken on the work? Can we in this Chamber and in another place probe to find out in detail how these highly controversial institutions will work once they have been set up? We do not wish to receive just a bland reply from the Secretary of State.

Earl Ferrers

I am disturbed if I did not reply to the noble Baroness to her satisfaction, as I had hoped I had done. Of course I understand the problem, although I am not too familiar with the problem as regards TECs to which the noble Baroness referred. I believe a similar difficulty could arise in regard to the prison service when the noble Baroness, or very often her noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, writes to the Government to ask what is happening in the Prison Service. The answer they receive is that this matter has been devolved to the Director General of the Prison Service. That is done for simplicity and ease of operation and for simplicity of work. In the end the Home Secretary is responsible. The Home Secretary will be responsible for what goes on in these premises.

I believe I am right in saying—if I am wrong I shall let the noble Baroness know—that if she wants to know what is happening in these centres, she will have the right to ask the Home Secretary about that and to obtain a reply from him. I cannot guarantee that he will not suggest that for ease of operation the responsibility of answering the letter may fall to someone who is more directly involved in the matter, but the responsibility is that of my right honourable friend.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull was worried about standards. The standards in these places will be safeguarded by a monitor. The monitor is, oddly enough, not a prefect, as some Members of the Committee might have imagined from their schooldays. The monitor will be appointed by the Secretary of State. The monitor will oversee the running of a secure training centre and it is he who will make sure that the terms of the contract are properly met. If a provider fails to satisfy the terms of his contract financial remedies can be applied. The centres will also be subject to rigorous inspections. As I have explained, those will be undertaken by the Social Services Inspectorate and by the Office for Standards in Education.

As my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate explained, the operating specification for a secure training centre will shortly be placed in the Library of your Lordships' House. That will help to clarify and confirm the Government's commitment to ensuring that the centres will provide high standards of education and training in a safe and secure environment.

I believe that the involvement of the private sector offers substantial advantages both to the Government and to the taxpayer. The capital for the new centres is being provided under the Government's private finance initiative and thus will be found entirely by the private sector and by the provider. If this clause were to fall it would prevent any possible private financial involve-ment and would place the capital burden entirely on the Government. That would inevitably result in cutbacks having to be made in other important areas.

Who provides the people, whether they are the trainers, the carers, the cleaners or anyone else involved in the establishment, is relatively immaterial. What is important is what is expected of the establishment and the specification in the contract. That is a public responsibility, and those are standards which will be met by my department, which will be monitored by my department and for which my department will be responsible. To ensure that that happens there will be a monitor in the secure training centre who will be a person appointed by my department.

I should add that if Clause 7 were to be lost it would result in Clauses 8 and 10 also falling. I therefore hope that the Committee will consider that we would be well advised to keep Clause 7 in the Bill.

10 p.m.

Baroness David

Perhaps I may ask a question before the noble Earl sits down. What will be the situation if nobody offers to build and run these institutions? Is the Minister confident that there will be offers?

Earl Ferrers

The noble Baroness has a vivid imagination. If nobody offers, then these places will not be built. But I have no reason to think that that will happen.

Lord Irvine of Lairg

Is the noble Earl correct? He says that these secure training centres will be built only if sub-contractors offer to contract for them success-fully. Is that correct? Is the noble Earl correct in saying that the Secretary of State will not go ahead himself? Are we to understand that it is only if there exists in the private sector the accumulation of skills and expertise that is required to make it feasible for these institutions to be run by the private sector that these institutions should even, literally, get on the ground?

Earl Ferrers

I intended to indicate that if nobody applied to be a contractor and nobody offered to tender then obviously the private sector would not build or run the premises. That would then be the responsibility of the Secretary of State. As I tried to explain, if that were to happen that would be an additional burden upon the Government and other priorities would be affected.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It is curious social policy. We have been told that these secure training centres are absolutely essential as a matter of social policy and that the whole of our penal system requires that we should be putting these children away in a sub-prison regime. Suddenly we are told that it is nothing to do with social policy at all; it is only a question of whether there are suitable sub-contractors in the private sector which will determine whether they are built. I think that the Minister will regret his recent answers.

Earl Ferrers

I think that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will regret his recent summary. I have never heard such an obtuse summary of the whole issue. The noble Lord knows perfectly well that we believe that secure training centres are correct. He knows perfectly well that we believe that the right way to do that is by getting the private sector to participate. That is what the whole of this clause is about.

If the private sector does not wish to participate, for whatever reason, then the burden falls upon the Home Secretary and the Government, and then other priorities will have to go. That is why we want to invite the private sector to participate. I do not see anything complicated about that whatsoever.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, may perhaps have made my task a little more difficult. My noble friend Lord Ferrers said that I surprised him by talking about the containment of children for profit as though that were different from the containment of children for other purposes. I hope that he will not react to that observation with the same ire with which he reacted to the more provocative statement of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, whom I did not wish to tempt to his feet.

My noble friend will accept—will he not?—that the motive of a government department, or government officials such as prison governors, is to fulfil their obligations within a budget which is inelastic. The objective of a charity is to deliver its charitable service to the best possible level within a budget which is inelastic. The objective of a company in the private sector is to deliver a contracted service for a profit. That is an elastic term and therefore allows more freedom of choice and restriction of delivery of service than the other two methods.

