§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey rose to move, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Prison (Amendment) Rules 1995 [SI 983] be annulled.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is something of a peculiarity that I should be doing this because, although this Prayer is in time—in other words, it is within 40 sitting days of the date when it was laid before Parliament—I see from the front page of the rules that they came into force on 25th April. My first question to the Minister is: how can it be that rules under the negative procedure which take 40 days to achieve immunity from parliamentary action can be brought into force within 21 calendar days of the date of their being laid before Parliament? But the issue is far more serious than one of procedure.
§ The Home Secretary, in a speech on 18th November followed by a Home Office press release, responded in his inimitable way to a lot of press pressure about a very small number of offences committed by prisoners on home leave. His response was not a rational one—just to point out that only in at most 1 per cent. of the cases have prisoners on home leave committed further offences of whatever kind, whether or not related to the offence for which they were originally put in prison. Oh no, he did not respond rationally by giving the figures. He simply announced that he would change the rules so that there would be a 40 per cent. reduction in home leave.
§ The history of home leave, which is a provision of Rule 6 of the Prison Rules, is not such a short history and not such a dishonourable history that it can be properly subverted or indeed reversed by this knee-jerk 1020 reaction—there must be a better phrase than that but that is really what it was—of a Home Secretary who is more interested in the approval of the Conservative Party Conference than he is in the criminal justice or prison system. The Prison Rules have provided for many years that there should be home leave and other types of temporary release from prison: on compassionate grounds; on grounds that they are necessary for work or for education; that they permit family visits outside a prison; that they permit overnight stays with families.
§ It has always been the case that home leave has been a privilege and not a right. It has always been within the discretion of the governor of the prison rather than laid out in great detail. But innumerable Prison Service circular instructions over the years have set out the advantages to the Prison Service, to the prisoners and to society of an effective system of home leave. As recently as 1992, Prison Service circular instruction 43/92 set out the advantages of home leave in terms of increased self-confidence among prisoners and the ability for prisoners to readjust to society.
It is not as if these Prison Service circulars have ignored the issue of public safety. Circular 11 of 1993—only two years ago—said:
It will be right to refuse any application where there is any doubt about a prisoner's behaviour whilst at liberty".
So there is no question whatever but that the existing rules provide for protection and that it is the responsibility of prison governors to ensure that society at large is not damaged by those who are let out from prison on home leave. So it is not as though the existing rules were inadequate to meet the dangers to which the Home Secretary professes he is responding.
It is much worse than that. The Woolf-Tumim report of 1991 on prison disturbances actually argued strongly for an extension of home leave. They pointed out that our provisions for home leave are markedly more cautious than in the rest of Europe. They quoted a Council of Europe report on that subject from 1992. They argued that there should be,
substantial increases in the number of home leaves granted
and that that should be done by extending the eligibility for home leave to other kinds of prisoners and to those at different stages of their prison sentence.
§ That report was accepted and welcomed by the then Home Secretary, Mr. Kenneth Baker. He doubled the provision of home leave in open prisons. The 1991 paper Custody, Care and Justice, was the basis on which the Prison Service said that it would be considering further extension of home leave arrangements.
§ So what has changed other than sheer panic in the face of Conservative activists? What has changed is that the Government have turned 180 degrees. They are now proposing that there should be a 40 per cent. reduction. By the way, one cannot get any of this information from the statutory instrument itself; it has to be deduced from the orders that were issued to prison governors between November 1994 and the present date.
§ There will now be three kinds of home leave or what is now called "licence". As before, there will be a compassionate licence for urgent personal family and other crises. There will be a resettlement licence which 1021 will not now be available at all to those serving sentences of 12 months or less. It is available only one-third of the way through the sentence for those serving one to four years, and it will be available only half-way through the sentence for those serving four years or more—in other words, the time of the first parole application. There will be a facility licence which is not available in the first 25 per cent. of the sentence and not available to category A or B prisoners.
