HL Deb 20 October 1998 vol 593 cc1409-32

7.47 p.m.

The Earl of Longford rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are continuing a policy of cutting expenditure in real terms per prisoner and of cutting the total expenditure in real terms on the probation service and on prisoner education.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, people sometimes ask questions in order to attack the Government, occasionally in order to defend them. This time I raise the question in the spirit of interrogation.

I am grateful to the noble Lords who have stayed for this debate, particularly to the two maiden speakers. I hope that on future occasions they will have a larger audience. They must not be discouraged; having got this off their chest, they may feel happier and they can speak very controversially next time.

My Lords, I will speak crudely and I will not take up the full time I am allowed. Mr. Michael Howard, when he was Home Secretary, introduced a completely new approach to penal policy, backed up by the Cabinet. It was based on the idea that prison works. In practice it led to an enormous increase in the prison population, from something over 40,000 to 66,000. That was as a result of government policy. At the same time, resources were cut. That belongs to the past, however. What has happened since Labour came into power? I go into prisons once or twice a week. I have not yet found anybody who thinks that anything has got any better under my own Government. Some will say it has got worse, because the Conservative policies of cutting the amount of money spent per prisoner, the education service and the probation service, have been working their way through.

Now we are hopeful. We may have arrived at an historic moment. Mr. Straw has given indications that he is at heart a penal reformer. We know he is a Christian socialist and therefore I should say he must be penal reformer. He has not shown it previously, but with a recent important event he has begun to demonstrate it now. This is the publication of the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons. It comes out drastically for the end of "Howardism". I do not wish to speak personally against Mr. Howard; I have no personal animosity against him. On the only occasion I met him he was quite charming. However, Howardism was an evil message and it is being repudiated by that all-important Select Committee of the House of Commons.

The question arises: does the Home Secretary intend to repudiate Howardism or continue with it? Speaking broadly, it has been continued since Labour came into power. The crucial question is: will the Home Secretary repudiate it now? I hope so. Today I heard him speak and answer questions for an hour and a quarter in the House of Commons. He said more than once that he welcomed the report. What does that mean? Does "welcome" mean anything in practice or is it just a word? I heard only the first hour and a quarter of his comments; something drastic may have happened later, but I doubt it. I understood him to say that it was a matter for the judges. He would be the first to agree that it depends on the level of crime, and I accept that, on balance, the level of crime has increased in the past five years.

The dramatic and horrible increase in the prison population cannot, therefore, be due to an increase in crime. As the Select Committee was quick to point out, that, coupled with the restrictions on expenditure, has made rehabilitation much more difficult. One is bound to ask the question: is the Home Secretary going to repudiate Howardism or is he going to repudiate the Select Committee? The Minister is a great lawyer; in other words, he knows how to deal with difficult questions. I hope that he will be able to provide an answer, but I do not expect a dramatic statement. I did not expect a dramatic statement from Mr. Straw today, but the time will come when he has to make one.

I do not intend to detain the House long at this time of night. The question is simple. I totally share the Government's ideals and I have great regard for Mr. Straw as a Christian socialist, although I hardly know him. Is he going to come out as a genuine penal reformer or will he carry on the doctrine of the former Home Secretary?

Those doctrines were totally opposed to the policies pursued by earlier Conservative Home Secretaries. We have one very enlightened former Home Office Minister with us tonight, but there were several. Their policies were totally different from those pursued by Mr. Michael Howard. I do not suppose anyone in this country has contributed more to the study of penal reform than the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and it will be particularly interesting to hear from him.

The question is perfectly plain. Will the Government pursue the fatal policies of Mr. Michael Howard, backed by the Cabinet, or will they return to the older tradition pursued by all the best Home Secretaries, whether Conservative or Labour?

7.54 p.m.

Lord Bach

My Lords, I rise to make my maiden speech with more than the usual trepidation. Not only is there the fear of the maiden itself, but I am very conscious that by choosing to speak in this debate I am daring to trespass on what is without doubt the territory of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who has asked a Question of my noble friend the Minister. His reputation as the champion of those incarcerated in Her Majesty's prisons, and as the leading advocate for penal reform, is unrivalled. I have for years admired him—not always uncritically—and to follow him in your Lordships' House is a huge privilege. Indeed, a few weeks ago he was good enough to give me a piece of advice on the subject of my maiden speech. He said, "Get two friends to sit either side of you so that they can say how well you have done."! I have the two friends either side of me, but the second part has not yet been fulfilled.

Over the past 25 years or so, I have been inside more prisons that your average recidivist—not, at least yet, as a guest of Her Majesty, but in the course of my profession as a junior barrister in criminal cases, particularly in the East Midlands and Leicester, mostly defending—not always successfully—as can be shown by my frequent visits to prison!

However, I must confess to your Lordships that many years ago a close relative of mine was sent to prison by the courts and, moreover, I confess that I am immensely proud of her. My grandmother was a younger sister of Emmeline Pankhurst and, as a suffragette, was sent to Holloway Prison for three weeks. Your Lordships will understand why I am so proud of her.

One of the descriptions given of me on my elevation was as a barrister who defended pop stars and footballers, with the clear implication—or so I read it— that I was a sort of legal fat cat who did not rely on legal aid to make my living. To coin a phrase used by my noble friend the Minister in our debate last Thursday, I wish. The truth is that I have tended to represent those at the bottom of society whose chances of riding higher are remote and who have committed some crime ranging from being minor nuisances to serious villains, but always leaving behind them distress, unhappiness and, of course, victims who themselves are invariably less privileged than most of us.

It is in this context that the Prison Service and the Probation Service must do their work and it is to the immense credit of both services that they do it so positively and optimistically. To them, no case is hopeless, no individual not worth bothering with. They need and deserve the support of government and this they receive. The recent Home Office consultation paper setting out plans for the two services to work much more closely together, and the increased spending promised in the Comprehensive Spending Review, announced in July, are to be warmly welcomed.

Without doubt, the most depressing part of my work is representing young people. Here are kids, nearly always male, who often have little sense of what is right and what is wrong; who often have not enjoyed the love and security that should be the right of every child; and these kids, frankly, make the lives of others hell. When you meet them, they often seem on the surface as normal and lively as other youngsters, but beneath the bravado and cockiness there is an emptiness and sadness about their lives that could make you weep. Few are "lost souls"; the majority grow out of crime. But while it lasts, they literally cause mayhem and chaos to the lives of those whom they have wronged.

