My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Tordoff) in the Chair.]
1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Principles applicable to this ActPrinciples applicable to this Act
(1) This section applies to—
(a) the functions of the Secretary of State; and(b) the functions of providers of probation services and their officers,so far as they are exercised for the purposes set out in section 1.(2) In exercising those functions the person concerned must have regard to—
(a) the protection of the public;(b) the reduction of re-offending;(c) the proper punishment of offenders;(d) the need to ensure offenders’ awareness of the effects of crime on the victims of crime and the public; and(e) the rehabilitation of offenders.”
The noble Baroness said: The objective of the amendment is to give the Committee the opportunity to consider exactly what probation should be for in relation to the principles which should underlie the Bill. I hope it might bring some clarity to the remainder of our proceedings on the Bill.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, for tabling their amendment to mine, because it gives the Committee the chance of a full and, I hope, conclusive debate on this vital matter. I anticipate that the Government will not have difficulty with the drafting of my amendment, simply because I abstracted the text from their own Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill, the Offender Management Bill mark 1, of early 2005. Furthermore, after my honourable friend Mr Edward Garnier had moved his amendment in Committee in another place on 11 January 2007, at col. 9, the Minister said that he would “consider” the matter. On Report, the Government then introduced the text in a different part of the Bill, in Clause 2, where it presently lies, fulfilling a rather different function. We welcomed that improvement to the Bill, so my text has a happy history. I hope it will have a happy future, too, but we will see about that.
The look on the noble Baroness’s face does not give me much hope.
I accept that my amendment goes beyond the remit of the Government’s amendment to Clause 2; it does so on purpose. The amendment sets out the principles that should apply broadly to the Bill. They should guide those who provide probation services, whether it be the Lord Chancellor, probation trusts, private companies or the voluntary sector. Those principles should, as a minimum, comprise: protecting the public, reducing reoffending, the appropriate punishment of offenders, making offenders aware of the effects of their acts on victims and rehabilitating offenders. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, would remove from that list my reference to,
“the proper punishment of offenders”.
The Probation Service has been the victim of continual reorganisation since 1997; now it faces yet another. It is essential that those who will provide services under the new system have guidance on the proper functions of probation. I do not doubt that the professional members of the Probation Service already follow the principles set out in my amendment in their management of offenders, and we should recall that they do so in the most difficult circumstances. Their clients are the most difficult in society to care for or to control. Statistics tell us that they are largely drug users, dishonest and disorganised. If the public are to have confidence in non-custodial sentences and the extension of their use in future—for example, in monitoring those on bail and in the supervision of offenders released into the community—it is vital that the protection of the public is a key principle that applies to all probation providers. In particular, we must remind ourselves that probation provision will comprise a much wider range of organisations.
I realise that public expectations of what the probation services can achieve in public protection are often unrealistic, particularly when newspaper reports fan the flames of fear, but it must none the less be a key principle. What will the lines of accountability be to ensure that all those tasked with public protection do the job effectively? What will be the sanctions if they do not? How soon can those sanctions be imposed to prevent injury to individuals or property? How can that be achieved without imposing on the system an overburdened and overburdening bureaucracy?
The Government have trumpeted their assertion that the Bill is all about reducing reoffending; so that part of my amendment will, I hope, find favour. It is clearly what the public wish to see as the outcome of probation supervision. The reoffending rate for adult prisoners within two years of their release from custody is around 67 per cent, while the rate for young offenders, we are told, is nearer 80 per cent—appalling rates, which all of us wish to see reduced.
Rehabilitation must go hand in hand with a reduction of reoffending, because if one is rehabilitated one simply does not reoffend. Rehabilitation has a further important benefit: it improves the lives of the offender’s family. Indeed, society as a whole can benefit where rehabilitation teaches new skills and a sense of responsibility. However, we must all recognise that that comes at a cost. Rehabilitation must include some form of resettlement and aftercare; otherwise, we simply lose people back into the criminal justice system. Services and programmes offered by probation providers need to be varied and effective to fit the individual’s needs. The voluntary sector already plays a vital role here but it certainly could be much more significant given the chance.
It is important that offenders are made aware of the effect of their crimes on victims, but I certainly was not born yesterday: I realise that that is difficult to achieve when trying to rehabilitate offenders. It makes a difference to the behaviour of some if they are shown the impact of their behaviour on the community or an individual; for others, it is a case of saying “So what?”, showing two fingers and walking away. However, it is worth the effort of making them realise the impact they have. It is an important ally of the work on rehabilitation and the reduction of reoffending.
Finally, I turn to the part of my amendment that has caused some offence by its reference to,
“the proper punishment of offenders”.
Is that the role of the Probation Service and is it a principle that should be in the Bill? I believe that it is. The clearest example of its relevance is the breach procedure that is taken by the Probation Service when an offender does not comply with the terms of his order or when a person simply fails to comply with his bail conditions. As a magistrate, I used to sit on hearings when breach proceedings had been taken and were before us. I was always impressed by the judgment exercised by the Probation Service in making the decision about when to bring breach proceedings. The court did not have to impose further punishment or recall the person to prison. That was a decision for the court.
In the briefing provided for this debate by the National Association of Probation Officers—I asked it for its assistance—I see that the number of persons breached for failure to comply with an order has increased fourfold in the past five years. That is an alarming statistic. I understand NAPO’s concern that the Government have increasingly emphasised probation’s role in terms of punishment and public protection. I fully agree with the view expressed by the Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, at the centenary conference of the Probation Service, which was held last week. He said that,
“if I have a theme today it is that as fundamental to successful offender management is the building of relationships. The job is not primarily about meeting targets, or satisfying a business case, or enforcing community punishments, or breaching those who do not comply with orders, or risk assessment. These all may be part of the job, but if building relationships is not at the heart of the exercise, the exercise will be likely to fail”.
How right he is.
In practical terms, the role of the Probation Service and the proper punishment of offenders go further than bringing breach proceedings, for the simple reason that any programmes that must be followed under non-custodial sentences will necessarily deprive a person of his liberty to pursue other activities. Any supervision requirements, whether reporting times or following programmes, have to impinge upon one’s individual liberty of action. Surely any deprivation of liberty must in itself constitute a punishment. I agree with the Lord Chief Justice, who said that that is part of the job.
I look forward to what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, have to say, but I am minded to leave the reference to punishment in my amendment. However, I shall listen and, I hope, learn. I beg to move.
2: Before Clause 1, line 11, leave out paragraph (c)
The noble Lord said: I deliberately oppose Amendment No. 1, as I shall explain, because I stand in agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, about putting the four other principles in the Bill where she proposes.
I have to start by saying, as I said on Second Reading, that the Bill is rather strange. Although it is entitled the Offender Management Bill, it is more about the management of the management of offenders and not about the management of the offenders themselves. If the Bill had been about the management of offenders, I would have expected that it would from the very beginning have been all about explaining what NOMS actually is and what NOMS does.
The two services mentioned in the Bill—the Prison Service and the Probation Service—are alleged to be part of NOMS. I remind the Minister of a question that I asked her on Second Reading and which has not yet been answered. It was whether NOMS is a service or a system, because they are different things. I also quoted a Written Answer given in the other place by the then Minister, Mr Goggins. He said:
“The establishment of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) now provides clear leadership and accountability for the performance of all the correctional services and for reducing re-offending”.—[Official Report, Commons, 22/3/05; col. 652W.]
But the NOMS website, which I last looked at two weeks ago, says:
“NOMS is the system through which we commission and provide the highest quality correctional services and interventions in order to protect the public and reduce re-offending”.
Which is it? It may be a service giving,
“leadership and accountability for … performance”,
but that is a completely separate thing from being a system in which everyone who has anything to do with the rehabilitation of offenders is a member. We need to know which it is. The Bill contains provision particularly for probation and how NOMS will work in the field with its regional offender managers—people without budgets who will be responsible for commissioning. The Bill seems to be more about how the ROMs are to work, and who they are to work with, rather than about the principles of what the treatment of offenders should be all about.
We will come in our discussions on the Bill to many other questions about that issue. But the issue of whether “punishment” is the right word has very deep roots in the whole ethos of the Probation Service ever since it started. I consulted many members of the Probation Service on the Bill, and the one thing that, as the Scots would say, “stuck in their craw” is the inclusion of the word “punishment” in the list of what they are supposed to do.
I remind the Committee of the wording of the Probation of Offenders Act 1907, which established the Probation Service. Section 3(1) states:
“There may be appointed as probation officer or officers for a petty sessional division such person or persons of either sex as the authority having power to appoint a clerk to the justices of that division may determine, and a probation officer when acting under a probation order shall be subject to the control of petty sessional courts for the division for which he is so appointed”.
In other words, probation and courts march together and they work locally in the areas where the courts are situated. Section 4 states:
“It shall be the duty of a probation officer, subject to the directions of the court ... to visit or receive reports from the person under supervision at such reasonable intervals as may be specified in the probation order or … as the probation officer may think fit … to see that he observes the conditions of his recognizance … to report to the court as to his behaviour … to advise, assist, and befriend him, and, when necessary, to endeavour to find him suitable employment”.
I venture to suggest that those principles are as relevant today as they were when they were written. For 93 years, advising, assisting and befriending was the ethos of the Probation Service—a service of which everyone in this country was immensely proud. It was not until 2001 that those principles were thrown away and the new ones which are the subject of the noble Baroness’s amendment were produced, including the words “proper punishment”. For the first time, the word “punishment” appeared.
Why do I object to the word “punishment”? The criminal justice system is not really a system at all. It consists of a number of organisations working together and three in particular: the courts, the police and the Prison and Probation Services. In general terms, the police investigate, the courts sentence and the Prison and Probation Services administer that sentence. The “punishment” in that is the punishment that is awarded by the courts because of the crime that has been committed. The first time that I heard that expressed was in a statement by the then Mr Leon Brittan, who, when he was Home Secretary, very clearly said that prison was punishment, it was not for punishment. In saying that, he was not speaking originally, because the phrase originally came from one Alexander Paterson, a famous commissioner of prisons, who in 1922 said exactly the same thing.
The fact that prison is punishment, not for punishment, is reflected in the statement of purpose of the Prison Service, which states:
“It is our duty to keep securely those committed by the courts, to treat them with humanity and to help them to lead useful and law-abiding lives in prison and on release”.
If we apply the same language and terms to the Probation Service in line with the wording in the Ministry of Justice description entitled, What We Do, issued on 9 May 2007, it should state: “It is our duty to supervise convicted offenders in the community, those subject to a court order and those released on licence from prison, to treat them with humanity and to help them to lead useful and law-abiding lives”. To my mind, that is a principle and purpose that would knit the two services together. They both have a duty to those committed by the courts to treat them with humanity and help them to live useful and law-abiding lives. That is the work that must be done.
I note that there is no mention of punishment in that. I am also interested by the addition of the word “proper” in the legislation. I would dearly like to know what “proper” means. What is proper punishment? Of course, as the noble Baroness rightly said, if someone breaches their probation they are punished for the breach. In exactly the same way, if someone offends against prison rules while in prison, they are punished for that, but that is an adjudication and punishment for something done during the sentence, it is not to do with the original sentence. That is the punishment awarded by the state. Although I know what the phrase “proper punishment” means—basically, it means the supervision of convicted prisoners, but it does not say so—punishment is the wrong word and gives absolutely the wrong impression of what the whole process of probation is about.
Therefore, although I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that it is absolutely right in the Bill, which starts with probation, to state the principles of probation at the start, so that they govern everything that follows, I submit that we should remove paragraph (c). Perhaps we should come up with other wording, but please let us exclude the word punishment because it is a very wrong definition of what probation is all about. I beg to move.
I have been most interested to listen to both of the previous speeches. I am bound to say that I am not convinced by either of them that there is any need for the new clause proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, or the amendment to it proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. I say that in part because not only, as the noble Baroness said, does the Probation Service abide by those principles at present, but Clause 2 repeats most of what is in her proposed additional clause.
On the argument between the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, he will undoubtedly have noticed that Clause 2(4)(c) includes the phrase,
“the proper punishment of offenders”.
