HL Deb 31 October 2000 vol 618 cc912-38

(". In section 34A of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (power to release short-term prisoners on licence), after subsection (2)(j) there is inserted— (k) the court, when passing sentence, did not state in ordinary language and in open court—

  1. (i) the existence of the power of the Secretary of State to release prisoners under this section; and
  2. (ii) the period of imprisonment that the prisoner would serve were the Secretary of State to release him immediately after having served the requisite period under subsection (4) below."").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a series of amendments, Amendments Nos. 74, 75, 76, 77, 78 and 79. The Government's early release scheme allows the Secretary of State to release certain categories of prisoners from gaol early, often before they have served half of their sentence. They may spend the final two months of their custodial sentence in the community subject to a nine-hour electronically monitored curfew. If this curfew period is breached the offender can be recalled to prison. An offender sentenced to custody for six months will ordinarily be released in three months. If included in the scheme an offender could be out in a mere six weeks implementation of the scheme in January 1999 and 54 of those persons have been convicted of manslaughter, 145 of resisting arrest or assaulting a police officer and over 3,500 of drug offences. Over 800 of those released have breached the terms of their curfew. Forty-one people have disappeared and remain unlawfully at large in the community. Just over 750 further offences have been committed by offenders who were out on the scheme. There are 750 further victims of crime because of this policy.

We have consistently opposed the scheme. We make no apology for that. We moved the amendment throughout the Commons stages and in Committee in this House. It was also the topic of an Opposition day debate in the Commons in July. It is not right that serious criminals are able to leave prison after less than half their sentence has been served.

Amendment No. 74 focuses on the needs of victims rather than criminals. In Committee the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, stated that the consequences of my amendments would be to ensure that no one in prison could go on the scheme. I do not deny that. This is one of the precise aims of the amendment. The amendment also seeks to keep victims of crime better informed. Again, in Committee the noble and learned Lord said: We believe that the net result would be additional time-consuming bureaucracy for the courts".—[Official Report, 4/10/2000; co1.1633.]

If informing victims more fully and involving victims more in the court process is more work, then I say that is not bureaucracy. So be it. Certainly, it would be in a good cause. We are concerned that victims should be able to understand the sentences when they are meted out in court.I turn to Amendment No. 75. Section 111 of the Power of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act sets a minimum three-year sentence for a third conviction for domestic burglary. Such an offender would be eligible for the scheme resulting in him being released possibly after 16 months, that is, the automatic half-way point minus the two-month period on the scheme. This is a nonsense. It renders Section 11 completely pointless. What is the point of an automatic sentence if it can be completely undermined by this scheme? So far over 2,000 offenders convicted of burglary have been released on this scheme. We do not know how many of them have committed a third burglary. A scheme should not overtake the power of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act that makes a mockery of the legislation passed by Parliament.

I turn to Amendment No. 77. At present any offender can be placed on the scheme provided he meets the criteria of having been sentenced to more than three months or less than four years. They are also eligible if convicted of sex offences. The amendment gives the judge the power to rule out the scheme at the point of sentencing. This would have two benefits. The court could say at the outset that a person would or would not qualify for the scheme. It would allow the home detention curfew scheme to be used as part of the sentencing procedure; for example, maybe a lesser sentence but ineligibility for the scheme. It would allow the victims of crime to understand the sentence given because the judge would be forced to explain the consequences of the scheme in open court. I know that this would reduce the scope of the scheme by limiting it to the judge's discretion, which, so often in this Chamber, has been hard fought for. However, use of the scheme would have more merit by being underwritten quite explicitly in open court.

Amendment No. 78 relates to an offence under Section 89 of the Police Act 1996, of assaulting, obstructing or resisting a constable followed by an offence under Section 38 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which is assault with intent to resist arrest, and an offence under Sections 18, 20 or 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which includes wounding, causing grievous bodily harm and causing actual bodily harm committed against a constable in the exercise of his duty.

So far, nearly 150 people convicted of resisting arrest or assaulting a police officer have been released early. The average sentence imposed for those offences is 4.6 months but the average sentence served in prison was only 1.5 months. The offender then served 0.8 months on the scheme. I wonder whether that makes sense to those who have been assaulted in that way.

Seventeen assaults on police officers and two assaults in the course of resisting arrest have been committed by offenders who were on the scheme. At the very least, the Government should show their support for the police by accepting this amendment at a time when the police are demoralised. Huge numbers of officers are leaving the force and police numbers are falling. That would at least show that the Government's manifesto promise is not completely forgotten.

I turn now to Amendment No. 76. While no prisoners are eligible for the scheme if they receive a sentence of more than four years, they would still, under this amendment, be eligible where the maximum possible sentence is more than this amount. In fact, according to my amendment, it would be a maximum of 10 years or more. Anybody who is sentenced to, for example, three-and-a-half years, where the maximum for the sentence is more than 10 years has committed a fairly serious crime. It seems to me that those people should be excluded from the scheme. The amendment, I accept, reduces the scope of the scheme, excluding from the scheme those convicted of such serious offences—and I mean serious offences—if the maximum is 10 years or more. The sentences include burglary of a dwelling and aggravated burglary, importing orexporting Class A and Class B drugs, robbery and making threats to kill people. The amendment reduces the focus on the sentence given and transfers it to the offence actually committed. These are important amendments. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, as the noble Baroness said today and has said previously, there is a fundamental disagreement here. She has said quite candidly, as has Mr Hague, that she wishes the total destruction of the home detention curfew scheme. My stance is completely the opposite. It has been a remarkably successful scheme and we have no intention of scrapping it. It is one of the biggest electronic monitoring schemes in the world; it has had an extremely successful first 20 months of operation.

I should say as a matter of history rather than as a partisan point that the home detention curfew scheme received the unanimous support of the All-Party Home Affairs Committee in the Commons which said that it would, provide adequate protection to the public because of the tagging element, and would give prisoners an opportunity to readjust to life outside prison". That is the critical point. I must correct a slip that 1 made. I believe that on the last occasion I said four months and, as the noble Baroness rightly said, it is two months available on home detention curfew. All of those persons, every one of them, would inevitably have been out at the conclusion of that two month period.

Earlier this evening, we had a number of discussions in the probation context about rehabilitation. As the All-Party Home Affairs Committee unanimously said, home detention curfew provides an opportunity for offenders to readjust to life outside prison. We all know the indicators of recidivism—no job, no home, no settled social surroundings. In my experience of visiting prisons where the scheme has been carried out, many prisoners regard it as more difficult than imprisonment because it imposes personal obligations on people who have never had them before. Some prisoners, in significant numbers, I found, were unwilling to ask for home detention curfew because, as they said, "They couldn't hack it". A sobering thought is that for them the easier life is to be locked up in prison with no responsibility for their own lives.

