House of Lords
Wednesday, 16 May 2007.
The House met at three of the clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Leicester): the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.
Personal Statement: Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, I rise to make a personal Statement. On 25 April, I answered an Oral Question from my noble friend Lord Tomlinson. In answer to a supplementary question, I mistakenly indicated that since December 2006 the Liberal Democrat party in this House had voted on five occasions in favour of fatal amendments against statutory instruments. That was a mistake; the actual number of occasions is three. I apologise to the House for this error.
My Lords, the threat from terrorism is global, and the struggle against international terrorism needs to be equally broad-reaching. The Government’s Contest counter-terrorism strategy makes clear that we need a variety of tools, not military means alone, to reduce the risk from international terrorism and to win the ideological global struggle for values. The activities that constitute terrorism are defined in United Kingdom law in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, as amended by Section 33 of the Terrorism Act 2006.
My Lords, sometimes I cannot but feel that we have brought some of these problems on ourselves. Nevertheless, will the Government align the UK/US list of proscribed terrorist organisations in order better to reflect common purpose? More importantly, will the Government react to the linkage, on the one hand, of the association between worldwide narco-terrorism combined with the general sense of despair, often compounded by poverty, in conflict zones and lack of economic development as a result of inequitable trade policies, and, on the other hand, recruiting grounds for terrorist organisations?
My Lords, the United Kingdom’s list is constructed on the basis of groups or individuals that we regard as posing the greatest threat to the United Kingdom. I emphasise that it is largely the same as the list used by the United States, although it is not identical. The European Union also has a list that covers the United Kingdom in its impact, and we have not sought to duplicate it; we make full use of it. I believe that there is a real link between the way in which narco-terrorist groups—the FARC in Colombia, for example—exploit illicit money to further the wars that they have perpetuated. I accept that there is a link between poverty, absence of democracy, respect for human rights, the formation of failed states and the lack of trade opportunities. For those reasons, the Doha development round was always going to be one of the key implements for giving people access to real markets and economic opportunity and the chance to live in a dignified world, rather than in one full of spite and war.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that there is a clear link between global organised criminal networks and global organised terrorist networks, as we recently saw in a credit card fraud case in Britain in which people associated with the Tamils in northern Sri Lanka were clearly implicated? Are the Government therefore committed to international co-operation through the EU and wider international organisations to cope with this imprecise set of networks, some of which are criminal, some of which are terrorists and a lot of which cross between the two?
My Lords, all the evidence is that many of the major international terrorist organisations are involved up to their necks in international crime networks, whether in narcotics, sophisticated forms of fraud or whatever. That funds their terrorist activities and is often the means by which they suborn the Governments of the principal countries in which they operate, although they are, of course, global. Under the priorities of the FCO, we are absolutely committed to working on this as a global problem, and we will continue to do that.
My Lords, although some of us may want to handle the expression “global war on terror” with a long pair of tongs, we are all at one that terrorists consider information operations to be a principal part of their effort. Given that there is international agreement that not enough is being done to counteract the information war, what undertakings can the Government give to this House that they are addressing this important front individually as a Government and with other countries?
My Lords, I welcome the right reverend Prelate back to the House. The whole exercise of trying to deal with some terrorists' ideologies—the hearts and minds campaign, as it is sometimes described—involves sophisticated communication. It is very important. We try to carry that out extensively through our public diplomacy networks. I add that I have taken the view that a great deal more public diplomacy can be done in association with, rather than in competition with, other countries. If we and other Europeans, for example, are able to work together on these things, provided that we can get the result, that seems to me to be what we should aim for.
My Lords, the Minister said that those put on the list of terrorist organisations—and I think that I quote him accurately—“pose the greatest threat to the United Kingdom”. Will he explain why the Iranian resistance group the PMOI is on that list, since when it was originally banned the Government noted that it had no presence in the United Kingdom and no record of attacks on British or western interests anywhere in the world?
My Lords, I hope what I said was—and no doubt the record will show it—that that was one of the principal considerations. There obviously must be considerations about organisations and their records in the international sphere. Under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary is responsible for making a judgment across a wide range of considerations; and he has made judgment in respect of that organisation. It is currently appealing on whether that judgment is right and, while the appeal is in progress, I would not wish to go into the matter further.
My Lords, further to the noble Lord’s previous answer on the question of winning the battle for hearts and minds, do the Government recognise that this extends far further than the conventional networks of newspapers and television? I give the noble Lords a figure: at the time of the Vietnam War the average citizen had access to information through three, maybe four, outlets, of which two could be regarded as being under government control. Nowadays, the average citizen has access to 24 sources of information, of which only one is the internet. Very few are under government control. It is these viral networks, the internet and other networks, which are the battleground of terrorist networks in this country. Are we sure we are making it ours, too?