A number of us are deeply concerned that there should be some transparency about what is going on inside the institution. It is not that we are inimical to the proposal. I believe that there is much that may benefit young people if the system is properly undertaken. We need to assure ourselves on that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, addressed one issue: can Parliament ask questions? I shall look to see whether my noble friend gives any more information in writing before deciding whether the answer given is satisfactory. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was told that there was to be no board of visitors but that there would be appointed visitors. That raises another question. If a child does not have caring parents who discover how he or she is being mistreated in one of these institutions, what recourse does that child have? We do not talk about a mature young offender, a prisoner with a solicitor who will understand the position, or an old lag who knows the system. We refer to a frightened child of 12. What recourse will that frightened child of 12 have? No matter how many cars he has done or how many burglaries he has committed, he is still a kid of 12 standing not much higher than the Dispatch Box. How will those outside be able to satisfy themselves whether some action needs to be taken? I ask noble Lords to think of a grandchild of 12 who has gone severely off the rails. If my noble friend does so, he will be able to say whether the arrangements are satisfactory and therefore capable of reassuring the anxious grandparent not only that the child is being properly treated but that if he is not being properly treated someone with authority will know and will do something about it. No matter how desperate the annoyance such children may cause, they are not the enemy. They are the people from whom we seek to save society. We also seek to save them from themselves.

Lord Renton

Perhaps I may follow my noble friend.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I always defer to the noble Lord. However, I wish to follow the precise point put by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. He has given a good example of how the arrangements set out in the clause are unsatisfactory. I find it difficult to understand why we are not to have a board of visitors. All other penal establishments have a board of visitors. These will be the only establishments responsible to the Home Secretary which will not have such a board. Yet they will deal with the most vulnerable people who are held in custody in this country.

First, as we well know, there have been a number of scandals involving children who have been in community care of one kind or another. There have been cases in the criminal courts where people who have been responsible for the care of children have been convicted and sentenced to long periods of imprisonment. That being so, it seems to me even more necessary to have the formal arrangement of a board of visitors, with an obligation on individual members of the board to pay regular visits to the establishment. I find it most unsatisfactory that we are apparently to have some far more informal arrangement where people will be appointed as visitors, but there will not be the formal machinery of a board of visitors.

Secondly, I have a good regard for the integrity of the inspectors from the Department of Health. I am sure that they will do their job with integrity, but I seriously question the desirability, again for the first time, of having penal establishments—and that is what they are —which will not be subject to any form of examination by the chief inspector of prisons. He is known for his independence of the Executive, but that cannot be true of Department of Health officials, however honourable they may be. There may be a risk. I make no reflection on Mr. Howard, but let us talk about the future Let us suppose the officials produce a report which the Home Office does not like. I wonder whether that report will be published in its original form or whether there will be direct or subtle pressure put upon those who have drafted the report to change it, in the interests of the Home Secretary of the future who may be embarrassed about its contents. I hope that we will receive clear answers to those questions.

Finally, I wish to ask one question of the noble Earl on the contract for the establishments. I do not propose to become involved in the privatisation argument. We have had it on many occasions in the past over prisons and I prefer not to ask questions dealing with that issue of principle at this stage. The question I wish to ask is this: what will be the period of the contract? My understanding is that it will be some time before the establishments are open. They still have to be constructed. There will be the tendering process. People have to be chosen, appointed and staff have to be recruited and trained. So far as I can see, most of them will have no direct knowledge of child care or anything similar. When will the first establishment be opened? What will be the period of the contract? A successor government may well take a different view about the establishments from the present Government. The question therefore, is: how much will the present Government bind their successors by the terms and length of the contract which is presumably in the process of being negotiated or will soon be negotiated? I should be grateful for an answer.

Lord Renton

I am sure that my noble friend Lord Ferrers will agree that this has been a valuable discussion on a most important new matter. As one who expressed doubts about the Government's proposal to use private enterprise, I was greatly reassured by what my noble friend Lord Ferrers said. It comes to this. The Home Secretary will remain responsible for everything that the people do to whom he contracts. He will be responsible to Parliament. There is no question of quangos being set up or anything like that.

However, my noble friend Lord Elton and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, have raised an important point as to what protection there will be in those cases where things go wrong. We hope that such cases will be rare; even more rare than they have been under the present system for the custody of young offenders.

Corporal punishment may, of course, legitimately be used in these places. We have not been told. I do not suppose that a decision has yet been made about that. But that is the sort of thing that we need to be wary about. There must, of course, be something analogous with visitors—a board of visitors, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, making regular visits. That is not unreasonable. I should very much like to know from my noble friend Lord Ferrers whether something like that is intended.

10.15 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

I have been asked a number of questions and I shall do my best to provide noble Lords with answers. My noble friend Lord Elton started off on a rather philosophical treatise of economics about the elasticity and inelasticity of demand and of profit making. He said that some organisations had to fix a budget to work to in the public sector; in the private sector, of course, that was a question of running to a profit. I do not think that one can make these strict and simple comparisons.

The fact is that the public sector does not have to make a profit because that is not the way that the public sector is funded. The private sector, of course, has to make a profit. What is important is whether the item that is delivered, whether by the private or the public sector, is provided at an economic price. We have to consider whether that which is delivered by the private sector in this case will be better than, and possibly cheaper than, that which would be provided by the public sector.