§ Any suggestion that these provisions are either to protect the public or to improve the morale and effectiveness of the Prison Service is thrown away by the admission by the Prison Service working group which considered these matters. It referred to the period before people are eligible for these licences as the "punitive period". This is a punitive order and nothing else. Any pretence that it is there to protect the public is a sham.
§ It is punitive not only to prisoners, but to families and to the children of families. If one delays the eligibility of prisoners for home leave to later in their prison sentence, one may still be allowing them to re-establish family links which are so important when they come out at the end of the sentence, but one is stopping the possibility of maintaining family links and relationships from an early stage of the sentence. All the evidence from research in the United States and in other places, makes it clear that the lack of family support increases recidivism—in other words, it increases the likelihood that prisoners will re-offend when they come out of prison. Cutting back on the eligibility for home leave increases the probability that those who come out of prison will re-offend. Despite the directions given to it by the Home Secretary, there are plenty of examples in the Prison Service of that actually working. Since February 1994, one open prison has had a "compact" which provides a trade-off between home visits and visits in the prison itself. The effect has been significantly to reduce reoffending at the end of a prison sentence.
§ No, this is not a rational or humane response to even the very small number of cases of reoffending which have been identified. It is a punitive measure. It does not deserve the confidence of Parliament and I believe that we are right to ask Her Majesty that this measure be annulled.
§ Moved, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Prison (Amendment) Rules 1995 [SI 983] be annulled.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, it seems wrong at 10 o'clock at night and in only an hour to be considering the limited entitlement to temporary freedom of the men and women we choose to lock up in our prisons for what we judge to be good and sufficient reasons. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, this is a serious matter and I am sorry that we are not debating it in more suitable circumstances.
1022 I support all that the noble Lord said about the shortcomings of the statutory instrument. I regret it and think that it is a retrograde step in penal matters. Most importantly—this should be of greater concern to the Minister—I believe that no good will come of it.
I think that it is right to say that the aim of home leave is not to make life softer for those in prison or in any way to temper the harshness of their imprisonment. It is not an unsolicited act of generosity. The reason for home leave has been clearly stated by the noble Lord, and was set out most plainly of all in that paragraph of the Woolf Report which quoted Prison Service Circular Instruction 9/1988, which states:
Home leave is not in the self-interest of the prisoner—although he may like and enjoy it. It is in the self-interest of the community as a whole. It helps in the resettlement of a prisoner. It is good for his family. In addition, it makes the management of prisons that much easier by helping to reduce some of the tensions that might otherwise exist.
- "(a) To help restore self confidence by placing trust in a prisoner under conditions of complete freedom; and
- (b) To help the prisoner to readjust to life outside prison by giving the opportunity to maintain links with family and friends and in the case of long home leave, to contact prospective employers and make firm plans for release".
As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, some of us were led to believe that the arguments in favour of prison leave and of extended prison leave had been accepted in the White Paper of four years ago, which was entitled Custody, Care and Justice. That White Paper set out the case plainly, endorsing what Woolf had said. The introduction stated:This White Paper charts a course for the Prison Service in England and Wales for the rest of this century and beyond".That was the view of Kenneth Baker as Home Secretary, and was endorsed by the Cabinet, of which the present Home Secretary, Michael Howard, was a member, yet within three years of that statement of policy it is being abandoned and we have not been given an adequate reason why.
In his speech in the debate on the Address on 18th November, the Home Secretary said:In too many cases, the system has been abused".—[Official Report, Commons, 18/11/94; col. 244.]He explained that he would be conducting a review. He called it a "thorough review". If that review has been published in its entirety, I have missed it. I should be interested to know what figures were available to the Home Secretary in the course of that review which were not available to the then Home Secretary three years ago. What change was there in that period? It would be helpful if the Minister could explain that to us.
In his speech, the Home Secretary said that the safety of the public must be paramount. We cannot dispute that, except to say that there is bound to be an element of risk not only in releasing a prisoner for a period of home leave, but in releasing a prisoner altogether at the end of his sentence. Of course we must accept an element of risk unless we are to incarcerate prisoners for ever, and not even the present Home Secretary is recommending that.