What is to be done with them? I am delighted that the Government are making youth crime their priority. I warmly welcome the proposals in the Crime and Disorder Act. The delays in youth justice have been scandalous and parents have been allowed to shirk their responsibilities.

One of the most frightening figures to be found in the latest prison statistics is that in the space of one year, 1996 to 1997, the number of male offenders aged between 15 and 17 sent to custody grew by no less than 32 per cent. and in 1997 was double the figure only three years earlier.

Experience has taught me two things. The first is so obvious that it is sometimes forgotten in these debates. All offenders—young and old, male and female—fear the prospect of prison more than anything else. So there is a case for saying that the threat of custody can act as a deterrent. On the other hand, prison, whether for the young or the old, seldom works. I am on the side, on balance, of those who say that prisons make bad people worse—may be prison makes sad people worse—rather than those who say that prison works.

Reconviction figures, particularly for young people, are frightening. Between 1990 and 1995, the percentage of 14 to 16 year-olds recommitted to prison within two years of discharge ranged between 88 and 89 per cent; for 17 year-olds, it ranged between 77 and 86 per cent. Those figures in themselves are the reason why the Government are so right to make youth offending their number one target. Custody is, of course, essential in many of those cases, but the figures tell a depressing story.

I end by paying tribute to both the prison and probation services. In particular, I have worked very closely over many years, in the court setting, with the Leicestershire probation service. I pay tribute to the way in which its often hard-pressed officers perform their duties—with realism, with humanity and, above all, with optimism. Realism, humanity and optimism are not a bad way of approaching these difficult issues.

8.2 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, it is my first and very happy duty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bach, on an excellent maiden speech. It was on a subject he knows about and which he has studied with great care. I think it was Shakespeare who said "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, will be towards the end of the queue.

The noble Lord spoke about a problem that exists predominantly among young men between the ages of 15 and 35 who find themselves stuck in a cycle of offending and re-offending. The problem came to my notice primarily because of my work as a counsellor and fund-raiser for Apex Trust some years ago. I noticed the incredibly high number of its client base who had literacy problems. I am severely dyslexic, but I found that I was giving correct spellings to something like half the group with which I was associated. I am someone—I have told this story before and I may as well tell it again—who was congratulated for having good handwriting on his 30th birthday invitation.

I went to the head of the organisation and said, "Do you think you might have a look at the dyslexics in your group?" He said, "Why do you think so?" I told him, "Because 10 per cent. of the population have this problem, predominantly male. We also have the situation that your client base tends to be male and tends to be educationally under-achieving." He said, "Good idea. Look into it further." I then discovered that I was about number 403 on the list of people who had actually made the connection.

Surveys in Sweden, in New York, and more recently in London by a group called Dyspel have all come up with the same figure. Approximately 50 per cent. of the prison population have dyslexia or dyslexia-related difficulties. That must have some effect on the way you are recruiting your criminals, but it must also have some effect on the way you deal with them. At the moment we are patently failing in both departments.

The first part of the problem has something to do with the education system. I shall not burden the Minister with having to answer for a department other than his own because I shall pose, I hope, some unpleasant questions for him in relation to his. If a group has been taught from school, which will be their main influence at this time—it has to be remembered that they are very young when they get involved in the cycle of offending—that they are under achievers, that they are lazy and that they are stupid, then they have no self-esteem. Dyslexia is often said to be a middle-class disease because middle-class parents ask why their children are not achieving. Working-class parents tell them to stop annoying the teacher and stop annoying them very often because, unfortunately, traditionally in our society, the working class do not regard academic attainment as something which is primarily their concern. There are of course exceptions.

If this recruitment ground is giving us the number of offenders who are known about, something must be done after the schools have failed. We must start to give ourselves a second chance. A justice system that has a probation service and a prison service where you can sit a person down and discuss their problems offers that opportunity. Furthermore, if it succeeds in identifying problems, it will have a chance to do something about them. However, this requires at least initial training for staff in both services on how to identify the problem. I speak as somebody who has gone through this and has seen many other young people go through it. One characteristic of virtually all undiscovered dyslexics is very low self-esteem. The effect on adult dyslexics who discover that they have a problem but that they are not stupid, that they are not in some way abnormal—they can think naturally, they can hold a discussion, but they cannot put a few symbols on a piece of paper in an accepted format to convey information—is amazing. It is as if a great weight is taken off their shoulders.

We have the opportunities within the Probation Service to make an assessment when people come up for sentencing. If this is done, there will be a chance for them, in the sentencing processes, to have further counselling and, one hopes, some form of lessons. Dyslexics tend to respond terribly well to a computerised medium for learning. Unfortunately, it is a little too late for me to benefit from that at school, but it is something which is coming along. Voice recognition may also help, but that is something for the boffins to work out. We must get a process of recognition going.

Anyone who has dealt with people in prison at any level knows that prisoners attend classes because, first, they want a reduction in sentence, any that is going, and, secondly, they are bored. It is a wonderful opportunity at least for people to understand their own difficulty and then to open up the way to help. It means that those people will stand a chance of getting some form of qualification or acquiring, shall we say, a more user friendly attitude to the workplace outside. Work placement is said to cut down the re-offending rate by something like a third. I think 35 per cent. is the exact figure.

The opportunity to deal with this type of problem will be with us for a very long time. If we really want to make prison work—I hate using that expression but it may be appropriate in terms of the legal system and the reduction of crime—we must tackle the matter head on. There will be initial costs. It will mean a programme of training. But some form of investment, in time and money, and a little restructuring might well produce a real cut in re-offending rates and the overall amount of crime in our society.

This is too good an opportunity to miss. The study is out; it is available. I suggest that the Government get on and do something with it.

I hope that I have helped stir up a little bit of thought. I hope that the next maiden speaker takes the opportunity to make as big an impact as the noble Lord, Lord Bach.

8.8 p.m.

Lord Ahmed

My Lords, I rise to make my maiden speech. I begin with the name of God Almighty, most gracious, most merciful. I express my gratitude to the staff and noble Lords for the warm welcome they have given me since my introduction.

When I came to England, I attended Spurley Hey comprehensive school in Rotherham. The local authority decided to close it down. I was elected to the Rotherham town hall in 1990. Four years later the local authority decided to abolish it. Well, my Lords, I was introduced into your Lordships' House last Tuesday and on Wednesday the reform debate started. I have decided not to buy a house in London and I am staying in a hotel!