Is the Probation Service involved with punishment? The answer must be no. Is it concerned at any point with the proper punishment of offenders? The answer must be yes. It does not impose the punishment; it is not supposed to. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, may think this simple, but I think that the phrase “proper punishment” means a punishment awarded by those properly assigned the task of punishment; namely, the courts.
I fully agree with everything that the noble Baroness said about the Probation Service, and indeed with the more detailed approach of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, as I agree with the quotation from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice about the relationships that must be created between probation officers and those who are subject to the Probation Service’s attentions. Of course that relationship involves resettlement, rehabilitation, and ensuring the absence of reoffending, but if I had to choose between the amendments of the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, I would not leave out,
“the proper punishment of offenders”,
because at some point, as I have already said, the Probation Service must consider whether the person whom it is supervising has to be returned to the custody of the courts for appropriate punishment. As the noble Baroness said, the courts have the discretion not to impose any punishment at all, but it is their job to impose it if they so think. Moreover, I believe it is the responsibility of the Probation Service in appropriate circumstances to send the offender back to prison so that the possibility of proper punishment may be considered.
As to whether one wants to hide away from the general public the fact that the Probation Service is concerned with punishment at any point, if this is to be recorded in a new clause—I believe that Clause 2 deals with this sufficiently already—it is probably beneficial that the public are aware that although the Probation Service’s principal task is rehabilitation and relationships, it must unfortunately from time to time consider the failures that require the possibility of the courts imposing punishment.
First, I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for coming into the Chamber a moment after she had begun her speech. I hope that she will not mind if I make some points about her very useful and helpful amendment.
Without entering into the kind of speech that would be appropriate at Second Reading, I believe that our intellectual and moral incoherence about punishment is what lies at the heart of many of the practical difficulties that the criminal justice system currently experiences. There is very little clarity, and certainly very little consensus, in society about what we think punishment is and what we think justifies it morally. The result is that we become polarised into people who are soft on crime and people who are tough. The people who are tough are supposed to support punishment, and the people who are soft do not like it being mentioned at all.
It is just possible that the arrival of these words in Clause 2 and the noble Baroness’s introduction of them as principles that should apply to the whole Bill—I am somewhat agnostic about which is better—in an amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, seeks to amend by removing those words, is some reflection of our anxiety, because we have no coherent intellectual consensus about what justifies punishment. It may have been a slip of the tongue, but I could not help noticing that the amendment refers to the “proper” punishment of offenders, while the noble Baroness referred at one point in her speech to the “appropriate” punishment of offenders. I am not quite sure whether there is a subtle distinction.
I am also not sure whether the emphasis in subsection (2)(c) is on the noun or the adjective. Is it that the Probation Service is to be principally concerned with punishment or with “proper” punishment, presumably as against “improper” punishment?
If I can help the right reverend Prelate at this point, it might assist the whole Committee before we go further with the debate. He is absolutely right to pick me up on this point. It was a slip of the tongue to use “appropriate” rather than “proper”, but it was probably a Freudian slip, because it goes to the root of what he is saying about the difficulty of knowing what a punishment is. I was trying to keep strictly to what I consider to be the proper way of defining “punishment” for the purposes of the clause, which is “proper punishment”. I emphasise that it is “proper punishment”. I am trying to convey the point that the Probation Service is not making up its own mind about how it should intensify punishment; it is carrying out clearly what the court has asked it to do. I hope that that has not muddied the waters further. I am aware from what other noble Lords have said that, rather like me, they feel that there is an awful lot of semantics in the Bill to make life difficult.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that clarification. If I understand her correctly, the definition of “proper” in that sentence is “as determined by the courts”. If that is the definition of “proper”, there is a case for the modification of paragraph (c) and where the word appears in Clause 2. The clauses should refer to “the administration of the punishment prescribed by the courts” so that we are clear where the activity of punishment rests.
This is important because the moral justification of punishment lies in the need of society to disassociate itself from acts that it cannot and should not condone. It is a quite understandable and fairly universal human instinct that the existence of sanctions, called “punishments”, is the way in which a society expresses the limits of behaviour that it finds acceptable. It is the punishment administered by the courts, in so far as it is a community punishment—that is, a punishment that takes place in the community—that the Probation Service has a responsibility to administer. If some form of words can be devised that indicates that, rather than a set of words that, with respect, do not really clarify, it would be very helpful either here or in Clause 2.
The reason why this discussion is important is that this is the year in which we celebrate the centenary of the Probation Service. As well as the conference that has been referred to, there is about to be a service in Westminster Abbey recognising that centenary. In this centenary year, we are not probably helping by reorganising the Probation Service in the way suggested by the Bill. It would be particularly unfortunate if we used words that gave credence to the notion that the Probation Service consists of people who do rather soft things and do not engage in enough toughness.
In my experience, being a probation officer is extremely tough. The rehabilitative and guidance activities in which probation officers engage are extraordinarily demanding on them and their clients. In our deliberations, we need to speak in a way that expresses confidence in the demandingness of rehabilitation, in the sole right of the courts to punish and in the duty of those who are part of the criminal justice system to administer the punishments strictly within what the courts prescribe. Of course, if the terms of the punishment are broken, it is for the courts to deal with that situation, as has already been said.
I hope that some way will be found in future stages of the Bill to produce a form of words that locates punishment in the right place, defines it properly and makes clear what the role of the Probation Service is in punishment and, by the same token, what it is not.
To my mind, the purpose of probation has always been the rehabilitation of offenders and the reduction of reoffending. I well understand people finding the word “punishment” unattractive and inappropriate when used with regard to probation. However, there are reasons for saying that we should not get too excited about the matter. We are all agreed on the need to divert people from crime. We are agreed that in many circumstances sending people to prison is going to educate them in crime rather than divert them from it, and that whenever possible we should try to avoid sending to jail non-violent offenders who are not a danger to the public.
I think that we are also agreed that we have to carry the public with us, if we are going to succeed in diverting more people from crime without sending them to prison. If we are to be successful in persuading the public that a prison sentence is not necessary, we have to show them that a community sentence is not a soft option or a let-off, but instead demands something of the customer. If, in persuading the public of that, one finds it necessary to talk of “punishment” in the community, that is nothing to get too fussed about.
I understand the concerns of Napo that over the past 15 years the Probation Service’s purposes have been “eroded”—I think that that is its word—with the introduction of the concepts of punishment, enforcement and public protection. I doubt, however, whether so many people—including, incidentally, many who a few years ago would never for one moment have been thought candidates for probation—would have been diverted from prison if these changes had not been made and if we had not educated the public in the way that we have.
I agree that one of the consequences of making probation and community service more taxing is the likelihood of more people being in breach and finding themselves in custody as a result. We have to be very wary of that danger. We must avoid systems that remove discretion and make custody an almost automatic consequence of breach. Community orders seem to work, though, in that the reoffending rate is much lower than is the case with, for instance, those on licence from prison. We should build on the success that has already occurred and we should try to make it plain to the public that this is a sensible approach and that it is not being soft on the offender. If to persuade the public of that we have to use the word “punishment”, I am all for using it, and using it often.
I support the amendment in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. I also support the amendment to that amendment, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, as the statement of principles in the Bill that the amendment seeks would be better for probation without the inclusion of “punishment”.
I am sorry that, on account of other commitments, I was not able to participate in the Second Reading debate, because many things needed to be said about a Bill that sets out to make such fundamental changes to a service—the Probation Service—that has served this country well over 100 years. But I am glad to be able to participate in Committee and at succeeding stages.
However, having missed Second Reading, I then had to go to Australia for two weeks, so I have barely had the chance to get myself up to speed. When I arrived back and asked how I could most usefully contribute today, I was told to speak for as long as I could on the principles of probation. That is not the kind of advice that I am accustomed to receiving and, should anyone ever give it, they usually come to regret it. The advice that I usually receive tends in the opposite direction. I am sure that that advice was not intended to encourage me to filibuster but that it simply reflected the importance that many people attach to the principles of probation, the subject of the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. All the same, I am mindful of the countervailing advice of an old mentor who used to say that there is little worth saying that cannot be said within a reasonable compass. I shall try to steer a middle course between the different sorts of advice that I have been receiving and keep my remarks as brief as I reasonably can.
As the right reverend Prelate said, there is a good deal of confusion about the role of punishment in our system. I suggest that the best way to sort out that confusion is to look at the system as a whole and in its component parts and to try to allocate the different aims of the penal system to different parts of that system as far as one reasonably can.
For the first half of my working life, I taught law in one of our major universities. I specialised in criminology and penology and it fell to me to teach students about the penal and sentencing system, which meant telling them about the different types of penal measure available to the courts, including prison and probation. Looked at as a whole, the penal system embodies a range of aims, from retribution, punishment and deterrence to reform and rehabilitation, protection and prevention. These are not divided up and parcelled out neatly among the different penal measures, with one measure representing one aim and another representing another. All penal measures have a mixture of aims and none represents a particular aim in pure form.
However, most penal measures probably represent one aim more than others and most aims probably characterise some penal measures more than others. Thus, fines and imprisonment are associated with the aims of punishment and deterrence more than any others; community service is associated with reparation to society and making the offender aware of the effects of crime on the victim. But I repeat that none of those aims exists in pure form. It is hoped that making some reparation to society will have a beneficial effect in terms of rehabilitation. Even prison strives to deliver a rehabilitative effect, although most of the time it seems to be an unequal struggle.
It went without saying in my day that probation exemplified the aims of reform and rehabilitation more than any others and that it was the penal system’s principal vehicle for pursuing these aims. From that point of view, probation was the custodian of all the most liberal elements in penal policy. It therefore came as quite a shock when I turned my attention to these matters again on my arrival in this House to discover how much things had changed in the intervening decades. It seems generally agreed that the historic values of probation have been progressively eroded over the past couple of decades, so I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and her colleagues that we must not miss the opportunity presented by the Bill, which threatens to wreak so much damage on the Probation Service, to reassert the traditional values of that service.
Let me illustrate what I mean about the progressive erosion of probation. The distinctive qualities of probation, which set it apart from more traditional penal measures, were emphasised right from the start, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has reminded us, in the Probation of Offenders Act 1907. That Act enabled the court to appoint probation officers so that certain offenders whom the court did not think it fit to imprison might be placed on probation under supervision. The duty of the officers, as is well known, was to advise, assist and befriend.
Telescoping the process considerably but still very much in line with the development of the Probation Service throughout the 20th century as the liberal arm of the penal system, I should say that in 1962 the Morrison committee characterised a probation officer as a,
“professional caseworker, employing in a specialised field, skills held in common with other social workers”.
Rehabilitation, from the start and for most of its history thereafter, has been at the very heart of probation.
But from the late 1980s onwards, underpinned by the Green Paper Supervision and Punishment in the Community, the process began to go into reverse and the Home Office started to move probation away from advising and assisting to community punishment. This was first formalised in the Criminal Justice Act 1991, which gave the Probation Service a central role in delivering punishment in the community. National standards first introduced in 1988 were substantially revised in 1995, 2000, 2002 and again in 2005, each time becoming increasingly focused on punishment, custody and enforcement. The Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 changed the name of probation orders to community rehabilitation orders; community service orders became community punishment orders, and the combination order became the community punishment and rehabilitation order. By 2000, probation officers could for the first time recommend custody in court reports. This changed one of the fundamental values of a service historically geared to dealing with offenders in the community.
The fact that the values of a service have changed over time, perhaps evolving with changing circumstances, does not prove that the clock should be turned back and traditional values reasserted; the values might have changed for good reason. But I do not think that this is so in the case of probation, and it is certainly not how those who staff and have to provide the service, whose morale has been considerably undermined by the changes, see things.
Why do I say this? I do so for two reasons. First, although I have argued that none of the repertoire of measures available to the British penal system exists in pure form and all have a mixture of aims, nevertheless it is the case that all have a predominant character or ethos in which one aim by and large transcends the others and gives it that predominant character. Thus prison is principally associated with punishment, and probation with rehabilitation, reform and reintegration into society. It is right that there should be a degree of specialisation in the aims pursued by different aspects of the penal system, and differentiation of function between them, otherwise there can be a deal of confusion and unclarity of purpose. Punishment and rehabilitation do not cohabit well or make comfortable bedfellows. It is therefore important to retain within the penal system an institution whose raison d’être is to serve the traditional aims of probation—rehabilitation and reform—differentiated from those elements of the system that are more oriented to supporting the aims of punishment, custody and deterrence.