1023 It may well be that, although preventing prisoners from having the home leave to which they might previously have felt themselves to be entitled may reduce some short-term risk, home leave makes it much less difficult to rehabilitate prisoners afterwards. If they do not settle back into their families, the risk to the community is very much greater than if they have had the opportunity to become accustomed to the life they will lead after their release.
A balance must be struck. Those of us who do not have the obligations and duties of the Home Secretary must be aware of that, but the balance will not be struck in the right place if the order is proceeded with. We have had no adequate explanation of why the Home Secretary made the decision, based on the purposes of home leave and the merits of the case. I wait with great interest to hear whether the Minister will be able to fill that gap tonight.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, the arguments against this nefarious order have been expressed so adequately and knowledgeably by my noble friend Lord McIntosh and by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes. My noble friend Lord McIntosh made all the main points that I would have liked to have made, and he made them more effectively. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, added a few points of his own, including the important reflection that if we are to avoid all risks in relation to the release of prisoners we would keep all prisoners in prison for ever. That was worth saying. I only hope that the lead given from these Benches by my noble friend Lord McIntosh will be taken up just as strongly elsewhere. I look forward with hope to that happening.
Over 60 years ago, I had a great friend called Esmond Warner, the son of Sir Pelham Warner, after whom the Warner Stand at Lord's was named. I am picking up the cricketing metaphors used earlier by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. Sir Pelham Warner was manager of the MCC team in Australia at the time when Mr. Jardine adopted the policy of bodyline bowling, which nearly broke up the Commonwealth, as your Lordships may remember.
Sir Pelham Warner wrote back to his son, who showed me the letter, and asked, "Is Douglas mad?", referring to Douglas Jardine, the captain. The implication was that he probably was. With Mr Michael Howard, one is left to ask, "Is he mad?" As was explained in the previous two speeches, he has reversed the policies followed by his predecessors without giving any reason except—I shall not call it panic—an attempt at calculation. The only person who I think would agree with him is someone called Judge Argyle, who writes in the Sunday Express and who has said on occasion that we have been governed recently by a pro-crook lobby. That is no doubt the way that Mr. Howard sees things.
I find it difficult to understand how a man whom we know to be a successful barrister and good family man, and, so far as I know, a man of impeccable private life, 1024 can embark upon these sadistic policies. It is peculiar. No one holds the Minister responsible. I regard her as the victim of circumstances. She has to get up and defend this sort of nonsense time after time. We do not think any the worse of her. We just feel very, very sorry for her.
The arguments have been put forward very well and I shall not repeat them. Perhaps I may give an example of the stopping of family leave. It did not occur as a result of Mr. Howard's policies; it occurred independently of them. The case came to me through the federation of the organisations which support prisoners' families. I do not know whether Mr. Howard is allowed to read debates such as this or whether they are kept from him in order to avoid causing him a trauma. If he is allowed to read them he might like to bear this in mind as a example of what happens when family leave is denied.
A lady whose son was involved came to see me today. She had tea with me in the House and therefore I have heard about the case almost at first hand. The lady's husband was sent to a prison where he was no longer allowed home leave. The son was so horrified by the fact that he could not see his father without going to the prison that he had a breakdown. Eventually after leaving school he had to have psychiatric treatment. That is an example of what happens when home leave is denied. With 40 per cent. of home leave being stopped, there is no doubt that we shall have a great deal of psychological and moral collapse.
The speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and my noble friend Lord McIntosh, brought out the fact that the issue relates not only to providing a more agreeable time for prisoners. I believe that prisoners should be given a more agreeable time. Indeed, I think most prison officers believe that in the end if we are to try to educate prisoners, we should treat them better and not worse, which is the Howard philosophy. The issue relates also to family life and to the interest of the whole community. I strongly support what was said by my noble acting Leader, Lord McIntosh.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, I agree most strongly with and support all the previous speakers. This is an all-party issue. I regret that there is no Back-Bencher on the Government side to join in the debate.
