HL Deb 18 January 1999 vol 596 cc404-40

5.40 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 2.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 3, line 4, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: Subsection (5) treats a conditional discharge as a conviction for the purpose of deciding whether the new sentence of referral to a youth offender panel is to be available to magistrates. In another sense, it decides whether the new sentence is compulsory.

First, I believe that the words are likely to lead to confusion. A discharge, whether or not conditional, is supposed to be a discharge. However, the subsection states that a discharge shall be treated as a conviction; I paraphrase the provision. That seems likely to lead to confusion about the nature of a conditional discharge.

The second reason for moving the amendment is more directly related to the Bill. It is worth discussing whether it is correct to rule out the use of the new sentence for an offender who has been conditionally discharged on a previous occasion. While it is intended that the provision will be used primarily for those who have not been convicted previously, such a context is on the borderline. We know that provisions can be varied. Presumably—I say this hesitantly having been corrected before the break—this provision can be altered by the powers of the Secretary of State that we discussed perviously. At some time in the future perhaps the remit might be extended. If it were a temporary provision I might have less objection to it, but as a permanent provision it is unsatisfactory that a conditional discharge should forever make it impossible for anyone to receive a sentence of referral such as is dealt with in the Bill; and I refer to the confusion of the English used. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

We come back to the difference of approach underlying many of the noble Lord's amendments. I repeat that the referral order is intended for use with first time offenders. It is not available for those who have already been through the system, in particular in the context of those who have had a conditional discharge.

It may be of assistance to the noble Lord to bear in mind that in future conditional discharges for first time young offenders will not be available if the compulsory referral conditions have been met. Therefore the problem will not arise when the Act is fully in force.

As regards the amendment of the descriptions which we touched on earlier, Clause 2(4) sets out the descriptions which may be varied subject, as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, said, to Clause 1(1) which limits the availability to those under the age of 18. Those can be changed by regulation, as we find in Clause 2(4)(e). That may reassure the noble Lord that the provision is not set in stone forever. When we have had pilot schemes and have rolled out the scheme in England and Wales, we may well consider that conditionally discharged persons might be available for the new orders. But for the moment we want a precise, defined focus.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I understand that requirement. It applies not only to England and Wales but to Northern Ireland as well, as I am sure the Minister realises. However, the longer subsection (5) remains in force, the less effect it will have. The provision will wear out, if I understood the Minister correctly. In that sense, it is a matter that the Secretary of State should consider altering sooner rather than later subject to what I said earlier about not fiddling too much with the law immediately one has passed it. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 3, line 13, at end insert ( ( ) A referral order shall be entered on a young person's criminal record only if the young person is referred back to the appropriate court under section 12(4) of this Act. ).

The noble Earl said: The amendment introduces new words to the Bill about the recording of criminal convictions. It probes the status of a referral order with regard to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and other criminal records which are kept. I hope to argue that there will be merit and incentive in making the referral order an unrecorded disposal in the event of its successful conclusion. The merit would be that a referral order with an active programme of restorative justice designed by a youth offender panel can be seen as sufficiently virtuous as to be exempted from criminal conviction recording; and an incentive to the young person and his or her family to achieve whatever is deemed necessary in the context of restorative justice.

The amendment does not affect the recording of any failed contract. To do so would be wholly wrong. In most cases a failed contract would be evidence of a lack of motivation to make the necessary changes. There is a limited case where that would not be true: when the young person moves home to an area where the youth offender panel system is not yet available. I beg to move.

Lord Northbourne

I support the noble Earl. I had understood that that was the position. I defer to the noble Earl's greater wisdom. It is most important that that is the position.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I have sympathy with the amendment. However, I did not quite follow the noble Earl when he stated that the amendment would not affect the recording of a failed contract. I understand that the consequence of a contract failing—by which I believe the noble Earl to mean that the conditions were not fulfilled in some way; that the young person fell short of the requirements of the contract—is that the matter is referred back to the court. Would that not lead to it being entered into the young person's record, under the noble Earl's amendment? If it is a failed contract, I believe that it should be so entered, and I think that it probably would be. However, I am slightly confused about the way in which the noble Earl put the issue. Perhaps I have not appreciated fully the effect of the amendment.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I did not make myself clear. I believe that failed contracts would lead to the recording of the referral order. My amendment suggests that a successful contract would not be recorded.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Perhaps I may persist because I share the sympathy expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. The amendment would stop a referral order from being entered on to a criminal record except on referral back to court following a breach. The amendment is flawed in that as presently drafted it would affect all referrals back to court regardless of whether the court had agreed that a breach had occurred.

I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that he is right; the referral order will appear on the criminal record. That is important because the order is not an easy way out. Part of restorative justice in its fullest sense means the recognition that a criminal offence has been committed and the understanding by the offender—even though he be a first offender pleading guilty—that he has committed a crime. But when the young person satisfactorily completes the contract the referral order is considered spent by virtue of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. That is found in Schedule 3 paragraph 5(3). Therefore, the Bill as presently drafted meets the concerns which have been rightly expressed and with which I sympathise.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

If an offender reoffends and reappears in court will this penalty count as a previous conviction? Will the referral order that has been spent be put before the judge before sentencing?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Spent convictions are contained on criminal records which are put before sentencing tribunals with an annotation at the side that they are spent. After satisfactory completion of the contract the referral order is considered spent. If the young offender breaches the contract the court may re-sentence. If there is a re-sentence for the relevant offence where there has not been a satisfactory completion, the rehabilitation on the re-sentence is the same as that of any other disposal. In other words, there is no saving for the re-sentence for the original offence.

The important point is that if you commit an offence your referral order appears on your criminal record. You have the clear inducement and legitimate protection that if you complete your contract properly by virtue of Schedule 3, paragraph 5(3) it is regarded as spent. I believe that I have met the noble Earl's proper concerns.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

This has been a useful micro-debate. I believe that all Members of the Committee are much clearer about the issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Making of referral orders: general]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 3, line 34, leave out ("each, or each of two or more,") and insert ("more than one").

The noble Viscount said: This is a drafting amendment. There are some confusing words at the end of Clause 3(4) and we have attempted to make the provision easier to understand. It reads: Subsections (5) to (7) apply where, in dealing with an offender for two or more associated offences, a court makes a referral order in respect of each, or each of two or more, of the offences". That seems to be a complicated way of saying "more than one", which seems to be simpler language. In an effort to make the Bill as short as possible and the drafting as clear as possible, I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The consequence of the noble Viscount's amendment would be that if there were more than one offence there would be a single referral order for all offences. We do not want to do that. We have thought about the matter and believe that there should be a referral order in respect of each of the offences. That makes plain to the offender that each offence is unacceptable and forms a different basis for the referral. It is the position that however many referral orders are made on a single occasion they cannot exceed 12 months in total. We have done this deliberately and there will be a separate referral order for more than one offence.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Making of referral orders: effect on court's other sentencing powers]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 4, line 16, leave out from ("him") to end of line 17.

The noble Viscount said: This is a probing amendment. I understand that under Clause 4 a court cannot order discharge for one offence and order a referral in respect of others. I may be wrong, but the court does not appear to have that freedom. I should be grateful for the Minister's comments. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Viscount is right in the context of a conditional discharge. A court could give an absolute discharge together with a referral, but it would not be able to consider the option of a conditional discharge. We say that that is perfectly sensible because there is no virtue in having a referral order with a conditional discharge. All one would do is signal wrongly to the offender that the penalty is in the category of a conditional discharge. It is intended to be much more structured and disciplined than anything which could be provided by a conditional discharge. We see no virtue in being able to give someone a conditional discharge as well as a sentence of referral.

Viscount Astor

I thank the Minister for that reply which clears up my understanding. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo)

Before calling Amendment No. 22 I must inform the Committee that if it is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 23.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 4, leave out lines 18 to 20.

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 22, 24 and 63 are government amendments and therefore worthy of the Committee's support. They clarify the position regarding the availability of parenting orders and bind-overs when young offenders are referred back to court having breached the terms of a contract and the court then decides to exercise its power of re-sentence. In many ways, the amendments were triggered by the thought of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, when tabling his amendments. We wish to make it plain that where the parent of the child is responsible for the breach the court should have the option of issuing a parenting order and that a bind-over should also be available in those circumstances.

Having considered the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, it is right to say that the Bill as drafted is not sufficiently explicit. We therefore propose amendments to Clause 4 and Schedule 1 to make it plain that the prohibition on the use of those disposals when making a referral order does not affect the ability to use them when the young person is being dealt with by the court. I hope that that response, which I readily concede derives from the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, meets what was sought to be achieved.

Viscount Astor

On behalf of my noble friend Lord Cope, I thank the Minister for the amendments. They meet the point which my noble friend raised in his amendments.

6 p.m.