My Lords, the realities of modern communication are as has been described. We have made every effort to ensure that in the electronic communications world we are more effective. The BBC World Service has decided to run an Arabic language television service. This is the first time in modern times that it has run a television service across the whole of that linguistic community. Deep consideration is being given to a Farsi language television service, also to be run by the BBC World Service if the funding can be secured. In all the new avenues there is constant active investigation of what can be achieved.
Common Agricultural Policy: Single Farm Payment
My Lords, I apologise for the length of this Answer. The figure mentioned by the noble Baroness in her Question is the original number of claims that the Rural Payments Agency identified for review in September last year. Further cases were identified over the winter so that the total reached some 25,000 cases, as announced by the Secretary of State, David Miliband, in February of this year. As reported by Written Ministerial Statement yesterday, taking account of both those cases now reviewed and the further cases identified, the net number of outstanding cases currently stands at approximately 22,000.
It should be noted that, apart from 24 cases, 116,000 claimants have received over £1.5 billion of single farm payment 2005 money. The cases now under review are to check for accuracy and to see whether claims have been underpaid or, indeed, overpaid. The sums involved are often very small.
Our immediate priority now is to complete payments under the 2006 single payment scheme. Of course we will continue to review the 2005 claims, because these have an effect on processing claims in subsequent years.
My Lords, I thank the Minister, but does he agree that the RPA is still failing and that, if it was a private contractor, it would probably have been sacked? Will he also admit that some farmers—he mentioned 22,000—are actually worse off today than they were a year ago when David Miliband took over as Minister? How confident is he that the 2006 target of 96 per cent will be achieved by the end of June?
My Lords, on the last point, we are obviously working towards that target—96.14 per cent is an EU requirement. I do not accept what the noble Baroness said about the RPA. When the history of this comes to be written, the 2005 year of single farm payments may well turn out to have been the easiest year. The reason was that there was no 2004.
No, my Lords, the impact on 2006 of 2005 and, from today, 2007, because yesterday was the closing date for forms, has the enormous consequence of being able to close this down. That is part of the reason why cash flow for farmers this year—I challenge anyone to contradict this from their experience—has been far superior to cash flow last year. Nevertheless, it will still be an effort to meet the target.
My Lords, we do not have to undertake a study; it is constantly ongoing. The original plan was for the RPA staff to diminish following the introduction of the scheme. That did not happen. Those manpower targets have had to be spread around the rest of the department, although not to the same numbers. That has had an impact on the rest of the department. No one denies that, but it has not stopped us putting the necessary manpower into the RPA to deliver the programme. Some of that consists of temporary, part-time staff.
My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will agree that the RPA situation has generated a complete lack of confidence among the farming community with respect to many things in Defra. What are he and his department going to do to regenerate confidence in Defra’s interest in farming?
My Lords, I make it absolutely clear that none of this is as a result of the efforts of the staff of the RPA. Both last year and this year, the staff cannot be blamed; it is the system that they are expected to use and the difficulty that we have in changing the system that are to blame. I have said repeatedly in this House that it will be 2008 before we can stabilise the system.
On confidence of farmers, I can say that probably the second-best regional paper in the country, the Yorkshire Post, yesterday gave the important information that the UK agricultural industry’s total borrowing dropped by £253 million in the quarter to March 2007. The March 2007 figure represents the lowest quarterly bank lending figure since the end of September 2005. At the end of March, UK farmers had the highest figure for deposits in banks on record. The cash-flow situation improved dramatically this year compared to last year, so I hope that farmers will trust that we are doing our best to run the system.
My Lords, I pay tribute to all the staff at the five RPA offices, all of which I visited for the second time during the Recess. I add that the staff at Workington have already started to process the 2007 claims. I understand that the initial processing of some 8,000 claims was already completed before the close at midnight last night. That is where the initial validation will take place.
This year, we paid out money earlier than last year. Clearly, we hope and expect to pay out earlier this year. We must meet the targets set by the European Union to ensure that we do not suffer disallowance penalties and late-payment penalties, none of which have yet arrived at the door of Defra. Contrary to press reports, there have been no penalties imposed on the Government.
My Lords, can the Minister say whether the Government have at any time regretted the system that they have adopted, and its complexity, when the Scottish have adopted their simpler single payment system? What snags for the Scottish farmer will be as difficult as the ones from the complex system for the English farmer?
My Lords, I cannot answer that question. Since I have been at Defra, I have spent my time, as has David Miliband, looking at the present and the future, learning where we can from the past. It is not in our interests as Ministers at the present time to delve into the past. Plenty of others, including members of Select Committees of both Houses, are doing that.
My Lords, I hope that we do not owe the noble and distinguished Lord very much, although it is true that some payments are still owed. We had paid out some 95 per cent of the money by 30 June. That is our legal requirement for this year. Where payments have been delayed, we have paid interest—more than £1.1 million to late claimants for 2005. It is too early to say what will happen this year, because we hope, and we are trying hard, to meet the target.