Prison governors have been extremely prudent and restrained in the use that they have made of this power. Only 30 per cent of eligible offenders have been released. I know from my own visits that there is extremely close co-operation between prison governors, probation officers and the police. They are extremely cautious about the risk assessment process, remembering that that process takes into account the risk that offenders may pose to the victim, the risk they may pose to members of the public, the likelihood of reoffending during the curfew period and the likelihood of failure to comply with the conditions of the curfew. It is a remarkably successful scheme.

The noble Baroness dealt fully with the amendments so I shall mention them in a little detail. The first new clause would prevent any prisoner being put on a home detention curfew scheme unless the existence of such a scheme had been explained by the court at the time of sentencing, together with the way in which the scheme would affect the length of time to be spent in custody. That means that the court would have to be asked to determine whether a given offender should be eligible for consideration for release on such a scheme. If the court does not mention the matter, the offender is automatically barred, even though he would otherwise be appropriately and properly eligible.

The new clause requires the court to specify the precise amount of time that would be served in custody. That is the way to false expectations. The sentencing court has no basis at all for determining whether a given offender will be eligible because it does not know what will happen in prison. Behaviour in prison, response to therapeutic regimes, response to probation guidance, and how the sentence plan is fulfilled in prison are critical criteria for the determination of eligibility. I repeat, with great respect to the noble Baroness: the sentencing court has none of those materials to hand, and it is being asked to come to an impossible conclusion, as any magistrate who has sat in those circumstances or any sentencing judge will readily recognise.

The amendment also gives the courts power to prevent an offender being considered for home detention curfew. We believe that the statutory exemptions are sufficient.

Considering the other discretionary release, parole, no such provisions by way of limitation are attached. The interest of public protection must always be paramount, and the fact that a prisoner is eligible for home detention curfew or parole does not mean that he has a right to be so released.

The fourth new clause is similar to the first. It requires the courts to look up to two years ahead and to try to make a judgment on what, I repeat, are inadequate, vestigial or non-existent materials.

The second, third and fifth of the new clauses would add to the exclusion categories. The second new clause would exclude domestic burglars who have committed more than three offences, whatever the nature of the burglary. The third would exclude anyone committing any of the wide range of offences for which the maximum period is 10 years in prison or more. That sounds quite attractive until one considers the list of such offences. It would mean that someone who was guilty of conspiracy to defraud—maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment—would be automatically ineligible, but such a conspiracy may be quite trivial or ineffective for which the sentence was quite small.

Cruelty to or neglect of children is an offence that has an infinitely variable spectrum, but it carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment. Other offences carrying a similar penalty include destroying or damaging property—Section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971; threatening to commit damage to property; forgery; copying, using or using a copy of a false instrument; and making a counterfeit coin or note, however inadequate the attempt. Are all such offenders—many petty inadequates—who are of no continuing harm to the public, their victims, or at risk of committing further offences, to be rendered thus ineligible? Are offenders convicted of interfering with goods with the intention of causing public alarm, anxiety and economic loss, to be ineligible? We know that indecent assaults vary extraordinarily in their effect. Are offenders convicted of obtaining property by deception under Section 15 of the Theft Act, or those convicted of fraudulent application or use of a trademark, to be excluded?

The fifth new clause would exclude prisoners who had committed any one of three offences against police constables. In fact, the numbers of those placed on HDC whose original offence was committed against a police officer were 13 assaults with intent to resist arrest; 12 obstructions of, or resisting, a constable; 178 assaults on a police officer. All of those can be serious offences and some are less serious than others. The actual sentence length for the 13 was an average of 5.6 months; the obstruct or resist a constable was 5.5 months and the assault on a police officer was 4.7 months.

We already have statutory exemptions: violent and sex offenders currently serving an extended sentence; prisoners serving a sentence for failing to return to custody following a period of temporary release; and prisoners who at any time have been returned to prison for committing an offence on licence. We have made provision within the present Bill to exclude sex offenders, subject to registration requirements.

We shall not agree on this matter. This has been an extraordinary, flexible use of an imaginative remedy that, by and large, has been successful. Every one of those offenders would have been out in two months and would need to be got back into the community. That is one way of protecting the public.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, let me say at the outset that I was a staunch supporter of electronic monitoring long before the noble and learned Lord joined us in that support. I believe we have nowhere nearly sufficiently exploited its use. There is still great scope for it. So the idea that somehow I am against it is entirely wrong. But I am against this early release scheme. It takes early release a step too far. To release people early affects the protection of the public.

The Minister did not give a satisfactory answer to the notion of giving an automatic sentence to persistent burglars; not those who have burgled twice or three times, but in many cases hundreds of times, and who will now be eligible for the scheme. That seems to me to be a nonsense. It flies in the face of automatic sentencing.

There have been breaches. People have disappeared and remain at large in the community. Over 750 further offences have been committed. One hundred and fifty people have resisted arrest and/or assaulted police officers. I regard those as very serious offences, certainly for the police officers in question. I argue therefore that the public are at risk and that people are released indiscriminately too early.

Many of those people have relatively short sentences. For example, many people receive sentences of around six months and the idea that they should serve only six weeks of that sentence is an insult to those in the community who look to the sentencing process to give effective and proper punishment.

But the noble and learned Lord is absolutely right. We will agree to differ on this and I shall return to it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 75 to 79 not moved.]

Schedule 5 [Amendments of the Sex Offenders Act 1997]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 80: Page 62, line 10, leave out from ("requirements),") to end of line 18 and insert ("in subsection (1), for "14 days" there is substituted "three days". ( ) For subsection (5) of that section there is substituted— (5) A person may give a notification under this section by—

  1. (a) attending at any police station in his local police area, and
  2. (b) giving an oral notification to any police officer, or to any person authorised for the purpose by the officer in charge of the station,
and a notification under subsection (2) above may also be given by sending a written notification to any such police station".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these amendments extend to Scotland provisions in the Bill to increase the penalties for failure to register under the Sex Offenders Act 1997; to require initial registration within 72 hours and to allow for fingerprints and a photograph to be taken by the police at that stage; to provide for notification for foreign travel; and to provide for disclosure between agencies in respect of the requirement to register.

I explained at Committee stage that the Scottish Parliament would be considering whether Westminster should legislate to extend some of the amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 1997 to Scotland. All these amendments, I am delighted to say, are consequential on the decision by the Scottish Parliament to adopt the measures to strengthen the regime for the registration of sex offenders which we introduced in Committee and which are part of the package often referred to as "Sarah's Law".