Secondly, if we look at prison, where there has often been greater confusion over its role, it is an understatement to say that we do not see there an institution that can claim a conspicuous record of success. As often as not, people are sent to prison not from any great sense of conviction—pardon the pun—that it is a particularly useful or constructive thing to do, but rather because there does not seem to be anything else to do. Half of young male prisoners are back inside within two years, while a third of the general prison population achieves the same distinction. In 2002, the Social Exclusion Unit estimated that former prisoners were responsible for 1 million recorded crimes each year. One does not have to seek far for the reasons. Around a third of prisoners lose their homes while in prison. Devastating in itself, this also makes the hope of reintegration into the community so much more of a lost cause. Two-thirds lose their jobs and two-fifths lose contact with their families. The outcome is the same. Thus it is absolutely vital that a specific arm of our penal system should be unequivocally concerned with the goals of rehabilitation and reform to offset as far as possible the failure of imprisonment, and that this core purpose should be up in lights on the face of the Bill at its head.
When I taught criminology, figures for the comparative success rates of prison and probation were bandied about endlessly and were endlessly subjected to analysis, which was either sophisticated or casuistical and tendentious, depending on your point of view. But I always thought, even allowing for the differential characteristics of the clientele, that there was really no contest. Even if the success rates were no different, and I do not think that is the case—probation on most measures coming out considerably ahead of imprisonment, as the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, reminded us—probation would win hands down on grounds of cost, disruption and social harm caused. If you can get people into employment, the risk of reoffending is halved. If you can get them a home, it is cut by 20 per cent. Probation is obviously better placed to do this than prison. In parenthesis, I should say that for these reasons the parts of the Bill that promote partnership with community organisations are very much to be welcomed, although it has to be said that much partnership work of this kind takes place already and there is no impediment to more being done without changing the law.
Members of the Committee will observe and possibly object to the fact that I have concentrated almost entirely on rehabilitation. That is because I believe that rehabilitation is really the core animating principle at the heart of probation. I accept the other principles mentioned in the amendment and do not wish to quarrel with any of them, except punishment, which I shall come to in a moment. All the same, I wonder whether the amendment has the different principles in the right order. The only way ultimately to ensure the protection of the public, a reduction of reoffending and an awareness of the effects of crime on the victim on the part of its perpetrators is to rehabilitate them effectively. If you put the protection of the public first and despairingly decide that offenders cannot ordinarily be reformed, you move towards an American-style regime of long, fixed jail terms and deterrent-based sentencing. As we have seen, this has not been conspicuously successful, although it has been the UK’s direction of travel for some time now. Such an approach leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the ever fuller jails can make ever less provision for individual prisoners to lay the foundations for life outside prison. The longer they stay, the more uprooted they are when finally released. By contrast, the purposes of probation and all the benefits that it can bring to society, the victims of crime, the criminal justice system and offenders themselves were well summed up in the original duty to advise, assist and befriend.
I can give my reasons for supporting the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, quite briefly, because most of them are implied in what I have said already. The first is clearly that punishment does not sit comfortably with the rehabilitative role of probation. Too complex a mixture of aims leads to confusion and unclarity of purpose. Furthermore, too great an emphasis on punishment substantively undermines the rehabilitative work of probation, dependent as this crucially is on the development of a positive relationship between probation officer and prison officer. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, that it is important for people to see that probation is not a soft option, but I assure the Committee that a challenging relationship with a probation officer is anything but a soft option. The Probation Service certainly believes that strongly.
The second point is perhaps even more fundamental. It is true that the proper punishment of offenders is an appropriate and important aim of the criminal justice system, but there are questions about the balance in that system between punishment, restitution, retribution and other aims of criminal justice and how those are institutionally reflected. As I have argued, the Probation Service has a specific function within that system of acting as the principal vehicle through which the rehabilitative aims of the system are transmitted. Probation officers, no more than psychiatrists, are not particularly well placed professionally to say what constitutes the proper punishment for an offence or an offender. The judgment of what a person deserves is far removed from professional advice on the likely impact on an individual offender of one sentence as against another. What is a proper punishment is a matter for the criminal justice system as a whole. It is for the court, not the Probation Service or any other part of the criminal justice system, to arrive at and hand that judgment down. I therefore conclude that paragraph (c) should not remain in the amendment.
I did not manage to speak at Second Reading either, but I see that that is no impediment, having heard the previous speeches. I do not have a prepared speech, but I will ask one or two questions and make one or two points.
If I am talking about the nature and principles of probation, I would want that to be in relation to looking at how we treat offenders rather than how we maintain a service. That is the fundamental discussion that we seem to be avoiding. The arguments that I have heard so far are all about preserving a service. I want to preserve some of the principles, but those principles might have a different emphasis from what they had previously. Society has moved on; the Probation Service, like many other services—I speak as an ex-social worker and as the deputy chair of CAFCASS—has had to move on to meet modern-day conditions. The kinds of relationships that probation officers have to have in this day and age are somewhat different from what they might have had before. If we are looking for evidence about whether the present day service succeeds, we have only to look at reoffending rates—the whole emphasis of the Bill—to see that something has to be done and something has to change to intervene in reoffending rates.
If we look at helping offenders, we have to look at the whole system. I could have an esoteric debate about systems and services, but I am talking about those people who are working in that service and system together to try to ensure that those people who fall foul of the law to a lesser or greater degree have an appropriate service to help them to become part of the community once more. That is why, when I understood the nature of the service in the original debate, I was excited by it, because I could see the continuity of the service throughout.
We have found ourselves in a discussion about punishment, but I call it the use of authority. When I was a social worker we were trained in the use of authority, which has rather gone by the board. That meant that the people who you worked with understood at the end of the day that you brought about sanctions. Again, esoterically, you may not be the one who gave the sanction; that may have been the court or some other body. But you are the vehicle by which that sanction happens, it is your responsibility, and you are the one who is actually going to take the person back to court. I do not much like the word “punishment” either, but that is because I am a social worker and we do not much like it. At the end of the day, it is about ensuring that people have proper outcomes for their behaviour.
I am finding it rather difficult to engage in the debate and the amendment at the level and the point that we have reached. I do not have difficulty with the Government’s original statement. I have spent some time looking at the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and I feel that she is probably trying to achieve the same end. We have to be clear about the aim and purpose of the Bill; otherwise we will spend the whole debate in Committee talking about phraseology, the use of words and interpretation. We will come to that in a number of other areas.
I oppose Amendment No. 1 and suggest that some of the arguments made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, on Amendment No. 2 are misplaced. I, too, was unable to attend the Second Reading debate because I was abroad, but I shall spare the Committee the speech that I would have made.
I am sceptical about putting principles at the top of a Bill. As I recall, we went through this argument on the Mental Health Bill and I am not sure that we much advanced the sum of human knowledge in that discussion. I am opposed to establishing such principles in this Bill when there are good definitions of the functions and aims of the Secretary of State in Clause 2 and, although we may have some differences on this, a perfectly reasonable shot seems to have been made in Clause 1 regarding the purposes of probation. We do not need to reiterate that. Having a multipurpose array of saying roughly the same thing in different parts of a Bill can confuse the people who have to implement legislation.
I do not think that subsection (1)(b) of the amendment is an appropriate way of dealing with providers of services. Much of this Bill is about changing the way that we deliver public services in a range of areas. It is called a commissioning approach. The point about commissioning is that the commissioner specifies in a contract what the providers of services are expected to do. It is not the sort of thing that we need to put in legislation, particularly given that the Bill makes perfectly good arrangements for putting commissioners in place. The noble Baroness’s amendment is misplaced.
I listened with fascination as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, took us back to 1907. Social circumstances have moved on a little for the Probation Service since then. I would briefly mention the time that I spent as a special adviser in the Home Office just after the 1997 election, when we finally got round to sitting down and trying to change the training of probation officers, which was, until then, pretty much identical to the training of social workers. We had to confront a situation whereby some parts of the Probation Service were uncomfortable with the idea of enforcement. Many officers preferred not to take offenders back to the courts and if you looked at their training, you could understand why they had that level of discomfort. That issue has been dealt with and the training is now fit for purpose in the role of the probation officer in the modern world.
We can have a debate on whether probation officers are there to enforce punishment, but they are certainly there to enforce the will of the court that has handed out a sentence. That means that they have to report back to the court when that sentence is clearly and repeatedly being breached by an offender. That puts them in an enforcement role and, I suppose, if you are an offender, they could be seen as being in a punishment role, because they are enforcing that sentence. This amendment is not necessary and the attempt of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, at an amendment to the amendment is based on a false understanding of the true role of probation in this day and age.
I shall speak for a considerably shorter period than I had intended to. However, one of my reasons for wanting this debate was that there was a long gap between the stated intention of bringing a Bill to this House and the way that the change was already being implemented without any form of legal framework. The position was just developing. My second reason was that if that were possible, why on Earth did we need a law in any case? If the intended change was being implemented, surely there was no need to look at these things further. Like my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham, I certainly support the amendment because it would give us and the Minister the opportunity to spend time discussing how it is intended that the purposes will be rolled out. That would be our starting point.
The objection to the proper punishment of offenders is exactly as spelt out by my noble friend and others. The sentence is the punishment. Again, following what my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham said, if there is a breach within the sentence handed out, of course that is a reason for bringing the offender back to court. However, I also have a great deal of sympathy for the position of probation officers. The Probation Service has been messed about and changed a number of times over the past 10 years. It has been given a new framework and should be allowed time to settle into that. I have not yet heard any justification whatever for the changes which have already been made and which will continue to be made.
The history of the Probation Service and the whole penal system, almost from its beginnings, has been spelt out magically by the academic experts, and so we can be in no doubt about that side of things. So far as I am concerned, protecting the public, reducing the level of offending, ensuring that offenders are aware of the effect of their crimes on victims and, above all, the rehabilitation of offenders are all crucial objectives. Of course, we will never be able to stamp out reoffending completely, but here—in this, I agree with some of the other points that have been made by noble Lords—we need to think of rather more effective ways in which the rehabilitation of offenders can take effect.
I was going to spend some time talking about where I would start. I shall not now do that but will come back to it later. I would start with the whole throughput—the end-to-end management—relating to young offenders, which I hope I will be told is exactly what is intended. We can see how young offenders have been failed again and again before they have even reached prison. We have heard plenty about that in recent years.
My final point is the one that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, mentioned concerning training. The Home Office has been totally involved in the training of probation officers—indeed, I gather that it set the entire framework for it. It also commissions certain universities to provide that training. However, the commissioning does not seem to have been very satisfactory because the universities have been given only about five or seven years—a very narrow amount of time—in which to get the right people to give the training necessary to reach the top level.
I shall certainly come back with an amendment at a later stage and will support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, to ensure that any form of probation work of the level that we are talking about is undertaken only by those who are trained to the top of their ability, as is currently the case with probation officers. I hope that that is understood. I do not think that that exists at the moment. I understand that the Ministry of Justice has been thinking about this and considering an equivalent form of highly professional degree training on the same level as others at the top of their professions in social work.
I want to make one or two substantive points but I shall be very brief. I am prepared to support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness in whichever form—with or without the addition proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham—because there are deficiencies in the Bill. It is not clear on a number of issues. Either we shall have to establish several over-riding principles or go into a lot more detail in some of the wording. Inparticular, the Bill does not mention the issues of holistic end-to-end support in reducing crime, rehabilitation and reintegration.
I was going to talk on the question of proper punishment as the right reverend Prelate and others have done. Having listened to the debate, the entire problem could be solved if the noble Baroness was prepared to reword her amendment to say, “The supervision and enforcement of the proper punishment of offenders”.
For the record, I spoke in the Second Reading debate, but I am delighted about this debate on Amendment No. 1, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and supported by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. I am also delighted that it is grouped with Amendment No. 2, which relates to punishment. I am glad because I hope that this debate will permanently put to rest any indication that the Probation Service is involved in,
“the proper punishment of offenders”.