My noble friend asked how we could reassure anxious people that a frightened child of 12 will be properly looked after. We would all like to ensure that a frightened child of 12 will be able to explain to somebody that he has been badly treated. But my noble friend may well remember when he was a child of 12. I dare say he remembers that there were facilities for making complaints at the establishment which he attended but that perhaps he did not find it all that easy to make them. AH that we can do is to provide the facilities by which the complaints can be made. There are facilities. There will be a grievance procedure which will be agreed with the Home Office, as well as that of independent visitors.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said, in chasing the point of my noble friend Lord Elton, that, after all, there has been criminal misbehaviour in public institutions. The noble Lord is perfectly right. But I have no doubt that in those public institutions there were facilities for complaints. The fact that those facilities were not used is not a condemnation of the arrangement of the facilities so much as a condemnation of the way in which the organisations were run. The fact is, whether it be in a public institution or a privately financed institution, there are opportunities for things to go wrong.

What we have to do is ensure that sufficient regimes are put in place so that when things do go wrong people can complain. Whether or not they complain is a matter for them. They will be able to complain by this grievance procedure. There will be visitors. As I explained, Clause 6 allows the appointment of independent people to visit the centres, to hear representations and to report to the Home Secretary, who can publish the report. As I said, the visitors could possibly be local people of standing, from children's charities, and so forth; but no people have been chosen.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, asked why we cannot have somebody like Judge Tumim, who is a very renowned Chief Inspector of Prisons, and why there is no board of visitors. The simple answer is—and we heard this very early on this afternoon when my noble friend Lady Faithfull described these centres as mini-prisons—that they are not mini-prisons. They are not prisons, and that is why we are not having the equivalent of a chief inspector of prisons. No board of visitors is being considered because they are not prison establishments.

The secure training centre is much more like a children's home than a prison. The children's home has independent visitors. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, asked when the first establishment will open and what is the length of contract. I cannot answer either of those questions. One does not know when the first building will be opened until tenders have been issued, the final tender chosen and the contracts placed. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot give him an answer.

But the inspection of the premises will be by the Department of Health inspectors rather than the Inspectorate of Prisons because the secure training order does not concern prisons. It means another form of accommodation for children similar to a children's home.

I hope that I have managed to answer most of the questions. I was lucky enough to have persuaded my noble friend Lord Renton so that he now feels that the case is excellent. I hope that the Committee will have followed my noble friend's judgment and will agree that these proposals are quite acceptable and proper.

Lord Elton

My noble friend speaks of "visitors" and "inspectors". Can he tell me whether they are the same people mentioned in Clause 6(3) or whether, as my noble friend Lord Renton suggests, they are quite different people?

Earl Ferrers

I thought that I had made perfectly clear that they were different. The visitors could be individual people. They could be charities. But the inspection will be carried out by Department of Health inspectors, who are totally different.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I wonder whether I could return to the point made by the noble Earl a few moments ago. He said that these places were not prisons; he said that they were children's homes. I suppose that that is one way of putting the argument. However, when we receive a reply to a question put to the Home Secretary in this Chamber, we shall receive a Written Answer from the Director-General of the Prison Service. Of course we shall. The noble Earl must not express amazement, shock or horror—or anything of that sort. It is a fact.

Earl Ferrers

I do not want to infer surprise, shock or horror because I said that myself.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

In that case I must have misread the expression of exquisite agony which crossed the noble Earl's face. The point is that it is the prison department which is responsible for these centres —homes or prisons, call them what you will. It is responsible. The Home Secretary is responsible because of his defined ministerial responsibility for prison department establishments. These centres are prison department establishments, sub-contracted to the private sector. Ministers will determine whether they are fulfilling the terms of their contracts.

I put this question to the noble Earl: why will they not be inspected by someone who is independent of the Executive, such as the Chief Inspector of Prisons? Officials at the Department of Health are not independent of the Executive. That is the issue which I raise. I make no allegation about their good faith, honesty or integrity. Moreover, I am not talking in relation to Mr. Howard, as I made clear earlier. I simply put to the noble Earl that in future a Home Secretary who is faced with an unattractive report from Department of Health inspectors may well use the machinery of his department to try to get the Department of Health to tone down its remarks. That is a fact.

The noble Earl conceded earlier that there have been a number of scandalous situations arising in institutions of this kind. Therefore it is particularly important that we should guarantee, in so far as we can, that improprieties of that sort do not take place. The noble Earl said that there will be a grievance procedure. But we are not talking about adults who know how to go to the ombudsman or whatever. We are talking about 12 year-old children. They are people who may be very frightened. There may be a suggestion that they have been sexually abused. They may indeed have been sexually abused. They will not know what to do. They will be so fearful that they will not know who to speak to about a situation of that sort.

The noble Earl cannot say that we are talking alarmist nonsense. As we know from the number of people who have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, just that sort of conduct has been experienced in some children's homes in this country. I must confess that what makes me deeply uneasy is that someone with the independence from the Executive, Judge Tumim, is not being given some responsibility in these matters.

The noble Earl may merely repeat what he said earlier and say that these are no more nor less than children's homes. But, if so, why are they not the responsibility of the Department of Health rather than the Home Office? The Department of Health is responsible for children's homes, not the Home Office. Therefore, why is the Home Secretary insisting on maintaining his direct personal responsibility? If he does so insist on that personal responsibility and accountability to him, the noble Earl should not be surprised that we take more confidence from the fact that the one person who reports directly both to the Home Secretary and the public when he visits penal establishments —for that is what these places will be —will be responsible for inspections, albeit perhaps with some support from the Department of Health inspectors, rather than the unsatisfactory reporting arrangement outlined this evening.