I welcome Her Majesty's Government's commitment to modernise the Probation Service and improve prison regimes so that they are constructive and help prevent reoffending. While I accept that the great majority of prison and probation staff are hard-working and committed professionals who do their best to serve the public in difficult and often dangerous circumstances, I believe that, at a time when the police and other organisations accept the existence of institutional racism, the Prison Service too should acknowledge that there is a serious problem of racism within the Prison Service.

In the past five years the prison population has risen by 50 per cent., from 43,000 to 65,000, and it is expected to rise to over 82,000 within the next seven years. Much to my dismay there has been an increase of almost 100 per cent. in Muslim inmates between 1990 and 1997. There are many explanations for the sharp increase in the number of prisoners from the ethnic minorities. Some would explain that it is perhaps due to the high unemployment, poverty and deprivation. Others argue that it is due to institutional racism and stereotyping. Whatever is the case, the figures are alarmingly gloomy.

The Government's commitment to being tough on crime and its causes, with measures backed by an extra £3 billion over the next three years, will be of benefit to thousands of young people, ethnic minorities included. Statistics from the Policy Studies Institute report show that the chance of obtaining employment for a graduate Muslim youth is equal to that of an unqualified white youth. I believe that black and Asian youth should be targeted to reduce the high unemployment levels within these communities.

I now turn to the allegations of institutional racism in the police forces and prisons. I am pleased to learn that many chief police officers have accepted that there is a problem and that they have to grasp the nettle and take immediate action. Ministers have announced targeting recruitment from the ethnic minority communities to reflect the population. There is a serious problem within the Prison Service. The proportion of prison officers' grade who are Asian is 0.68 per cent. and 0.73 per cent. Afro-Caribbean, compared with 6 per cent. Asian and 12 per cent. black inmates. HMP Winson Green, Birmingham, has a total of 995 inmates, with 131 Muslims and not one single Muslim staff member. HMP Long Lartin has 380 officers with no Muslim staff but a 15 per cent. ethnic minority inmate population.

Lack of understanding has caused enormous problems in relation to the religious, spiritual and dietary requirements of minority prisoners. For example, inmates suffering from racist attacks inside prison are normally moved to another wing, or the protection unit, or the punishment block, where they are kept locked up for 23 hours a day for their own protection. A further example is that in many prisons the Friday prayer is held on a Thursday, due to lack of understanding of the importance of a holy day for the Muslim community.

The Home Office has recently decided to appoint a special adviser on the spiritual needs of Muslim prisoners but it has said that organisations which nominate candidates to fill the post have to fund it themselves. Many Church of England ministers are employed full-time as chaplains and they have a special role under the Prisons Act 1952. It is really time that we had at least one full-time adviser on the needs of Muslim prisoners paid for out of public funds. I also suggest that when the time comes to reform the 1952 Act there should be statutory recognition of the fact that Britain is now a multi-religious society.

I was glad to hear the noble Lord the Minister reiterate yesterday that the Government accepted the recommendations of the Chief Inspector of Prisons that Immigration Act detainees should not be held in the prisons. Unfortunately, we have a record number in the prisons. I hope that the Government will soon implement arrangements for reducing the need for detention and will find alternatives.

I now turn to the case of two Kashmiri prisoners held at HMP Long Lartin. Qayum Raja and Mohammed Riaz were convicted in 1984 and sentenced to 14 and 10 years respectively. In 1988 the Home Secretary increased their sentences by 10 years each. which later in 1994 were quashed by the High Court, London. Two years later, the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, reinstated the increased sentences. To date, these sentences stand, but I am aware that the cases are currently under review by my noble friend Lord Williams' office and the Home Secretary. The Kashmiri community has expressed to me its growing lack of faith in the legal process. I hope my noble friend can take this on board and bring about a speedy review.

The prisons-probation consultation document talks about partnership and responsiveness. Perhaps I may end by urging Her Majesty's Government to respond to the needs of the ethnic minorities and build partnerships within the ethnic minority communities to ensure that both community penalties and prison sentences are effective and break the ever rising cycle of reoffending.

8.16 p.m.

Lord Windlesham

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, and to be the first to congratulate him on his maiden speech. The noble Lord is a leading figure in the British Muslim community, is chairman, and I believe founder, of the Muslim Councillors' Forum, and is a distinguished representative of the entire community in South Yorkshire, from which he comes. In joining the House he helps to broaden the diversity of interests which are represented and which is one of its contemporary functions. His speech was informative and was sharp in places—I am sure that the noble Lord who is due to reply from the Front Bench will have taken note of what he said. Both the noble Lord and the previous maiden speaker conveyed that they have quickly got the knack, when their party is in power, of combining loyalty to their party, which is proper and understandable, while at the same time not avoiding the necessity to make criticisms of some aspects of the administrative policies for which the Government have to take responsibility.

It is a tightrope that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has walked with immense skill for half a century. He has remained a loyal member of his party, and at the same time has been one of the most noted and effective penal reformers of the day. We are grateful to him for initiating this debate and for giving us another opportunity to debate matters of such importance and topicality. I say to the noble Earl that it may not be very often that he has had three relatively new Members of the House on his own side speaking in a debate of this kind initiated by him.

I want to confine my remarks to one issue only. It touches on what the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said. I refer to the provision of, and accessibility to, education in prison. In doing so, I declare an interest because I have had the privilege of being a patron of the Prisoners Education Trust since its inception about nine years ago. At times it has been a struggle to keep going, but with the indomitable leadership of Elizabeth Andrew and the generous financial support of several national charitable foundations and other donors, it has been possible to persevere and, indeed, make steady progress.

The trust is a small organisation confronted by a large need. Its function is to act as an independent pressure group, as a source of original research and expertise, and as a provider of specialist educational services within prison establishments. Like many others, it is concerned with the use that is made of the time spent in prison. The Prisoners Education Trust has a simple message which cannot be repeated too often or too vehemently. It is that the purpose of imprisonment is not simply to punish offenders, relevant though that is, but to use the time spent in custody in a constructive way so as to reduce the prospects of reoffending in the future.

In that process, education, along with learning craft skills and obtaining some insight into the causes and consequences of offending behaviour, are the essential ingredients. Some mild encouragement can be found in the references made in the 1997–98 annual report of the Prison Service to developing constructive regimes. That was followed by the establishment of a new directorate of regimes on 1st January 1998.