I strongly object to the mixing of remand and sentenced prisoners, which is provided for in the order, bearing in mind that many remand prisoners are proved to be innocent. The only possible justification for such a course would be with the prisoners' consent and for the prevention of gross overcrowding within a prison or the prolonged use of police cells—and it is common knowledge that your Lordships object most strongly to that.
I urge Her Majesty's Government, and the Home Secretary in particular, to reflect on the experience of the Northern Ireland prison service. Generous home leave for long-term prisoners has been an outstanding success there. Christmas and summer leaves have helped family relationships and the return rate of 1025 prisoners to prison has been virtually 100 per cent. Working-out and work experience schemes have been equally successful. Of course, Northern Ireland is not directly comparable with England and Wales but at least it gives food for thought as regards incentives for good behaviour and a positive approach to resettlement.
I greatly regret that Her Majesty's Government are rejecting all the available advice, including the 1991 Woolf Report, the White Paper which followed that, the prison service circular No. 43 of 1992, and the advice of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe dating back to 1982. As if that were not enough, there is also the advice of the Control Review Committee, which I understand to be a governmental body.
By rejecting that wealth of advice the Government are likely to increase the punishment of prisoners' families. They certainly increase the risk of family breakdown and they are likely to damage the successful "Compact System" which is now in operation. They make it harder for offenders to obtain their own accommodation and new employment on release. They therefore, through this combination of circumstances, very much increase the risk of re-offending. I should just like to ask: from where did the Home Secretary get his arbitrary figure of 40 per cent. less home leave and temporary release? Why does he want to concentrate the remaining amount on longer sentences and late in the total sentence? I beg Her Majesty's Government to have second thoughts on this matter.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, began by asking about the regulations and why they came into force only 21 days after being laid. I have to say that the 21-day rule is a rule of practice required by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. It does not of course affect the 40-day time limit for the introduction of a negative resolution seeking to annul a statutory instrument. My understanding is that it is common for such instruments to come into force before the 40 days have expired.
The noble Lords, Lord McIntosh of Haringey and Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, were concerned about this being a punitive Bill and about the tightening up of release rules for prisoners. First, the new rules are directed not only to the need to ensure that prisoners are not released if they present a risk to public safety, but they are also intended to protect the public's confidence in the administration of justice. It really does have to be said that the public have a right not to see criminals who have been sentenced to imprisonment walking freely up and down their streets in their towns and villages too early in their sentences.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, asked whether the new scheme would make it harder for prisoners to maintain contact with their families, especially at the start of their sentence. Again, eligible prisoners may be released towards the end of their sentence in order to maintain family ties. However, it has to be said that the Prison Service is committed to enabling prisoners to maintain close links with the family. In recent years 1026 various initiatives, including the installation of card phones and the provision of more visits, have meant that prisoners are able to see and talk to their families a great deal more often than has been the case in the past.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, asked whether the working group's report would be available publicly. I can say that a copy of the full report and a summary of the working group's study of the operation of temporary release and home leave schemes were placed in the House Library by the Home Secretary in November of last year. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, also asked about the figures which were available to the working group. A number of statistical exercises were undertaken in support of the working group review in 1993. One of the results of the review was the establishment of a new system to monitor the operation of the new scheme. These figures will feed into the review of the new scheme which will be carried out later this year.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, gave us an interesting anecdote, but could I say to him in response to the point he was making that of course there are now no prisons where temporary release is completely unavailable.
The amendments to the prison rules achieve three purposes. They will introduce a new and more focused scheme for the temporary release of prisoners; they will permit the greater involvement of unconvicted prisoners in positive regime activities while in prison; and they will increase the powers of governors to maintain a disciplined environment inside our prisons.