The Scottish Parliament has agreed under the Sewel convention that the provisions of the Bill should be extended to Scotland to introduce these measures north of the Border. They will have the same effect and provide the same public protection, especially to children, in Scotland. I view this as a positive decision which will help to ensure that these crucial protections remain strong and coherent throughout the United Kingdom. I beg to move.

11 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the noble Lord made no reference to the Law Society of Scotland, which has commented on these proposals. It is concerned and I want to be a vehicle for explaining its concerns.

It has been suggested that there should be an increase in the maximum penalty from six months to five years if a sex offender fails to register within a specified time. The society appreciates the policy intention behind the proposal and agrees that if the seriousness of the offence is to be marked in some cases the six-month period may not be sufficient.

The society would also welcome confirmation that in Scotland the procurator fiscal will have regard to the forum in which the original offence was prosecuted in deciding on the appropriate forum in which to process the failure to register. In the society's view, if the original offence was prosecuted on indictment, the failure to register should be treated in a similar fashion.

As regards disclosure of information contained on the register, the society is concerned to note that no reference is made in the proposed amendments to a possible sanction for the unauthorised disclosure of information contained on the register. Such disclosure may have potentially serious consequences and consideration should be given to extending criminal liability if such disclosure is made.

I put those points on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, having read Hansard, I shall consider carefully the points made by the noble Baroness and shall reflect further on them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 81 to 84: Page 62, line 25, leave out from ("above") to ("shall") in line 26. Page 62, line 28, leave out ("(5)(a)") and insert ("(5)(b)"). Page 62, line 34, leave out from ("persons") to ("or") in line 35 and insert ("subject to the notification requirements of this Part"). Page 62, line 46, leave out from ("Part") to second ("or") and insert ("who leave the United Kingdom").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 85: Page 63, line I, leave out from ("regulations") to ("is") in line 7 and insert ("make provision for requiring them—

  1. (a) to give in accordance with the regulations, before they leave, a notice under subsection (6E) below, and
  2. (b) if they subsequently return to the United Kingdom, to give in accordance with the regulations a notice under subsection (6F) below.
(6E) A notice under this subsection must disclose—
  1. (a) the date on which he will leave the United Kingdom, the country to which he will travel (or, if there is more than one, the first country) and his point of arrival, determined in accordance with the regulations, in that country,
  2. (b) any other information prescribed by the regulations which the person holds about his departure from or return to the United Kingdom or his movements while outside the United Kingdom.
In this subsection "country" includes territory. (6F) A notice under this subsection must disclose any information prescribed by the regulations about the person's return to the United Kingdom. (6G) The power to make regulations under subsections (6D) to (6F) above").

The noble Lord said: My Lords—

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the Whips' office grouped this amendment with the others. The grouping was Amendments Nos. 80 to 85,87 to 93,121 and 122.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, if it expedites matters, I am happy to accept a regrouping on the Floor of the House. I beg to move Amendment No. 85 formally.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Courtown moved Amendment No. 86: Page 63, line 10, at end insert— (" . After subsection (8) of that section there is inserted— (9) The information in (2)(a) and (2)(b) above, may be made available by the police to any person on application where it is considered that such availability would be in the interests of the residents of the local police area, as defined in section 2(7) above."").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, first, I should like to declare an interest. I have a 14 year-old daughter, a 12 year-old son and a daughter who is not yet two weeks old. I must therefore catch a train very soon and I hope that everyone will take that into account!

Having said that, this is an important issue. My amendment seeks to grant the police the power to allow a degree of controlled access to the information held on the sex offenders' register; that is, the names and addresses of known sex offenders in their local community. I do not expect the Minister to accept the amendment today and I move it simply to ask the Government about their current thoughts on the issue. It is obviously something of a vexed subject at the moment and I shall be interested to hear the Minister's response.

In tabling the amendment, I am not suggesting that registers should be made generally available to the public, nor that the police should be forced to reveal information when they are asked.

The amendment changes the method of disseminating information and grants a right of access rather than relying on the police to disclose it. The wording of the amendment is precise. First, it ensures that the police are under no obligation to accept the application for information, but they may do so when it would be in the interests of residents of a local police area. It also specifies that the information should not be given out until the police receive an application for it. The amendment intends that the onus should be very much on the applicant to prove his suitability to receive the information and to justify the reason for needing it.

Secondly, the amendment allows for only the names and addresses of those registered to be given out, not photographs or any other information. To reveal the names and addresses of specific persons will give parents greater power and ensure that they are able to do all that they can to protect their children.

It is now some four months since we were all shocked by the tragic death of the young schoolgirl Sarah Payne. I am sure that the whole House, even at this late hour, will join me in paying tribute to her family who have coped remarkably well in such terrible circumstances. They have also campaigned ceaselessly for a "Sarah's Law" to be introduced in this country. I acknowledge that proposals have been made by the Government, with the support of the Opposition, to tighten the laws on child sex offenders. However, I am also aware that those who have campaigned for a "Sarah's Law" are concerned that its central tenet—the control of public access to the register—has not been granted.

The introduction of the register in 1997 was a massive step forward in the protection of children in this country. The register commands a compliance rate of at least 97 per cent, and we should not do anything that alters that situation. However, as it stands, the information on the register is disclosed only to specific groups, such as social services organisations, at the discretion of the police: there is no right of access to it. The amendment seeks to reverse the position. The notion of controlled public access to information on the register has attracted a large amount of support from the public which cannot be ignored. The response to this issue raised by the News of the World was a measure of the level of anxiety felt by parents.

I do not expect the Minister to accept any such amendment today. However, I shall be interested to hear the Government's current thinking on this contentious and important issue. I hope that the noble Lord will reassure me that the Government will continue to monitor the working of the system. I am aware that the Minister has great sympathy with this matter, but I realise that there are difficulties.

I welcome the opportunity to open the debate, and hope that the House will give the arguments that I have raised serious consideration. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I extend to the noble Earl my congratulations on his new fatherhood and my commiserations on his train. If I take a few moments of the time of the House, I shall try to be mindful of the train. None of us has yet thought our way round what is a very urgent and serious issue. The trouble is that it puts the two primary purposes of the law at odds with each other. On the one hand, the law is for the protection of the public, which is the one area on which the noble Earl has perfectly properly concentrated. On the other hand, it is also the purpose of the law, and has been for as long as there has been law of any kind, to prevent private vengeance. The danger of the amendmen: is that it may encourage the one in achieving the other. Clearly, that is not a happy state of affairs, any more than is the opposite.