Perhaps I may pause here to say to the House, and in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, how greatly I admire the work of Richard Tilt who has recently announced that for personal reasons—as I understand it, nothing to do with policy—he has found it necessary to retire early from his post as Director General of the Prison Service. His inheritance was the most difficult in our modern penal history, and the way in which he has carried out his duties over the past few years has been the subject of widespread admiration. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will pass on this commendation to Mr. Tilt.

I return to the less happy side of things. I am unable to dissent from what the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said about the origins of the present crisis and the numbers in prison. The resulting financial and population pressures mean that education has taken a low priority in most establishments. The trend, as measured by the somewhat crude measurement—it is the only one which has been used until now—of average hours spent in education per prisoner per week, appears to be downwards over the past two years or so.

While it is true that not all prisoners need or are suitable for education, even so, the statistic is shattering: it is one hour and a half, 1.5 down from 1.7 hours. The most recent annual report of the Prison Service did not quote a figure, and perhaps it was right not to do so. The statistic relates to the prison population as a whole, and not simply to those who wish to take advantage of such educational facilities as there are.

But as regards more specifically targeted programmes in which the Prisoners Education Trust has specialised—open and distance-learning programmes in particular—there are numerous hurdles to be overcome. The trust commissioned a three-year research study by a noted criminologist from Cardiff, Professor Mike Maguire. That study found that in many prisons, library access is limited to once a week. Difficulties are experienced in obtaining books, other materials and quiet places to study. A major problem was identified of which governors are aware, but perhaps they are not fully aware of all the consequences. The abrupt transfer of prisoners from one establishment to another is made necessary by overcrowding. This is not hearsay, but is the basis of a three-year study. The restrictions on what inmates may take with them frequently excludes their books or study packs and these may or may not be sent on to whichever establishment the prisoner moves, which may be a considerable distance away. It also may take place some time after the prisoners have been transferred.

Finally, I wonder what justification the Minister can possibly give for those prisoners who undertake education—and I accept that by no means all are suitable—generally receiving considerably lower wages than those who are working. That can only encourage the message that education is less important than work. The sums of money are small, but the impact is large.

I conclude by saying that I believe—as do most other noble Lords taking part in the debate—in providing adequate educational facilities in prisons and encouraging the inmates to make use of them; indeed, it is an effective way of changing behaviour and building self-respect. Contrary to what was said earlier in the debate, I believe that the prison population is stabilising. It has risen sharply in the past five years. I was one of those noble Lords and Members of another place who was present earlier this evening to receive a briefing from the Director of Research and Statistics at the Home Office. One cannot be too hopeful, but I judge that there are some grounds for hoping that, albeit at a very high level, stabilisation may have been reached. Therefore, now is surely the moment for a determined effort, backed by adequate resources, to raise the standards of educational provision throughout the Prison Service. The general public are the potential victims of renewed offending, and they will suffer if nothing is done.

8.28 p.m.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate

My Lords, I begin by saying what a pleasure it is to follow the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, a man of immense knowledge and experience. Also, I thank my noble friend Lord Longford for coining a new word in my dictionary; namely, "Howardism". That is an interesting term. I am a firm advocate of "Strawism".

This evening I feel that I am something of an ugly duckling in the pond but what I have to say must be said and it is important. I fully support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, about education and the Prisoners Education Trust. It is absolutely essential and I support everything that he said. While I have great sympathy with the underlying basis of the Question tabled by my noble friend Lord Longford, I have little doubt that I shall be coming at it from a different direction. I also warmly welcome the report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs on alternatives to prison, which contains a lot of useful information and recommendations. I hope that the Home Secretary considers it carefully.

I have some 35 years' experience as a police officer, in every rank up to chief superintendent, and, in my judgment, the general public of this country are, quite frankly, fed up to the back teeth with the blight caused by crime. Communities are plagued with burglaries, car theft and wanton damage. We see evidence of that daily. New tube carriages are defaced by mindless scratching of windows, cars are broken into and homes violated. To continue looking at the problem from the point of view of the offender as opposed to that of the victim quite honestly upsets many people.

At the end of the day, prisoners are volunteers. It is fully accepted that prisons should be decent, humane places and I would not demur at that. However, continual calls for better and more resources for prisoners probably offend people outside who have led deprived lives for many years and have not resorted to committing crime.

I think your Lordships would agree that an important purpose of a prison sentence is deterrence—not just for the offender but for other like-minded persons. Over the years I have interrogated many prisoners, from murderers to shoplifters. Those whom I would class as professional criminals—and I accept that they are a relatively small minority—were quite prepared to take the risk of being caught if they knew that their sentence would be lenient.

I was a detective when corrective training and preventive detention were on the statute book. Crime was much less prevalent then. Relatively severe sentencing went out of fashion in the '60s and '70s under both governments—it is not a party point—and crime rose significantly. In my judgment, it is only since we started to give realistic sentences that crime has begun to fall quite dramatically—almost a million fewer crimes reported in the past few years. That is a million fewer victims.

Obviously I welcome the fact that criminals are being rehabilitated, although I have doubts about the willingness of some child molesters, for example, to undergo voluntarily what are considered to be helpful programmes. Similarly, I fully accept the need for better training to equip offenders to lead productive lives outside. It goes without argument that that is in everyone's interest.

The difficulty I have is with the myriad of prisoner welfare organisations. That sends a signal which suggests that prison welfare is more important than the welfare of victims. I think it should be made clear more often that the responsibility for crime lies with those who commit it and not with society.

I recently read a book by Charles Murray, the American authority on the growth of the underclass, on the effectiveness of prison as part of a crime reduction strategy. A small number of persistent criminals commit a large volume of serious crime. I include in that definition burglary, robbery and professional theft. It follows that if these "career" criminals can be taken out of circulation, crime—against the public, that is—will diminish. That is precisely what has happened in the United States over the past few years, where crime has dropped dramatically alongside, I have to say, an increasing prison population. Janet Reno, the left of centre US Attorney-General, is quoted as saying: Heavier sentences have turned things around". I think that your Lordships need to take note of that. Indeed, only last week, a Department of Justice report showed that in the 15 years up to 1995, assault, burglary and car theft were more common in this country than in the United States. That is a rather surprising statistic.