The amendments were debated in another place on 17th May. In that debate the Opposition indicated that they broadly supported the provisions in these amendments, which were in line with their response to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary's announcement in another place on 18th November for changes to the arrangements for temporary release, which the amendments to Rule 6 underpin. On that occasion, the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the honourable Member for Blackburn, said that he was, and I quote—
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
Order, order. My Lords, I did not think it was in order for Members in another place to be quoted from Hansard except in the case of government Ministers.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, if that is the case, then I unreservedly apologise to the House for making that comment. However, I will make a general comment and say that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, are out of keeping with many of his Front Bench colleagues in another place. These amendments meet the concerns both of Members of another place and of the Government in this area.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has, however, expressed his fear that the new arrangements for temporary release will prevent the effective use of temporary release. He made reference during the Second Reading debate of the Bill of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale to the recommendations of Lord Justice Woolf in his report on the 1990 prison disturbances. The changes to Prison Rule 6 on temporary release arise from a review carried out by the Prison Service in 1027 accordance with the commitment in the White Paper Custody, Care and Justice issued in response to the report of Lord Justice Woolf.
A working group was established in June 1993 to review the operation of the home leave and temporary release schemes. It included representatives from the police and probation services, as well as from a broad range of penal affairs groups. Those groups included Victim Support, the Prison Reform Trust and the Federation of Prisoner Family Support Groups.
The working group recognised that, since the report of Lord Justice Woolf some two years earlier, the profile of home leave and temporary release had changed significantly. There had been public concern about the operation of both schemes following a number of serious failures where prisoners had committed serious and violent offences, including murder and armed robbery, while released temporarily. In addition, the working group recognised the concerns of victims that prisoners were being granted temporary release only a short time after being sentenced.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, asked whether the Government had abandoned the principles of the Woolf Report. Again, I say to the noble Lord that the Government recognise—as, indeed, did Lord Justice Woolf in his report—the benefits that the temporary release of prisoners can provide. However, it is important that it should be within a clear framework, with the necessary safeguards in place to ensure public safety. The working group established in response to the Woolf Report recommended just such a scheme, which we have now implemented.
The report of the working group was presented to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in October last year. The report included 47 recommendations. They took full account of the needs of both the public and prisoners and their families, the need to maintain good order and security in prisons and, most importantly, public safety. It was in the light of that report that my right honourable friend made his announcement last November about the new system of release on temporary licence. That came into effect on 25th April.
The Government believe that there are important benefits to be gained in releasing suitable prisoners for short periods as part of the process of preparing for their eventual return to the community. Evidence shows that prisoners who have a job to go to, a secure family environment and skills developed by training or education are less likely to re-offend than those released "cold" into the community. Testing prisoners in controlled and monitored circumstances therefore contributes to public safety.
The benefits of releasing prisoners for short periods in that way must, however, be weighed against any potential threat that prisoners who have been temporarily released may pose to the public and against the need to preserve public confidence that prisoners who have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment will not be released back on to the streets shortly after they have been sentenced.
1028 The new scheme of release on temporary licence is more sharply focused than its predecessors. Prisoners will in future be released only for precisely defined and specific purposes. Prisoners will continue to be eligible to be temporarily released for justifiable purposes such as education and training leading to a recognised qualification where that cannot be provided in prison. Any such release would be allowed only where programmed into a prisoner's sentence plan and specifically designed to help the prisoner to lead a law-abiding and useful life upon release. It is unacceptable, however, for prisoners to be released for purposes which are purely social or recreational. That will no longer be allowed.
The new system will also continue to allow prisoners to be considered for temporary release in urgent and compelling compassionate circumstances or towards the end of their time in custody to maintain their family ties or re-establish links with the community in preparation for their return to the community.
One of the primary purposes of the new scheme must be to ensure that the public are not placed at any risk by the unacceptable release of prisoners who pose a threat to public safety. The new scheme includes a mandatory and stringent risk assessment carried out in collaboration with the Police and Probation Services.