The basic trouble we face with paedophilia is that we do not yet have any adequate way to reduce the marginal propensity to offend. Until we do, whatever measures we take will necessarily be imperfect and inadequate. I cannot be happy about the encouragement of private vengeance. If people have suffered the penalty appropriate to their crime and are discharged from prison, they have a right to live in safety so long as they live peaceably. I feel unhappy about anything which threatens that. As Sherlock Homes once remarked: A Judge Lynch may try the case". I do riot want that to become recognised as the normal way to behave, because it weakens respect for the law. That is something which threatens us all.

What is really needed is more understanding of the roots of the offending behaviour. At the moment we have practically none at all. Until we have that understanding, we really cannot know the proper way to treat the problem, Therefore, if anything we do will be a mistake, I would rather try to understand the subject a little better than we do at present before we do more than keep up the eternal vigilance which is the duty of law enforcement. That something must be done—I think the noble Earl knows—is one of the most dangerous cries in politics. I agree that something must be done; but I do not know what, and I would rather not do it until I do.

Lord Bassani of Brighton

My Lords, perhaps I may add my congratulations to the noble Earl. It is some 19 hours since my four year-old woke me so I understand the noble Lord's dilemma perfectly well.

The new clause is a troubling clause. It is a clause which as a parent I find very difficult. I find the whole area difficult because, like any other parent, I want to afford to my children the maximum protection that I can. My problem with the amendment is that I do not believe it will achieve the objective that it has at its heart. I cannot believe that it will protect people in the way some might argue that it will, although I do understand the strength of feeling behind it.

The issue of access to the information contained on the Sex Offenders' Register obviously has sparked an extensive debate since the sad and tragic death of Sarah Payne. Like the noble Earl, Lord Russell, we are at a loss to be absolutely certain what is the right course of action. The noble Earl is right, we need a better understanding of what motivates that type of crime by the criminal. But, notwithstanding that, because the Government share the public's concern about sex offenders, they have moved very quickly indeed with a whole package of measures which are reflected in the Bill. They were considered during the Committee stage. They were also considered this evening when we put further measures into the legislation and extended their effect to Scotland. We are on the case. We are there. We are with the public on this. But it is getting the approach right that will drive us all forward.

The police already have the power to disclose information about registered offenders where they consider that doing so would prevent a serious crime being committed. Therefore, they already disclose information to individuals and to organisations in local communities when they believe the circumstances justify that approach.

The proposed new clause will affect the current position in two ways. First, anyone can apply to the police for such information. The question has to be, is that right? Secondly, the criteria for disclosure of the information will be changed from the prevention of serious crime to acting "in the interests of the residents of the local police area". Both of those changes would create further problems without necessarily enhancing the protection of the public and, in particular, children.

The Government have carefully examined whether there should be "controlled" access to the sex offenders' register but have concluded that there is no practical way of achieving that. Therein lies the difficulty in this whole debate. They have done so following careful and detailed consultations with those who have primary responsibility for protecting the public from sex offenders. Once information has been disclosed, it is not possible to control what is done with it, whether it is given on to a third party or how it is used or perhaps abused in the public domain.

The danger of the kind of public disorder incidents that we saw during the summer months is that they lead to a lower level of knowledge and monitoring about the behaviour of sex offenders. The understandable fear is that sex offenders will be driven underground and that it will be much more difficult for the police and Probation Service to keep track of their movements. A number of those who might have been affected by a controlled access approach, were it workable, have gone to ground as a consequence and their new identities and addresses are not known to the authorities. That makes it much more difficult to subject their activities to any form of monitoring or control. That fundamentally undermines rather than strengthens the protection of children and others and perhaps casts them into a more vulnerable situation.

There are occasions when the police judge that, despite these possible reactions, it is not only necessary but essential to share information with individuals and organisations to prevent a repeat of some horrific sex crime. But such decisions have to be carefully balanced and considered. The lower threshold of "the interests" of the local community is another strangely ill-defined notion and would make it more difficult to control the disclosure of such information in a way which limits the risk of public disorder while at the same time maximising the protection of children.

For those reasons, while I certainly sympathise with part of the motivation behind the amendment—certainly the concern behind it—we do not feel able to accept the amendment. I am sure that the noble Earl understands that. I read in a News of the World cutting that it is a probing amendment. The noble Earl has repeated that across theChamber. But that is where we see public policy at this time.

It is worth placing on record that we have a debt of gratitude to all of those who have been involved in the Sarah's Law campaign and to Members of the party opposite who have given their support to our package of measures to strengthen the law and deepen further the protection of the vulnerable public.

11.15 p.m.

The Earl of Courtown

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the Minister for their contributions. In many ways I understand the points they have made, but at the end of the day I speak as a parent. If someone on the sex offenders' register was living next door to me, I would want to know. I understand the arguments that have been made. In no way do I condone vigilante activity. I think that both the noble Earl and the Minister would agree with what I am saying. But I am thinking of the position of parents with young children who have someone on the sex offenders' register living next door. I shall read carefully what has been said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 87 and 88: Page 63, line 15, leave out from beginning to ("a"). Page 63, leave out lines 21 to 23.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 89: Page 63, leave out lines 26 to 30 and insert ("or ( ) a person fails to comply with any requirement imposed by virtue of section 2(6D) above to give a notice, or gives a notice which does not disclose the required information or which discloses information which he knows to be false").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Brennan

My Lords, I appreciate that at this late hour it may be tedious for noble Lords to listen to a short speech dealing with an exceptionally important point addressed in this amendment. I regret that, because of the grouping arrangements, the House may not be aware that, since we considered the Bill in Committee, the Government, through Amendments Nos. 85 and 89, have substantially altered the Bill. They have altered it much for the better. The enforcement of the register kept on sex offenders who travel abroad has been rendered far more effective. While applauding them for that, I should like to raise points on the regulations that are to be made under the Act.

Noble Lords may recall that in a previous contribution I said that the register has achieved a 97 to 98 per cent rate of compliance. That is phenomenal. The Association of Chief Police Officers regards it as a most effective way both of controlling and of detecting sex offenders. That association, along with ECPAT (UK)—the NGO dealing with this problem—wants the register to be extended to cover people travelling abroad. These amendments achieve that and will increase the penalty imposed on those who breach the requirements.

The points I wish to raise are as follows. The regulations introduce a power to require the offender to give information on his movements while travelling outside the United Kingdom. Surely that should include details of the itinerary as well as the addresses of hotels or other accommodation. To frame regulations which state that such information should be given only where the offender knows exactly where he is going would demonstrate far too much latitude to a convicted sex offender. The requirement must be much tougher. The reason for that is obvious: the compliance that exists in this country could then be transferred abroad. The police authorities, once they have been notified over here, could then tell the police authorities in the relevant countries where the person was travelling. The children in those countries would then enjoy protection, just as the register seeks to protect children living here.