In this country the police strategy of targeting known criminals, the sensible tightening of bail laws and the elimination of the nonsense of being able to remain silent without prejudice, together with the introduction by this Government of the Crime (Sentences) Act, have resulted in reported crime reducing—a fact now supported by the recently published British Crime Survey.

I often hear it said that it is not the prison sentence that deters; it is the fear of being caught. The noble Lord, Lord Bach, in his excellent maiden speech, touched on this point. That is not true, in my experience. In the area that I policed, in the north east of England, juvenile crime was rampant in the early 1990s. Time after time we arrested the same youngsters and took them before the courts: they were released time after time to continue reoffending time after time. If anything was proof that the fear of being caught but with no proper sentence was not a deterrent, that was it.

That is why juvenile crime is such an important part of this Government's priorities. It has also been argued that there is little difference between the deterrent value of a prison sentence on the one hand and of a community based sentence on the other. Apart from the obvious fact that at least in prison the offender cannot continue to prey on the public, the argument loses sight of the fact that like is not being compared with like. Offenders are sent to prison, in the main, as a last resort. They have invariably been through all the community based sentences already, so to compare the recidivism rate with that of first offenders is a nonsense.

Finally, there is the question of cost. The quite reasonable point has been made that prison is expensive. Of course it is, but so is crime. Research by Northumbria police in relation, for example, to juvenile offending, showed that the true costs of police, probation, social services, courts and the costs—both financial and emotional—to victims, when taken into account, are so high that it is cheaper to impose custodial sentences.

In conclusion, I would simply say that financial decision making is about choices. If the choice is between the welfare of prisoners as opposed to the support and welfare of those who do not have a choice—the victims—I know where my vote would go.

8.38 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I think that we would all agree that this has been an interesting short debate. We are deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Longford for giving us the opportunity to look at this important issue.

I was particularly struck by the two maiden speeches in this debate. It seems to me that it is unquestionable that we are now a multicultural society and therefore our civil institutions must reflect that reality in their make-up. If they are to have a credibility and to be effective, they must be seen to be part of the society of which they are theoretically institutionally a part. They must be felt to be. I understood clearly, therefore, what my noble friend Lord Ahmed said.

I recognise clearly from my noble friend Lord Bach's graphic speech the description of the young people with whom he found himself confronted in the course of his work. I declare an interest, as I have before when we have discussed these matters, in that I have the privilege of being the president of the YMCA in England. We are doing some interesting work with young offenders in prisons and in young offenders' institutions. What my noble friend Lord Bach described is certainly what we encountered. Also, the reality of the absence of a multicultural dimension is familiar to us.

It is also tremendously important and has been a challenging experience to have among us my noble friend Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate. The police come in for a great deal of criticism these days, much of it valid and serious—indeed, grave—but countless policemen do a tireless, demanding and sometimes dangerous job on behalf of the community. We would be foolish therefore not to listen to the experience and the perspective of one who found himself in the front line of that task.

I recognise in what he says something of which we must all be cautious. He speaks with the voice of realism about many of the communities most acutely affected. They are not the middle-class communities or the rural homes to which we can retreat at weekends; they are the people in the deprived, disadvantaged estates of our country. In recent years I have come to live in one of the most beautiful valleys of north-west Cumbria. I shall never forget being taken by community workers around one of the most horrific, deprived estates of Carlisle on a clear winter day and seeing the reality of the problems with which those people lived. On that same clear winter day I looked out at the blue sky and bright sunlight and saw the hills where I lived. There is a great need for a sense of realism in how we approach these issues and I believe that my noble friend Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate brings that realism to our consideration.

However, tonight I crave the indulgence of the House because I want to concentrate on a point that I have made before but intend to go on making. If we have learnt anything in our work at the YMCA, it is that often—as my noble friend Lord Bach described—young people lack any sense of personality, personal significance or dignity. One of our first tasks therefore must be to enable them to discover themselves so that they can begin to develop their sense of responsibility, and we must then help them forward.

I often describe our work as a realisation that it is necessary for someone to take the hand of the offender and walk with the offender back into a full, creative, positive life. That is not to deny the importance of punishment; but it is in the context of the punishment that we immediately need to begin the job of rehabilitation. That is what the Probation Service, in one way or another, has been doing so outstandingly well throughout its tradition. It is a service for which I have unlimited respect and which, in my view, cannot have too many resources for what it is endeavouring to do.

Also, in that process, if we are to be successful in our endeavour, it is important for resources to be spent on education. I was cheered to hear my noble friend Lord Mackenzie make the point that education is crucial in the prison process. We know that with the shortages and other difficulties faced by the Prison Service in trying to perform its task, too often it has been the educational services that have been cut.

I want to make a point about which I feel increasingly strongly. In some parts of the media it is portrayed that there is a tough-headed approach to crime and a soft approach to crime. My view is that the situation is quite the reverse of how it is sometimes portrayed in the downmarket media. The hard-headed approach to crime relates to how we enable the offender to become a positive, responsible citizen who will not offend again; who will become somebody who contributes to the future of society. That is the tough-headed approach and that is why the emphasis must be on rehabilitation, on education, on working with the prisoners and helping them back into society. It is not only what happens in prison that is important, but also what happens when the person comes out of prison in terms of how they can be helped back into a full and confident life. It is that simple.

We must also recognise that if we do not spend the resources in those areas, the cost to society in the future—in reoffending, in future disruption and future mayhem for those least able to cope with it in their already stretched communities—will be great. The cost to the police and to the Prison Service itself will be immense as we try to cope with the problem being regenerated. It therefore makes economic sense as well as sense in terms of penal policy to rehabilitate; it is an investment in less expenditure in the future. The Government therefore deserve all the encouragement possible in that direction.

Perhaps I can conclude with this observation. I believe it is good that the Government emphasise the need for a clearer understanding of what is right and wrong and, in the midst of it all, for people to take personal responsibility. I applaud that. But I make the observation—perhaps in this House of all places we should recognise this—that it is not simply a question of "Do as we say"; it is, "Do as we do". If the messages which are being sent out to the young about what is acceptable behaviour, what is clever behaviour, what is the successful way to the top in society; if naked greed is too great an element in the upper echelons of society, where is our moral authority in appealing to the young? Where is the consistency? Where is the credibility? Therefore it is not only a question of what we do within the prison and probation services; it is the whole way we tackle the debate about the values which should operate in our society as a whole.

8.47 p.m.