Prison governors have a duty, in considering any release, not only to ensure the safety of the public but also to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice. Prisoners should not be released too early after sentencing, nor too frequently. To do so would undermine the purpose of imprisonment. Under the new scheme, therefore, prisoners will have to serve longer in prison before applications for release on licence will be considered.
The second change we have made through the amendment rules is an increase in governor's disciplinary powers. Maintaining good order and discipline will always be a priority for the Prison Service. Prison officers and governors have a difficult task. They face a prison population which is increasing and which shows higher levels of violence and indiscipline than used to be the case.
Prison staff achieve good order in prisons in many ways—through the right relations with prisoners, through incentives for good behaviour, through the right regimes and through the right security. But all of these need underpinning by proper disciplinary procedures. I am sure that there can be no disagreement over the need for governors to have sufficient powers to maintain authority in their prisons. They need powers that will properly mark the seriousness of the offences they are dealing with, and they need punishments which prisoners will recognise as real deterrents.
From the views that have been expressed by governors, by prison officers, by members of prison boards of visitors and by the public, it is clear that many people have been concerned that punishment powers are no longer adequate and no longer command the necessary full confidence of those who need to use them. Boards of visitors voted at their last annual conference for an increase in governors' powers.
1029 The amendment rules have increased the level of governors' punishment powers by 50 per cent. The only exception is the punishment of cellular confinement, which we increased last year and which we have not changed again.
These increases should give prison staff substantial help in the difficult task they face. At the same time, the punishment powers are at a level where they can be exercised properly by governors. They can be used safely as part of procedures that need to work quickly and relatively simply. They will be operating alongside extra safeguards which have recently been introduced: the Prisons Ombudsman, who has been considering prisoners' complaints since last autumn; the Prison Service's new discipline manual issued at the start of this year; and improved training for adjudicating governors, which started six months ago. For serious criminal offences by prisoners, the governors will continue to look to the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the courts.
I hope that I do not need to explain the changes in governors' powers any further. The last full review of prison discipline was nearly five years ago. Since then, offending in prisons has increased by over 23 per cent. There are now nearly 110,000 recorded offences a year for a prison population of 50,000. That level of offending has been held for last year, and the Prison Service has succeeded in reducing levels of escapes and assaults. However, there can be no room for complacency. The amendment rules should give governors the powers they need to help them run well-ordered prisons. They should also give prison officers, and the public, greater confidence that there is adequate authority to back the work that needs to be done.
We have also revised Prison Rule 3(2). We have done so with two aims: to remove unnecessary obstacles to unconvicted prisoners' access to available regime activities and facilities; and to enable governors to make more efficient use of available accommodation. The old rule restricted the possibilities for unconvicted prisoners to take part fully in constractive and purposeful activity while in prison because it required close supervision of any activity which involved contact between convicted and unconvicted prisoners. It also limited the governor's ability to make maximum use of cell space at times of population pressure.
There is sound justification for changing that rule. Imposing restrictions on mixing, in either activities or living accommodation, is clearly unnecessary where unconvicted prisoners are content to mix. In practice, unconvicted prisoners very rarely have any objection to mixing with convicted prisoners for activities or in living areas.
This measure will also reduce the need to hold prisoners in police cells, which is both costly and unsatisfactory in terms of the Prison Service's duty to hold prisoners in decent but austere conditions and to provide positive regime activities.
We are very conscious of the need to acknowledge the special legal status of unconvicted prisoners, which arises from the presumption of their innocence. The amended rule accordingly preserves the principle of 1030 separation while giving more weight to the wishes of unconvicted prisoners in line with the more relaxed approach to mixing now reflected in the European prison rules.
Where the unconvicted are content to mix with convicted prisoners, there will be no obstacle to their doing so. An unconvicted prisoner, however, who chooses not to take part in an activity with convicted prisoners will be given separate access to the activity, if possible, or, failing that, will be allowed to spend the allotted time in another activity approved by the governor. A situation may arise where the governor considers it unreasonable to maintain separation in the residential area, although the unconvicted prisoner may prefer it. In such circumstances unconvicted and convicted prisoners may need to be accommodated on the same landing, but no unconvicted prisoner will be required unwillingly to share a cell with a convicted prisoner.