Baroness David

The noble Earl must realise that the Committee is extremely uncertain about this clause. In fact, it dislikes it very much. The noble Earl was able to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Renton, a little, but the rest of us are not at all happy with what he said. I admire the style with which he tries to answer us. But there are a great many anxieties in relation to independent inspections, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, and in relation to where the real responsibility will lie.

I shall not be so foolish as to divide the Committee at this time of the night, though I feel inclined to do so However, I shall restrain myself because I do not wish to be defeated. We shall certainly come back again at Report stage with a string of amendments to the clause. The noble Earl must realise that there is great anxiety in the Committee from every Bench. I hope that he does realise that and will think again about the clause.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 8 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Irvine of Lairg

Perhaps I may ask a number of questions in relation to Clause 8. First, I note that it contrasts a contracted-out secure training centre with a directly managed secure training centre. Will the noble Earl be good enough to confirm that the latter is one directly managed by the Secretary of State?

Secondly, and more importantly, the clause provides for each contracted-out secure training centre having a director and also a monitor. Will the director be a full-time employee of the contractor? With regard to the monitor, who is to be a Crown servant appointed by the Secretary of State, plainly he has the most important functions of reviewing and reporting to the Secretary of State on the running of the centre and investigating and reporting to the Secretary of State on allegations made against officers. Will that monitor be present on the ground? That is to say, will it be somebody who, in substance—albeit a Crown servant—will be a full-time employee of the Crown at the centre, without any functions as a Crown servant other than to monitor the secure training centre in question?

Thirdly, he has an important reporting function. Will his reports be published? Finally, in the context of the publishing of the reports, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, when dealing with Clause 6(3), indicated that the reports of the inspectors would be published. But, as I heard the noble Earl a little time ago, he was indicating that the reports may be published. My question in relation to the publishing of the reports is: will the monitors' reports be published; and a related question to Clause 6(3): will the inspectors' reports be published?

10.30 p.m.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord raises an interesting question. I suspect that what lies behind it is an expectation that the monitor should be permanently in residence in the centre. But would he not then be in the position of a captain on a ship in the Napoleonic wars —at very close quarters with his crew but, not like the captain of a ship, with no authority over them? I just wonder whether the noble Lord has thought through the relationships that would develop within the institution. It seems to me that what is wanted is something half way between the occasional meteoric visitor and the permanent resident. That cannot perhaps be very easily expressed in legal language but I suspect that that is what is wanted.

Lord Mottistone

My noble friend maligns the captains of ships in the Napoleonic wars. They were very much in command of their own ships. He is talking absolute rubbish.

Lord Elton

My noble friend misheard me. I said that, like the captains of the ships, they would be constantly with the crew, but, unlike the captains of the ships, they would have no authority over the crew. The monitors will not have authority—

Lord Mottistone

We did not have monitors on our ships.

Lord Elton

I commend to my noble friend the columns of Hansard which he has missed. The monitors figure in the statute and they will be the commissars. To try to find an equivalent in naval terms that my noble friend will understand, it is like a Russian ship with a commissar on board; but, unlike under Russian law, the monitor will not be able to enforce.

Lord Irvine of Lairg

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, attributed more perceptiveness to me than I would claim in posing the questions that I asked about the extent of the function of the monitor. Whether he should be full-time on the ground or should occupy an intermediate position more consistent with his supervisory role is plainly an issue that merits serious consideration. I rose to ask these questions simply because it occurred to me that, before we agreed that Clause 8 should stand part of the Bill, we should have clear information on what the Government intend on that important subject.

Baroness Seear

I find this a most extraordinary organisation, if I have understood it aright; perhaps I have not. The picture I have is that there is a director who is responsible for running the show and there is also a monitor who sits there watching to see if the director goes wrong and then he will tell Dad about it. He will report to the Secretary of State. It will be a very strange relationship. What on earth will they be doing to each other? Either the monitor will be on good terms with the director, in which case he will not be any use at all in keeping the Secretary of State informed; or he will be on bad terms with the director, in which case the running of the organisation will not be all that smooth. I cannot understand what people think will happen in an organisation structured like that.

Earl Ferrers

This has been a most illuminating debate, I am sure. My noble friend Lord Elton ought to know that there is no point in starting to talk about captains of ships with my noble friend Lord Mottistone behind him. But when he starts mixing his metaphors and talking about this being like the captain of a Napoleonic ship with a commissar on board, I really find my powers of imagination have burst their limits.

The noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, asked a perfectly reasonable question, and I shall do my best to answer it. Clause 8 provides for the officers of a contracted-out secure training centre. Each centre will have a director who will be an employee of the contractor whose responsibility it will be to run the place. Then there will be a monitor, who will be a full-time employee. He will be appointed by the Home Office, and he will not be on the premises all the time.

My noble friend Lord Elton said that if the monitor is on the premises all the time, the monitor and the director will get hugger-mugger together and therefore he will not be much of a monitor but if he is not on the premises very often he will not know what is going on. Whereupon the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, says that she cannot understand what is going on at all. Yet her noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich says, "Why can't we have somebody like Judge Stephen Tumim because he is a very penetrating person?" Well, he is not in prisons all the time. He comes down rather like a Sputnik from outer space, goes into the prison, decides what he thinks about it and makes a report. That appeals to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, but not apparently the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who says that a person going in periodically will not know what is going on. All that I can try to explain to the noble Baroness is that the monitor will be the person who is responsible to the Home Office for seeing that the contract is correctly carried out. Running the show will be the director's responsibility, as an employee of the contractor.

The noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, asked whether the monitor's report will be published. The answer is that the inspector's report will be published, but not the monitor's. I think I have replied to the questions I was asked - other, evidently, than something of which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is about to remind me.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I intervene only because the noble Earl was kind enough to mention my name and, not having spoken on this amendment, I am sure that he will be deeply disappointed if I do not respond to him. At this time of night, I do not want to disappoint him. Therefore, I speak.

I have had the advantage of seeing this system in operation. I saw it in the Wolds. I visited the Wolds a few months ago. I am not sure that the noble Earl has had that good fortune. I saw what went well and what, in my view, certainly did not go well. It is not my purpose this evening to go into the matter in any detail save to say that I understood precisely the role of the monitor, as I understand the role of the monitor at Blakenhurst. The noble Earl will be aware that at Blakenhurst the contractor has been fined by the Home Office as a result of a report, presumably from the monitor. Such are the principles of accountability we now have in this country that we are not even allowed to know how much the contractor was fined. So, although punitive action can be taken as a result of a report by a monitor, the fact of the matter is that Parliament is prevented from having the information which, in my view, it rightly should possess.

I come to the noble Earl's second point. I do not want to re-fight the issue of the last clause that we debated, but as the Minister he will realise there is no relationship whatever between the role of the monitor and the position of Judge Tumim. The fact is that Judge Tumim reports on each prison either on the basis of one of his standard visits in depth or as a result of one of his brief, unannounced visits. What I continue to find deeply unsatisfactory is that he will be prevented from looking as these establishments. I assure the noble Earl that we shall be spending many hours on this issue because of the degree of concern about it that is held by many noble Lords of all parties. I hope that between now and Report stage he will review this matter.

I am well aware of the sensitivities, because of course we are discussing this issue with only a Home Office Minister present. There is no one here from the Department of Health, although it has clearly defined responsibilities through its inspectorate. I can imagine the arguments on this issue which clearly took place between the Home Office and the Department of Health.

The more one looks at this system, the more uncomfortable one becomes. This is not the issue of the secure establishments that we debated for several hours this afternoon. We are talking now about the system. we wish to know whether the truth will emerge clearly to the public as a whole if things go wrong. At the moment I am not persuaded that that information will become available publicly. That is what worries me and, I suspect, people in other parts of this place. I hope that between now and Report stage the Minister will look at this issue with his colleagues from the Department of Health.

We are not discussing major issues of principle; we are discussing the implementation of the new system and trying to ensure that if things go wrong the searchlight of publicity will be directed immediately onto that situation.

Earl Ferrers

Had I realised that merely by referring to him the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, would have made a speech of not inconsiderable length, putting me on the spot, I would perhaps not have referred to him. Of course I shall take what he has said into account between now and the next stages of the Bill.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Powers and duties of custody officers employed at contracted out secure training centres]:

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 8: Page 7, line 43, at end insert: ("( ) When exercising the powers conferred by subsection (1) (b) above the custody officer shall have regard to items of clothing etc. worn in respect of religious beliefs.")

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment. It is not one of great principle, although it arises out of what happened in another place. Clause 9(1) (b) gives authority to a custody officer to search another person. Subsection (2) states: 'The powers conferred by subsection (1) (b) above to search a person shall not be construed as authorising a custody officer to require a person to remove any of his clothing other than an outer coat, headgear, jacket or gloves".

Headgear in the form of a hat was added in Committee in another place. The point was made by Mr. Peter Butler that a knitted woolly hat was a most convenient place in which to hide soft drugs, for example. The Minister, my honourable friend Mr. Maclean, accepted that in principle. The argument went on to people who did not have woolly hats but had Sikh turbans or other religious headgear. In due course Mr. Maclean said that he accepted the amendment in principle. He said that it would be eminently sensible to add the word "hat" to the list to deal with all forms of headgear other than turbans or religious caps.

At a later stage, presumably on Report, the word was changed from "hat" to "headgear". That rather nullified what Mr. Maclean had said in his closing remarks. So it has been proposed, and my amendment deals with the point, that to clarify that point there should be a further subsection after subsection (2) to state: When exercising the powers conferred by subsection (1) (b) above the custody officer shall have regard to items of clothing etc. worn in respect of religious beliefs",

the point being that if someone is being searched under Clause 9 and they have headgear which has religious significance, the removal of,

"outer coat, headgear, jacket or gloves",

might be religiously insulting, and so that should be taken into account. Hence my amendment. I hope that that is the point that my noble friend's honourable friend was trying to make and that he will find it easy to agree to this amendment or to something like it. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

Subsection (1) (b) of this clause empowers a custody officer to search any person who is in or who is seeking to enter a secure training centre. Subsection (2) as drafted restricts a custody officer who is carrying out such a search to requiring a person to remove an outer coat, headgear, jacket or gloves. This amendment would require a custody officer who is undertaking such a search to "have regard to" items of clothing and so forth which are worn in respect of religious beliefs. I do not think that this kind of requirement properly belongs in primary legislation. It would be more appropriately placed in Home Office guidance to custody officers conducting searches.