Olympic Games 2012: Arts Funding
My Lords, the Government announced on 15 March that Arts Council England would contribute an additional £62.9 million towards the cost of the Olympics, bringing its total contribution, subject to parliamentary approval in both Houses, to £112.5 million, spread over four years. This means that, based on current projections, there should still be £500 million of new lottery money for Arts Council England between 2009 and 2012. Existing lottery commitments will not be affected.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but is he aware of the consequences of the budget for the 2012 Olympics, which has risen from £3.4 billion in 2005 to £9.3 billion now, and that Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund have had to contribute almost £400 million? Is he also aware that, although the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been cobbled together, with culture having little connection with sport, it must be wrong for the arts to lose out to sport as a result of the mishandling of the department?
My Lords, may I first dispute the figures given by my noble friend? The lottery will contribute £2.15 billion, and Arts Council England will contribute £112 million. I do not make a distinction between sports and the arts; they are both of enormous importance to our country. It is of great significance that the Olympics are coming to our country, and we must celebrate that. There has been a change in funding figures. We feel that everything is now absolutely under control, and that the impact on the arts world will not be as significant as some people are trying to tell us.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that constancy is essential in arts funding, and that, when this Government demand that the arts sector is disciplined about setting itself targets, they should not then summarily pull the financial rug from underneath it?
My Lords, I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness that consistency is very important, but I draw her attention to the fact that 10 years ago the Arts Council budget was £173 million; it is now £412 million. An enormous amount of money is being spent on the arts. The Government will do everything that they can to minimise the impact on arts organisations because of this diversion to the Olympic fund, and I am sure that we will be able to discuss many of these issues at greater length in the debate tomorrow.
My Lords, further to the Minister’s reply to the noble Lord, Lord Sheldon, are we right to understand that his remarks were an admission from the Government that expenditure on the Olympics was out of control? If that is not what he meant, what did he mean?
My Lords, I meant that when the Government put in their bid for the Olympics, they used a set of figures that did not include the cost of regenerating the area where the Olympics are to be held. The Government feel that this will be an important legacy of the Games and is an investment well worth making. The essential thing is that the figures we have now cover everything. There is a contingency so that if costs do rise—we do not anticipate that they will—they will be taken care of from the contingency.
My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that within the Olympics budget a significant amount of money is set aside for the cultural aspect of the Olympics? Can he further confirm that in terms of the overall position of arts funding in this country, the outcome of the forthcoming CSR is considerably more important than any raid on the lottery that is going towards the Olympics?
My Lords, to answer my noble friend’s second question first, the spending review is causing some anxiety in relation to this diversion of moneys to the Olympic Games. Obviously, I cannot say anything about that. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made an extremely positive speech in Brighton last week about the arts. Yesterday, my right honourable friend made a speech in Liverpool, where she announced the preliminary details of the Cultural Olympiad, suggesting that £40 million would be set aside—which she hoped to have doubled—to encourage arts as a parallel to the Olympic Games over the next four years. It has always been the intention that a very powerful arts programme should run alongside the Olympic Games. That should encourage the arts world.
My Lords, one of the problems is how we define “charities”. There has been an agreement with the Big Lottery Fund that resources for voluntary and community sector activities will be protected. This means that the sector will still receive the amount implied by the Big Lottery’s earlier commitment of around £2 billion, and the NCVO has welcomed this.
Schools: Ancient History
My Lords, the Government are not content to see the withdrawal of ancient history as a free-standing A-level, and we have invited OCR and the QCA to come forward with proposals for its continuance.
My Lords, what a splendid Answer—gaudeamus igitur! Is my noble friend aware, and I am sure he is, that his decision will be greeted with great joy not just by the ancient historian academics who have fought so hard against this ill conceived proposal by the examinations board but by thousands of others as well, particularly the pupils in state and independent schools who are increasingly taking up ancient history because they feel it gives them an insight into the birth of democracy, the growth of Christianity and indeed the shape of modern Europe? Will he also gently remind the examinations regulator, the QCA, that it has a continuing responsibility to protect minority subjects such as ancient history which are provided by only one examination provider?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his remarks, to which I will draw the QCA’s attention so that it can see what he said. On ancient history, which we regard as a very important A-level, the number studying at AS-level rose from 749 to 951 between 2005 and 2006, while the number of candidates for the A-level has also been increasing. I am glad to say that the number entering for Latin and ancient Greek has also been increasing. I would like to think that that had something to do with the appointment of an Adonis as Schools Minister, but I am told that it has rather more to do with successful projects such as the Cambridge classics project, outstandingly successful books such as Robert Harris’s Imperium and Tom Holland’s Rubicon, and films such as “Gladiator”.
My Lords, will the Minister also draw the attention of the examination regulators to the fact that ancient history is an extraordinarily useful subject? It is a tool subject for pupils at A-level because it teaches them in a manageable way what it is to seek and use evidence, both literary and archaeological. It is an ideal A-level subject.
My Lords, I entirely agree. I am at one with Cicero:
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”.
I assume that that is what the noble Baroness meant.