Lord Renton

Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is right about the substance of his amendments. But it is regrettable when we have to have, within a subsection, references to other paragraphs; for example, here we have references to paragraphs 5 and 14. It is a pity that we must have cross-references of that kind.

I know that it is often necessary in order to avoid lengthy repetition, but when it can be avoided, it should be. I do not object to the amendment. I merely say that if one can avoid those cross-references in the Bill, then it becomes much easier for lay people—and many magistrates are lay people—to understand what we are getting at.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I take the noble Lord's point. I also always bear in mind the contrary view which has been expressed frequently to me by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that less is better.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 23 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 4, line 28, at end insert— ("( ) Subsections (2), (3) and (5) do not affect the exercise of any power to deal with the offender conferred by paragraph 5 (offender referred back to court by panel) or paragraph 14 (powers of a court where offender convicted while subject to referral) of Schedule 1.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 4, line 29, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Viscount said: Amendment No. 25 comes from reading the Notes on Clauses. Paragraph 45 states: When a referral order is required or considered appropriate the court cannot exercise its usual power to defer sentencing (usually exercised in order that conduct after conviction. or the effect of a change in circumstances, can be assessed) but it may still adjourn for pre-sentence reports", and the paragraph concludes by quoting the example of where the court is considering a custodial sentence.

I wonder why the court should not be allowed to have that usual power. It seems to me that that is a useful tool for the court and it is used fairly regularly. We have tabled the amendment in order to ask the Government what is their thinking behind that and why they have decided to remove that option from the court. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

We have deliberately taken away that option from the court. Delay has been the curse of the juvenile justice system. The noble Lord. Lord Cope, rightly observed that the national average is 4½ months and that is half a lifetime to young offenders. We must connect punishment or disposal with rapid court appearances and sentence.

One needs to bear in mind an extremely important difference in relation to the referral order. The referral order itself is the flexible disposal. In itself, it is capable of adapting to the changing circumstances of the young offender as well as underlining the strong element of reparation. Therefore, there is no purpose in delaying sentence for those matters to be taken into account because, by necessary definition, all those matters will be taken into account by the panel.

If delay is available to courts, it is notorious that delay controls the process and very often pollutes it. We wish to avoid that and to learn from the lessons of the past. I stress that flexibility is inherent and built into the referral order procedure.

Lord Renton

In relation to subsection (6) of this clause, the Notes on Clauses and the Notes on Sections, which will eventually be provided in order to explain the Act when it becomes an Act, should be helpful.

I have before me the Notes on Clauses for this Bill. Although there is an extremely general statement under paragraph 45 of the Notes on Clauses, which explains subsection (6) up to a point, I believe that when the Bill becomes a statute, the notes on that clause will need to be amplified greatly. There is a great deal of cross-referencing in the Bill. Here we have references to no fewer than six other statutes. I do not say that there should be a great deal of repetition but a slightly more amplified description of the effect of subsection (6) would be extremely helpful.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I shall certainly bear in mind what the noble Lord said when it comes to the drafting and dissemination of guidance for the magistrates' courts.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

I fully support the view which the Minister expressed about the desirability of avoiding delay. That has been the curse of the criminal justice system, the youth justice system and possibly the entire justice system for some time. Any effort to reduce that delay must be supported.

However, I am not quite clear in my own mind as to how the clause referred to in the amendment relates to the situation which the court faces before it reaches a conclusion as to whether or not it is obliged to make a referral order; in other words, when it is considering the question of whether a custodial sentence is appropriate.

At that stage, one would obviously wish the court to have proper time to consider the matter. I assume that subsection (6) does not preclude the court from making the necessary inquiries and also having the necessary adjournment if that should prove essential in order to decide that question.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

First, perhaps I may say how great a personal pleasure it is to see the noble and learned Lord speaking to us. On hearing his voice, I still automatically turn to the left because he was such a notable and gracious incumbent of the Woolsack.

The noble and learned Lord is quite right. Clause 4(6) states: Where section 1(2) … requires a court to make a referral order". Therefore, Clause 1(2) bites only when the compulsory referral conditions are satisfied. It seems to be implicit that if the court is proposing to impose a custodial sentence, it is entitled to have the materials available to reach that conclusion.

We wish to avoid what happens sometimes when sentencers really wish to put off what may be regarded as the evil day. The imposition of a referral order is not an evil day. It is a positive benefit to all concerned, not least the young offender.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I may be being somewhat dim about this but I am not absolutely clear about what the Minister has said. Paragraph 45 of the Notes on Clauses states: When a referral order is required or considered appropriate the court cannot exercise its usual power to defer sentencing". It then goes on to state that, it may still adjourn for pre-sentence reports (where, for example, it is considering a custodial sentence)". Is deferring sentence and adjourning the matter something different? I should know that but I do not know the answer. Are they different? Is it that only a custodial sentence is a justification for adjournment? From the Notes on Clauses, it looks as though there may be other situations in which that may be done.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I believe that I have answered the noble Baroness's concern when I answered the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. If one looks at Clause 1, it states that the section applies in certain circumstances and the circumstances are (a), (b) and (c). Adjournment is different from referral as a term of art, as it were, and of practice. If the sentence is not fixed by law, or if the court is not going to impose a custodial sentence, or if it is not going to give an absolute discharge the court must follow the mandatory route set out, which we discussed earlier.

The noble and learned Lord asked whether or not, if a custodial sentence were in prospect—this was echoed by the question of the noble Baroness—a court would be able to adjourn to acquire the usual materials before imposing a custodial sentence. But deferral of sentence is different from adjournment in order to obtain the necessary sentencing materials.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Perhaps I may follow that. Are there instances where adjournment may be justified?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

There are a number of instances where an adjournment may be necessary. We do not want them to be used in circumstances which simply compound delay. However, adjournments are sometimes necessary because, for instance, the defendant may be ill or does not turn up. There are a large number of circumstances in which adjournments are justified. Equally, there are a large number of circumstances manipulated by those who know the system and/or those who advise them which genuinely put off sentence and therefore take away from the virtue and value of the sentence itself.

Viscount Colville of Culross

Is not the following the correct situation? Looking at Clause 1(1), if an offence fulfils subsection 1(a)—in other words, it is not something like murder or something where the sentence is fixed by law—and it is a serious matter, the court can ask the probation service to produce a pre-sentence report before it decides whether or not to impose a custodial sentence. But if the pre-sentence report suggests that, instead of a custodial sentence there should be a CSO, probation order or something of that sort, even though the rest of the compulsory referral conditions in Clause 2(1) are fulfilled, they are wasting their time and the only consideration is whether or not the young person will be sent into custody. That is the only point in having a pre-sentence report.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Viscount is right again. I was trying to point to the difference between referral and adjournment.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and also to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern who managed to ask a question with such clarity that it enabled the Minister to reply with equal clarity and explain it to those of us who are not of the legal profession. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Making of referral orders: attendance of parents etc.]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 5, line 8, leave out first ("a") and insert ("each").

The noble Viscount said: This is a simple amendment and relates to when a court makes a referral order and requires the attendance of a person who is a parent or guardian of the offender. The Bill as drafted in Clause 5(3) says, is a person who is a parent or guardian of the offender". In the case of young people it is important that both parents are part of the process. There may be situations when the child is running out of control, the father has little control and the mother has even less. Indeed, they may even be intimidated by their child. The question is: who will decide who must attend. Will it be the parent most easily manipulated by the child or the parent who can stand up to the child? It is important that where a child has two parents, both should attend; both should take joint responsibility for that child and have a joint view—views may differ from one parent to the other.

It is a pity not to incorporate a situation where both parents have to attend. Of course there will be situations where two parents cannot attend—it may be a lone parent or some other valid reason. But on this side of the Chamber we feel that, where both parents can attend, that is preferable and that is the reason we tabled the amendment. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am not unsympathetic to the thrust behind the amendment. There are many cases where both parents cannot attend for perfectly legitimate reasons; for instance, if there is a lone parent and the other parent has had little contact with the child. In that case it may not be beneficial for the second parent to attend.

Clause 7(4)(b) provides the flexibility which ought to mitigate the anxiety of the noble Viscount to some extent. By virtue of Clause 7(4) the panel will allow—I understand the word is "allow"— to attend any such meeting…any person who appears to the panel to he someone capable of having a good influence on the offender". That may well include another parent. However, I take the unspoken point of the noble Viscount that that does not provide the discretion to order both parents to attend. That is an important point. Perhaps I may consider the matter with care at Report stage and produce an amendment to meet absolutely the noble Viscount's point; that is, to give the court the discretion to order both parents to attend where it considers that to be particularly important to the case.

I shall take this matter away because it requires thought. I hope that my willingness to consider a proposed amendment in those terms will be both flexible and useful.