Lord Dholakia

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has repeatedly drawn attention to prisons in this country and I am grateful to him for giving us this further opportunity to debate the matter today. I have followed him on a number of occasions in this House on issues concerning prisons, whether through Starred Questions or debate. The problem with following the noble Earl is that I now receive copies of letters from inmates which are normally addressed to him—and there are a remarkably high number.

Perhaps I can also take the opportunity to thank the two noble Lords who made maiden speeches. If it is any consolation to them, I made my maiden speech around one year ago and there were only four Members in the Chamber at the time.

It is difficult to overstate the damage done by the last government's expenditure cuts since the mid-1990s to the work of the prison and probation services. I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, says in regard to some of the cuts in the Prison Service generally. Those cuts, including the reduction in prison staff, saw a change in the number of prisoners to staff members from 1.7 in 1993 to 1.47 in June 1998.

Prisoners now spend increasing time in their cells. The percentage of prisoners held in prisons which unlock inmates for 12 or more hours per weekday fell from 40 per cent. in 1994–95 to 37.5 per cent. in 1995–96. In 1996–97, the Prison Service changed its key performance indicator for the time unlocked and now measures the percentage of prisoners held in prisons which unlock those on standard and enhanced regimes for 10 or more hours per weekday, not 12 hours as previously. The percentage fell from 65 per cent. in 1996–97 to 62 per cent. in 1997–98. The Prison Service target for 1998–99 is 60 per cent.

There was also a reduction in the level of purposeful activity in prisons from an average of 26.2 hours per prisoner per week in 1994–95 to 23.3 hours in 1997–98. The Prison Service aims to increase that to 24 hours per week in 1998–99.

There was a fall in the number of probation officers working in prisons from 645 to 560 between mid-1995 and December 1997. There has been a postponement in the repair and refurbishment programme. The problems were clearly identified by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons.

There are easy ways of raising money for prisons. I applaud the former Home Secretary for spending a day in Brixton prison, which raised over £100,000. Let us imagine the amount that would have been raised had we kept him there for four years! It would have met all the deficits and cuts that we are talking about.

Turning to more serious matters, to many of us the impact of the cuts in prison education has been the most distressing element of all. According to a Written Answer by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, to my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, on 3rd September 1998, 84 per cent. of prisons cut the number of education hours in 1996–97; 56 per cent. did so in 1997–98; and 71 per cent. have done so in 1998–99. According to the same Written Answer, the average number of education hours per prisoner fell from 4.9 hours in 1995–96 to 3.8 hours in the first quarter of this year. That is very sad. The sooner the trend is reversed, the better.

Prison education is crucial to cutting crime. Everyone who has worked with offenders knows ex-prisoners for whom education has been an essential part of their rehabilitation. Many prison inmates have problems with literacy and numeracy, and basic education can greatly increase their chances of employment.

Prison education is not a soft option. It is a vital means of reducing risk to society by diverting prisoners from re-offending. The more prison education is cut back, the greater the risk that prisons will educate their inmates in nothing but the tricks of the criminal trade.

I welcome the Home Secretary's statement on 21st July on the comprehensive spending review settlement in which he said that the settlement would provide an additional £660 million for the Prison Service over the next three years. According to the statement some of the money will be used for additional prison places and to clear the urgent backlog of repairs and maintenance. But it also provides for a significant increase in purposeful activity over the next three years, including improvements in education for juveniles and adults and an increase in the number of probation officers providing through-care support.

A Written Answer in the House of Commons from Mr. George Howarth to Mr. Alan Beith on 31st July stated that there will be an extra £72 million for rehabilitation and other programmes in prison in 1999–2000; £60 million in 2000–01; and £70 million in 2001–02 in real terms at 1998–99 prices. However, after an increase next year of 1.7 per cent., there will be a 0.2 per cent. reduction in the second year, (2000–01) and a 0.6 per cent. reduction in the third year. So in real terms we are not talking of additional money being available but a genuine cut.

Perhaps I may touch briefly on the Probation Service. It has also suffered significant cuts in expenditure and staffing. Before the review settlement, the Association of Chief Officers of Probation estimated that in real terms the Probation Service in England and Wales was facing a cut of around 25 per cent. over a four-year period, equating to an expenditure reduction of approximately £1,000 million. That was at a time when the number of offenders supervised by the service—on community sentences, in prison and on post-release supervision—had increased from 136,000 in 1992 to 184,700 in 1997.

I welcome the Home Secretary's Statement on the comprehensive spending review settlement. He said that there would be an additional £18 million of grant for the Probation Service next year instead of the £6 million cut planned by the previous government. A Home Office circular to the Probation Service issued on the same day stated that the Home Office grant to the Probation Service would rise from £329 million in 1998–99 to £396 million in 2001–02.

I have paid tribute on more than one occasion to the Home Office's recent willingness to provide improved financial support. I wish to highlight my own interest in the matter as chairman designate of NACRO. I must draw attention to one result of the cuts in the Probation Service which has caused us particular concern; namely, the dramatic reduction in the service's voluntary work with many prisoners released from short-term sentences who are not subject to compulsory post-release supervision. NACRO is keen to work in partnership with the Probation Service to improve the level of help and support given to such ex-prisoners. That will help increase the prospect of steering them away from crime and further offending.

I associate myself and this side of the House with the remarks offered about Mr. Tilt by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. Perhaps they can be conveyed to him.

8.57 p.m.

Lord Henley

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for making his remarks with such brevity. That allows me my eight minutes before I must sit down to allow the noble Lord, Lord Williams, his full 12 minutes to wind up the debate—which I dare say will not nearly be enough to cover the number of points addressed.

I also wish to express my thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for introducing the debate. It is six months since our last major debate on prisons. It is a subject that many of us in this House would like to see addressed with greater frequency.

I also offer my congratulations to the noble Lords, Lord Bach and Lord Ahmed, on their maiden speeches. Like the noble Lord, Lord Bach, I received advice from the noble Earl, Lord Longford, many years ago when I made my maiden speech. I imagine that many noble Lords have over the past 50 years, and many more will in the ensuing years. I pay particular welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed. It is gratifying to see another northerner taking his seat in this House. The noble Lord is from Yorkshire; I am from Cumberland. It is also gratifying to see someone somewhat younger than myself taking his seat as a life Peer. It was always said in defence of the hereditary principle that it brought younger people into the House. Speaking as a youngish middle-aged hereditary Peer, I am now finding that many of the new life Peers are considerably younger than myself.