On a person's return. Amendment No. 85 would require that details of the journey should be given. Again, surely the relevant regulations should include a requirement to disclose the countries in fact visited. The immigration authorities can then examine the passport; and if someone states that he went to France, it will be discovered whether subsequently he visited the problem countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines and so forth. What is the point of this requirement? It would establish, first, where such people were staying at the time when sex offences may have been committed. The information would be an aid to potential detection. Secondly, it would establish any change from the previously declared route. That in itself will be an offence under the restrictions provided in Clause 89.

These matters occupy not only this country, but also the United Nations. When I visited Geneva two weeks ago, I discovered that those in the United Nations Commission for Human Rights looking into the rights of the child consider that international sex crime has now reached major proportions. Informally—subject to studying the details of the Bill—the commission's representatives indicated that they thought that the Government's initiative on the development of the register was of major potential importance to act as a model for other countries.

With that important prospect in mind, I invite the Government to consider the following points, namely, that all existing offenders on the register must be notified both of the new law and of the penalties for not complying. Secondly, when are they supposed to give notice of their intended trip abroad? As I read the Bill, no precise timing is required. That timing will be required by the police in the countries they will visit, and notice needs to he given in due time.

Thirdly, a question arises as to the giving of the notice to go abroad, either orally or in writing. With due respect to our constabulary, if someone comes into a police station and mumbles four or five foreign names and three or four hotel names, there is no real likelihood that there will be accuracy unless it is written down then and there, one copy being given to the person orally reporting and the other being retained by the police to be acted upon. If it is given in writing, the notice can be checked for its adequacy. In either event, Section 2(6) of the Sex Offenders Act allows the police to acknowledge the notice—in other words, to keep a precise record of what they were told. The net result should be that the register is effective.

Your Lordships have been most patient. While the time is late and this topic comes up at the very end of the debate, it would be unfortunate, after the tribulations of today, if a change—which I think is welcomed on all sides of the House—was not properly recorded and the steps I have mentioned implemented to make this an effective reform.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, for his intervention. I apologise for any unintended discourtesy in the way in which we rapidly moved through the amendments earlier.

The amendment is very useful. It will provide for basic information to be sought from offenders on the register of the detail of their travel arrangements—the date of travel, the country of destination, the place of entry and so on. As part of the present review of the Sex Offenders Act, it is our intention to look at some of the other detail that may be usefully brought forward into this method of regulation. We think that the detail of that regulation will be very important. Some of the points made by the noble Lord—for instance, the address of where offenders may stay, the details of their tour itinerary, where their onward travel may be from their first destination, and so on—can be dealt with as part of the regulations.

This is a very helpful contribution. We are leading the field in terms of dealing with international sex crimes against: children. It is an area of developing law and developing regulation. We shall, of course, consult on the detail of the content of the regulations. I shall make careful note of the points made by the noble Lord, particularly the importance of giving written notification and ensuring that those offenders who fall within the remit of the amendment receive adequate advice, warning and information as to its effect. That is a very helpful suggestion.

These are matters we shall further explore. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his helpful contribution to this area of developing policy.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I apologise profusely if I was responsible for the noble Lord missing the natural opportunity to make his points. My understanding of the instructions I received from the Whips' Office was that Amendment No. 85 was included in the group of amendments. I thought there had been a mishap involving the Minister. Had I realised that it would open up an opportunity for the noble Lord to make important comments duo should be on the record, I apologise.

Lord Bach

My Lords, it was certainly not the noble Baroness's fault.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 90 to 93: Page 65, line 10, leave out from ("hospital") to end of line 11. Page 65, line 28, leave out from beginning to ("there") in line 32 and insert— ("At the end of section 10"). Page 65, line 37, leave out (""3") and insert (""3(1A)"). Page 65, line 37, leave out from ("(b)") to ("there") in line 38.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 65 [Section 64: interpretation]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved amendment No. 94: Page 45, line 31, leave out ("in England and Wales").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 65 deals with how you define those offenders covered by Clause 64 in respect of whom arrangements have to be made by the responsible authorities for assessing and managing the risk they pose.

The technical amendments to Clause 65 have been proposed to clarify the statutory duty in respect of offenders sentenced by a court martial or by a courts-martial appeals court, to make it clear that it is limited to those offenders who are subject to the notification requirements under Part I of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 or to whom the conditions for disqualification from working with children set out in Sections 28(2) and 28(3) and 29(2) and 29(3) apply.

The amendment to Clause 66 will have the effect that the local board will not have to inform the victims of offences where the offender has been convicted or dealt with by a court martial or courts-martial appeals court.

I ought to record my gratitude to noble Lords who highlighted in Committee the defect in the present Clause 66(2) which caused us to re-visit the drafting in this area. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 95 to 99: Page 45, line 31, after ("convicted") insert ("by a court in England or Wales"). Page 46, line 6, leave out ("in England and Wales"). Page 46, line 6, after ("guilty") insert ("by a court in England or Wales"). Page 46, line 16, leave out from ("if') to ("satisfied") in line 17 and insert ("the first condition set out in section 28(2) or 29(2) or the second condition set out in section 28(3) or 29(3) is"). Page 46, line 17, at end insert— ("( ) In this section "court" does not include a court-martial or the Courts-Martial Appeal Court.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 66 [Duties of local boards in connection with victims of certain offences]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 100: Page 46, line 19, leave out from beginning to ("on") in line 20 and insert ("a court—

  1. (a) convicts an offender of a sexual or violent offence, and
  2. (b) imposes a relevant sentence").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 101 and 102: Page 46, line 21, leave out subsection (2). Page 47, line 13, leave out subsection (8).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 103: Page 47. line 17, at end insert— (""court" does not include a court-martial or the Courts-Martial Appeal Court,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 69 [Failure to secure regular attendance at school: increase in penalty]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 104: Leave out Clause 69.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the amendment would attempt to leave out Clause 69. That is the clause that deals with parents whose children do not regularly attend school. It raises the fine to which they may be subject from £1,000 to £2,500.

As the Minister pointed out in Committee, my objection is to the principle behind the clause. The principle of vicarious guilt is being applied to the parent. Since I was not in a position to come in at the ground floor, I am at least, I hope, entitled to say that planning permission should not be given to build another storey on this house, because I believe that it should not have been here in the first place.

This clause altogether over-rates the power that some parents have over teenage children. Queen Elizabeth I once heard a protest from the Spanish ambassador about the activities of Sir Francis Drake, and replied: The gentleman careth not if 1 should disavow him". The language is different, but I believe that the reaction of many parents who are asked to control the activities of their teenage children boils down to very much the same thing.