My Lords, I declare an interest: I took ancient history A-level and did rather badly. I hope that the Minister’s comments will go into the future, because we fought the same battle over archaeology A-level. In the first round, the Government said that they were quite keen for archaeology A-level to remain, but since then it has been discontinued as an A-level subject, which is unfortunate considering the popular interest in archaeology throughout the country.
Medical Training Application Service
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health in another place. The Statement is as follows:
“Mr Speaker, following the recommendations of the review group chaired by Professor Neil Douglas, an extended round 1 of recruitment to postgraduate medical training is now taking place. As the House knows, every eligible applicant for postgraduate medical training has now been guaranteed at least one interview for their first preference post, regardless of the outcome of the earlier shortlisting process, although many trainees of course will have more than one interview. An additional 15,500 interviews have therefore been arranged as part of round 1, and are now taking place. I am extremely grateful to the consultants who have made themselves available for these additional interviews, and to hospitals for making the time available.
“The review group agreed that offers for the current round will be managed locally by individual deaneries on the basis of published MMC guidance. Subject to the outcome of the current judicial review, the first offers for hospital specialists in England will be made on or after 21 May, with all initial offers made by early June and round 1 completed by late June. Given the continuing concerns of junior doctors about MTAS, the system will not be used for matching candidates to training posts, but will continue to be used by the deaneries.
“As we have stressed before, not all training posts will be filled in round 1, and there will therefore be further substantial opportunities for those who are not successful initially, including the new training posts that are now being agreed by the NHS and the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board.
“We have accepted the review group’s recommendation that this further recruitment will be locally planned and managed by the postgraduate deaneries. Because most trainee doctors’ contracts are due to end before the further recruitment has been completed, we will be agreeing with the review group, deaneries and hospitals the necessary measures to ensure that all those trainees are properly supported and that patients continue to be properly cared for.
“Finally, as I told the House yesterday, in relation to the recent security breaches of the online application service, a full security review of the MTAS system has now been completed and validated, and appropriate action taken to deal with the problem. The site was therefore reopened last week, for the use of postgraduate deaneries only, to support the next steps in the recruitment process, including continued monitoring in line with the principles of modernising medical careers. Because the investigation has made it clear that criminal offences may have been committed, the security analysis and report have been given to the police”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the extent of the disaster that Ministers in the Department of Health have presided over in relation to postgraduate medical training. The Statement represents a complete abandonment of the system of recruitment that they have been doggedly defending over the past few weeks. Yet in defending MTAS, Ministers have simultaneously left junior doctors bereft of any further information. MTAS itself has been shut down; we have seen important developments leaked to the media without any accompanying government comment. The whole process, over many months, has been characterised by poor planning, insufficient consultation and absolutely catastrophic implementation. Morale among junior doctors has been hit badly and the credibility of Ministers on this issue is now at a nadir.
Nevertheless, we are where we are and Ministers must now sort matters out. It will be helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, can answer a few central questions. Apart from the failure of MTAS, which has effectively been abandoned, one of the main concerns among junior doctors applying for posts is how round 2 of the recruitment process will work. The concerned voice from many quarters over many months has been that, in planning the number of training posts to be made available, the Government have failed to make allowance for the number of trainees coming through the foundation years in addition to those coming through the senior house officer route and that there will therefore be a bubble of applicants chasing a much smaller number of jobs. How many extra training places will there be and what proportion of the total number of such places is likely to be filled by the end of round 1B? How many training posts filled this year will be temporary or fixed term? And, in passing, why can the Scottish deanery offer four interviews and England only one?
There is an obvious dilemma for doctors who do not get posts in round 1. They need to know what other jobs will be available and where they are, and they will have to apply for these jobs before 1 August. They also need to know what happens if they do not succeed in round 2. Therefore, will these available posts in round 2 be advertised in a timely way, and to what extent will opportunities be available for entry to speciality training next year for those not appointed this year?
Alongside the uncertainty for doctors, what about the uncertainty for NHS trusts? How are trusts supposed to fill their service grade posts between the end of June and 1 August if the available pool of doctors is in the course of applying for postgraduate training posts? What contingency plans are in place to ensure continuity of patient care when the changeover of doctors’ posts occurs on 1 August?
The Minister will be all too aware that a great deal of good will is being drawn on in getting the recruitment process on to some kind of stable basis, not least the extent to which senior doctors who are having to cancel their lists are devoting large amounts of their time to conducting interviews. For their sake, as well as that of junior doctors, I hope that the Minister will appreciate the need to provide full and detailed answers to the many questions that the medical profession as a whole is asking.
My Lords, when we discussed this matter two weeks ago, it was commonly recognised that something had gone badly wrong, but quite how seriously was not then obvious; it is becoming so now. Given that, the Minister would do well by the NHS if he were able to provide answers to a number of detailed questions.
The Minister has announced that the system is to be subject to a review led by Sir John Tooke. Can he assure the House that that review will be wholly and thoroughly independent of the Department of Health? Can he explain the extent of the involvement of the Chief Medical Officer in the design of the MTAS system? The Chief Medical Officer is, after all, the doctors’ doctor in government, so there is a serious concern shared by all doctors about the CMO’s role.