Viscount Astor

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his helpful reply. An amendment along those lines will satisfy us. As he said, the court must have discretion to consider the circumstances of the parent—whether there are two parents; whether it is a lone parent or whatever. But in those cases where the court felt it important for both parents to attend and when they are able to attend, the court should have power to make them attend. I am grateful for the Minister's response and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Establishment of panels]:

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 5, line 39, at end insert ("within three working days").

The noble Earl said: Amendment No. 27 seeks to set down on the face of the Bill a precise time limit for the first meeting between the young offender and his or her youth offender panel. The targeted time limit is three working days.

After learning that the fast track to conviction for young offenders will in reality continue to remain on the slow lines. I feel that the Bill should inject some urgency into the process at least after conviction. There is only one merit in the current practice of delaying court proceedings and disposals; that is, the opportunity to see what the offender has done since being charged. Has he reoffended? Has he taken note of the crisis of his being charged? Has he avoided further offending behaviour?

Setting that to one side, there is every advantage in making sure that the consequences of offending are rapidly drawn to the offender's attention. It is important to make the connection between offending and the judicial process. A panel meeting within three working days will ensure that the crisis of conviction is kept on the boil. The first meeting of the panel would be mainly for introductions, both of the panel and the expected process. The panel will have to adjourn for reports. That is good because the second meeting will naturally be the more substantive. It will be at that point that the main dialogue about the new and desired behaviour patterns and attitudes will take place. Starting the process quickly will be a boon to the youth offender panels and the young people concerned. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

It is suggested that with this amendment we discuss also Amendment No. 28, which stands in my name. I am suggesting the same point as the noble Earl, although within a slightly different timescale. What seems important is not the time within which the youth offender panel is established—I take that to mean "appointed"—and the individuals informed that they are members of a particular panel in connection with a particular offender and offences. but the date by which the panel must meet and begin to interview the offender and so settle the contract. That is why I directed my amendment at Clause 6(1)(b)—at the first meeting of the panel rather than at its establishment. That is also why I chose a rather longer timescale14 days rather than three—because it will take a little longer to arrange a meeting of the panel.

I share the noble Earl's desire to ensure that justice is not too long delayed so that the impact of the court appearance has not entirely vanished from the memory of the young person before he or she appears before the panel. The whole process should move swiftly once set in motion but, with respect to the noble Earl, I prefer my amendment. I believe that Magna Carta promised: to no man will we sell, deny or delay justice". We have already discussed the fact that there is a good deal of delay in the justice system which we should all like to minimise as much as possible. However, it is important that this particular new sentence is implemented quickly. That is why I tabled my amendment. I share the noble Earl's sentiments.

Lord Dholakia

I support my noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie in his amendment. It may be helpful to have a time limit but I am not sure that the question of whether it should be three or 14 days is important. What is crucial is not only that the panel is set up but that there is a timescale within which it must hold its first meeting so that its work can begin.

Viscount Brentford

We have spoken much about the necessity of speed in the justice system. If the timescale is written into the Bill, that is making a public statement that the first meeting must take place within 14 days. I strongly endorse the amendment of my noble friend Lord Cope, which seems likely to be clearer to the general public, the defendant, his or her parents or guardians, and others involved, as it states that the first meeting should be held within 14 days of the making of the order. That should be perfectly practicable.

I am not sure what is involved in establishing the team, but it will take some days of negotiation to put the right people in place. It should be possible to hold the meeting within 14 days. I strongly support that amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Can the Minister tell us what sort of papers will have to be prepared for the panel when it meets? I am trying to put myself in the shoes of the people who will serve on the panel, who will be asked to attend on a certain date—inevitably at short notice. Whatever the Minister thinks about the amendments, I repeat that it will be at short notice. What preparatory work will have to be done? Will the members of the panel have the papers before them or will they simply respond to verbal discussion?

Lord Warner

The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales will be considering the work of the youth offender teams. It would be precipitate at this point to commit them to specific deadlines by timetabling their meetings. I am the last person to speak against speed in the system, but this is not about speed in obtaining a decision on what is to be done with the young offender. The important point is that something effective happens as a result of the meeting. Frankly, a meeting held within three working days would simply be a symbolic getting together of people without having done enough work with the young offenders and their families—in some cases, without having gathered enough information about them—to make the meeting productive.

There is a danger that if we specify three days, the first meeting will be merely a ritual meeting. That would send out bad signals to the young offenders and their families. We need to learn more about the way in which youth offender teams work, which is why they are being piloted at the moment, before we commit ourselves to a particular timescale on the face of the Bill. I support the principle of having some guidelines at a later stage on the deadlines for such meetings and on agreeing programmes of intervention with young offenders and their families.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

It is fairly plain that Amendment No. 27 is not in relation to a meeting but to the appointment of the personnel to form the panel. My noble friend's amendment relates to the first meeting of the panel. A period of 14 days is suggested. I can see that for a while it may be difficult to know how long it may take. I would be the last person to say that it is sufficient to have a formal meeting at which nothing happens. It is quite difficult to establish a youth offender panel without having some idea of when it will meet. Often the people one would expect to serve on the panel will have other things to do, so we need to specify a particular day when the young offender can meet them. I suggest that it is more practical to put a limitation on the period of time before the first meeting, if that is possible, although I can see that there may be some difficulty about being too precise at this stage. At that juncture, speed is also important.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

One needs to focus particularly on the terminology of Clause 6. Clause 6(1), as the necessary precursor to the establishment of the youth offender panel and the arrangement of the first meeting, refers to, Where a referral order has been made". Therefore, the point about "immediate speed" relates to bringing a first offender who pleads guilty to court virtually immediately. I must chide the noble Earl a little for talking about delays. That is where the initial delay begins. I repeat that in the case of a straightforward guilty plea, we intend the first appearance to be on the first available court day following charge. One has decision and speed at that stage. The court can then make a referral order, so there is no delay there. Then, as the noble Lord, Lord Warner, with his vast experience and chairmanship of the Youth Justice Board pointed out, a certain amount of research is needed.

I feel that three days is too short a period and that 14 days may be too long. I refer to the question of the noble Baroness who asked about the sort of papers that the panel would need and the preparatory work that would need to be carried out. Those questions are extremely important. It is important, if not essential, that in most cases there should first have been contact with the victim. That must be handled with great sensitivity. Indeed, one might well be unable to hold the first meeting within a three-day period because the victim's unease, continuing trauma and sensitivities have to be borne very carefully in mind. But in order to have an effective first meeting, rather than a token one as pointed out by my noble friend Lord Warner, some contact would certainly have been required with the victim and, possibly, a paper report provided for the panel. The panel would need to have the court papers detailing the nature of the offences and it would need to consider who should attend the meeting. Therefore, one needs a certain amount of preparatory work for this first meeting.

My noble friend Lord Warner is right to say that this is precisely the sort of issue one needs to work through in pilot schemes. We shall discuss with all relevant professional groups the sort of guidance we want for such schemes. We shall then evaluate time limits to ascertain what is realistic and what truly takes into account, among other things, the needs of the victim and his or her sensibilities and susceptibilities.

Following that process we would then be looking for national standards to be approved by the Youth Justice Board under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Warner. What one is looking for is as immediate a court hearing as possible, and that can be done in the first available court. The referral can then be made in many cases. Thereafter, one needs to pilot in practice what sort of guideline one requires. At this stage I believe that one is stabbing in the dark: three days is probably too short a period, whereas 14 days would very often be too long. However, I think that we ought to await experience in practice and in evaluation before we set such national targets.

6.30 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

Every time I move an amendment I learn much more than I intended. I have to admit that my commitment to the children's panel system in Scotland has not served me well here, because such panels do not get involved with the victims. At the same time I have certainly attended a children's panel within 24 hours of the commission of the offence. So the system does have some merit in that it can get on with the business.

I made a mistake in the drafting of the amendment. In fact, I intended it to refer to the first meeting within three days. I can now see the merit of not doing so. I am extremely glad to note that the Youth Justice Board is working on the issue. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 29:

Page 6, line 6, leave out from ("with") to end of line 7 and insert ("regulations made by the Secretary of State, a draft of which has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 65. It seems odd that the Secretary of State can prescribe who the members of the panel will be in terms of qualifications, and so on, through a statutory instrument—it is restricted at least to that extent, although it is subject to the negative resolution procedure—but that he will prescribe how the panel will be constituted and how its members will go about their business by means of guidance, which appears to be substantially private. It will certainly not have the formal content or form of a statutory instrument, but it will still be statutory guidance; in other words, it is guidance provided for in statute. As Clause 6(2) makes provision for it in that way, I assume that the panels will have to obey it.

Nonetheless, if it is provided in that kind of private way, it will be difficult for other people to know the nature of the guidance, apart from the panel members who will be guided by their clerk or the equivalent adviser. The defendant and any advisers he has may have knowledge of the guidance if they are extremely well informed, but it will be rather difficult for them. Therefore, it might be better if the Secretary of State were to give this statutory guidance a rather more formal effect by putting it into regulations.