The number of sanctions available to the parent of a teenager is strictly limited. Sometimes it can be done simply because the child wants approval, but that is not always the case. My father once remarked, "Most children desire approval. If they did not, all discipline would be impossible". However, the minority who are the exceptions are very often the ones with whom we are dealing in this situation.

I believe that the clause also misunderstands the likely reaction of parents who may be very shamed and distressed by the imposition of this procedure. I understand that the object is not actually to levy the fine but to secure an attendance at court. But very often the reaction of parents whose children bring them into disgrace is to want to dissociate themselves from them quite forcefully; in other words, "It's nothing to do with me". That reaction means that they will not want to appear in court. In fact, the more shamed and disgraced they feel, the more those parents will want to be nowhere where their child's record is being examined.

The ultimate sanction available to parents of teenagers is, I regret to say, expelling them from home. If noble Lords were to read the report of the Children's Society, Still Running, they would find that a very high proportion of children—indeed, I believe it is 19 per cent—who run away from home are expelled by their parents. I do not want that proportion to increase. Very often, those children have to take refuge in what the Children's Society describes as "risky survival strategies"—for example, selling sex or drugs, stealing or begging. None of the latter is an activity that any of us from any quarter of the House would wish to see more of than we do at present. In so far as this clause has an effect, that is the likely effect that it will have.

In Committee, the Minister faced me with evidence to which I listened with some care. He cited cases where parents are actually in collusion with the child who does not attend school because they are involving the child in some money-making activity, or taking him away on holiday when he ought to be in school. I am not defending such actions. Indeed, in such cases, the clause might possibly have a useful effect because it would hold the parent responsible for something that the parent had actually done. That seems to me to be proper.

I cannot move an amendment on Third Reading for the deletion of a clause. However, I hope that the Minister wants to come out of this Bill with some reasonably amicable compromises; indeed, I trust that he may. We do not always have to have a confrontation on everything: but it takes two to compromise. I have in mind what we may do hereafter. Before we return to the matter on Third Reading, I wonder whether the Minister will consider an amendment to this clause suggesting that it should apply only where the child has been evading attending school with the "knowledge and consent" of the parent. The active involvement of the parents in approving this seems to me to be an essential constituent of their deserving any punishment; and, indeed, of it being possible practically to impose it.

I do not know whether that compromise will be acceptable to the Minister. However, I am prepared to discuss it in detail, make adaptations and see what we can do. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, my name has been attached to this amendment. I have a few questions for the Minister. It would be useful to know the extent to which the schemes to reduce truancy in schools that have been put in place at very great cost have been successful. Right across the country local authority schools have received money to help them produce strategies for reducing the number of young people who are truanting from school. It would be helpful to be given that information.

In May this year I tabled a Question for Written Answer which was answered by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. I asked, How many parents have been found guilty and fined in connection with the offence of non-attendance at school; and what is the average fine for parents found guilty in connection with the offence of non-attendance at school; and how many parents have received the maximum fine of £2,500 in connection with the offence of non-attendance at school?".—[Official Report, 18/5/00; cols. WA 37–38.] To all three Questions the answer was that the department did not know and that it would be disproportionately costly to find out the information. If that is the case, what is the basis for doubling the fine? What is the argument for saying that doubling the fine will have an effect?

I re-tabled the Question in a different form in October. I received a reply on Monday 30th October. In that Answer, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, argued that it was disproportionately expensive to find out the information. However, the noble Baroness added: Most importantly, our proposal —that is, doubling the level of the fine— will force parents prosecuted for school attendance offences to turn up in court to face the consequences of their actions, or risk arrest. It will also give magistrates greater flexibility when deciding on the fine level to impose when parents are found guilty".—[Official Report, 30/10/00; col. WA 72.] I find that extraordinary. I understand that 80 per cent of parents do not turn up in court now. I have done a little detective work of my own in a number of courts with which I am familiar. The levels of fine are derisory. They range from £10 to £20 and up to £50. Evidence shows that some parents are fined an average of £50 to £100. The Government are talking of doubling the limit of the fine but the courts are nowhere near using the limit of the fine at the moment. What is the rationale for the measure? If 80 per cent of parents do not turn up in court when a lower maximum fine may be imposed, what makes the noble Lord believe that they will turn up if it is doubled?

How much more flexibility will such a measure give the courts if they are not using the flexibility available to them at present to levy greater fines on parents who commit offences in relation to non-attendance at school? How will the measure that is proposed increase flexibility in this regard? The department does not know how many parents are found guilty or appear in court. It would be helpful to hear the Minister's views on that matter.

As the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said, we all have an interest—this is common to Members on all sides of the House—in seeing our young people in school. Every day spent out of school constitutes another lost opportunity for young people. The most vulnerable children are the ones who are most at risk of losing out on education. That blights their lives for ever. Anything that can be done to reduce the incidence of truancy would have my support. However, it must be something practical that will work. I believe that the Department for Education recently announced giving the police powers to conduct a sweep of streets and shopping areas during school hours to take truant children back to school. I support that practical measure. I am sure that the police would carry it out in a sensitive manner. The important matter is to find a way of getting truanting children back in school.

I refer to another proposal that I would have supported when I was a Minister if we in the department had not been thwarted by confidentiality rules. Children who spend time out of school will often say that they have been to the dentist or to the doctor or they have been doing this, that or the other. It was not possible for the police to check with the dentist or doctor to verify the excuse. I was sad about that as I thought that it would have been breaching confidentiality for good reason if a dentist or a doctor were allowed to say that the reason he was giving the information was to ensure that the children in question did not get away with false excuses for being out of school illicitly. I hope that across Whitehall ways can be found to allow for that kind of breach of confidentiality.

At the end of the day, I believe that it is in the interests of the child to be back at school. I am not against reducing truancy. I am not against practical suggestions. But simply doubling the fine will do nothing for these parents. We have already talked about instances where the parent is not culpable. In good faith, the parent ensures that the children have their breakfast and are sent to school. I gave the example of a case known to me where for three months the child had been sent off to school. The school rang to ask whether the child had left the school or the family had left the area. The parent was completely unaware that the child had not attended school but was playing with friends somewhere else in town. How culpable is a parent in that situation? As parents we have a responsibility to ensure that our children attend school. Where does the culpability lie when the parent sees the child through the school gate, the child registers for school, and then disappears?