In the Statement, the Minister referred to criminal offences. I do not expect him to speak in detail about particular offences, but can he give us the order of seriousness of the offences that have been notified to the police?
What is the cost to the NHS of the MTAS system and the handling of this crisis? The noble Earl, Lord Howe, spoke of consultants being taken away from patient care in order to conduct interviews. Has the Department of Health made an estimate of quite how much this affair has cost the NHS? Further, what is the position of the contractor for MTAS and what is the status of its contract with the department, given the appalling level of service provided?
This year, we are going to subject doctors to a system that is patently unfair. We will have doctors who have been recruited using a system that is now widely recognised as fundamentally flawed. Does the Minister agree that there is a case for making all the appointments to posts this year for one year only, and next year introducing a system that is full, open and fair, and in which all doctors are appointed on an equal footing?
Finally, a problem at the heart of all this, one which has been ignored, is that there are not enough training places. Over 30,000 doctors are chasing 23,000 jobs. In all the four Statements that the Minister in another place has made, she has not addressed that central issue.
My Lords, I say in response to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that it is clear that there have been visible problems with the MTAS system. But I stress that the Modernising Medical Careers programme came about because doctors and medical bodies found the old system unacceptable. Applicants often had to make dozens of applications, the training was patchy and it had elements of the old-boy network about it. Those very same organisations were all involved in the planning, strategy and development of the new system. It is important to keep in mind that there has always been strong support for the principles behind Modernising Medical Careers.
The noble Earl has asked me some specific questions that I am afraid I am simply not in a position to answer. That is because round 1 has not yet been completed. It is still going on; interviews are still taking place. As was repeated in the Statement, we are very grateful to the NHS trusts and to the senior consultants who have given up time to take part in these further interviews. Only when the first round is fully completed and the offers have been made—as will happen in June—shall we know how many places have been filled and, therefore, how many places will then fall to be filled in the second round.
I understand completely the point that the noble Earl makes about the need for junior doctors to have as much information as possible as early as possible. I absolutely accept that, but we are not in a position to give that information at the moment because it simply is not available. Of course, when the information becomes available, we shall want to ensure that it is put in the public domain and, more specifically, communicated with junior doctors as soon as possible.
Scotland has taken a different approach, but some of the logistics are different. In England, some of the deaneries have a huge number of appointments to deal with. After consideration by the review group, which consists of representatives of very distinguished medical bodies, it was decided to take the approach in England that was considered the most practical. It has ensured that applicants who were not shortlisted at all in round 1A were all given the opportunity to have an interview for at least their first preference in round 1B. We think that that is a pragmatic and sensible solution. It was taken after we had received advice from the review group established under the chairmanship of Professor Douglas.
I fully accept the noble Earl’s point that decisions made in relation to specialty training have a knock-on impact on NHS trusts. Again, I pay tribute to the way in which NHS trusts collaborated with the department and ensured that consultants were released to conduct interviews. He referred to a potential gap as regards some applicants moving to round 2. The relevant interviews will take place and we will set out a timeframe. The noble Earl is concerned that that will lead to uncertainty among NHS trusts. Work is going on with those trusts to ensure that there is continuity of employment and that services do not suffer as a result. That is also my answer in relation to the 1 August date and the issues raised about that.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, that I cannot go into the details of the report that is being made to the police. However, the security breaches were very serious indeed and are to be deplored. That is why we took the action that we did. We have now passed that information to the police authorities.
My answer on the Tooke review is the same as I gave when the noble Baroness asked me about it two weeks ago. Sir John Tooke is a wholly independent person. The review is entirely in his hands and I am sure that it will be conducted as appropriately as possible. We all want to learn the lessons that need to be learnt to make sure that the system works well in the future. That is in everyone’s interest. Having met Sir John Tooke, I am very confident that he will take a rigorous approach. I also take this opportunity to thank Professor Douglas and his group for the help that they have given in the past few weeks and will give in the weeks to come.
The noble Baroness asked me two questions about costs. I cannot give a figure about the cost to the NHS of releasing consultants. However, under the old system, hospitals had to deal with dozens of applications. Consultants spent time dealing with those. I suspect that it would be impossible to make a comparison between the two systems. It is always part of the duty of consultants and hospitals to take part in recruitment for specialist posts, and it will continue to be so.
The cost of MTAS in 2006-07 was £1.9 million. We reckoned that the five-year cost of the MTAS system was £6.3 million. We will look at the company that we contracted with, and the contract, and keep that under review, in the light of both the experience with the security breach and the future requirements of the system.
The noble Baroness will know that a judicial review hearing is taking place at the moment, and it would not be right for me to comment further on that. It has been suggested that everyone should be offered a one-year post, but that would bring a great deal of uncertainty to many people who have gone through the proper process and the interviews and who would, under our present intentions, be offered run-through training. I do not believe that the suggestion is a panacea. The medical organisations, such as the BMA, that sit round the table in the review group chaired by Professor Douglas are all of the clear view that we must continue with the current process. That is the proper way through, and it is the proper way to ensure that at the end of the day we have the best people in these training posts.