I am surprised that as the Bill is all about management, we are getting entangled in the issue of punishment at this stage. I shall speak later to Amendment No. 5, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in support of the principle set out by him. We on this side of the Committee cannot support Amendment No.1.
I have sat as a magistrate for more than 17 years and have been involved with local probation liaison committees and probation officers in that time. It is one of the most difficult tasks performed by the Probation Service. Probation officers are not there to enforce the law. If there is a breach of a decision made by the court, the Probation Service reports it to the court, and it is for the court to decide what action to take. I have come across many cases of minor breaches of probation orders, and the Probation Service has taken no action. In many cases, the courts have been obliged to ignore certain breaches because they were not relevant to a particular individual.
Punishment is not a matter for the Probation Service; it is for the court to decide what punishment is appropriate. That is reflected in sentencing decisions, and is very much at the heart of our system of prisons and the Probation Service, which are there to protect the public and, as has often been said, to reduce reoffending. Over the years we have changed the culture of our Probation Service. Despite the 100 years of its existence, its core purpose must be the rehabilitation of offenders and the reduction of reoffending. It should remain so. Any change would damage the role of the Probation Service and the reintegration of offenders would be made that much more difficult. Probation staff have to motivate and change behaviour. This process helps reduce criminality. If offenders feel that the Probation Service is simply an extension of the judge’s power to sentence, the ethos of the service will be damaged or destroyed.
Over the years, we have put much emphasis and focus on being tough on crime. We use punishment at the expense of rehabilitation. My own experience is that many offenders see a member of the probation staff as someone who understands their problems and why they have offended. The Probation Service has had considerable success in building the confidence of offenders towards leading a purposeful life. We change that at our peril.
I very much hope that we will think again about the inclusion of punishment as an objective. We should always remember that the carrot and stick approach is not appropriate for the Probation Service. The courts have a role to perform, but that is quite different from the role of the Probation Service.
I support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that there should be principles applicable to the Bill at the beginning, for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has just given. I also support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, to delete the words,
“the proper punishment of offenders”.
Since the government plan to abolish the Probation Service first appeared, and the proposal to create instead a set of probation functions that could be put on the market, I have received messages about it from different parts of the world. I have had three, in particular, from people in reasonably highly placed policy positions in justice ministries in their countries. “What on Earth is going on?” they wanted to know, asking “Why would the Government want to do this? You in England and Wales have something that we are struggling to build, without which there is an enormous gap in our criminal justice system”. They have asked, “Is this service, a model for the world, to be fragmented and reduced to a set of functions?”.
I therefore crave the indulgence of the House to talk about what a probation service is. It is a lot more than a set of functions. I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, made it clear that we should talk about what probation is for before we talk about the rest of the Bill. What we say about this will structure what we want to say about the rest.
Probation is a lot more than a set of functions. A probation service is a part of a necessary balance in a penal system. It is usually seen that there must be a balance between punishing the criminal act and dealing with the problem that led to the act—a balance between actions that protect society by taking people out of it and actions that protect society by keeping people in it, supervising and encouraging them to live law-abiding lives. Almost every country has this balance in its penal system to some extent. Any major penal reform activity taking place in a country often looks for the creation of some body that rehabilitates, reintegrates and works in communities as a visible reassurance to the public that people who commit crime are dealt and worked with so that they change. In England and Wales, that body is the Probation Service.
We are not talking about a set of functions that can be reallocated and loosely held together in a “probation trust”. We are talking about an organisation with a name that is recognised and understood, and which is there to protect and rehabilitate. It must have officers with a trusted professionalism and a standing in their area, so that their authority is accepted. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, for the way in which she expressed that. Those officers need to be respected, and their organisation must be respected a great deal by the courts, other local agencies and the public.
There needs to be a chief officer representing the service and known in the locality. There should be a strong organisation of chief officers, able to speak up in the public debate about probation and its work, the value of community sentences and the negative impact of short prison sentences. I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, on the importance of public education and reassurance about the Probation Service. Chief officers should be able to speak about the huge contribution that rehabilitation and supervision can make to public safety and peaceful neighbourhoods. An organisation of chief officers should be able to brief Members of Parliament, and there should be a strong probation presence in the Ministry of Justice to advise the Minister. It is sad that probation does not appear anywhere on the Ministry of Justice website.
The principles of what probation is should be at the beginning of the Bill but they should not include punishment, whether proper or any other sort. I raised objections to that at the Second Reading of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill in 2000, when I said:
“I am very surprised to see such an aim set out in a statute … I thought that it was the court which punished. The order of the court … is the punishment. To suggest that those supervising the court order, whether in prison or in the community, should themselves be doing the punishing seems to me to run contrary to all the international requirements on the treatment of offenders as well as causing strong offence to probation officers who carry out their work on a strong ethical basis”.—[Official Report, 3/7/00; col. 1299.]
I can see why those drafting the 2000 Bill felt that it might give the impression that probation had been toughened up in some way, although I doubt whether anyone who would get that impression reads the small print of legislation. Now that probation is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, we can hope that a more appropriate term, more in line with the human rights framework, might be substituted; for example, “enforcement” would certainly meet the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. We are talking about enforcement. Words are important; we should try to use the right ones, and finding the right words in this Bill is particularly problematic. The inclusion of a purpose such as punishment would—in so far as the working probation officer or the person being supervised has the faintest idea that there is a Bill, that there are principles and that they include punishment—confuse and make it difficult to establish the trusting relationships that are the basis of successful rehabilitation.
I end with a brief anecdote. Someone I know was talking to the Probation Service about the idea of bringing the services in a very deprived, crime-ridden area together with the Probation Service under one roof, on the lines of the excellent community court in Liverpool. The Probation Service listened to the proposal and responded, “That is a very bad idea. You have to understand that probation officers are not welcome in deprived areas because their only contact with those areas is when they go looking for someone in breach to send back to prison”. I submit that this provision would not protect the public or make anyone safer.
I seek from the Minister the assurance that nothing in the Bill may unintentionally undermine the professional framework within which probation officers operate. For instance, it should not overburden the service with targets, procedures, regulations, inspection or data collection; rather, it should develop those working on the front line, increase the quality of their supervision and create greater opportunities for continuing professional development.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, was so right to talk about the authority of the person working on the front line, building a relationship with these often damaged adults and young people. Child protection workers are in this position. They go in to families where the children are at risk from their parents, who are very inadequate. In that situation, the social worker has to tread a careful line between setting the right sanctions and protecting the child and supporting the parents to make a good job of parenting so that the child can develop successfully. That is similar to the role of the probation officer, who must not only protect the public but also help to develop people who are often quite inadequate or have had poor developmental experiences.
We have discussed the purposes, but they will all fall to nothing if we do not get right the way in which we support probation officers in what they do and provide them with a framework in which they can operate effectively. I would appreciate an assurance from the Minister that that is not put into question by the Bill.
I rise to speak to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and to the amendment to that amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. The first amendment offers the opportunity to focus on what the Bill stands for and what our National Probation Service essentially represents. It is about the provision and the nature of the service as well as about supporting people who are in need of such a service. It is about what the National Probation Service stands for in terms of values and principles and therefore what we want or need from such a service. It underpins the debates that we will have on the detail of the Bill because it addresses the extent to which the Probation Service will remain central to the business of offender management and explores the nature of the role that the service should play in the way we configure future offender management and community safety functions.
The principles laid out by Amendment No. 1 at the very outset of the Bill assert their overarching relevance to all its aspects, rather than the narrower function of the aims, as they are referred to in Clause 2. They are then expanded and articulated in the detail of the probation purposes set out in Clause 1, which can be seen as the logical development from these overarching principles. They refer to the purposes of advising the courts on appropriate sentences and conditional cautions, supervision and rehabilitation, assistance to those on bail and working with victims, all of which must reflect and be embedded in those principles. One major omission is the purpose of tackling the underlying causes of offending, without which the goal of reducing reoffending is meaningless. We will return to this.
There is a real problem in the language of the Bill, in which “probation functions”, “probation purposes” and “probation services” seem to be used interchangeably, which is very confusing. Clarity is of the essence, and we should start with a clear statement of principles.
The essence of offender management, which is at the heart of all probation services, is the fundamental belief in the capacity of people, including offenders, to change. It is the key. How we protect the public and reduce incarceration and reoffending is predicated on the belief that people can be helped to move from being an offender to being a citizen. That is the core of the value of the Probation Service and must be understood by all those who presume to reconfigure it. The principles of probation emanate from that belief. Deeply unfashionable as it is seems to have become, the phrase “to advise, assist and befriend”, which has been referred to, encapsulates that humanity and the essential, personal quality of the nature of probation work, which we reject at our peril.
I briefly raise one point that has not been discussed. It concerns the role and potential loss of the post of national director of probation. That post was created in 2001. With it came a significant move towards the coherent national framework that we have today. He is the accountable officer, answerable to the Secretary of State, dealing with issues of probity and due governance, carrying central responsibility for commissioning and being the point of reference for all chief officers of probation. He is the pivotal figurehead, spanning all aspects of probation work. He, I believe, is another detail absent from the Bill. Without debate that post has been downgraded in the new NOMS hierarchy, below that of both the chief executive of NOMS and the director of commissioning and performance. It is not a mere detail. There is the real possibility that, as the commissioning of interventions goes out to contestability, this move will undermine the coherence so carefully nurtured and make the fragmentation of the service more likely. Coherence is a real and general concern; it is part of the very fundamentals of the probation provision that we are discussing. I would be grateful if the Minister could illuminate the Government’s thinking on that issue.
The second amendment, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, represents another of those fundamental principles that I have been talking about. The role of the Probation Service, or any other provider of probation services, is to carry out the instructions of the court; it is not to punish. The court will already have been advised through reports drawn up by the probation officer of the circumstances of the offender before sentence, but it is the sentencer’s role and responsibility to punish. The sentence is the punishment under any of the multiplicity of options open to the court. The court will of course have in mind the principles and objectives that underlie the sentence, as will the probation officer; namely, the protection of the public, the reduction of reoffending, the needs of the victim, the awareness of what the offender has done and, of course, rehabilitation. It then falls to the probation officer to supervise the execution of the sentence to ensure that the conditions are met and, if they have not been met, to return the offender to court if necessary.
It is greatly to be regretted that the service has been under growing pressure of the new “tough” enforcing ethos in the past few years. That has made its role more coercive and has resulted, inter alia, in a fourfold increase in automatic recall to prison for breach, which the Lord Chief Justice has described as a “trapdoor to prison”. It has turned community service into community punishment. It has undermined the constructive role of the service and highlighted the primacy of punishment over rehabilitation.
Like many of your Lordships, I have been a magistrate in the past and know what the process is about. It is left to the skill of the probation officer to enable the offender to comply through the process of the advice, assistance and befriending, through local knowledge of his circumstances, available resources locally and appropriate interventions. If things fail, the officer is expected to return the client to court for a further decision on what the next appropriate punishment might be. That is well understood by all parties.
It is a contradiction to expect the probation officer to be both punitive and rehabilitative at the same time. Given the sanction of the return to court, the officer will do all he can to enable the offender to comply with the conditions of the sentence, and then to move forward, using all the interpersonal skills at his disposal, the development of a relationship of trust, a firm guiding hand and, very importantly, judgment. The process of changing lives or facilitating change is subtle and often slow, and it can often mean two steps forward and one step back, or possibly the reverse. It requires trust and commitment to move forward. I have never met a probation officer who sees himself as an inflictor of punishment. He has to choreograph carrying out the court’s instructions. The indicator of his success is that his client fulfils whatever the court has required and completes and discharges his probation.
I suspect that the press and politicians have contradictory expectations of punishment. They want retribution, so that punishment involves real unpleasantness for the offender and suffering to, in some way, mirror the suffering of the victim. But they also want an end to the offending. The chances are that those goals are mutually exclusive. Few people go straight because of suffering or fear. Indeed, those are likely to have the reverse effect.