Perhaps I may also take the opportunity of welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, to such debates. I have not had the opportunity of congratulating him on his maiden speech, which he made during an education debate some days ago. I imagine that we shall have much to say to each other in the future on debates such as this. I dare say that there is much on which the noble Lord and myself might agree when it comes to prison matters.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, asked me to comment on the previous government's record. I do not want to take up too much of my time; however, I should like to remind the House, as I did in the debate on 25th March, which, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, was wound up by the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, that between 1979 and 1997 the prison budget almost doubled in real terms. That is a considerable figure.

I went on to put to the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, a question relating to the cuts in the prison budget. I referred to a Written Answer produced by the Minister responsible for prisons, Joyce Quin—I believe on 31st July last year—when she stated that the planned expenditure for prisons for 1997–98 was £1,774.5 million and would be reducing to £1,733.3 million in 1998–99. That would follow a planned expenditure increase under the previous government.

On that occasion, I asked for an answer but I did not receive one. Since then we have had the fundamental expenditure review. Therefore, I hope that on this occasion the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will be able to give me an answer to those questions. I hope that he will be able to tell me by how much the Government are planning to increase expenditure on prisons. In the light of the remarks that I am about to make, I am sure that he realises that it is important that in certain circumstances expenditure on prisons should be increased. This debate is about funding.

The one issue that I want to address in the four minutes that I have left follows on from what the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said about the importance of education in prison. My remarks relate to the report on prisons and drugs misuse produced in July of this year by the All Party Parliamentary Drug Misuse Group. It is important in terms of expenditure on prisons.

The noble Lord will remember well the White Paper that we produced in 1995 on drugs misuse. It related to drugs misuse throughout society, taking the situation much wider than just prisons. That White Paper had general support from all parties—and quite rightly so. Following that White Paper this year, the new Government produced a successor paper known as Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain. I hope that the noble Lord will accept that that White Paper built on what we had already started, which was something that had all-party support.

It was regrettable that that report made virtually no mention of the problems of drug misuse in prisons other than a rather brief reference to how the Prison Service should direct its resources. I am grateful for the fact that the Prison Service then produced a supplement—its response—entitled Tackling Drugs in Prison.

It is also important that we should look at the report from the all-party group, a group that we all support and recognise as carrying out a valuable job. I would be grateful if the Minister could address himself to a number of its recommendations. I appreciate that in the 12 minutes that he has to respond to my remarks he may not be able to respond to those particular points. However, I would be grateful if he could tell me when the Government intend to respond formally to that report, or perhaps he could write to me on the subject.

Two of the principal demands made by the all-party group related to reducing supply and reducing demand. In relation to reducing supply, the group talked strongly about the need to make sure that drugs did not get into prisons. Obviously, if drugs cannot get into prisons, there is less likely to be a problem. It talked firmly about the need for every prison to have a sniffer dog. That involves resource problems. It is also important that visitor centres should provide a relaxed environment for bona fide visits while managing to deter drug deliveries. I would be grateful to hear from the Government exactly how they intend that the Prison Service should take that forward.

The all-party group also talked firmly about the importance of doing everything possible to reduce demand. Having taken evidence from a number of people who had been in prison, it referred to the problems of boredom in prison and the fact that many people are locked up for possibly too long and it recognised the importance, therefore, of them having other things to occupy their minds in order to try to prevent the use of drugs. Therefore, I would be grateful to hear from the noble Lord what the Government intend to do to encourage the Prison Service to improve education, training and work as a means of occupying the time of as many prisoners as possible so that such problems as I have discussed, and those to which the all-party group referred, do not become more serious.

9.5 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for introducing this matter yet again. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for his customary courtesy in his references, echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and others, about the quality of Richard Tilt, who is, on any view, a considerable public servant. He has done extremely well. Jack Straw said publicly that he wanted him to continue in post but, for his own personal reasons, which I perfectly understand, Mr. Tilt felt that the time had come for a change. However, he has generously offered to stay on until his successor is appointed.

We have heard two excellent maiden speeches. This is not the usual pack that one brings out on these occasions. Both noble Lords were listened to with great care. Their speeches were wholly different, one from another, and each contained extremely stimulating thoughts from new Members.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, asked me two questions. One was: Is "Howardism" still the policy of the Home Office? Perhaps I may give a citation. It was a mistake of the previous government to believe that just one phrase 'prison works' was necessary. The phrase has a spurious and superficial logic. It is superficial because if the criminal is in prison clearly he cannot be committing crime outside. It is spurious because it does not take into account the effect of over crowded prisons on the criminal and the fact that 99.9 per cent. of all criminals will one day be released. Society will then find that prisons do not work". The citation has a double provenance. It comes from the admirable report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, to which the noble Earl referred, and it is, of course, a verbatim quotation from the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, who, as Kenneth Baker, was Home Secretary.

If the noble Earl refers to "Howardism" as being that spurious and superficial logic of "prison works", added to a denial that other social causes have something to do with crime, added to a lack of early intervention, added to an under-funded Probation Service, added to a lack of flexible remedies, and added to a lack of sensible prompt intervention, I repudiate it. For once the noble Earl and I are in full agreement. He also asked whether or not Jack Straw was a penal reformer. There are no two ways about that. He wanted to be Home Secretary, and if I may modestly say so, although the post was in his disposal and not mine, I am a prison and probation Minister because I wanted that. He is a penal reformer and he has made a good stab at it so far.

The noble Earl asked in his Question whether we shall continue the former policy of cutting expenditure in real terms on the Probation Service and on prisoner education. The answer is an unequivocal, unambiguous no. How have we started? We have gone about it on a co-operative basis because we believe that we cannot succeed—I echo entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, said—without public co-operation and public confidence. Therefore, for the first time statistics are now being published on an automatic basis, whether they are comfortable or not. For the first time the reports of the Chief Inspector of Prisons are being published without delay. Subject to factual correction, which does not take a long time, I sign them off immediately.

We are working towards the Prisons-Probation Review. It is a genuine consultative document. I was extremely heartened by the warm welcome for it from the Probation Service. I think that is a recognition that in the past efforts have been fragmented and there has not been sufficient common purpose between the police, the criminal justice system, the Probation Service and the Prison Service. All of these different organisations and persons are working towards what ought to be common cause. For the past nine to 12 months I have been working with the Prison Service and the coroners to reach the agreed conclusion that investigation statements relating to deaths in prison custody should, as a matter of assumption, be available to family members unless there are good, demonstrable reasons why they should not be. That is a significant advance. Your Lordships will know that my colleague who deals with police, Mr. Michael, echoed that only this week in the context of deaths in police custody.