I was asked about additional training places. They are subject to discussions at the moment with the NHS and the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board. I am not in a position to give any figures, but when we have the full information we will make it available to the House and to junior doctors.
My Lords, I declare an interest, as my daughter is going through the MTAS system. Can the Minister confirm whether the figure given in the other place is correct and that £1.9 million was spent on IT for this year? By my reckoning, that would cover the cost of about 20,000 junior jobs, which is twice the number of potentially unemployed juniors. What percentage of the posts, which were all educationally approved, are fixed term, and what percentage will be run-through training to allow those doctors to carry on to specialist training? What is being done to increase morale among junior doctors? A paper in the Lancet showed that 95 per cent of juniors are profoundly demoralised and disillusioned with the Department of Health and the way in which this is being handled.
What support will be given to juniors who have to relocate at very short notice when they find that they have a job offer that is outside travelling distance from where they currently live? The lag time to relocate is normally about three months and they will certainly not have that time in hand. Will the Minister confirm that the way in which this is now being run means that those who have had interviews and who have been successful in different disciplines will be given job offers in each of those disciplines and therefore will have an element of choice, rather than finding that they have been shoehorned into one job in one specialty, which is how it started out?
My Lords, I will try to respond to some of those questions. The figure for the cost of MTAS in 2006-07 is correct. I am not sure that it equates to the number of junior doctors that the noble Baroness mentioned; it sounded to me as though the figures did not equate too well, but I am certainly prepared to discuss that with her. The breakdown of the training posts in England, which are the figures that I have, is that 11,943 are for run-through training; for the UK as a whole, that figure is 14,595.
The noble Baroness said that juniors will receive what she described as “short notice” of their new post and will have to consider moving. Of course I understand those issues and the pressure on junior doctors in general, and it is very important to ensure that the right advice and pastoral care is available to help them in that situation; I fully accept that point. There is nothing new about what is happening. This has been an issue for junior doctors for many years. They have applied for specialist training posts; they may have been accepted and they may well have to move to different parts of the country. That is the nature of junior doctors’ training; they have always come under that pressure. I accept that we need to ensure that juniors this year are given as much guidance and advice as possible. We are in close discussion with the postgraduate deaneries to ensure that that happens.
I can confirm that the integrity of round 1A interviews will be maintained. When candidates receive the results of interviews throughout June, some will receive more than one offer.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that in a country which prides itself on its technological expertise, it is extraordinary that a computerised system designed to improve the postgraduate training of doctors has failed so abysmally to satisfy the needs of the health service and of the medical profession—and that at a time when the vastly expensive Connecting for Health system is also struggling to fulfil its objectives? What can be done to ensure that the computerised system will be “fit for purpose”—to use a popular phrase?
Bearing in mind the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, is the Minister satisfied that there really are enough training posts to be occupied by all of those coming out of the foundation programmes? Is he aware of press publicity concerning demoralised doctors being invited in considerable numbers to go to Australia, for example? Those doctors have been trained at great public expense in the UK and are much needed by the National Health Service. It is a very serious situation and it is good to know that the MTAS programme has been put on hold in favour of the old-fashioned system that had its defects, but at least gave doctors adequate notice before they took up new appointments.
My Lords, I want to draw a distinction between the Modernising Medical Careers programme and MTAS, which is a technical system by which applicants made their preferences known, through which their interviews were arranged and which informed them of their success or otherwise. The principles of Modernising Medical Careers hold good and are widely supported by the profession, which made a considerable contribution to their development.
It is clear that there have been issues and problems with the MTAS system and that is why in the next stage we will look to local deaneries to do the work required in matching applicants to available posts. There are lessons to be learnt and that is why we have established Sir John Tooke’s review.
I have already told the House that we are working with the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board to establish whether more training posts—and how many—could be created. However, I caution the House that it would be wrong suddenly to create a huge number of extra training posts if, at the end of the training programme, the consultant or GP jobs were not available. It is important that we keep in balance the workforce requirements of the NHS and the number of training places.
Yes, there are over 30,000 applicants and the number of training places is about 22,000 to 23,000; but there has always been an oversupply of candidates for training posts. There has been a bulge this year, because there have been applications from many candidates who have been working in the NHS for several years and who have always been looking for further training opportunities. However, most of the applicants work in the NHS and will continue to work in it, but some will not be successful in getting on these training programmes. That is no different from what happened in previous years.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that what has happened has not only damaged people’s confidence in the system but, in a number of cases, has also damaged individual applicants’ confidence in their own sense of vocation? What plans do the Government have to seek to restore that sense of vocation in these young doctors and in the profession generally, which is so important to the well-being of our society?