Finally, there is confusion about where those cases are dealt with. The adults appear in the adult court; the children appear in the juvenile court. The same issue is discussed. They are treated very differently in the courts. It is unsatisfactory. I believe that the clause should not be in the Bill. I support the noble Earl, Lord Russell.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, this sounds like dangerous liberalism with perhaps Conservatives going soft on the issue of truancy.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it is not going soft on truancy. I believe that I gave sufficient examples to underline that we should do all that we can to get children back into school. It is for the Minister to defend why this policy will be effective.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I am more than happy to make that case and put that argument. However, when we come up with measures which are quite hard nosed and tough, Members from the party opposite do not seem to want to deal with that toughness.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I remind the Minister, first, that there are two parties opposite; and, secondly, that the point at issue is whether these measures are effective. I should be grateful if the Minister will address that point.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I am well aware that there are two parties opposite; and, yes, I intend to deal with whether these measures will be effective.

I am acutely aware that our children have only one chance at education. I have three children at school. As a parent I, too, have to account for their behaviour and attitude, and what my children do in and out of school. I see that as an important parental responsibility. Today I have had to send a letter to my son's school to advise the school on why he had a day and a half off school, and why he could not get to school on time yesterday. I believe that that is an important responsibility placed on parents. I take my responsibilities seriously and expect others to do exactly the same

At least 1 million children at school play truant in any one year. I was interested in the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Russell. He seemed to conjure up an image of the average truant: an early teenaged boy, perhaps a child under duress at home, not enjoying happy home circumstances. That may be the case in some instances. But the noble Earl may need to take account of this important statistic: the majority—some 600,000 of those who truant—are of primary school age and their parents know and collude with the fact that they are not at school.

The Government believe in practical, quite hard-nosed measures. For that reason the truancy sweeps referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, initiated by the Government, and mounted by the police working with local authorities, work very effectively. They have found that two-thirds of those children are out of school without permission and are with their parents when they are found. That is further evidence of collusion.

As the noble Baroness rightly acknowledged, 80 per cent of parents prosecuted for school attendance offences fail to turn up at court. Clearly they do not believe that it is worth their while or that they should be interested. Most are fined in their absence. The noble Baroness referred to parliamentary Questions that she has asked. I am happy to confirm that those Answers show that the courts fine as little as £1 to £10, with an average fine of £50 to £100. Only a small number of fines reach the maximum level of £1,000.

The background information suggests that there are 60 prosecutions a year using the relevant provision in education legislation, which has been in place for 50 years or more. There may not be a large number of cases that make their way to court, but there is an important issue at stake. If we as a society disapprove strongly of people playing truant, we should say so. This is a way of making a powerful public statement of our disapproval of truancy. Truancy leads to young people getting into trouble and can lead to terrible offences. That is why the Government have taken the issue so seriously. Everyone says that they want to do something about truancy, but thus far nobody has been prepared to do it. We believe that we should. If the measure sends a powerful message to society, we shall have achieved our aim.

On 19th October, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Home Secretary announced a series of measures to tackle unauthorised absence from school. Next year, £43 million will be made available to schools and local education authorities to use on a range of initiatives to tackle truancy and improve discipline in schools. The two are undoubtedly linked.

The Secretary of State has called for a renewed effort to tackle truancy through a co-ordinated programme of truancy sweeps in every local authority. Funding will be provided for more learning mentors in Excellence in Cities areas where extra provision can be made to help individual children at risk of not attending or not succeeding at school. We intend to consult carefully with schools that have above average truancy levels. The new Connexions service will provide further advice and guidance to all 13 to 19-year-olds. All young people who want support will have access to a personal adviser.

The noble Baroness made great play of the level of fines. I suppose that the nub of her argument was that if the fines are generally low—perhaps £10 or £50 to £100—what is the point of raising the maximum fine to £2,500 or of making the offence potentially imprisonable? The point is that a warrant can then be issued so that the parents can be brought to court. The magistrates can then see the parents and make clear not just their displeasure at the parents' inability to get to grips with the issue or to share responsibility—

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, cannot a person who defaults on a fine be brought back to court already?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, that is the case, but it is much better that the parent should have a responsibility to be present in the first instance when a case is brought before the court. I am sure that the noble Baroness agrees that it cannot be right that parents do not show up at court in 80 per cent of cases. Our strategy will mean that there is every possibility that parents will be brought before the court and the magistrates will be able to discuss in the court why they are failing to ensure that their children turn up at school. It will then be at the discretion of the magistrate to reach a decision on the best course of action and assess whether a parenting order or a community sentence is more appropriate. However, without the appearance of the parent and without proper parental explanation, the magistrates are not in a position to do that. We believe that for that reason many magistrates take the understandably easier option of imposing a low level of fine. They know that if they impose a heavier fine or penalty it will have little effect and, in many instances, may go unpaid—one of the banes of a magistrate's life.

I have not been at all convinced by the noble Baroness's arguments for taking no further action on truants. I understand the arguments and am perfectly prepared to be sympathetic to the point made by the noble Earl with regard to seeing whether we can improve the quality of our approach and whether we can explore the issue of knowledge and consent. That is clearly important and I am quite prepared to do that. However, we believe that our position on this matter is right. We cannot accept the amendment put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. We believe that our course of action is appropriate. It offers a way in which we can not only express our displeasure at parental collusion to truancy but also take effective action.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I thank the Minister warmly for his concluding words about being prepared to explore the issues of knowledge and consent. I hope that that may provide a way forward. I must confess that I am not quite so happy with some of the other parts of his reply. He said that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was proposing to do nothing about truancy. However, in her speech I listened with interest to a considerable number of proposals for possible action on truancy. On the spur of the moment, I am not certain how many of them I support. However, at the very least I believe that they prove that that charge was unjustified.

We cannot deal with this matter simply by suggesting that those who are against the clause are in favour of truancy. When any measure is put before this House we are entitled to ask two questions about it. First, is it effective, and, secondly, does it punish the guilty and not the innocent? Only if those two questions can be answered in the affirmative is the proposed measure justifiable. I am not certain that either question can be answered in that way in relation to this clause. If that cannot be established, the question as to whether we are for or against truancy does not arise.

Incidentally, since the Minister raised the question, when I paid my newspaper bill last Saturday I talked to the newsagent's daughter, who is a teacher. She told me that she intends to return to Nigeria to continue her teaching career because she says that there the children value what they are getting when they are taught. She says that here they simply say, "Miss, what is the point? Why do I have to do all this?" As does the Minister, I recognise that as a very serious problem. However, I believe that the solutions stretch rather wider than any envisaged in this Bill. Rather more of them are educational and rather more are connected with the pattern of subsequent employment than the Minister's defence of this clause would suggest.

I take his point about primary school children. However, he must admit—and, if he does not, his noble friend Lord Warner will tell him because such people come his way—that a number of teenagers of the type that I envisaged do truant from school. In those cases the parent may be quite unable to deal with the truancy. I believe that the Minister should be concerned if he has caught a large number of innocent or helpless parents in his net together with the guilty. It is not an awfully desirable system of law enforcement and we should avoid it.