When this matter was discussed in another place in Committee, the Minister of State said that religious headgear such as turbans or Jewish caps would not normally be required to be removed. My noble friend's amendment would extend this to all forms of religious apparel, such as a Sikh's turban, a Jewish prayer shawl, a bishop's mitre or even a cardinal's biretta.

I think that if it is necessary to make provision for such a wide panoply of religious garments it would be much better accommodated in Home Office guidance rather than in primary legislation. That would also allow for greater flexibility if such guidance needed to be amended in the light of experience, or indeed if the religious paraphernalia were to be changed.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Perhaps the Minister will agree that the last 12 year-old cardinals were in the time of the Medicis.

Lord Renton

This all sounds very pleasant, but we must be careful because a turban could conceal all kinds of pills, powders, drugs and even worse. When the Home Office is drawing up such secondary legislation or guidance it must be very careful.

Lord Mottistone

I thank my noble friend for his reply. I did not gather whether he was saying that Home Office guidance would be a good idea or that there would be Home Office guidance. I should be reassured it I could be told that that would certainly be the case.

Earl Ferrers

I was saying that it would be a bad idea to have it in the Bill.

Lord Mottistone

But that does not go far enough. I am sorry to have to press the matter. We understand why my noble friend said that it was a bad idea to put it in the Bill, but does he undertake to put it in Home Office guidance?

Earl Ferrers

I did not believe that that would satisfy my noble friend but I thought that it was worth having a shot. I shall certainly consider the point and let him know.

Lord Mottistone

Rather reluctantly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clauses 10 to 12 agreed to.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clauses 13 to 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Long term detention of young offenders]:

Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 9: Page 11, line 13, leave out ("10") and insert ("14").

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 10. The amendments limit the offences for which young offenders aged 10 to 13 can be sentenced to long-term detention to offences involving violence, sex, drug trafficking or arson. The amend-ments would restrict the power to sentence offenders aged 10 to 13 to long-term detention for violent and sexual offences, drug trafficking or arson. The provision would therefore exclude non-violent offences such as burglary and handling stolen goods.

Why is it considered necessary to give the courts power to impose such lengthy sentences of detention for non-violent offences such as burglary and handling stolen goods? At present, young offenders from the age of 10 upwards can be given a supervision order with a residence condition which requires them to be kept in local authority accommodation. The Bill provides for offenders aged 12 to 14 to be given secure training orders for such offences and for 15 to 17 year-old offenders to be given sentences of detention in a young offenders' institution for up to two years, so why are long sentences under Section 53(2) also necessary?

Where a juvenile has committed a serious violent or sexual offence or has endangered the lives of others, long-term detention may be regarded as necessary, but it is difficult to see the justification for it when a juvenile has committed a non-violent offence. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

Clause 16 extends Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 so that 10–13 year-olds may be eligible for long term detention, up to the adult maximum, when they are convicted of grave crimes which, were they an adult, would carry a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment. This power to deal with a juvenile, who commits a single serious offence, complements the secure training order power which deals with the juvenile who commits a string of less serious offences.

This amendment seeks to limit the range of single serious offences for which 10–13 year-olds would be eligible to be detained. But it does not actually place much restriction on the extension of Section 53 as most 14 year or life offences, which 10–13 year-olds commit are of a sexual or of a violent nature, or they involve drugs or arson.

The biggest exclusion, which this amendment would achieve, would be in relation to the burglary of dwellings. This offence, like so many others, can cover a wide range of seriousness. In the gravest cases we consider that courts should have a power to order the detention of burglars who are below the age of 14 and who need to be locked up, but who fall outside the criteria for the secure training order.

It would be wrong to deprive the courts of any power to detain those who commit the gravest type of crime but who cannot receive a secure training order. The numbers are likely to be small: only seven 14–17 year-olds were detained under Section 53 in 1992 for burglary. We are now proposing that the courts should have the same power for 10–13 year-olds. The numbers are unlikely to be large, but I suggest that the courts should have this power. The extension of the scope of Section 53, which is proposed in the Bill as it stands, is the one which will give the courts the powers they need in dealing with the most serious offenders and I hope that your Lordships will agree.

Baroness Faithfull

I thank the Minister for that reply. Perhaps I may ask him to clarify one matter which I do not understand. To double the sentence may be right for some children but it may not be right for others. Is there any flexibility?

Earl Ferrers

Of course there is. The flexibility lies with the courts. They do not have to impose the maximum.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 11:

After Clause 16, insert the following new clause: ("Family Proceedings Court and young offenders. Where in any proceedings in respect of a person of at least 10 but not more than 13 years a youth court, a magistrates' court or the Crown Court is satisfied that the behaviour which constituted the offence was due, to a significant extent, to the circumstances in which the child was living and is of the opinion that it may be appropriate for a family proceedings court to make a care order in respect of the child, it may refer the case to the family proceedings court which shall, after considering the case—

  1. (a) make a care order in respect of the child, or
  2. (b) refer the case back to the youth court, magistrates' court or Crown Court for sentence,
as it sees fit.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to insert a new clause. As I believe I said in an earlier speech today, you cannot excuse a child but sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. If a child comes from a disruptive home, should not he or she be treated as a care case rather than a criminal case? I beg to move.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

The purpose of the amendment as explained by my noble friend Lady Faithfull is to discuss the question of whether or not in certain circumstances, as set out in the amendment, a child should be treated as a care case rather than a criminal case. In that connection, one must remember a whole series of steps which will have been taken before one reaches the situation where such matters come into play.