My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for that question. I have no doubt that the events of the past few weeks and months have caused a great deal of anxiety to junior doctors applying for specialty training posts. There is no doubt about that; nor is there any doubt that they are dedicated people who have a vocation to help people and to work in the National Health Service. I fully accept the right reverend Prelate’s challenge: we have to ensure that this system works and that the value of our junior doctors is fully recognised. In a sense, the response that I gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, about pastoral care applies to junior doctors generally. It will be very important for all of us in the National Health Service to ensure that those doctors understand that we greatly value the work that they do and the contribution that they can make in the future.
My Lords, does my noble friend accept that when the noble Earl, Lord Howe, referred to the disaster that Ministers have presided over, it would have been an even greater disaster for patients if we had kept the number of training places for doctors at the level that it was at when this Government came into power? We are now dealing with problems of success in doctor training, not problems of failure. Will the Minister accept that I regard it as a sign of strength in politicians when they change their mind on the basis of empirical evidence? I do not regard it as a weakness, and I commend my noble friend for repeating the Statement, which reflects that change of mind.
We should not allow the bad news—and it is bad news—about the need for training places for doctors to overshadow other news about the National Health Service that has come out today; for example, the report of the Healthcare Commission.
My Lords, does my noble friend recognise that, in this context, the report shows that overall the National Health Service is doing a good job? Patients gave a vote of confidence in the overall level of care. I remind him that Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said:
“We hear a lot of negative comment about the NHS, but we must never forget that most patients have consistently rated the [National Health Service] as good or excellent”.
My Lords, my noble friend has raised some very relevant questions. It is worth making the point that the Healthcare Commission’s report showed an ever-higher degree of satisfaction with the NHS among patients. My noble friend is right that one reason why we need to reform medical training is that we now have many more doctors. We increased the number of training places and there are 30,000 extra doctors in the health service. That is why waiting times have come down and why we have opened new facilities, and it is why we have to ensure that our doctors of the future are given the best possible training. That is what Modernising Medical Careers is about: it is about getting rid of the old, inconsistent, patchy approach to training. I am absolutely convinced that the outcome, as we have seen from the foundation course for very junior doctors, is that we will get better doctors and higher-quality patient services.
My Lords, I am one of those who have nothing but praise for the current state of patient treatment in the NHS, particularly in London, where my family has been very blessed in having had remarkably good treatment. However, will the Minister acknowledge that the anxieties, the impression of disorder and the poor arrangements surrounding the promotion of junior doctors onwards will have a knock-on effect on those who may still be at school but are thinking of entering the profession? What will the Government do to try to reassure these young people who are taking A-levels, which will take them on to medical school, that, by the time they reach the same position as those who are being examined at the moment, they will not be subjected to the same sort of chaos?
My Lords, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the modernised medical careers programme. We have dealt with the issues as they have arisen, such as the problems with MTAS. That is why we set up the review group and accepted its advice to place responsibility in the local deaneries for the next part of the MTAS process. The quality of candidates coming through into medical schools is of a very high order, and information is beginning to reach us suggesting that many of the candidates who have been interviewed for the specialty training posts are first rate. It is no coincidence that one of the reasons why we have such a strong research-based pharmaceutical industry is the quality of our clinical staff, and the quality of our science base. I assure the noble Baroness that we shall do everything we can to enhance that reputation.
My Lords, the question of how morale can be restored has been asked. When the Secretary of State in another place was asked to apologise six times during the discussions, she refused, but the good news is that our Minister here, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has apologised. That was very much appreciated. There is no doubt that when the Government make mistakes, they should apologise and avoid attacking the medical profession and accusing it of making mistakes. A lot of remarks have been made about the old-boy network—the Minister used those words himself. Many hospitals have tried very hard over many years to make a serious attempt always to appoint the best candidates. When I mentioned that in a previous discussion, the Minister dismissed it as a one-off.
Let me explain that if you put, say, 100 applications in order of merit on the basis of previous exam results, clinical assessments, and so on, then give that list to another group of people—perhaps the consultants—to see whether they agree, you end up with a list in order of merit. A secretary then gives the top one their choice and so on all the way down. There is no way that you can have an old-boy network as you cannot fix a job at all. Many centres in the country tried and established that system, and the old-boy network was precluded in many places.
On the business of trying to avoid mistakes in the future, have we in place a system that will avoid awarding one point to a candidate with a PhD, and four points to a candidate who writes rather a good essay on how to manage stress?
My Lords, I hold the noble Lord in high regard. He is a brilliant doctor and has done sterling work in the health service over many years. I would never accuse him of being part of the old-boy network, but there have been strong criticisms about the traditional approach. I take the noble Lord’s point about working with doctors and medical bodies, which I have always sought to do because I think that that is the only way to achieve success in the health service. However, I was making the point that they were all involved in the discussion on the principles of changing the approach to training. They gave broad acceptance because of the concerns expressed about the previous system.
Finally, I believe that the points system should be looked at by Sir John Tooke in his independent review. I am sure that we shall take careful account of what he has to say.