Amendment No. 65 is a similar amendment which applies to Clause 14 and also deals with private guidance being given to the panels. In that case too, it seems to me that the guidance would be better set in the form of regulations. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

My noble friend's amendment is very worthy of consideration. Guidance is to be given by the Secretary of State "from time to time". That means, presumably, that it may vary from time to time. That is a little vague. Surely, it is important that the youth offender panels should be the same all over the country and that their constitution, the number of members and the way they carry out their work should be the subject of ministerial direction rather than mere guidance. If it is to be mere guidance, can the Minister tell us in what way the guidance will he given?

Viscount Brentford

Can the Minister say whether the guidance will in fact be the same throughout the country, as implied by my noble friend Lord Renton? For example, will the make-up of the panels be different depending on the people who live in certain areas? Will the guidance include the ethnic make-up of the panels which I am sure will vary from area to area? Perhaps the Minister can enlighten us in that respect.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

There are two categories involved here, and we should not allow one to muddle over the other. As has rightly been observed, by virtue of Clause 6(2) of the Bill: A youth offender panel shall—

  1. (a) be constituted,
  2. (b) conduct its proceedings, and
  3. (c) discharge its functions under this Part (and in particular those arising under section 8),
in accordance with guidance given from time to time by the Secretary of State". Therefore, we are looking for the right people with the right mixture of experience and expertise to serve on these panels. The recruitment criteria are critical. That is why we have placed in the Bill the requirement that the issue should be set out in regulations to be approved by both Houses.

I take the noble Viscount's point. Indeed, if the Secretary of State thinks that it is appropriate, there is no reason at all why the criteria for the panels should not include questions of ethnic origin and perhaps of gender division. Moreover, in certain parts of the country, the ability to speak more than one language may be required. Those requirements ought to be national and we believe that they ought also to be statutory.

We now come to quite a different concept; namely, general guidance on how the panels should operate. As regards the particular point raised, they will incorporate national standards but they will also set out advice on guidance—for example, how one approaches a victim about reparation. There are also mediation skills to be considered, handling a meeting run on group conferencing and lines (which are quite discrete skills that not everyone possesses) and any activities which may be included in a contract.

We propose to draw up comprehensive guidance. Once we have done so in draft, we intend to subject it to a very wide consultation process. Therefore, it will not be a case of private guidance; indeed, it will be the subject of wide consultation. We shall then review the matter in the light of the experience of the pilots and, thereafter, we shall do so on a regular basis.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, put his finger on the point. The Home Office is determined to proceed on evidence-based practice—the jargon—or, as the Home Secretary prefers, on what works. He is quite right. Such guidance is likely to change and, therefore, it is quite different to the sort of statutory criteria I alluded to earlier. That is why we think that guidance ought to be able to change in the light of changing experience, in the monitoring of experience, and so on. We do not want to set the guidance too rigidly in stone at the outset because it is likely that experience will show either that the guidance is too flexible or too inflexible, and that is why we have made the division in this way, which I commend to your Lordships as being a perfectly rational and justifiable practical difference.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

The noble Lord the Minister always answers a debate with precision and candour, but I think on this occasion he has not quite matched the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton: namely, what is the point of the guidance? We now get it very frequently in statutes. My recollection is that it originated in planning, but now it seems it is obviously something less than regulation. Indeed in a Bill that we shall consider tomorrow the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is enjoined to make regulations as to X and then in the next paragraph to give guidance as to Y. Another formula also comes up, saying that a body to whom instructions, or possibly guidance, are given must take it into account. I confess I have never understood what exactly that means. Does the body to whom guidance is given have to take something into account or does it merely read what has been given and then throw it into the wastepaper basket? In other words, what exactly is the sanction?

The noble Lord the Minister, I think, suggested that if the guidance was not accepted alternative guidance would be given, but what happens if that is not accepted? Do we then move on to regulation? As I say, this extends beyond this particular provision, but I think it would be helpful if the Minister could give us some assistance on that matter.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, is quite right of course. One has guidance documents of different sorts in different contexts. He is right in saying that they have a particular importance in the planning regime. I believe that the planning guidance notes are quite different in their consequence from the kind of guidance one will set out to these panels. One does not need to think in terms of sanctions because people who are put on panels, in the nature of things, will be chosen for their willingness to follow the guidance which will be available. It is quite different from planning guidance notes, which are really of much greater legal consequence to those who are applicants or appellants in the planning context, and indeed to local authorities who have to adjudicate and determine those matters.

After all, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs frequently sends out guidance to chief constables about how to disseminate material concerning convicted sex offenders who may need to be resettled in a particular area. He sends out material for the guidance of chief probation officers, but one does not immediately reach for one's revolver and wonder what happens if they do not obey it. There are a range of sanctions of course. There is further advice and in the end, I suppose, legal action if the breach is so gross or if the panel actually did not obey or adhere to any of the guidance. I do not think that "taking account of" is as limited a concept of the human mind as simply to read a document and throw it in the bin.

I would be happy myself to submit to the noble and learned Lord judicially that that could not actually in law be regarded as "taking account of". This is not intended to be rigidly binding but it does have a place in public law, and if a public authority entirely departed from guidance without justification it could be impugned on the basis of irrationality. But one is, I stress, looking here for a co-operative concept, and most people in this kind of position—chief officers of police, chief officers of probation, probation committees and the whole gamut of this type of organisation—generally are found to abide by the guidance if the guidance is sensible. And the noble and learned Lord will know that the guidance that comes from the Home Office—or which has done since May 1997—has always been perfectly helpful, rational and wholly to be applauded.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Renton

I hesitate to prolong this rather interesting discussion, but I think one must regard this in the light of what is said in Clause 8. We have not come to it yet but we have to bear it in mind—and not only Clause 8, but Clauses 9, 10 and 11 as well. We find there that these youth offender panels can virtually impose codes of conduct upon possible offenders which govern the whole of their lives, going into great detail. If one looks at page 7 at subsection (2)—I will not read it out because your Lordships can see it for yourselves—it is a tremendously comprehensive way of governing a person's life.

One wonders if the Home Secretary will give guidance and, if so, what the guidance will consist of. The Home Secretary will not be able to depart from what is in the Bill as to what the panel has to do. One wonders therefore what guidance he will be giving. Will it be simply as to the way in which they may conduct their meetings? The Bill has already said quite a lot about that. I think we really do need to get a comprehensive view of the functions of the panel and the functions of the Home Secretary. There must be a division of functions here, and we do not want any of them overlapping.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

There is nothing unusual in concept about this. After all, the noble Lord will have sentenced people to probation and he will have had to explain in ordinary language appropriate to the offender trembling before him that he will be subject to all reasonable and lawful requirements given to him by his supervising probation officer and the probation officer has a very large margin of discretion. What we are doing here—and this is entirely the point of this legislation—is to give these powers to the youth offender panel precisely to control an unruly life which has not had parental stability or family discipline and which does need some focused and quite strict guidance very often about how that young person's life is to be guided, not overlooking the fact—since the noble Lord asked me to look at Clause 8—that the words of Clause 8 are these: At the first meeting … the panel shall seek to reach agreement with the offender …". So all these matters are subject to the agreement of the offender. Of course they are wide ranging because quite a number of people actually need to be told, alas, and directed, unfortunately, along the lines of "You've got to go to school or you've got to go to work, and if you do not you are in breach." It is true that most decent parents will have ensured that that hardly needs to be said, because the example is there and it is more eloquent than direction, but there are a great many young offenders who become the recidivists that we all know so well in their teens and early twenties and thirties, who need to be told "This is the order that your life must follow."

There is no difficulty at all in the Home Secretary giving guidance to panels: not "What conclusion do you come to in a particular case", but "These are the sorts of indicators you may need to look at; these are the mediation skills you need to know." I come back to the point that I made earlier. We are going to put the consultative proposals out for public discussion and to allow input from anyone who wishes to take part in the debate. One does not need to be too prescriptive; one wants to have general guidance and one trusts the panels with the very important functions entrusted to them. Of course this is wide ranging—that is why it is there—but it is all subject to the agreement of the offender, as one sees in the second sentence of Clause 8(1).