The change to Prison Rule 3 is accordingly being made in the best interests of both unconvicted prisoners and efficient prison administration. We believe that these rule changes are necessary. They are necessary because they allow a more focused scheme for temporary release, a more positive regime for unconvicted prisoners and maintain a disciplined environment in the prisons themselves.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, let me first deal briefly with the small procedural point which I was obliged to raise. I was not, of course, seeking to censor the Minister's speech. However, I believe that the point is acknowledged. I note with pleasure, and put on the record, that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, has communicated to the officials in the box that it is not within our rules of debate for there to be any quotations from speeches of Members of Parliament in another place other than the Minister speaking on government policy. It is worth while having that on the record for any future speeches.
The Minister has chosen—we are grateful to her, in a way—to address the entire order rather than simply rule 2 of the schedule, which was all that I addressed. It is legitimate for her to do so, partly because the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to the question raised in paragraph 1 about remand prisoners and convicted prisoners. I was satisfied by what the Minister said: that the new paragraph 2 in rule 3 provides that the consent of remand prisoners has to be obtained if they are to share residential accommodation or participate in any activity with convicted prisoners, and under no circumstances shall be required to share a cell with a convicted prisoner.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for his remarks on the other matter. I hope that he will feel satisfied that these are not dangerous changes to the rules.
The Minister also referred to paragraphs 3 and 4 of the schedule which refer to increased powers of punishment by governors for offences for failure to confirm withhold and leave requirements. She well 1031 knows from what I said at Second Reading of the Private Member's Bill introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, that I thoroughly approve of paragraphs 3 and 4. I approve of the increased powers which are given to the governors for the forfeiture of privileges and the stoppage of, or deduction from, earnings for offences of that kind. Therefore there is nothing between us on that.
However, the issues raised by paragraph 2 in the schedule—they were all that I addressed in my speech—are still too serious to be allowed to pass without further comment. The Minister has made no attempt to justify or explain the change in government policy from the opinions expressed by Mr Kenneth Baker earlier. She certainly made no attempt to deal with the pleas of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and Judge Tumim for an increase rather than a decrease in home leave. She has not dealt with the point I made and the quotation I gave from Instruction 11 of 1993. It says specifically that there should be no releases where there is "any doubt"—I emphasise the phrase—about the potential behaviour of the prisoner while at liberty. The power to protect the public is not only implicit in the existing rules before those changes were made; it is explicit. There is no justification whatever for such a change of rules.
The Minister relies on that classic phrase "public confidence". She said a number of times that there has to be public confidence about release too early in a sentence. When Jack Straw was responding to the Statement, he was responding not to this order but to a ministerial Statement. It was not clear from that Statement that the way in which the 40 per cent. reduction in home leave was to be achieved was by cutting out early use of home leave. It is still not clear 1032 from the order. It is clear only from subsequent instructions to governors in November and December of last year and January of this year.
To that extent, I do not accept that there is any significant difference between Jack Straw and myself about the matter. What I am saying is that when we see the rules and changes in them and the instructions which have been given by the Home Office to prison governors, that is the stage at which it becomes apparent that there is a blind determination to reduce home leave by 40 per cent. The figure was plucked out of the air so far as we can see. It is to be achieved by the most damaging of all possible restrictions on home leave—restrictions at an early stage. I do not accept that public confidence is eroded by early use of home leave, subject to the discretion of governors and to the overriding requirement that prisoners should not be released on home leave when there is any risk of them offending while they are at liberty.
I am not satisfied by the answers given by the Minister. I am grateful to her for the detailed explanation of some of the other parts of the order. But it is only my determination to adhere to the rule that we do not vote against statutory instruments that leads me to beg leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.