The question of racism was raised. This is a problem endemic to our society and there is no point in pretending otherwise. What has Jack Straw done? He has set up the inquiry into the monstrous, wicked murder of Stephen Lawrence. He has directed that there must be proper representation not a mechanical quota. Proper targets are to be set for the Prison Service, the Probation Service and the police service. He reiterated that only this week. Whatever criticism might be levelled against him, it simply cannot be suggested that he will tolerate racism even for a single moment.

We have commissioned the Effective Practice Initiative, which we are publishing this week. That is not simply jargon. It is an extremely impressive document about what works in the context of the Probation Service. Curiously, it is the first time for 90 years that national guidelines of that kind have been set out. As far as I am aware, it is unique in the whole world as a document which sets targets, sets down best practice and gives targets to work towards. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, asked me about figures. New money for the Prison Service over the next three years will be £660 million. The Prison Service will make efficiency savings over the same period of £109 million. Therefore, there will be more than £200 million of new money for regimes. I shall discuss regimes in a moment.

I hope I do not say this in a presumptuous way but the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, made a most important point about the disincentive relating to the earnings prisoners receive for education as opposed to work. In some prisons I have visited there is no differential, but in others there is. We are reviewing the wages paid to prisoners to ensure that they do not suffer financially by attending education rather than going to work. I know the noble Lord will recognise from his own personal experience that the emphasis will be particularly to encourage those prisoners who need to improve their basic skills.

I mentioned regimes. We appointed a new directorate this year. We cannot manage this deeply intractable problem without structure, without discipline and without targets, and therefore accountability. The director, Martin Narey, is supported by assistant directors. This is an important management decision which will have enormous consequences. The assistant director for young offenders is Felicity Clarkson; for women, Linda Jones—she is a former chief probation officer. That is important; she was not appointed by chance—for adult males, lifers and parole, Peter Dawson; and for prisoner employment (I return to that matter because it is so important) Kevan Brewer. Penny Robson is the service's chief education officer.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, mentioned dyslexia. We shall introduce dyslexia screening. This will form part of the induction programmes in the dispersal estate. Advice will go to governors about educational programmes being made accessible—I echo the noble Lord's point because it is a valid one—to prisoners with dyslexia. The language and literacy unit based at South Bank University, as the noble Lord knows better than I, did the Dyspel work and is advising education services on the way forward. I can assure the noble Lord that the problem is being taken seriously. I agree with him that historically dyslexia has been overlooked and has been regarded as a sign of dullness rather than as a problem which needs to be addressed.

Literacy and numeracy are serious, continuing problems—even more serious than those described by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Nearly 60 per cent. of prisoners are at Level 1 or below for literacy, which is equivalent to 13 or 14 years of age. Seventy-five per cent. are at Level 1 or below for numeracy. That means that those prisoners will not be eligible for 96 out of every 100 jobs available. Prison education will therefore be increasingly focused on basic educational skills, life and social skills and IT skills. I say in parenthesis, though it is extremely relevant, that the work that David Blunkett is doing in what I call mainstream education is absolutely invaluable. We need to bear in mind that this is the deeply depressing position after 50 years of compulsory public education for children up to the age of 15 and, more lately, 16. I appreciate that education was compulsory and free, but up to a lower age, over the century, as the noble Lord is indicating to me.

My point is that, since the education Act at about the time of the Second World War, children have been educated compulsorily and at public expense from the age of five, now to the age of 16, and are leaving enormously expensive full-time education without basic skills. It is important to look not just at the Home Office's contribution but also at the contribution which David Blunkett is so admirably making elsewhere.

The director-general is considering bids from governors for funds to be invested in education. We are talking about £250 million over three years to deliver our manifesto commitment on constructive regimes.

I have been speaking for 11 minutes. It is a shame, first, that there are so few of us here and, secondly, that I have so short a time in which to deal with these matters of deep and enduring concern.

There will be an additional £127 million for the Probation Service. Next year there will be not the cut of £6 million referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, but an increase of £18 million. The Probation Service say to me that that is not enough. It is a good start. I attended the NAPO conference in York on Friday and was enormously pleased and impressed to see their energy and commitment to improve the situation and make things work. They recognise that the resource is not open-ended, but they are, I think, pleased that their work is recognised and that the Home Office is now reversing the underfunding that the service would otherwise have suffered.

The noble Lord, Lord Henley, spoke about drugs. I will deal with that subject with reference to supply and demand. I think I have partly addressed demand. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord said. If prisoners who come from a drug culture, which an alarmingly high number do, are hanging around in prison doing nothing productive, they will want drugs to pass the time. One of the answers is to have focused, intensive programmes. I have to admit that before I knew anything about these topics I had the same prejudices as the man in the street: "What is an anger management programme? Just a bit of silly, sociological jargon." It is not. It is infinitely more difficult to go on such a course to address one's own problems, deficiencies and possible optimistic outcomes than to sit about all day doing nothing and trying to obtain illegal drugs. There are detoxification units and drug-free wings. One of the key performance indicators is related to positive drug tests. The key performance indicator for the future is to ensure that the rate of positive drug tests is lower than 20 per cent. Some of your Lordships and many of the public would say that that is not a very high aim. Look around the streets of any large city or any rural area and see the size of the problem.

The other question—which the Home Secretary is addressing, as I know from personal experience, having attended a meeting with him on this point—is how drugs get into prisons. There has to be decent humanity with regard to family visits, but we must not be naïve. Within the past fortnight I attended a meeting with Richard Tilt, the Home Secretary and colleagues in the Home Office to view videos from one prison to see how hard drugs were being taken in, secreted in the baby's clothes, in the wife's or the girlfriend's clothing or in the friend's trousers. Very determined efforts are made to get the drugs in. I want to maintain a decent balance of civilization, family connection and decency about visits, but equally we have to recognise that, if people abuse these privileges, they will not remain as they are for ever. I would not be surprised if an announcement on these matters were not made shortly by the Home Secretary.

I have spoken for 14 minutes, and I do not apologise for that. I believe that 14 minutes on this topic may well be time better spent than for example on the European Parliamentary Elections Bill.

House adjourned at twenty minutes past nine o'clock.