Lord Cope of Berkeley

Some amendments give rise—as this one has done—to much more interesting and wider debates than one anticipates. We have debated the difference between guidance and regulations. As I said, this has been an interesting debate which has given us something to reflect on before the subsequent stages of the Bill. For the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 6, line 8, at end insert— ("(za) one magistrate appointed by the court which made the referral order;").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment we should discuss Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 with which it is grouped. The amendments are related in that they concern the question of who should serve on the panels. Amendment No. 30 suggests that the panels should include at least, one magistrate appointed by the court which made the referral order". Amendment No. 33 suggests that a magistrate appointed under that provision should, preside over each meeting of the panel". The origin of the amendment lies in the White Paper which discusses youth panels at paragraph 9.35 on page 33. It states, The youth panel would contain a mix of youth justice practitioners—a magistrate (if possible one of the magistrates responsible for the referral) a Youth Offending Team member, and perhaps a police officer". The White Paper describes the training of members of the panels and the servicing of the panels. However, the Bill does not provide that a magistrate will necessarily be on a panel. I believe it is important that there should be a magistrate on the panel and indeed that that magistrate—or one of the magistrates, as there could be more than one—should preside over it. I do not think it quite right that a magistrate should sit as a junior member of a panel under the chairmanship of someone else. I also believe that to have a magistrate both as a member of, and presiding over, a panel helps to emphasise that the panel operates through an order of the court and will in due course report back to the court as regards what has happened; namely, either that the contract has been agreed and has been carried out satisfactorily or that it has not been either agreed or carried out. The court will then initiate another procedure. In that sense the panel acts as a sub-committee of the judicial process.

However, the panel also decides what I was given permission earlier today to call the sentence; that is to say, a financial penalty, restrictions on movement and all the other penalties which can be prescribed. Therefore it seems right that a magistrate should be not only involved but should be seen to be presiding over those proceedings. We all know that those who preside over matters are not necessarily those who take the biggest part in making the decisions. However, they are in control of the process and that seems to me the right role for the magistrate in this instance.

Since tabling the amendment I have realised that there is a difficulty with the matter. The organisation, Justice, has commented on the Bill. It is unhappy that youth offender contracts are attaining the characteristics of a sentence as they result from a court order. Justice would prefer—as I read its comments on the matter—police or prosecuting authorities to refer offenders to youth offender panels and to establish the conditions of a contract before the young person comes to court. Justice feels that such a way of dealing with young people avoids stigma and facilitates their co-operation in the whole process.

However, the Government have not chosen that course. They have chosen the course whereby the offender goes to court and the court refers him or her to a panel. I believe that the Government are right. However, as Justice has said, that makes the procedure a judicial process. Justice draws attention to a snag; namely, that such a process may trigger provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly with regard to Articles 1 and 3 and the right to legal assistance. That makes one cautious about going down that road. However, according to Justice, we are already a long way down that road without the amendment. I should be interested to hear the Minister's reaction.

Amendment No. 32 takes up the suggestion in the White Paper that a police officer should be a member of the panel. That is a sensible suggestion. After all the police will need to know what is in the contract because it is they who are likely to notice if a breach of the contract occurs. If a young offender discovers that he can flout a contract under the nose of a policeman without the latter being aware of it, the contract will soon be brought into disrepute in the locality concerned. I believe that the police will inevitably be involved in helping to ensure that the terms of a contract are being met. That does not apply to every provision in a contract—obviously the financial aspects will be monitored by other people—but I refer to restrictions on movement, for example, which may be incorporated in some but not all contracts.

Therefore I believe it is sensible that a police officer should be a member of a panel. It is also important that the policeman concerned should be appointed to the panel by the chief constable rather than by the youth team. I do not say that because I lack confidence in the youth team. I merely believe that the chief constable is the right person to decide how his policemen spend their time and which policeman carries out which duty.

As I said, Amendment No. 30 states that a panel must include at least one magistrate appointed by a court. We could also adopt the suggestion in the White Paper and insist that a police officer should also be a member of a panel. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I wish to support Amendments Nos. 30 and 33. It is important that the youth offender panels should make decisions which are consistent with the responsibilities that the magistrates themselves have. There can be no harm whatever in having a magistrate on such a panel. Indeed, it could have the advantage of the panel receiving guidance which would result in there being a consistent attitude. Therefore I strongly support my noble friend's amendment.

In mentioning this matter, perhaps I may draw attention to Clause 6(4), which states: The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision requiring persons appointed as members of a youth offender panel to have such qualifications, or satisfy such other criteria, as are specified in the regulations". It is relevant to the amendments moved by my noble friend to inquire of the Minister what the Government have in mind concerning the provision to be made by the Secretary of State under such regulations. Will the Secretary of State say "Well, there must be a magistrate"? If that is so, then the point made by my noble friend would be met. But there is no indication in subsection (4) or elsewhere that that should be so. My noble friend has made a very important point and I warmly support it.

I have to say, however—although I shall keep an open mind for the time being—that I am not quite so certain that it would be right to have a police officer on such a panel, from the point of view of public relations. One must bear in mind that, although the public mostly respect the police, many members of the public feel that the police are never on their side. As this is an impartial panel—just as magistrates are impartial—I very much doubt there is an advantage in having a police officer serving on it.

7 p.m.

Lord Warner

I suggest that this amendment—while well-intentioned—is slightly wide of the mark in terms of achieving our objectives in this area of change. The court will have made its decision, through a referral order, to put this matter to the panel to agree a programme, enshrined in a contract with the young offender, which will change his behaviour. Youth offending teams have access to the kind of resources, programmes and interventions which are likely to he effective in that particular area. They also have links with a large number of other people who work with and have knowledge of young people and who can be extremely effective in effecting changes in behaviour. I am thinking of people such as teachers and those in voluntary organisations, who have a depth of experience but who may well not be police officers or magistrates.

If we take the line that we must always have a magistrate and a police officer, we will restrict the capacity of communities to bring in people who would be very effective in the work of the youth offender panels. It would limit the creativity and effectiveness of the programmes and contracts which emerge.

The issue raised by Justice would make the panels look much more like sentencing type bodies. We should not rule out the possibility of magistrates serving on the panels, but they should not serve on the panels because they are magistrates but because they are people who are likely to negotiate the effective contracts which will change offending behaviour by these youngsters. That is the objective of this whole exercise. We should keep these matters open. As I recall the White Paper, this particular proposal was put out to consultation rather than being written in stone.

Lord Dholakia

I support the noble Lord, Lord Warner. Magistrates make a large number of orders in the courts—probation orders, community service orders and attendance centre orders—and no one in their right mind would expect magistrates to be part of the teams which implement this scheme. There is a danger that, if magistrates are seen as part of these panels the offenders who appear before the panels may see them as judge and jury. That would be wrong in principle. Ideally, magistrates and police ought to keep out of this. People who are well qualified in dealing with young offenders should serve on these panels.

Lord Hylton

Following what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, perhaps I may suggest that the police could well be represented by one of their civilian employees rather than by a police constable.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

This is a very interesting discussion. It is opening our eyes. Gradually we are beginning to see how the system is likely to work. That is extremely helpful. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, opened my eyes a good deal.

When the type of people who will he on the panel is decided, it must be borne in mind that what they decide in relation to the young person will very much affect families, schools, youth organisations and voluntary organisations. Families will face problems as a result of the contract. There will be difficult relationships if young people have to stay at home in the evenings. It will not be easy for the families of some young people.

The members of the panel must have the respect of the community and the people involved. That means that they must be seen to be people who know what they are talking about. That does not mean that they have to be magistrates. If there is a teacher there, or a representative of a reputable voluntary organisation which is respected in the community, and so on, they must be seen to understand what they are doing. That is extremely important. The people on the panel may be rather good, but if they are not recognised by the community as such, they will not find it very easy. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind.

Viscount Brentford

I am not happy with these two amendments, for two reasons. First, there needs to be more flexibility about who should be on the panel without carving out too many spaces in advance. As the noble Lord, Lord Warner, has said, they must all be experts on young people and young people's needs. A magistrate will not necessarily be the best person for that purpose. I would prefer the statute to be much more flexible, without defining the membership beyond what is already provided.

My second concern about these amendments relates to their impact on a young person. This is particularly true of a policeman. Sadly, many of our young people do not look favourably on the police. I am not sure that it will necessarily create the right atmosphere to have a police officer there. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has suggested an alternative but, from the point of view of flexibility, I would prefer not to see that written into this statute either.

The demarcation between the youth panel and the court is such that the involvement of a magistrate will not necessarily be helpful from the point of view of the restorative, rehabilitation and behaviour-changing aspects required of a young person. I would prefer to leave the membership of the panel flexible.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Viscount's observation is of critical importance. It is important to bear in mind that the people who serve on these panels are not there to represent anything apart from their commitment to the rehabilitation of the offender. They are not there as delegates, as it were. Certainly a civilian employed by the police could be there, but not to represent the police service. A police officer could be there, or a magistrate, but not to represent the police service or the magistracy.

It seems to me that it is not possible to dispute the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. What one wants to do is to have a formal fast-track procedure of charge and attendance at the first available court. That is the formalised criminal justice system. Thereafter, we have to be a good deal more imaginative and reflective about how we deal with individual young offenders, who will be extremely unhappy and distressed people whatever their outward show of bravado may be.