The first stage is the police cautioning. At that time, in considering whether a caution should be given to the youngster, the police will obtain information from the juvenile liaison panel, which will of course have representatives from various agencies, including the social services department. They will discuss the matter and advise the police. In that context, home visits are often undertaken. The whole procedure provides an opportunity to ensure that the welfare of the child is taken into consideration rather than concentrating exclusively on the criminal justice part.

However, let us suppose that it is decided to proceed. At the stage when criminal proceedings have been initiated, the Crown Prosecution Service must have regard to the public interest in deciding whether or not the prosecution should go ahead. The code for crown prosecutors specifically requires that the welfare of the juvenile should be fully considered. Indeed, there are nationally agreed police and prosecution service guidelines for the preparation of evidence which make clear that such evidence should include, among other matters, the views of the multi-agency panel which has considered whether or not to caution. The evidence must also include information on home conditions and education.

The result of all such information being available to the Crown Prosecution Service is that, again, consideration is given to whether or not the case is one that would be better dealt with in the welfare system or one that should go ahead in prosecution. Once a decision has been taken to prosecute the crown prosecutor must advise the local authority and the probation service of the decision. The local authority is; then under a duty to undertake an investigation, among other matters, into the home circumstances of the child unless it considers it unnecessary to do so.

It therefore follows that there will be comparatively few children with unidentified welfare needs who appear in the criminal courts. Indeed, most young; offenders who have an overriding welfare need will have been filtered out during the earlier stages. However, those young offenders who do reach the criminal courts will not, even at that stage, have their welfare overlooked. Under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, there is a statutory duty on the courts to have regard to the welfare of the children who appear before them.

In cases where the child's welfare is at issue, a pre-sentencing report will often be required. At that stage, the local authority agencies will be involved. If they identify welfare needs, they will be able to consider the need for an application for a care order or a supervision order. If they think that it is appropriate, even at that stage they may make an application. There is no need for the local authority to be required to conduct an additional investigation on top of the investigation which it is entitled to make under the procedures which I have indicated.

Indeed, the court itself has, as my noble friend knows, a wide range of sentences available to it; a conditional or absolute discharge, fines or compensation orders, attendance centre orders, and, of course, in the most serious cases, detention. But a particularly useful sentence because of the various ways in which it can operate can be the supervision order which places a juvenile under the supervision of a social work or probation officer.

A wide range of requirements can, of course, be included and in those cases which involve a situation rather analogous to the one envisaged in the amendment where the circumstances of the child may have had an influence on the offence, the supervision order can include a requirement that the young offender live in local authority care accommodation. That is of course under Section 12AA of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969.

At that stage, if the child is required to live in local authority accommodation, it can be for up to six months and during that period the local authority can consider the position and of course can reach a considered decision on what further action may be needed to meet the child's welfare needs. It would, of course, be possible at that stage for the local authority to decide that a care order or supervision order might be appropriate and for it therefore to make an application to the family proceedings court. In these circumstances it appears that there is a wide range of options open and that it would not be necessary to have this particular provision. In the light of that explanation I hope my noble friend may withdraw her amendment.

11 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That was a dense and fascinating response which seems to me at any rate to be somewhat in conflict with the response given on the previous amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, was arguing for greater flexibility and the Minister was arguing that enough flexibility already exists whereas, on the previous amendment, we were being told that a greater degree of flexibility was at all costs to be given to the court, even when, as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, told us, we were in a situation where only seven 15 to 17 year-olds were involved in one year. In other words, very small numbers were concerned.

I was fascinated by what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate said about Section 12AA of the 1969 Act because that has always seemed to me exactly the way in which it was possible for the courts to order that under a supervision order a child should go into local authority care, and that that could be residential local authority care and indeed secure residential local authority care. That has always seemed to me the way out of the necessity for the creation of secure training centres. I still believe that to be the case and that is the way in which I personally propose to approach the issue of secure training centres on Report.

But the Minister has not really answered the challenge contained in the amendment, which is that only a family proceedings court can make a care order with all the implications that that has for local authority services. I think that a better answer is needed before the noble Baroness should be persuaded to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

The point which I sought to make was that I accept that it is only the family proceedings court which can make such an order. What I was pointing out is that there are various ways in which a request for such an order may be made in the course of these kinds of proceedings without the necessity for having in place the measure which the noble Baroness has put down in her amendment.

Baroness Faithfull

I thank my noble and learned friend for his reply. I am not quite sure that I fully understand or agree with it. I should like to withdraw the amendment, read what he said in Hansard, and raise the matter again at the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 [Maximum length of detention for young offenders]:

On Question, Whether Clause 17 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Faithfull

I wish to oppose Clause 17 and the doubling of the maximum sentence in prison service custody for 15 to 17 year-olds. At present courts can sentence 15 to 17 year-old offenders to detention in a young offender institution for up to 12 months. Clause 17 increases the 12 month maximum to two years.