I turn to the effect of the measure. I believe that I am correct in saying that, as it stands, the measure will lead to a considerable increase in teenage homelessness. The homeless do not normally have a particularly good record of school attendance. In that way the measure could be counter-productive.

The point the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, made about the funds is important. Courts have to live in the real world in a way that Whitehall does not. Whitehall is shut away from the public. It does not have to contest elections. Courts face members of the public every day. Their judgment of what can realistically be expected and what funds can be levied may be the better judgment of the two. My conclusion from the evidence of the noble Baroness is to wonder in how many cases the money envisaged in these funds is actually to be had.

The point the noble Baroness made about knowledge is also of considerable importance. If a child goes out of the house and there is no complaint heard from the school any parent is entitled to assume that the child is in school. I cannot see any way of rebutting that. Meanwhile if there is any chance of informal protest I should welcome it. Without that I would put down a revised amendment of the son: that could properly be discussed at Third Reading. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 7 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 105: Page 75, line 7, leave out from ("board") to end of line 8.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move Amendment No. 105 and speak briefly to Amendments Nos. 106 to 115. These amendments are all consequential on the substantive provisions of the Bill. I shall give a brief explanation of why each is necessary. Amendments Nos. 105, 106, 107, 110, 111, 112, 113 and 114 are all consequential on the reorganisation of the Probation Service and in particular on a replacement of probation committees by local boards. They insert definition of "local board" into those existing statutes where references will be made—as a result of further consequential amendments—under this Bill to "officers of a local board". Without these amendments, references to "officers of local boards" in these statutes would be meaningless.

Amendments Nos. 108 and 109 are minor drafting amendments to consequential amendments already in Schedule 7 to the Bill that are consequential on the abolition of detention in a young offender institution.

Amendment No. 105 is a minor drafting amendment to a consequential amendment already in Schedule 7 to the Bill that is consequential on the reorganisation of the Probation Service and, in particular, to the change in name of "probation officer" to "officer of a local board". I beg to move Amendment No. 105.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 106 to 115: Page 75, line 10, at end insert— (" . In section 70(1) (general interpretation), at the appropriate place there is inserted— "local board" means a local board established under section 4 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000;"."). Page 82, line 9, at end insert— (".In section 6(1) (general interpretation), at the appropriate place there is inserted— "local board" means a local board established under section 4 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000;"."). Page 82, line 12, leave out second ("prison") and insert ("or prison"). Page 82, line 28, leave out (""sentence of"). Page 82, line 37, at end insert— (" . In section 99(1) (general interpretation), at the appropriate place there is inserted— "local board" means a local board established under section 4 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000;"."). Page 83, line 14, at end insert— (" . The Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 is amended as follows."). Page 83, line 15, leave out ("of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993"). Page 83, line 17, at end insert— (" . In section 27(l) (interpretation of Part I), at the appropriate place there is inserted— "local board" means a local board established under section 4 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000;"."). Page 87, line 1, at end insert— (" . In section 54(1) (general interpretation), at the appropriate place there is inserted— "local board" means a local board established under section 4 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000;"."). Page 87, leave out lines 8 to 12 and insert (", in each of paragraphs 8(5) and 11(6), in the table, for "Probation officer" there is substituted "Officer of a local board").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Repeals]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 116: Page 106, line 32, column 3, after ("3,") insert ("paragraph 9(2),").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 116 which I move and Amendment No. 117 to which I speak are minor drafting amendments to Schedule 8, the schedule of repeals. I do not need to go into further explanation unless noble Lords require me to do so. I beg to move Amendment No. 116.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 117:

Page 107, line 7, at end insert—
("2000 c. Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000. In section 30(1), paragraph (b) of the definition of "qualifying sentence". In section 66(9), paragraph (b) of the definition of "relevant sentence".")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 77 [Commencement]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 118: Page 50, line 33, at end insert ("and different areas").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move Amendment No. 118 and speak to Amendment No. 120. These two amendments deal with the commencement of the provisions of the Bill. Amendment 118 enables the Lord Chancellor or the Secretary of State to appoint different days for the commencement for the provisions of the Bill for different areas.

As the Bill stands, different days may be appointed for commencement only for different purposes. Amendment No. 120 has the effect of removing paragraph 137 of Schedule 7 to the Bill from the list of provisions that will come into force on Royal Assent. I beg to move Amendment No. 118.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 119: Page 50. line 33, at end insert— ("( ) No day may be appointed for the commencement of sections 40 to 42 until the results of the review of the sentencing framework of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 can be taken into account.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in view of the lateness of the hour, I shall be brief. It is our understanding that the review of the sentencing framework of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 will encompass community orders. It would be confusing and unhelpful to both the courts and the Probation Service if there were to be more than one change to either the nature or name of such orders. For that reason, we propose delaying the implementation of the name changes under this Bill until that review has been completed and has made known its recommendations so that they may be taken into account by this House. I beg to move.

Lord Bach

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on her ingenuity in bringing back the famous Clauses 40, 41 and 42 in this particular form towards the very end of our proceedings.

I am afraid that I cannot agree with her. The sentencing review must be distinguished from what we seek to do in the Bill. The sentencing review has been asked to look at the sentencing framework, which includes looking at the rationale for sentencing and at creating different types of sentences. That is a relatively long-term process.

The reason for renaming the orders is to deal with what we are sure is the public's current lack of understanding of what the existing community penalties mean. That does not pre-empt any of the issues being considered by the review. We believe that it is right to change the names as soon as is convenient in order that the public will get a better sense of what we want the existing orders to be.

One consequence of agreeing to the noble Baroness's amendment would be that the dreadfully named "combination order" might last a lot longer. No one knows what combination orders are, apart from the professionals who deal with them. The sooner that is changed, the better.

As I said, I congratulate the noble Baroness on her ingenuity, but we shall not fall for her suggestion. I ask her to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hanham

My Lords, I suppose that at this hour of the night, it is better to be called ingenious than incoherent. The noble Lord clearly understood where I was coming from and where I hoped to go. In view of the lateness of the hour, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I shall perhaps return to it at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 120: Page 50, line 40, after ("136") insert (", 138").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 78 [Extent]:

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 121 and 122: Page 51. line 13, at end insert— ("( ) this Chapter,"). Page 51. line 22, at end insert— ("( ) For the purposes of the Scotland Act 1998. any provision of section 63 and Schedule 5 and, so far as relating to those provisions and extending to Scotland, any provision of this Chapter is to be taken to be a pre-commencement enactment within the meaning of that Act.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

House adjourned at eight minutes past midnight.