As anyone working in prison, as I do, knows, the most difficult prisoners to manage are those on indeterminate sentences or a whole-life tariff, because they have no hope and nothing to lose any more. Hope and the possibility of change are two very important drivers in prison. All the other elements in the first five principles in the new clause are constructive and positive. We do not need to include the paragraph on punishment.
As we have now discussed the amendments for one hour and 32 minutes, I reassure Members who may be forgiven for having thought that they had wandered into a Second Reading debate that we are still in Committee.
Much has been said on which we all agree. I say straight away how much I agreed with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth. As we heard in every speech, we all seek to be able accurately to identify risk and need—in relation to the offender but also in what the offender will need to rehabilitate them—and, thereby, to restrict and diminish the likelihood that that individual will reoffend.
I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, in her statement that this is not about the service, it is about the offender and offender management and what we need to do to assist the offender to leave offending behind. I do not believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and I disagree—or indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and I disagree—much about the end result that we want. There seems to be a degree of dissonance about how we get there.
I say with the utmost clarity that I can that this is not about the destruction of the Probation Service. This is not about change for change's sake. It is about creating a system that will help us better to deliver the change that we all seek. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, is absolutely right when she says that we could do better on reducing reoffending. We want to do better. My noble friend Lord Warner is right to make clear that we are talking about two different systems: the system of commissioning services and that of the provision of services. I agree with the analysis of my noble friend Lord Borrie about what is in Clause 1 and Clause 2.
To the right reverend Prelate, I say that I absolutely understand the dichotomy to which he refers. It is suggested that if one takes an aggressive approach to enforcing community penalties, saying that they are the best way forward and that we should use them on all occasions unless and until prison is unavoidable, that is presented as somehow soft. It is not soft, as the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, made absolutely clear. So there is much on which we agree. We do, however, want to be able to commission services from the best provider available, and to use organisations such as the NSPCC, Turning Point and NACRO, all of which bring valuable additional support to this effort, to supplement and partner public sector provision. Reducing reoffending is not a task for one sector or organisation in isolation. We want to be able to commission those services across geographical and organisational boundaries—spanning, for example, custody and the community, or very differently sized probation areas that do not always have the capacity to meet what sentencers want or what offenders need—where appropriate.
That is why we need to take the statutory power to the Secretary of State. Although probation performance has improved, which I have acknowledged on a number of occasions in this House, service delivery remains variable and variably available. Probation services have often tried to hold to themselves work that can be done better in partnership with others. As the statutory providers of probation services, this is their right, but we do not believe that this right has been well enough exercised in the fuller development of a partnership approach, either with each other or with providers from the third and private sectors. That is why there is a division between the provisions of Clause 1 and those of Clause 2. In practice, although some services will be commissioned at a national and regional level, where it makes sense to do so, the great majority will be commissioned from lead providers at the local level, who in most cases will be the public sector probation trusts, and in full co-operation with their local strategic partnerships to meet the local area agreements.
We will use our commissioning powers in the Bill to ensure that those providers in turn work in partnership with other organisations and subcontract work to other organisations where they are better placed to deliver them. That is why I can say confidently to the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, that we will get the synergies that we need. We will be able to have the consistency, and we will be able to provide better for those about whom she cares so passionately, as do so many others in this Committee. We have said repeatedly that any changes to the system will be carefully implemented, and that there is no hidden agenda of quotas of work for any sector. We are, however, determined to get the best providers, be they public, private or third sector, to play to their strengths. This is what the Bill will enable us to do. In exercising these powers, the Secretary of State will have regard to the very same principles that are set out in the first amendment. That is what Clause 2(4) already requires him to do. It is there because we are introducing a process of commissioning.
The aims were debated in the other place, both in Committee when Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition tabled a very similar amendment to the one that is before us today—I shall scrutinise it to see whether there is an “and”, a “but” or a comma that differs—and on Report. When the Bill was first introduced, it contained no provision for aims to apply to the new arrangements, although in practice it had always been our intention that they should. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Gerry Sutcliffe, listened very carefully to the points that were put to him in Committee. He accepted the force of the arguments in favour of applying such aims to the new arrangements for probation services in the Bill, to provide a clear framework within which to develop the new arrangements and to reassure the service that its basic principles remain unchanged. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary therefore tabled an amendment on Report to apply these aims to the functions of the Secretary of State in ensuring the provision of probation services. It is the Secretary of State who will be bound so to do. We did not extend the aims directly to providers because, as my noble friend Lord Warner made clear, where at all possible under the new arrangements, their functions will derive from their contracts rather than from statute, as at present.
We want to avoid the risk of creating confusion for providers by subjecting them to both contractual and legislative obligations, not least because in future not all providers will be providing exactly the same range of services that boards provide at present. This means that the aims may impact on them in different ways. The sensible way forward is to use the legislation to require the Secretary of State to have regard to these aims and then to reflect as appropriate on the way in which he commissions and contracts for services. The contracts will then be drafted in such a way as to ensure that these aims are given appropriate priority.
That was the approach we took in the amendment tabled on Report in another place which was passed unopposed. Indeed, the honourable gentleman Mr Edward Garnier, speaking for Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition in the other place, while voicing concerns about other aspects of the Bill, said:
“in respect of the amendment, I applaud the Minister and wish him well in that part of his work”.—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/07; col. 1007.]
I believe that our colleagues in the other place were right to do this and I therefore invite the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, not to press her amendment.
I turn now to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. As I have already explained, we believe that Clause 2 is the proper place for these principles. But I would like to comment on the amendment, which has the effect of removing from the list of principles the “proper punishment of offenders”. In any list of aims or principles such as this there will be room for debate around the precise content. Indeed, I know that when this was considered in Committee in the other place a number of alternatives were suggested to build on the existing list. But no one in the other place suggested that it is inappropriate to have regard to punishment when dealing with those who have broken the law. I am confident that they were reflecting the views and expectations of the public in so doing.
Society has always expected that those who break the law should be punished. More recently we have enshrined that expectation in legislation in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, which currently governs the Probation Service and on which the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is based, and also in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which sets out the purposes of sentencing. This is now a well established concept and it is entirely right that the Probation Service, the main function of which is to execute the sentences of the court, should be mindful of the purposes of that sentence when doing so. Indeed, it would be very odd if it did not. I think that the experience as magistrates of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, clearly demonstrates to us why that is so. I do not think that the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, dissented from that.
I understand what the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, said about wanting to oppose this but I have to say to her, as gently as I can, that I do not agree with her, in many ways, because of the many comments that have been made around the Committee and because of what the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, so elegantly expressed as the “use of authority”. Authority has to be used if people are to reform. I also agree with those who say that it is really tough to help someone to reform and change. It takes time and effort. It is certainly not soft or easy.
Punishment is the sense of loss of liberty or other rights and freedoms. Those losses are necessary in order to achieve crime reduction, public protection, rehabilitation and reparation. For example, the offender must give up his time to attend appointments, perform unpaid work or participate in offender behaviour programmes, and, where appropriate, must abide by prohibitions such as curfew and exclusion requirements. The offender manager is responsible for managing—and, yes, enforcing—the whole sentence. If the offender does not comply he must be returned to the court. Punishment is therefore an integral part of any sentence and cannot be disentangled from the other purposes. I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, to withdraw their amendments on that basis.
I was asked a number of specific questions, particularly—by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—whether the Bill’s effect would be in any way to reduce the authority and to increase the likelihood that proper supervision would not take place. I have no reason to believe that that is the case. We want to heighten the quality of provision given, to improve the acuity of assessment and, therefore, to improve the outcome so that more people will be successfully rehabilitated.
The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, said that there was a primacy of punishment over rehabilitation. I assure her that that is not the case. The whole Bill is about trying to enhance our opportunity to use what works to rehabilitate those who have offended so that they will not offend again in the future. That must be the best way of keeping the public safe. As I say, we are not abolishing probation, nor are we seeking to undermine good practice. We are trying to enhance the opportunity for change.
I say to the noble Lords who moved these amendments that the amendments are not necessary. We understand the basis on which they have been put. We understand their aims, but those aims are there, in Clause 2. Clause 1 is accurately framed in order to do the bidding of those around the Committee who have spoken. I invite noble Lords not to press the amendments.
I thank the Minister for the thoroughness and care of her reply. Having listened to what has been said, I think these amendments have had the purpose of setting the tone for the remainder of the Committee by the depth and seriousness with which the issues have been explored. That is entirely appropriate in view of what is at stake.
I agree with the Minister that punishment is at the heart of the sentence that is awarded. That is absolutely right; I have no argument with that. It is right that the punishment includes liberty; that is what is imposed, and then the time is available to do something about it on behalf of society as a whole. The purpose is to execute the sentences of the court. That is what the Probation Service and the Prison Service are all about. There is no argument with that.
As I hinted when I made my point, there is a better way to express what it is that the Probation Service is all about, using the words “executing the sentences of the court”, “supervising offenders” and so on, rather than including the word “punishment”. It is therefore appropriate that I take account of everything that has been said, reconsider what I have suggested in my amendment and withdraw it at this stage while I consider what I might do on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment No. 2, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, by leave, withdrawn.
I think the mood of the Committee is that I should be fairly brief in trying to respond to this serious and important debate. It may not only assist us in later debates but enable some of them to be more concise.
As is often the case, the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, encapsulated the two questions that had to be addressed in my amendment and that of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. Should the new clause come before Clause 1, when Clause 2 is serving that purpose, and is my definition “proper punishment” the right one? The noble Lord, Lord Warner, prayed strongly against the idea of having a new clause. Perhaps he will forgive me if I say that I heard the strains of an old tune played on a ministerial violin in his opposition to principles clauses. He went on to say that this is a different, market-based, commissioning system and he will hear me say later, as I have said before, that I support contestability. It is a new system, but I will try to make sure that it is more locally accountable. That is why I believe that the drafting of my new clause is correct and that it is appropriate for it to come before Clause 1. It not only applies to the Secretary of State—whose aims are covered in Clause 2—but addresses the issue of the providers.
Some noble Lords, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, will say that we should really be debating the services that are provided rather than the providers. However, I am stuck with what the Government have given me. This is the Bill as it is; as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said, it is about the management of the managers of the offenders. I am stuck with that; I am trying to make the best of it and to make it work. A principles clause is of value, as the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, has said, in providing clarity in preparation for our later debates.
I was asked a specific question by the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, about whether the principles in my new clause are in the right order. I do not attach any order of priority or special significance to the way in which they fall. If I had, I would have made it clear in the drafting. I am glad that he raised that point because we will have to address it in a later amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, where some significance may be allotted to part of the functions of the probation services. But in this amendment all the matters listed have equal significance.
I considered very carefully the words “proper punishment”. Could I or should I come up with another definition? As the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, said, I have borrowed heavily from the amendment that was agreed to by my right honourable friends in another place. I said in my opening remarks that we welcomed it—we still do—but within the context of Clause 2. In the context of my new clause, I felt that it had to be looked at again. I considered this extremely carefully. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, provided some very helpful attempts to look at something different. I considered the wording that he suggested, but the more I considered it, the more difficulty I found in seeking any other definition that might serve. We are trying to convey the fact that the probation providers are carrying out the orders of the court; the court has determined the sentence, which has to be human rights-compliant. I felt that if I tried to change the words “proper punishment” to anything else, I would find myself in difficulty. Overall, I agree with my noble friend Lord Waddington that we have to consider that the public must have confidence in what the service is providing. I am therefore stuck with “proper punishment”.
I began by saying that I hoped that the amendment would bring clarity, but it may not have brought quite the clarity I hoped for. I also said that I hoped it might be conclusive. In that spirit, I do not wish to bring it back at Report because I wish to put an end to this matter today. I feel that I know what that will be, given the weight of the opinions that have been expressed, but I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.
Clause 1 [Meaning of “the probation purposes”]:
3: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at end insert “the reduction of offending and the rehabilitation of offenders and for”
The noble Lord said: In the aftermath of what has been a fascinating and important debate on the first amendment, I have some hesitation about whether it is altogether appropriate to move on to my amendment. However, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, will forgive me if I say that it is actually the significance of her amendment which has made me feel that I do want to make this particular point.