It is true that in the White Paper we suggested that the youth panel would consist of a mix of practitioners: a magistrate—if possible one of the magistrates responsible for the referral—and perhaps a police officer. We put that out to consultation. It was genuine consultation. The inclusion of magistrates generated the most comment, both from individual magistrates and youth benches. The majority of respondents were wholly opposed to the idea. After all, magistrates are volunteers. One cannot direct them always to give up even more of their private time to serve on panels. There was a good deal of objection to that. The Association of Chief Police Officers also expressed reservations about the involvement of police officers. It is quite right to say that it was in the White Paper as a proposal but we decided against it, having had informed consultation.

The question of the approach of Justice was raised. I do not believe that there is any difficulty in the ECHR context, which is why I placed on the Bill my certificate about convention compliance, because this is not a court. As far as I am aware, it has never been suggested that if a young person were on probation he or she would have to be legally represented in discussing the precise terms of the supervision or probation order with the supervising probation officer. What one wants to avoid is over-legalism. Legal representation will be available at the court but not at the panel. It is not that kind of occasion. One does not want an adversarial system in front of the panel; one wants a co-operative working together between the members of the panel, who are there for their personal qualities as well as their expertise, and the parents and the young people concerned. I believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, has got it right. We need to have a certain amount of flexibility in these panels.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, asked what criteria might be denominated by the Secretary of State. Where a young girl is sent to the panel, it may be that there should be a minimum requirement for at least one or a number of women on the panel. If there is an offender under 16, it may be that there should be someone on the panel with a particular knowledge of education in the locality. It may be that there should be a minimum requirement about local knowledge and residence. Those are the kind of points that the Secretary of State might wish to consider. It seems to me that, these days, the questions of feminine representation on the panel or ethnic minority representation on the panel might be the kind of questions that the Secretary of State would wish to consider. I do stress—I think that the experience of the White Paper and what followed the consultation demonstrates this—that we want to get the best possible outcome and not be shackled by dogma.

I do not think that there is any contravention of the ECHR in having a panel without legal representation. In fact the very last thing one wants with a panel is legal representation and the adversarial system. I can speak plainly, being retired from that line of work.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I realise that the White Paper was for consultation. In that sense it was not perhaps a White Paper, but, in the jargon, a slightly greener document. Nevertheless, I thought it right to draw attention to the departure from the White Paper which the magistrates suggested.

I am not entirely persuaded by the noble Lord's arguments but I shall not press the matter today. With regard to the police, I realise that some of these young people will see the police in a very poor light. Seeing them in the context of arriving at the contract and so on might help young offenders to see the police in a more accurate light. With regard to knowledge, the police force in Avon and Somerset, where I live, has done a great deal with young offenders. There is an excellent scheme of motor car repair for those involved in car crime which has proved extremely effective and has changed the attitude of the young people concerned towards the police.

The Minister teased us several times with "may be". He said that this "may be" in the guidance and that "may be" in the guidance. He led us on a little. Is there any chance that we might see before the Report stage a draft of the regulations which the Secretary of State proposes in this respect? That would be most helpful to us and might avoid our having to have similar discussions at later stages of the Bill. Is there any likelihood of that?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I shall certainly bear that in mind and will do my best. I cannot give any guarantee as I am not sure when the Report stage is. However, even if the regulations are not available, I hope to be able to give your Lordships a little more detail.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

That would be most helpful. In the light of what the Minister said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.15 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 6, line 9, after ("member") insert (", who shall not be the supervisor of the young person,").

The noble Earl said: Amendment No. 64 is grouped with Amendment No. 31. Both amendments have the purpose of ensuring that the member of the youth offending team who will supervise the young offender during the contract period is not also the member of the youth offending team who is to be on the youth offender panel. I believe that it would be an offence at least against natural justice to have the same person reporting to the youth offender panel and carrying out its instructions and also making the panel's decision. We should not be considering a situation where a youth offender team worker will make a report to the panel about progress, or a lack of it, and then say, "Now that we have heard this shocking report, we must…" I appreciate that this restriction will bring an additional person into the process, but I see no harm in having a fourth adult taking a benevolent interest in the young person's life. Furthermore, any criticism that the panel might not be independent is removed by detaching the supervisor from the panel.

These amendments create a useful role for the senior members of the youth offender team and enable them to monitor almost all the youth offender panels and contracts as well as the performance of their junior colleagues as supervisors. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I take the doubts expressed by the noble Earl very much to heart. The Bill does not prevent a member of a panel acting as a supervisor, although it does not require it either. We think that it is better to leave the options open. In many cases it might be that the circumstance mentioned by the noble Earl would be inappropriate. In some cases it might well be that it would be a good outcome for the particular offender, bearing in mind any relationship he might have with the kind of person identified by the noble Earl.

I do not think that this would be a breach of natural justice. What we are trying to do is look for informality but also for successful outcomes. In some cases it may well be that the sort of relationship that is deprecated in principle by the noble Earl is the most productive and fruitful in practice. To echo the words of the noble Viscount, one ought to leave a certain amount of flexibility here. If there are practical problems—which I am not sure would arise—as we see how the pilots work, we ought to be able to detect them. I am not as gloomy as the noble Earl, although I recognise that in some cases the relationship he describes might well be thoroughly inappropriate. But one has the rest of the panel to look to in those circumstances to protect the interests of the young offender.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I waited to intervene until the Minister had replied. I was disappointed when he did so—I believe it was he who replied at the meeting that he and his officials held recently on this part of the Bill. It seems to me that account is not being taken here of experience in Scotland. The noble Earl knows precisely how matters work in Scotland; I do not. However, I am told that the separation of the two functions is critical. I hope the Minister will make a few inquiries about that point. There is a certain vagueness and woolliness in the point of view taken by the Minister. It has now been said to us twice—perhaps it was at Second Reading. I may be making a mistake; I seem to have heard the Minister make that reply previously. It is not very convincing. It would be a great pity if a mistake were made in setting up the scheme. Therefore I hope the Minister will think hard about this matter and perhaps refer to experience north of the Border on this single point.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I shall certainly do that. I think that at the briefing meeting it was not I who made any unsatisfactory answer, although I have probably given unsatisfactory answers on other occasions. I regard the noble Earl's point as legitimate. The only issue between us is whether one ought to be absolutely prescriptive or allow a certain amount of discretion. I do not think there is any other issue between us.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I am now happy that this might happen only occasionally, and for good reason. That is probably better than strangling myself with some complicated rule. I am generally happy with the answers given by the Minister. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 not moved.]

Lord Dholakia moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 6, line 15, at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall by regulations make provision requiring that the ethnic composition of the local population shall be taken into account in the appointment of members of youth offender panels.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 66. I speak to both amendments. The amendment would require those appointing members of the youth offender panel to take into account the ethnic composition of the local population in making such appointments. This provision is designed to avoid the situation that has occurred all too often in the past where Asian and black defendants have been dealt with in courts where the setting has been predominantly white. When they have appeared, the situation has tended to be that those taking decisions on their behalf are predominantly from the indigenous community. That can damage the confidence in the fairness of the process of those appearing before courts and panels. That would tend to happen even if every single person in a court situation was scrupulously anti-racist in his approach.

Achieving a racial balance in the new panels is therefore important if we are to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done by young people and their families, thereby increasing the confidence of a whole section of the community in the new and imaginative process of youth referral panels established under the Bill. From time to time the justice system fails people from ethnic minority communities. This amendment is designed to build that confidence. I hope the Minister will see fit to accept it.

Amendment No. 66 would require the Secretary of State to make arrangements for the ethnic monitoring of young people referred to youth offender panels, and of decisions made by the panels and by the courts when the panels refer the young people back to them.

There is a disturbing body of evidence that decisions made at different stages of the criminal justice process often contain a discriminatory element—including decisions made by the police to stop and search young people on the street, decisions to prosecute or caution offenders, and the bail and sentencing decisions made by some courts.

Where a discriminatory element in such decisions exists, or where members of racial minority groups suspect it but there is no firm evidence based on monitoring to prove or disprove the matter conclusively, the result is often suspicion, hostility and the regrettable alienation of many black and Asian people from the process of law enforcement and criminal justice.

If the confidence of all sections of the community in the criminal justice process is to be sustained, there must be comprehensive racial monitoring of all aspects of decision-making. The results of that monitoring must be systematically referred back to the decision-makers so that any ideas of discrimination can be identified and action can be taken to put the matter right. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I have sympathy with both these amendments, although the first, regarding the ethnic composition of the panels, could be taken into account in the guidance and regulations referred to earlier. It might be better if it were included in the regulations with the other requirements as opposed to being separately stated on the face of the Bill. It is important that the matter is included in some form. Clearly, monitoring of the result in ethnic terms is also important.