There are separate powers under Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act whereby courts can impose lengthy periods of detention on young offenders of this age who commit offences which in the case of an adult carry a maximum penalty of 14 years or more. These sentences are served in young offender institutions run by the prison service. The ill effects of prison service custody for this age group are well known and widely recognised. Juveniles sentenced to detention in a young offender institution learn about criminal techniques from older, more experienced prisoners up to the age of 21. As the Government's 1988 Green Paper Punishment, Custody and The Community stated: Most young offenders grow out of crime as they become more mature and responsible. They need encouragement and help to become law-abiding. Even a short period of custody is quite likely to confirm them as criminals". I believe that the longer a sentence the less effective it becomes. I am speaking of young offender institutions rather than prisons. A number of young people grow out of their criminal behaviour, but the longer they stay in the institutions the more they make friends with colleagues who commit the same offences.

I shall not press the matter tonight, but I want to bring it to the attention of the Committee and ask the Minister for his reaction.

Lord Renton

We are dealing here not with the most frequent sentences but with maximum sentences and the power for the court to award a longer sentence in exceptional cases where it is felt that 12 months as a maximum sentence is not requisite. I should have thought that, bearing in mind the amount of serious crime, including violent crime, which is, alas, committed by young people of the ages of 15, 16and 17, there will be the exceptional case in which 12 months is not considered by the court to be enough and up to two years may be considered appropriate.

I remind my noble friend Lady Faithfull that if the court awards a sentence which in all the circumstances could be regarded as being excessive there would be the right of appeal. Therefore, I should have thought that the Government were justified in asking Parliament to grant this opportunity for longer sentences to the courts.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Renton, thinks that doubling the sentence is enough. Following the logic of his argument, if one trebled or quadrupled it it would be even more satisfactory.

The noble Lord says that we must deal with violent offenders. There is already a power to do that under the 1933 Act. Why do we have to double the sentence? It seems to many of us that when Ministers respond to genuine public concern, but even more relevantly to the interests of tabloid newspaper editors, their solution to every problem is to increase the maximum length of sentence. I do not believe that this provision will achieve any constructive result. No doubt the Government will have their way. But given the existence of the 1933 Act to deal with exactly the type of case referred to by the noble Lord, I can see no advantage whatever in the clause.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I agree entirely with what has just been said. It is just something to be said to the 1994 Conservative Party Conference. The Home Secretary will appear before the multitudes and say, "I have done something: I have increased the maximum length of sentences for 15 to 17 year-olds in prison".

Lord Renton

The provision relates to detention, not prison.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I beg the noble Lord's pardon. But, if I may say so, that point does not affect the strength of the argument. It does not seem to matter that there is no evidence whatsoever that detention of more than 12 months does any good either in terms of deterrent or rehabilitation. It does not matter that all the evidence from everyone involved, from the criminologist to the Chief Inspector of Prisons, warns of the dangers of long sentences of detention for very young people. They are taken away from their homes; they become institutionalised in the company of other young criminals; and they learn crime from those other young criminals. But no matter what the result may be, a political gain is achieved by claiming that something has been done by raising the maximum sentence. I find it deeply depressing that this argument should be put forward.

Earl Ferrers

As my noble friend Lady Faithfull concluded her remarks on the Question that the clause shall stand part of the Bill, she wondered, delightfully, what my reaction would be. My reaction is twofold. The first reaction is of total disapproval; that will not surprise her. The second is one of astonishment at her statement that the longer the sentence the less effective it becomes. I can only assume therefore that she feels that the shorter the sentence the more effective it becomes. I do not agree with that.

Clause 17 raises the maximum sentence of detention in a young offender institution from 12 months to 24 months for 15, 16 and 17 year-olds. The simple proposition is that the Government believe that courts should have the flexibility to impose longer sentences than are currently available should they think it appropriate to do so in order to reflect the gravity of offences which are committed by this age group Long-term detention under Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 is available in the gravest of cases. But there are some offenders in the 15 to 17 age group whose offending is so serious that only a custodial sentence is justified but whose crimes are not so grave as to warrant long-term detention under Section 53.

This is particularly true in relation to offences involving motor vehicles. Parliament recently passed the new offence of aggravated vehicle taking which has a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment or five years where a death occurs due to the driving of the vehicle. But for the 15 to 17 age group—and that is the group which is heavily involved in this sort of crime. —the maximum sentence lias remained at 12 months.

As your Lordships will recall, under the Criminal Justice Act 1991, 17 year-olds were brought within the ambit of the youth court for sentencing purposes. Before then, they could receive custodial sentences of the same length as adults; but since the 1991 Act, the one year maximum has applied.

The doubling of the maximum sentence of detention in a young offender institution will ensure that the courts have the powers which they need to deal effectively with this age group.

I fear to mention the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for fear of provoking him into standing up again—which I invite him not to do. However, he and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and other Members of the Committee may wish to know that in its evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, the Council of Circuit Judges argued that the maximum sentence should be raised in the way that the Government propose. I think that is right.

I should only emphasise that the change will not represent any increase in the sentencing powers of magistrates' courts. It will be for the Crown Court to sentence offenders to detention in young offender institutions with sentences of more than six months for a single offence and more than a total of 12 months for more than one offence. For those reasons, I believe that Clause 17 should stand part of the Bill.

Baroness Faithfull

At this late hour I do not propose to take the matter further, but with young offenders the law of diminishing returns applies. After a while, they become so used to the sentence and the life that it does them more harm than good to spend a long time inside. Obviously, I cannot say for certain that that is so, but it is my experience that it is. I do not propose to take the matter further.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Lord Annaly

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.