In the previous debate, there was a good deal of discussion about the division of labour in ensuring the court’s decision and its consequences. Of course the public must be protected, and that is why we have to make sure that the custodial or other arrangements are satisfactory. I would go a little further than some noble Lords who spoke on the previous amendment and say that it is appropriate that when there has been a wrongdoing, its unacceptability should be marked by a punishment. I have no doubt about that concept at all. What I am concerned about is that we are muddling up the different responsibilities of different people in seeing through that situation, so that in the end we make them jacks of all trades. I am also concerned, not just in this Bill but quite often in legislation, that we do not distinguish clearly enough between purposes and the methods by which those purposes will be fulfilled. I suggest that an awful lot of what is spelt out in Clause 1 is in fact methodology rather than purpose. My amendment seeks to spell out clearly to all those working in the Probation Service and addressing these responsibilities, what the purpose is. The amendment may or may not be adequate; we can reflect on that together.
I have said that I believe that the protection of the public is important, but that is not achieved only by custodial arrangements or their equivalent in community sentences. Protecting the public also means, so far as possible, overcoming the likelihood of more offences being committed. As we all know, the trouble at the moment is that as prison operates, it does not sufficiently prevent the occurrence of more offences, and hence our emphasis on more community sentences. But if we are going to reduce reoffending, we will have to adjust what is set out in Clause 1 in order to spell out that the purposes of the Probation Service are the reduction of offending and the rehabilitation of offenders, and then move on to all the ways in which that will be done, the necessary co-operation of others and the rest.
That brings me to my second point. I suspect that a significant majority of noble Lords believe that the single greatest challenge in our overall approach to the penal system is that of rehabilitation. It is necessary in order to protect the public because if we have not rehabilitated successfully, there is the likelihood of reoffending. Rehabilitation is also important, of course, for many of the individuals because, as I think we discussed on Second Reading, many of them are victims of the inadequacy of society.
We do not want to set the Probation Service apart from all the rest of the operation. I simply want to say in my amendment in very clear language that the purpose is to prevent offending and to rehabilitate the offender; all the rest is secondary. I should like my noble friend, with whom I do not have many disagreements on this Bill, to take that point away and consider it.
I have been a chief executive in complex social organisations working in both the domestic and the international sphere. In organisations of that kind with all the complexities they face, it is all the more important not to confuse methodology with purpose. Methodology can be adjusted from time to time, but we have to decide what it is we are here to do. Then you can ask everybody to gather round that purpose; you have a team spirit saying, “This is what we are about; everyone knows where we stand”. Of course, probation officers and others have to take into account the total situation and work with it. Therefore, of course, I want those within the Prison Service to play their part in rehabilitation as well. But the chief issue for the Probation Service comprises the two purposes I have just spelt out. I should be very surprised if almost every Member of the Committee did not agree with that.
I make one other point in moving my amendment. We have all had a characteristically positive and enthusiastic communication from my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer on assuming his new responsibilities. I emphasise that I tremendously welcome the creation of the new ministry. Therefore, I was rather disappointed that although rehabilitation was mentioned it was not there in shining lights as a headline priority for the work of the new department. It seems to me that we constantly say, “Yes, rehabilitation matters”, but we put it in the list with a lot of other things and it always gets pushed down under the immediate pressures. In recent months, we have talked of expanding prison places in our society. But how much talk has there been of the need for educational services and resources in that operation to make sure this is not just an utterly negative experience for those involved but can be turned into a positive experience—if that is indeed the road that we insist on going down, although I have reservations about that? The time has come when we must emphasise that in order to protect the public and prevent future offences, we must establish a culture which sees clearly that the real challenge is to rehabilitate people. There is a chance to spell that out in this Bill in unequivocal language.
My noble friend will forgive me if I make this observation because aeons ago I, too, was in government. It would be absolutely mad to suggest that when in government you do not take into account the pressures articulated by the media. Perhaps we are all too gentle about making this point, but I should like to put it positively to my noble friend Lady Scotland, for whom I have incredible respect. I believe that the Committee would give her and her colleagues unqualified support if they were to say, “Stop this emotional bigoted nonsense. We all know that this emphasis in our culture on a punitive approach to penal policy is actually making a bad situation worse. You are the people who are undermining the security of citizens up and down the country. You are the people who are leading to the disruption of business and other activity by crime. You are culpable. It is time you came to your senses and saw that the challenge you are involved in is to put the situation right”.
I am afraid that, rather like the cheerful message of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, this Bill has missed an opportunity. That is why I move this amendment. I see that it is grouped with Amendment No. 9. I have no objection to that. For the convenience of the Committee I shall say a word on Amendment No. 9, on which I can be brief. My point is covered in Clause 3(2), which states:
“The Secretary of State may make contractual or other arrangements with any other person for the making of the probation provision”.
The importance of the word “arrangements” is recognised in the Bill at Clause 3(2). We all know that this work cannot be done just by the Probation Service itself; it must be done with others. Therefore, arrangements are necessary. I suggest that my Amendment No. 9 is a self-evident strengthening amendment which would establish, if you like, what is already in Clause 3(2). I beg to move.
I support this amendment and endorse every word of what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has just said. I shall speak also to other amendments in the group.
It is important that we have in the Bill, at the very beginning of the first clause, this principal function for probation purposes as the reduction of reoffending and the rehabilitation of offenders. Everything else flows from it as we have already discussed at some length this evening. That, of course, includes the reduction of crime, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, states in his amendment.
It is equally clear that the best chances of reducing reoffending lie in the community, and increasingly so as the figures demonstrate. There is a perception that community-based penalties involving unpaid work and a whole range of options in a community order mean that somehow the offender is getting off lightly or “walking free from the court”. This is the perception of the tabloid press in particular and seems to have a powerful effect on the perceptions of others such as politicians, sentencers and the like. Nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, as all the recent studies and polls show, the public have no appetite for prison as punishment or believe that it achieves what is really wanted; namely, that it does not happen—that there is no reoffending—and that the offender makes good his offence against the community and the victim. Interestingly, this was even true of the attitudes of victims, as a recent poll carried out by Victim Support demonstrated. More often incarceration is the easy option. It is probably more unpleasant and definitely more likely to keep the offender on the offending path, but it is not easier. The really difficult thing is to change; habits, relationships, attitudes of mind, drug or alcohol misuse, habitual violence in the home or even in the school, or besetting mental health problems. Those are huge issues that have to be addressed in the context of a person’s life in the community—and involve the community, particularly in unpaid work—and are the context in which the probation officer has to ensure that the conditions of the court sentence are fulfilled.
The results at present are that the reoffending rate for probation is 53 per cent compared to 66 per cent after prison, which rises to over 80 per cent for the youngest offenders. That is a terrible record. While we must all work to bring that down, there is no question of which approach is the more successful. It goes without saying that every effort must be made, through the widening of the net of specialist services in interventions, to deal with the particular issues related to the prospect of reducing reoffending and rehabilitation. Issues of education, particularly problems associated with speech and language difficulties, mental health issues and addiction problems are the sort of deeply rooted difficulties that must be addressed as part of the process of rehabilitation, and those, too, are best addressed in the community.
All those concerned about these issues agree with the concept of end-to-end support, which we got from the report of the noble Lord, Lord Carter. It requires, however, a far greater degree of interagency working than we have in many areas today. Indeed, one extraordinary omission from the Bill is that there is no mention of the role of prison. If we are talking about end-to-end management, we are talking about a process that starts before court, will very often go through prison, and will come out into the community. At each stage, a hugely significant amount of work can be done, in particular at the stages of transition when people are at their most vulnerable. It is there that work between, say, the Prison Service and prison officers and those people who will field that individual in the community is vital if rehabilitation is to succeed. It involves, crucially, the Probation Service as the core offender manager from a pre-court stage right through. Community continuity is also key; as is a proper level of understanding of trust, which lies at the heart of good offender management. A roof, a relationship and a job are also recognised as the pillars of a successful strategy for ex-offenders to take their place again as citizens.
However, it will only be when the root causes of offending are first and more effectively addressed that we will see significant change. That will involve massive rethinking of how to mobilise more effective interagency working across government departments, including health, education and housing, with a focus on those most vulnerable in our society and in particular those who are vulnerable to being drawn into offending. That will be the major challenge, and in a sense it is the overarching issue, but it is far wider than the scope of the Bill. In the mean time, the Bill would be inadequate if this principal function was not clearly stated at the outset, laying down a legal imperative for everyone from the Secretary of State down to follow.
I am certainly going to speak to them; I was waiting for the promoters of the lead amendment to speak. I most strongly support everything that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, have said. Had I known that the amendment had been tabled, I would probably have spoken to it rather than tabling my amendments. If, at the next round, the noble Lord will let me come and play in his yard, I will be happy to join his team.
I have some rather different points to make on Amendment No. 8. Clause 2 lists functions that will define the probation services that are available. Anything left out of that list presumably, as the Bill stands and unless the Secretary of State changes it, will be ultra vires for probation services. Is that correct? If it is correct, the Bill ought to be expanded to ensure that important services are not excluded. Amendment No. 8 suggests the inclusion of certain more specific functions that seem to me to have been left out. I will mention three of them. First, there is the end-to-end supervision and management of each offender, which was recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, in his report:
“Prison and probation need to be focused on the management of offenders throughout the whole of their sentence, driven by information on what works to reduce re-offending”.
I have marked three places in his report in which he makes exactly that important statement.
Secondly, there is the provision of guidance, help and support, where needed, to each prisoner, which is not specifically mentioned. Thirdly, there is the resettlement of offenders back into the community. It may be that the noble Baroness will tell me that all those things are included in “rehabilitation”. If that is what the Government mean by rehabilitation, that is perfectly satisfactory to me, but we should say so; otherwise it will be a question for the courts to decide. It might be very much better to say so in the first place, because we need to encourage all those things, and it is desirable that they should be in the Bill.
I have another quote here from the noble Lord, Lord Carter:
“Prison and probation need to be focused on the management of offenders throughout the whole of their sentence, driven by information on what works to reduce re-offending”.
I apologise if that is the same quote as before.
Why do those things matter so much? The seamless end-to-end management of each prisoner is surely the key to success in persuading prisoners to reform. Reform, especially from drugs and alcohol, needs a lot of courage, and it needs consistent personal support and encouragement over a period of time by someone who you trust and who you like to think cares about you. Resettlement in the community will often be extraordinarily difficult and will need a lot of intensive support. I remember when the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, arranged a visit to the Medway young offender centre. The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, was also a member of the group. They told us that their main problem was that, having had the difficulty of persuading the young offender to have a stab at education, to get him back into the system and into employment, the young offender went back to his home town, and the school said, “Not on your nelly; we are not going to have him back”. He would then be touted around all the schools in the district and none would have him, and he would end up on the streets with two or three hours tutoring a week, and as quick as you can say “knife” he would be back in prison.
The Government are right that there is a huge need for co-ordination between the services. I liked what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said about, “victims of the inadequacy of our society”. I will not waste the time of the Committee enlarging on that; I am sure that we all understand what he meant. That is all I need to say about my amendments, which are additional to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for what he said. My reason for not rising immediately to support the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is that both his amendments, to which I have added my name, lead perfectly into my Amendment No. 5, which is coming, and I was going to delay my comments until then.
I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, mentioned end-to-end offender management. Throughout the lead-up to this Bill and previously, this has been an area where we have tried to tease out of the Government and officials in the National Offender Management Service what they actually mean. How many people are involved? How many offenders will each manager deal with? What is the implication for serving probation officers of putting this additional task on them? How will the management be conducted over long periods and short periods when people are rapidly moving within the system?
What we have never heard about is what is popularly referred to in government circles as a regulatory impact assessment. Has there been an assessment of the introduction of end-to-end offender management to work out the practical implications for the Probation Service in terms of numbers, time, cost and so on? As my noble friend Lord Northbourne said, everyone agrees with the principle. Absolutely—it is a self-evident requirement, but the devil is in the detail. We have heard the rhetoric, but we have not heard the detail. I am extremely glad that the noble Lord has tabled his amendment, because I hope that the Government will then have to carry out a regulatory impact assessment to ensure that we understand what is implied.