Viscount Brentford

I raised the point referred to in the first amendment earlier. I certainly received the impression from the Minister that the matter would be included in regulations. Provided it is included in one or the other, I should be satisfied. It is probably an appropriate matter for the regulations.

The second provision suggested would be quite a complicated and expensive arrangement to work. There would certainly be value in it, and I have a lot of sympathy for the proposal. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

This amendment goes in part to the question raised by Clause 6(4) already referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Under that provision, the Home Secretary has to set criteria. I assure the Committee that the Secretary of State will give careful consideration to matters relating to ensuring that panels fairly represent the communities they serve. That will cover ethnicity, but also important factors such as gender. I am happy to repeat that the qualification criteria will be laid down in regulations subject to the negative resolution procedure.

I entirely accept that it is essential that the operation of referral orders should be subject to ethnic monitoring. I believe that that can be dealt with under Section 96 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, which obliges the Secretary of State to publish, such information as he considers expedient for the purpose of facilitating the performance of those persons engaged in the administration of criminal justice of their duty to avoid discriminating against any person on the ground of race.

The guidance that will go out in support of these proposals will underline the importance of complying with that requirement. When we pilot the new provisions, evaluators will be required to look specifically at the impact on ethnic minorities. I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that there is a significant appearance of injustice in the way that significant sections of our communities are dealt with in the court process. I hope that he will accept that we regard this matter with due importance. I believe that Section 96, the guidance and the criteria ought to deliver the outcome that both he and I wish for.

Lord Dholakia

I believe it is Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, not Section 96.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I thought it was Section 95, but I thought I had misremembered.

Lord Dholakia

I am grateful to the Minister. I know what he is saying with regard to Section 95. I look forward to the implementation of that Act in relation to these panels. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Attendance at panel meetings]:

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 7, line 6, at beginning insert ("The offender may request and the panel may allow").

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 35, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 36 and 37. The purpose of Amendment No. 35 is to underline the authority of the panel. At present under Clause 7(3) the accompanying individual, with the agreement of the panel, shall be entitled to accompany the offender". In the amendment it is suggested that that wording should be strengthened as follows: The offender may request and the panel may allow", thereby establishing without question the sanction of the panel to allow the witnesses. Amendment No. 37 is consequential upon that.

Turning to Amendment No. 36, I am aware of the remarks previously made about the White Paper, but perhaps I may refer the Committee to paragraph 9.37 on page 33: There would be no legal representation at the youth panel stage"; and: Legal representation would put an obstacle in the way of the panel dealing directly with the defendant". I suggest that it is very much in the spirit of the Bill that at this stage the offender has no legal representation in his dealings with the panel. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

We have already discussed the crucial role that can be played by a family member. That may be a parent, but not always. There may be family members who have a positive influence on the young offender but who are not parents or guardians in the way that we have discussed in the past. There may be other influential adults, such as teachers or social workers, who could usefully play a constructive part by attending. It is important that the young person should be able to nominate an adult of choice. We believe that Clause 7(3) gives the panel abundant authority to exclude those who would be unsuitable, perhaps because they are disruptive or have the wrong motivation. We believe that Clause 7(3) is sufficient.

I cannot accept, nor advise your Lordships to accept, expressly forbidding an adult's attendance if that adult happens to be a legal representative. Some solicitors do have children. A chosen trusted adult, perhaps a neighbour or an uncle, someone who has known the child for a while, may well be legal representatives, as well. They are not to be there as legal representatives in the sense of counsel or solicitor, but they ought not to be excluded if they can be of benefit. I believe that the present drafting is about right. The panel has discretion to exclude because it has to agree to allow the adult's attendance and it would not be right, in these days of non-discrimination, to exclude solicitors and barristers from attending.

Viscount Brentford

I endorse what the Minister said concerning Amendment No. 36 because I have myself done what he describes. When I was a practising solicitor I went into a claims court as the next friend of my daughter. It could have been argued that I was the legal representative. Therefore I entirely endorse what the noble Lord said.

Viscount Bledisloe

Surely the Minister's answer is not right. A lawyer who is a parent or a friend is not on that occasion a legal representative. A person who is a legal representative is someone who is in trade as a lawyer and attends in that capacity. Surely it is desirable to express the view that legal representatives are not allowed. One would not thereby debar a lawyer or a solicitor who attends, unpaid, as a parent and not in a legal capacity. To say that a lawyer, who is a father, is there as a legal representative is surely entirely inaccurate.

Viscount Bridgeman: In view of what the Minister said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment Nos. 36 and 37 not moved.]

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 38:

Page 7, line 10, after ("attend") insert ("part or all of").

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 38 I shall, with the leave of the Committee, speak also to Amendment No. 39. The purpose of these two amendments is to increase the effectiveness of the panel. Amendment No. 38 makes provision for the individual to attend for part only of the session. There will be occasions when attendance for the whole of the hearing could be embarrassing or inappropriate. The amendment gives the panel the power to have the accompanying individual attend for only the relevant part. Amendment No. 39 makes provision to allow the panel to withdraw for private consultation during the course of a hearing. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I take the noble Lord's point that a victim, in particular, might find it oppressive to have to attend the whole of the meeting, and it may be that it would not be of assistance if others had to be there throughout. We do not believe that this needs to be further spelt out. The panel has the discretion. It has a permissive power to allow attendance and that power can be exercised without requiring an individual—the victim or someone whose assistance is only required for part of the meeting—to be there throughout. I hope I can reassure the noble Viscount on that point.

As to the question of a private meeting, we do not believe that that is necessary. The referral order provisions are set out in some detail in Part I. The arrangements for the meetings of the panel for the young offender are clearly set out. The arrangements are defined by virtue of Clause 6(7). Meetings of the panel which require the young offender to be there are clearly expressed. Meetings of the panel which do not require the offender's presence are quite different and fall outside Clause 6(7). We do not see any reason why the panel should not meet in private on those occasions, but I can confirm that these issues are intended to be covered by guidance and I do not believe it is necessary to put in statute the fact that a panel might want to withdraw to discuss matters in private. I believe that ought to give reasonable satisfaction on both counts.

Viscount Bledisloe

Is it intended that the panel should be entitled to tell everyone to withdraw except, let us say, the victim or the parent and to talk to them on their own in the absence of the offender and of everyone else?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

In theory, I do not see why that should not happen. I do not see any qualitative difference between representations made in writing, perhaps by a victim, and representations made at second hand on behalf of a victim. I will give some further thought to that question. My instinctive reaction—it may be wrong—is that I do not see why material of that kind should not be obtained in the absence of the offender as long as the offender's interests are properly safeguarded by due consultation with him. Many victims would perhaps find it difficult to speak freely in the presence of the offender. I think this requires a little refinement and thought. I will think about the matter, take further guidance and write to the noble Viscount about it.

Viscount Bridgeman

I am grateful to the Minister for his assurances and consideration of this point and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 39 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [First meeting: agreement of contract with offender]:

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 40;

Page 7, line 21, after ("programme") insert ("shall include an obligation to make an act or acts in reparation for the offence or offences, and").

The noble Viscount said: Perhaps I may refer your Lordships once again to the White Paper. Clause 9.29 on page 32 states: The contract would always include an obligation to make reparation". We consider this essential to the panel process. This gives prominence to that condition in Clause 8. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I do not believe that again there is any real difference in approach between the noble Viscount and myself. He wants to ensure that an element of reparation is included in every programme, and I share that view. It was always our intention that reparation in the widest sense should be a key element of every contract. Unfortunately, reparation carries with it connotations that are narrower than the range of activity we envisage. We do not want panels to believe that they must make arrangements for the young person in question to make financial amends directly to the victim. Many victims would find that abhorrent. That is one way of making reparation but it is not the only one. It will not even be an option if the victim is unwilling.

Another problem is that Section 85(1) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 contains a statutory definition of "reparation" that expressly excludes financial compensation. There would be a good deal of scope for confusion if one had a free-standing definition for the purposes of this Bill. I believe that the provision for reparation is sufficiently made. After all, Clause 8(2)(a) on page 7 puts right at the forefront of the provision, financial or other reparation to any person who appears to the panel to be a victim of, or otherwise affected by, the offence". It seems to me that the prominence given to this matter in that provision will require every relevant panel to focus first on financial or other reparation. One must bear in mind that some victims are extremely reluctant to engage in these matters. One must pay regard to decent susceptibilities. If it is right at the forefront the panel must have at the top of the list of considerations what is first in the Act.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Is it not strange to say that the panel may include the provision of reparation, financial or otherwise? The panel may or may not include reparation under the Bill. If there is confusion with the other Act and there is difficulty about the wording, should it not be sorted out? I would have thought there might have been objections to the proposal. If no reparations of any kind were required and the panel pointed out that that was what the legislation said, what the Minister said would not be correct. If the Bill departs from the White Paper is it not better to say so?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I do not believe that a Bill can say that it is departing from a White Paper. Reparation can include a number of different concepts in practice. It does not have to be reparation to the victim. As I understood the amendment moved by the noble Viscount, it would include an obligation to make an act or acts of reparation to the victim. A good deal of reparative work can be done that is not focused on the victim. It may well be unpaid work in the community, which means that the offender makes reparation or amends to the wider community. I repeat that a good number of victims do not want personally focused reparation. The elderly widow who lives alone does not necessarily want the offender to work in her garden or paint the house which, a fortnight earlier, he burgled. She may be quite pleased if the offender must do reparative work in the playground of a school or something of that kind within the community. I believe that we have got it right here. The panel must focus on that as the first question. I believe that to be pretty clear.