I was grateful for the Minister’s assurance that whatever the Bill does, it will ensure that the professional framework for those who work on the front line will be strengthened. My noble friend Lord Northbourne’s amendment gives me the opportunity to check on a matter of concern as regards end-to-end support. One needs officers to stay in post long enough to supervise an offender through their course, if that is to be the case. We have heard repeatedly today that for probation to be effective, the relationship between the probation officer and the offender is fundamental. It follows that there is a need for stability in having a low rate of staff turnover for the probation officers involved. If possible, we want them to stay in post for long periods.
In other areas, particularly when private contractors are involved, it has been found that while there are many benefits from the involvement of competition in contracting, one difficulty is the significantly higher turnover of staff. Despite all the benefits of private prisons, for example, the turnover of prison officers is significantly higher there than in other prisons. When we debated the Childcare Bill, it was pointed out that research indicated a higher turnover of staff in private nurseries. There is a similar situation in residential care homes. In part, that may be because there is a fairly invisible cut to make in terms of giving staff time for supervision and training; one can make a cut there without apparently making much difference to the quality of the service—although that deeply misunderstands what the service is about.
I am sure the Minister recognises that concern. Can she give some assurance on how she will commission the contract to ensure that that problem, which has occurred elsewhere, does not happen here? It does not happen all the time. For example, the people who run Foster Care Associates, which has a good reputation in the foster care field, are former foster carers or social workers. A key requirement is to get the governance right, so that the people at the very top have operational experience or are well connected to those who have it.
I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and all the other amendments that have been spoken to. I am worried about the issue of end-to-end management because there will be a huge range of years over which sentences will be served. There needs to be a picture of how the individual will be managed during that time and who will be responsible for them and so on. We have tried to tease that out of the Government, but we have not been successful in getting answers.
I assume that we will have to target resources on, for example, deprived areas. However, another aspect is the rehabilitation of young offenders. The results of their continual churn of reoffending are appalling, but where will those people serve their sentences? Whether that is in the community, in prison or in both, a strong educational component will be essential.
Last week in the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, initiated an impressive debate on the education of young people in custody—which, alas, I missed, because I was in Scotland. In that debate, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in particular, made it clear that to achieve successful rehabilitation and to prevent reoffending, a strong, continuing educational component must be included. Statistics given by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, showed that of the 150,000 children and young people under 18 who enter the youth justice system each year, 70,000 are of compulsory school age. That is a staggering statistic. Almost all have multiple problems, including bad school attendance records—83 per cent of boys have been excluded from school—and, most worrying of all, 41 per cent were aged 14 or under when they last attended school. What does that say about the education system that has failed them up to the point where they enter prison? What do we do about that? That is an illustration of why we should concentrate resources there.
The Government are doing a great deal to improve education in deprived areas outside prison, but there will be a need for extremely well trained professional people. That certainly includes teachers, but also probation officers with excellent communication skills to get over to the individuals what the benefits will be for them and the whole community.
The recently published and excellent Corston report highlighted the benefits for all when offenders participate in voluntary work in the local community as part of their period of probation. That was mentioned by the noble Baroness. Evidence suggests that that experience helps offenders to realise the difficult conditions in which not just they, but many other people, have to live their lives and helps them to realise that they, too, are an important part of the fabric of the community to which they belong and to which they have responsibilities. Without going into the detail, restorative justice programmes—not necessarily with the specific victims but with victims of a similar crime—have proved to be highly successful. I mention that by way of illustration, but I hope very much that the Minister will be able to reassure us on all the points raised. The question of resource to achieve the aims will be very important.
I support as strongly as I can Amendment No. 3 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. He pointed to the importance of preventing offending before it ever happens. I argue that that cannot be done just by multiplying security cameras or even by policing in an effective way, including on foot. As my noble friend Lady Howe indicated, a large section of the population are young and may go either way: either in the criminal direction or in the honest and sober direction. They are the kind of people who have been in the care of local authorities or have been excluded from school, or, for some other reason, have not been able to get the full benefit of the education provided. On those grounds, I very much hope that the Government will see their way to accepting something in the nature of Amendment No. 3.
As to Amendment No. 8 in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbourne, no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, and the other experts understand the meaning of “end-to-end”, but I do not and nor, I think, do the general public. If something is to be done in that respect, I hope that a better term will be found.
I wish to speak to the amendments in my name and to support my noble friend on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the noble Lord, Lord Judd—in that context, a friend—and my noble friend Lord Northbourne. I shall spend a few moments saying something about rehabilitation and what might be required for it to be a reality.
Over the past seven years, probation has been subjected to a series of experiments. We call them changes—my noble friend Lord Low was very helpful in taking us through them—but, in a sense, they have been experiments. The responsibility of the Probation Service to the locality in which it is placed has been reduced. It has been mechanised, with more of its work involving filling in forms about people. Those forms take several hours to complete and lead to a process being done mechanically. The results of the form are fed in and out comes an answer that tells you how risky the person whose form you are filling in is on a level of one to four.
As a result, the discretion of probation officers has been hugely reduced. They have also been required to work to national targets—another experiment. The last set of targets that I saw included a national requirement for 50,000 orders of unpaid work, 48,000 skills-for-life courses and 17,500 accredited programmes to be completed. These are then broken down by area and the probation officers have to carry them out; otherwise, I understand, they lose money the following year. The probation officers obviously have to find a certain number of people whom they can fit into their skills-for-life course quota, however relevant, or not, that course may be. That is but one example. So even the best probation officers, who are trying to use their professional skills to get to know a person, get to the bottom of their problems and build a relationship with them that could lead to change, must have at the back of their minds the question, “Could I manipulate this one into one of these courses, tick the box and help to reach our targets?” Is that what local communities want? I do not think so. We want the people in our Probation Service to use their training, discretion, patience and empathy to sort out troubled people from troubled families living in troubled neighbourhoods.
Last week, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies published the Community Sentences Digest, which showed that offenders on community sentences experience severe social exclusion. No one will be surprised at this but I should like to get it on the record: nearly two-thirds of those on community sentences are below the literacy and numeracy levels expected of an 11 year-old; more than half are unemployed; just under a third have a problem finding somewhere to live; nearly half have mental health problems; close to a quarter have a drug problem; and almost half have an alcohol problem. To deal with that sort of population, I suggest that those in the Probation Service should not spend so much time on their computers, dividing human beings into tiers of riskiness; they need to do what is set out in the amendment of my noble friend Lord Judd.
Fergus McNeill, a distinguished academic from the Glasgow School of Social Work, has produced a very accessible summary of what all the research tells us about how people desist from crime. It is sometimes called “reducing reoffending”—an expression that I do not like because it is imprecise and does not really mean anything. Rather than plagiarise, I shall tell the Committee what Mr McNeill said. He makes eight points but tonight I shall give only two. However, if noble Lords come to further sittings of this Committee, they might get the rest.
The first is the need to build positive relationships. All the research shows that we need to recognise that the quality of a person’s relationships, both personal and professional, is central to the process of giving up crime. Mr McNeill says:
“Like everyone else, offenders are most influenced to change (and not to change) by those closest to them and those whose advice they respect and whose support they value. Approaches to ‘offender management’ that fail to recognise the significance of the relational aspects of penal practice are unlikely to work”.
The second point is the need to recognise the significance of social contexts. Fergus McNeill says that, in supporting people to give up crime,
“we need to look beyond the individual because achieving desistance involves and requires much more than changes within the individual. Trying only to ‘fix’ offenders can’t and won’t fix reoffending”.
Giving up crime requires,
“new networks of support and opportunity in local communities and a new attitude”,
in those communities,
“towards the reintegration of ex-offenders”.
I submit that we need to get probation officers away from their computers and out of their city-centre offices, where they sit and wait for people who have had to take three different buses and travel for some hours to get there to undertake a course that is of dubious value and does not in any way address their problems at home or their lack of a job.
Perhaps the approach outlined in these amendments will set us on the road of understanding how narrow the Government’s concept of offender management is, as presented to the Committee, whether it is end to end or beginning to end or wherever it begins and wherever it ends. The functions involved in rehabilitation are much wider and deeper than those summarised by offender management. It means very much more: it means doing deals with housing associations, getting good press coverage, going out to meet the public, getting the public involved and strengthening families so that they can give support. Offender management, as it is so expressed, would not enable people to get involved with the younger brothers of somebody who was in trouble to try to stop them taking that route. It means playing a part in strengthening a community so that the community can cope with its released ex-prisoners.
The amendments are a plea to broaden the concept of the Bill in those directions, and I wholeheartedly support them.
When the noble Lord, Lord Judd, moved Amendment No. 3, he gave a characteristically thoughtful analysis of the whole issue of probation purposes, which has driven this debate very well.
The amendment puts the reduction of offending and rehabilitation at the heart of the definition of “probation purposes”. While I wholeheartedly agree with the principle of the noble Lord’s amendment that rehabilitation should be at the heart of probation purposes—he knows what is coming here; he can feel it from afar—I do not believe that it should have priority over the other matters listed in Clause 1. I shall not tire the Committee by repeating those, as I hinted when I dealt with my Amendment No. 1 that they ought to be treated equally. However, the noble Lord is right to direct the attention of the Committee to the importance of rehabilitation, as he did in our debate on Amendment No. 1.
Amendment No. 4, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is similar to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Perhaps I can be cheeky and say that if the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, had been minded to press ahead with it, I might have to question whether his amendment was placed in the right part of the Bill. I suppose that that really is cheeky, given that I have been accused of putting my amendment in the wrong place.
My concern is that the inclusion of the reduction of crime as part of the meaning of probation purposes may not exactly achieve what the noble Lord intends. The advantage of Amendment No. 4 is that it would effectively place a duty on the Secretary of State to reduce crime. That is an entirely proper and admirable aim, but I do not think that the Secretary of State needs any inducement to do that. I feel sure that any Home Secretary has that as his aim. The difficulty here, of course, is that we are talking about different Secretaries of State. We need to recall that, throughout the Bill, we are thinking either of the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice—the Lord Chancellor—or of the Home Secretary, who as Secretary of State has direction of the police forces and other forces that try to reduce crime. Here we see a well intentioned amendment serving very well to highlight the difficulty with the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, by tabling his amendment, has helped to focus my mind even more carefully on the difficulties that we shall face in dealing with a Bill that started in the Home Office and ends up in the Ministry of Justice.
The noble Lord’s Amendment No. 4 has an entirely proper aim. If the Minister could, I think she would accept it, but she will be in difficulty because it perhaps relates to the role of the Home Secretary and not now the Ministry of Justice. However, perhaps she will tell me differently and will surprise and enchant us all by accepting the amendment.
Amendment No. 8 is a sensible probing amendment, which correctly seeks to tease out the Government’s plans for the provision of end-to-end offender management. I shall not repeat anything that was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, or the noble Baroness, Lady Stern. I shall say simply that I agree entirely with every word that they both said.
A couple of questions are now in my mind because of the debate. I was going to speak to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and say that I could not see how any of us could disagree with its aspirations; the issue might well be where it is and how it will be achieved.
The question of end-to-end offender management has been raised a number of times. I presume that one is using the phrase to define a service in which someone comes in at the early stage of the life of an offender, sticks with them in the best way that they can throughout the life of whatever sentence or probation period that offender might serve, and sees them through to the other end through supervision or other services. I recognise, along with my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham, that that is a truly high aspiration, which has resource implications. I suppose that my first question to the Minister should be: how has that been thought through in terms of the future, and how will it be achieved?
The speech made by my noble friend Lady Stern illustrated markedly the need to reform the Probation Service if it is as she described it. I have colleagues in the field who would not necessarily recognise themselves as sitting at a computer filling in a form, but I am aware that that does happen in some areas. I have inherited staff who have had difficulty in changing certain behaviours in relation to report writing rather than actively intervening. I suppose that my second question is: do the Government intend that the Probation Service should change into a service that is active in rehabilitation, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, so ably outlined?
If those two things are met, how do the Government intend to develop services in terms of education that will lead to better rehabilitation and employment, in particular for young people, a group that is close to my heart?