Viscount Bridgeman

I am most grateful to the Minister for his clarification of these points. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.45 p.m.

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 41:

Page 7, line 30, at end insert (", for which he may be refunded out-of-pocket expenses").

The noble Viscount said: I beg to move Amendment No. 41 and speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 42 to 44. All of these amendments refer to the provisions of the programme in Clause 8. The first amendment provides that an offender who is doing community service may be refunded his out-of-pocket expenses. Amendment No. 42 refers to an exclusion order imposed on an offender as to place. The amendment extends the provision to specified times and places.

Amendment No. 43 makes references to electronic tagging which has been a great success in those places where it has been introduced. I believe I am right in saying that last week it was extended under the provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act. I found myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Warner, in a debate last week. As to Amendment No. 44, the noble Lord has just made reference to the matter. At the moment the consent of the victim is required under Clause 8(2)(a) if financial or other reparation is to be made. The amendment would mean that under Clause 8(2)(b) the agreement of the victim would also be required in any mediation sessions attended by the offender.

Lord Hylton

I support Amendment No. 41. This may be particularly appropriate and necessary in the case of a young person between 16 and 18 who is not employed or in full-time education and is not entitled to any benefits.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am afraid that my ear was distracted for a moment. Perhaps I may confirm with the noble Viscount the amendments to which he spoke. I believe that he spoke to Amendments Nos. 41, 43 and 44. Did the noble Viscount speak also to Amendment No. 42?

Viscount Bridgeman

I spoke also to Amendment No. 42 which is concerned with specified times and places.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

It was entirely my fault. I was being asked when we would be likely to conclude the business this evening. I understand that it has been agreed through the usual channels that we shall finish our discussion on the Bill this evening at eight o'clock. I was aware that the noble Viscount had an interest in that matter and therefore my mind was slightly distracted. I shall deal with Amendments Nos. 41 to 44. I agree that as to Amendment No. 41, which relates to expenses unless the contract included an agreement to make some form of financial reparation, it would not be appropriate for a young person to be out of pocket as a result of this kind of activity. One would expect the volunteer organisations to ensure that. The issue must be addressed and I am happy to give the assurance that that will be done in the guidance.

The list in Clause 8 as to particular places or persons is not intended to be prescriptive or exhaustive. There will be variations in the elements in Clause 8. I believe that the noble Viscount seeks a specific reference to the fact that this element of the programme of behaviour may be applied at certain times or all the time. There is nothing in the Bill to stop the panel and the young person seeking such agreement. I believe that this should be covered in guidance, which is likely to change as experience changes, rather than on the face of the Bill.

Amendment No. 43 deals with electronic tagging. The youth offender panel is not a court and there will not be any legal representation. I do not believe that it would be appropriate for the panel to have the option of agreeing anything that amounted to a physical restriction on liberty by virtue of tagging or otherwise. I believe that as a matter of principle that is something that should be done judicially in open court rather than by a panel. If the young person's offending is serious enough to warrant the restriction contemplated by the noble Viscount, that should be done by a court with the opportunity of legal representation.

On Amendment No. 44, I have mentioned on a number of occasions that the provision relates to the victim's right to refuse to participate in mediation as well as in any other form of reparation. I entirely agree. That is what I believe we have achieved by Clause 8(4): that nothing may be done to or with any such victim without his or her express consent. I am happy to reiterate that that covers reparation and mediation. I hope that I have put the noble Viscount's doubts to rest.

Viscount Bridgeman

I am most grateful to the Minister for those helpful comments on that group of amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 42 to 44 not moved.]

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 8, line 13, after ("offender,") insert—

("( ) by each appropriate person (as defined in section 5(3)),").

The noble Viscount said: The amendment provides that the parents or, where appropriate, the local authority which plays such a large part in the concept of the Bill, are involved in the signature of the record. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I understand the importance of the involvement of the parent, guardian or local authority. Essentially we think that this provision would water down the seriousness and importance of the contract from the point of view of the young offender. It is he or she who is the offender; it is he or she alone who is the subject of the referral order and who alone must comply with the terms of the contract. In many cases parents may volunteer to assist. Some parents are derelict in their duties and may simply refuse to sign. We would not want that as a block if the young person himself or herself were willing. The provision is designed to bring home to the offender moral and legal responsibility. We think that the provision is better kept intact.

Viscount Bridgeman

I am most grateful to the Minister for that convincing reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 8, line 17, leave out ("or sent").

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 46, I speak also to Amendment No. 55.

We suggest that attendance on all the occasions when the offender is required to be present is important. Any excuse for him or her not to attend the court and, for instance, to be sent the record by post would be an invitation to absent himself or herself. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

As the noble Viscount rightly observed, Clause 8(6) requires the panel to cause a copy of the record to be "given or sent" to the offender. Clause 11(7) makes similar provisions in respect of a record of any variation.

This gives the panel a degree of flexibility. If it cannot have a typed copy on the specific occasion, let us say a Monday, we simply require that it should be sent to the young person as soon as possible. Obviously many panels will give the record immediately to the offender, but if that cannot be done we simply give the flexible opportunity that it should be sent. I think that that should be available as an alternative.

Viscount Bridgeman

I am most grateful and accept the Minister's explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 8, line 17, at end insert ("and sent to the court").

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 47, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 56 to 58. It is a similar provision: that the record be sent to the court. I suggest that it is a matter of good practice as regards information. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The responsibility of the court is to make the referral order for the appropriate period, and to notify the youth offending team that the order has been made so that a panel may be convened. However, the responsibility for agreeing the terms of the contract—it is again the critical difference which has developed as we have had these most helpful discussions—is with the panel. At that stage the court has no further role to play unless the panel thinks that there has been a serious breach of the contract. We do not therefore think that the details of the contract, or any variation, should go back to the court. I think that it muddies the clear distinction between the court's sentence—referral—and the panel's work which is not judicial in that sense; it is carrying out the direction of the court but on an independent basis. Again, that is an important distinction which needs to be maintained.

Viscount Bridgeman

In view of the Minister's helpful comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [First meeting: duration of contract]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 8, line 20, leave out from third ("the") to end of line 21 and insert ("day on which it was signed by the offender").

The noble Lord said: I am unclear as to when the contract should start. It seems to me that it should start on the day that the contract is signed by the offender, and that the period during which the contract runs should commence on the day on which it is signed. Any gap seems undesirable; and hence the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I believe that that is covered by the Bill. Clause 9 provides that the point at which the period of time—the length of referral—commences is the moment the contract takes effect. We find that in Clause 8 the contract takes effect when the young person and a member of the panel sign the record of the contract. Therefore the Bill contains the remedy which the noble Lord wishes to be provided. It is there.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I must study a little more carefully Clause 8 in conjunction with Clause 9. However, it achieves what I wish. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [First meeting: failure to agree contract]:

[Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 not moved.]

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Progress meetings]:

[Amendment No. 51 not moved.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 9, line 39, at beginning insert ("consider or").

The noble Lord said: We have discussed this matter substantially on Amendment No. 39. It is intended to ensure that the panel can consult not only with the offender present but also among themselves. I think that the Minister made that clear. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

When a young offender has breached the terms of the contract, the Bill requires the panel to discuss it with the young person. The purpose of the discussion is to decide whether there has been a breach; and what action to take. That may mean that the young offender is allowed to continue to be required to comply with the contract, possibly varied; or that the panel may possibly refer the young offender back to the court. I appreciate the motivation of the amendment. It is important that the panel gives careful consideration to the action it takes in response.

If one has to discuss the issue with the young offender and then come to a conclusion, it is inevitable that the panel would have to consider the relevant matters. I hope that that assurance satisfies the noble Lord.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

Yes, indeed. It sounded a satisfactory explanation which I shall study carefully. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 53 to 56 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Final meeting]:

[Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 not moved.]

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Lord Carter

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

Lord Carter

My Lords, as consideration on the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill has been concluded, the Unstarred Question is no longer restricted to the one hour which would have been allowed in the dinner break. The one and a half hour limit now applies. This will allow all speakers five minutes each rather than the three minutes specified on the speakers' list.

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