I will speak as briefly as I can to support strongly two of the important three points made by my noble friend Lady Stern and referred to by my noble friend Lady Howarth. There is an understandable anxiety on the part of the Government to safeguard the public and to reassure them that public money is being well spent. There is a general unhappiness that the extent of the attention to measuring how effectively money is spent and how effectively outcomes have been reached in the public services can sometimes be counterproductive. The Minister may have heard about targets for police on the “Today” programme this morning. Some estimates for social workers say that only 33 per cent of their time can be spent with their clients, with the rest taken up with administration of various kinds.
The Government’s Green Paper on children in public care, Care Matters, showed that social workers wanted to spend more time with the children with whom they were working, to see them back into their families and to support them afterwards, but were prevented from doing so in part by the level of reporting that they had to do. Medical professionals report very much the same problem and are disheartened because they have less time to spend with their patients than they would wish. It is a general problem and one can see how it arises. If one has the confidence to build the professionalism of those at the front line and the culture around them, including immediate, first-line managers and leadership, one can begin to move away from those difficulties.
Building positive relationships has been referred to several times this evening, including by my noble friend. The well respected 21st Century Social Work Review in Scotland, set up by the Scottish Parliament, reported the case clearly. It states:
“Identifying needs and risks through assessment and developing and implementing action plans to address these will achieve nothing without an effective therapeutic relationship between worker and client”.
The report goes on to say that in recent years that relationship has been impeded and barriers have been created for various reasons. I strongly support what my noble friend said.
The amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Judd and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, rightly seek to highlight in the Bill the crucial role that probation plays in reducing reoffending and crime. There has been a lot of concentration in the debate on the reduction of reoffending and the rehabilitation of offenders, which are of course central to probation work. Indeed, the whole of the National Offender Management Service has made an unprecedented commitment to reducing reoffending. The latest results show that we have reduced adult reoffending by 6.9 per cent, comparing 2004 to 1997, thus exceeding our 5 per cent target in the 2000 spending review.
However, my noble friend made plain, and I agree, that it is important to make the distinction between the probation purposes set out in Clause 1 and the probation aims set out in Clause 2(4). The probation purposes describe the activities, or services, to be provided under the rest of Part 1 of the Bill. These are essentially the same as the current ones, as set out in Section 1 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, which contains the current legislative framework governing the delivery of probation services. The reduction of reoffending and the rehabilitation of offenders, on the other hand, are desired outcomes and, as such, are properly provided for in the probation aims to which the Secretary of State must have regard in carrying out his functions under Clause 2(1) and (2). The aims are accurately and clearly set out in Clause 2(4). The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, seeks to expand on the description of supervision in Clause 1(1)(c), by reference to end-to-end and other support services. The noble Baroness was quite right to highlight this issue, but the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is right in saying that he does it again in Clause 2.
I say immediately that I agree with the description by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, of end-to-end management and what it means. The management model that we have developed is intended to provide a consistent and coherent approach to the management of an offender’s sentence from start to finish. Before offender management was introduced, we did not have that. It was like a guttural stop. You have preparation before the matter goes to the courts, which then impose a sentence, but continuity is difficult to guarantee. The whole purpose of the offender management model is to provide that consistency and coherence from the moment the person comes into the system to the moment they leave it, enhancing, one hopes, the opportunity of their not coming back.
The key elements of the model are, first, that there is a single sentence plan for the whole of the sentence, including the period in the community. The second is that, at any point in time, a single person—the offender manager—is responsible for managing the offender. We generally call that “end-to-end offender management”—right through the offender’s sentence. We have focused on what offenders have indicated is the most meaningful for them. One of the biggest problems for them is being passed from pillar to post, telling the same story again and again to people who may not know them, do not understand them and must learn lessons that they have already learnt. End-to-end offender management is therefore an extremely important component.
It is also why we put in place a first-rate system for assessing the risk posed by offenders and identifying the work that prison and probation staff must do with them to tackle their offending. The offender assessment system—OASys—has been rolled out across prisons and probation, and is a vital tool in our work to improve public protection. It gives us a good handle on the risks that offenders pose. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, that I do not recognise her description of modern probation officers. If that is what they are doing, they are failing in their duty. Some in the profession would argue that they would not be fit to call themselves offender managers, and certainly not fit to call themselves professional probation officers. A probation officer’s duty is to use the tools given to them with skill and judgment to make the right decisions. It is not an excuse to say that they are simply ticking a box. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, that that is not the position.
I am extremely concerned by what the noble Baroness has just said. Just last week, a chief officer of probation told me that they had had to give up home visits because the bureaucratic demands on them were such that they simply could not afford to do them. That is the basis of much of the work that the Minister has been talking about. I respectfully say that the Probation Service as described by my noble friend Lady Stern is much more what you hear about on the ground than the Probation Service that we have just heard about from the Minister.
If that were the case, it would simply highlight why we need to change. I would be very much with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, in saying that the concentration must be on the offender. We must get much better at delivering services. If there are those capable of delivering those services, we would invite them to join arms with us to deliver a service that would make the changes that we need.
Currently, each offender in the community has a named offender manager for the relevant probation area, responsible for assessing the risk of reoffending and potential harm to the public, formulating a sentence plan accordingly and overseeing its implementation. Last November, this approach was extended to cover over 10,000 offenders in custody—prolific offenders serving determinate custodial sentences of 12 months or more and other priority offenders from whom the risk of serious harm is either high or very high. That is the direction in which we propose to go. I fully accept—
I hope that the noble Baroness will forgive me. I am glad to have some of the details rolled out, so that one can begin to understand the situation, but I do not understand what will happen if an offender manager is no longer there and has moved on. Who is going to take over the role of seeing how that particular offender is developing and so on? It cannot be the same person, so what are the plans for when nobody is there to take on the role of the previous offender manager?
To add a brief question, is there an estimate anywhere of the additional costs of visiting people who are moved to prisons up and down the country when they are in court in one town? What other, more beneficial purposes could that money have been used for? Has any study been done of that?
I gently remind the Committee that we are in Committee and we do our business in a certain way. Members usually give each other the courtesy of having their question answered before they ask another. I know that this is a matter of great excitement, and I will answer each question, but I would be grateful if the Committee—which always disciplines itself—would obey the usual conventions.
There is continuity of care in offender management because a manager, once appointed, will retain management of a case throughout. Offenders who move to another prison will retain the same manager. If the manager leaves the service, another offender manager will be allocated that case, having been given appropriate briefing. The whole point of offender management is that offenders do not go from pillar to post; if there are three prison moves, the offender manager will remain the same.
Can I answer the questions of the two other noble Lords before responding to my noble friend, whose question I will then be delighted to answer? One of the difficulties when this happens is that I forget the order in which questions have been asked.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, also asked about retaining continuity when prisoners move. I hope that I have now described that.
I was asked about the cost of retaining continuity. It has already been demonstrated to us that continuity provides significant opportunities to consolidate what has been done with offenders because they have been able to build up a relationship with their manager and do not have to repeat that process again and again.
I thank my noble friend for allowing my intervention. As she will know, prisoners are often moved between prisons, which are sometimes a great distance apart. Does that mean that offender managers will have to travel quite a lot to retain contact with the prisoners they manage?
It means that the offender manager will be responsible for arranging how the offender is managed. Although we are in Committee, I crave noble Lords’ indulgence to allow me to explain how that works, as it may help us in the long term. If, for example, an offender moves to a prison and is allocated an identified officer—noble Lords will know that often a personal officer will be responsible for an offender—the offender manager will liaise with that officer, receive information and be able to make the plan. Others may be asked to do certain work, but the offender manager will be the co-ordinator responsible for holding the reins and ensuring that the plan responds appropriately to the offender’s needs. There would have to be arrangements as to the most efficacious way of doing that, how long the person will be in one prison and, if it will be for a very short period, which is the best way to manage the case. It is important that one person provides continuity and a link.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stern, is quite wrong if she thinks that offender management has a single focus. In 2005 I set up three new alliances to reduce reoffending. The first is a corporate alliance, which seeks to engage the corporate community in understanding better that offenders can provide hugely important and effective work if appropriately trained. It also enables the wider community to become better engaged and to better understand that people can be rehabilitated. We have had huge success in setting up the corporate alliance, and many businesses have come forward. We have a business reference group of big companies that are very interested in this. National Grid has been among those that have led the way.
Secondly, we have created a civic-based alliance to include local authorities and other groups.
I am answering a question, and I wish to show this Committee the courtesy that I believe it deserves.
The third is a faith-based alliance. People of faith are doing a huge amount of work in the community, and we wish to see a synergy.
In addition to the corporate, civic and faith-based alliances, we have set up a reducing reoffending board in every area. We have also set up the Inter-Ministerial Group on Reducing Reoffending, in which 11 departments participate. It is about education, health, housing and all the other issues critical to the pathways out of crime and into a secure future. That holistic approach is essential.
I hope that my noble friend Lord Judd has never found me timorous about being clear on what we need to do to change the paradigm in which we have sat for a long time. The Government are committed to ensuring that offenders have the best possible opportunity to change, with all their needs incorporated. I assure my noble friend that I will continue to make my voice heard loudly to ensure that that happens.
When the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, rose to speak earlier, I did not give way, so I do so now to enable him to raise whatever succinct point he wishes to make.
That information is available, and I would be delighted to provide it to every Member of the Committee who has any connection with a business. I would also be greatly encouraged if all noble Lords could encourage others to join the alliance.
Although I sympathise entirely with the sentiments behind the amendments, they are adequately covered by the Bill and are therefore unnecessary. The commissioning approach that we have advocated will help to ensure that the right intervention is available to address each of the issues raised. We will discuss under later amendments how we want to work in partnership with other agencies to ensure that partners not involved in criminal justice also contribute to reducing reoffending. With the hugest amount of humility, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
I wish to express my real appreciation to everyone who has spoken to this amendment. It is good to have so much professional, front-line experience at our disposal in these deliberations.
Two of the things that I admire and appreciate in my noble friend are the thoroughness with which she invariably replies to debates and the sincerity of her intentions. I have no doubt about her sincerity in what she wishes to see in the new paradigm, as she described it, or about the vigour with which she pursues that aim. However, I must draw her attention to something that I cannot help finding significant. Clause 2 and the clause proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, in her earlier amendment have something in common: in each clause’s list of purposes, the rehabilitation of offenders comes last.
I am not for a moment suggesting that the intention is to attach any priorities, but I am suggesting that under the pressures of work and limited resources, if something comes last in a list that was not intended to have priorities, there is a way in which that begins to become last in the attention which is allocated to the purpose. That is unfortunate, and this is a missed opportunity. The other purposes and aims matter. Rehabilitation should be first, not in priority, but to establish the framework in which all the others that matter are listed. The rehabilitation of offenders should be there.
I support the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. At Second Reading I referred to my experience as president of the YMCA, and I must not refer to it in detail again. Our experience was that if we were to succeed in this sort of work, we had to take somebody’s hand and walk with him through the whole process back into society. There had to be an identifiable person with that objective. To give another example, I referred at Second Reading to a policeman, a former chief constable. However, I remember a vivid conversation with a tough, experienced superintendent of police in the YMCA. He was no sentimentalist. He was just retiring, and he said: “You know, Frank, one of the conclusions I’ve come to is that if we are to succeed in what we are trying to do, then the moment the person is sentenced by the judge or the magistrate there should be a strong man or woman at his elbow saying, ‘Now, come on. How are we going to sort this all out and get it right?’, so that, in the context of the punishment, there is someone dedicated to a successful outcome”.
I listened carefully to the full and courteous response of my noble friend and, because I like and admire her, I do not want to indulge in hypocrisy. I am disappointed, but I hope that she will go away and reflect on what we have been saying in the past two hours and see whether some adjustments can be made to the Bill to send a clearer signal about its strategic purpose. At the same time, it must recognise all the essential imperatives—if those words satisfy the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay—that must go with that. It should spell out to all concerned that the challenge to which we are determined to respond is to make a success of enabling men and women who have fallen into unfortunate circumstances and crime to come out of that and make a success of their lives. If there is no stronger case for that, then think of the economic cost to society of failing to do it. That is why it is crucial. I beg my noble friend to think about what we have been saying. In the mean time, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]