My Lords, I accept absolutely what my noble friend Lord McColl said about how much we appreciate the Minister apologising for what has happened; it made a difference. However, I find it difficult to understand that, in the course of a very short, compact Statement on a longstanding problem, the Minister said, “Of course, we will learn lessons”. He repeated that in an answer. Will there be a time when we have learnt the lessons? We are hearing about this problem rather too much.
The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, may well laugh at that, but the other report he mentioned as being published today, although irrelevant to the subject of this Statement, is perhaps relevant in another way. The Government always seem to bury bad news when they have some good news to put out, which is why, if I may say so, we have ended up with such a tiny Statement.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is being a little unfair. The Statement reflects two things. First, on the basis of the report on security, we have referred that matter to the police, so there is little I can add. The second part of the Statement related to the work of the review body, and encapsulated its discussions at its previous meeting. In addition to a number of oral Statements, we have issued regular Written Ministerial Statements and will continue to do so. The review group meets on a regular basis, at times weekly, and deals with specific issues. The Statement today was about a specific issue.
Moving from the old system to the new one was a huge challenge; there is no question about that. The foundation programme has worked very well. Indications are that the recruitment and interview process for GPs has worked well. We should not allow the immediate issues and problems which have been identified to undermine this whole process. At the end of the day, it is about a better training programme for the doctors, which means that we will ultimately get better, high quality, care. We must focus on that.
Offender Management Bill
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.]
rose to ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the main issues under consideration in relation to the provision of coastal access.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome the small but distinguished group of people who have indicated that they will speak in this short debate. I should declare an interest as a somewhat inactive member of the access and conservation committee of the British Mountaineering Council. When I put this Question down, I hoped that, when it came up, it would be topical because we would be half way through the Government’s three-month consultation period on costal access. That is, regrettably, not the case because the consultation has been delayed a few times. I understand that it will now be launched on 19 June; perhaps the Minister will confirm that. The good news—if the rumours are true—is that it will be launched by the Secretary of State, David Miliband, which is a cause for optimism. I asked for this debate in order to be helpful and constructive and to urge the Government along in what could be a very exciting venture.
I was fascinated by what David Miliband said at the celebrations, almost a month ago, for the 75th anniversary of the Kinder Scout trespass. He said that land, even private land, is a public good and that we should assert our right to enjoy it. He said:
“It should be accessible to all”.
I entirely agree with his sentiments. On 21 April, in an interview with the Grough website—many people who go walking or tramping about mountains will be familiar with it and, no doubt, with the groughs on Kinder Scout and Bleaklow—the Secretary of State said:
“I’m here today because I want to honour the rebels with a big cause … I think that it’s important to say that we honour their memory with the way we support national parks, with the way that we implement the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act but also from the next steps that we have with respect to coastal access”.
It gets better. As part of the celebrations of that historic trespass, he posed in front of a big sign that said, “Trespassers will be celebrated”. I thought that, if this goes on, I will start to find some good things to say about this Government after all.
The background to this is Section 3 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act—the CROW Act—which allows the Secretary of State to introduce by order the application of CROW to coastal land. We have moved on from that, and everybody now accepts that simply doing that is not the answer to better access to the coastal areas. However, I shall quote Section 3(3), because the definition is important:
“In this section ‘coastal land’ means—(a) the foreshore, and (b) land adjacent to the foreshore (including in particular any cliff, bank, barrier, dune, beach or flat which is adjacent to the foreshore)”.
The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, will remember discussing those words however long ago it was—six or seven years.
More than a year ago, the Government asked what has now become Natural England to look at ways and means of introducing costal access and the options for it. In doing do, Defra set out its vision:
“A coastal environment where rights to walk along the length of the English coast lie within a wildlife and landscape corridor that offers enjoyment, understanding of the natural environment and a high quality experience; and which is managed sustainably in the context of a changing coastline”.
Concern has been expressed by organisations representing recreational users of the coast—they represent everybody from the toddlers who go for a paddle right through to rock climbers and such people—that the word “access” does not appear in that vision, although “enjoyment” does. Will the Minister confirm that access to the coast is crucial to the whole business? We are talking not just about access along the coast or to the coast from places inland but about access within the coastal zone or corridor, in exactly the same way as with access land under the CROW Act.
I pay tribute to Natural England for its thorough, interesting and extremely useful work. It has managed to come up with a different option from those that we thought were available at the beginning. It looked at, analysed and assessed four different options. The first was a voluntary or temporary approach, perhaps relying on agri-environmental schemes. The second was a purely linear route—the creation of new footpaths. That could be very expensive if they involved rights-of-way creation orders. Moreover, they would provide inadequate access to the rest of the coast, notably the beach and the cliffs, and are subject to change if a cliff-top path is eroded—and the chances of that may increase with global warming. Change is a feature of the coast and always has been, but if the land erodes and disappears there is a problem.
The third option was of mapping, as under CROW. I think that everybody instinctively recoiled from that, as it would be very bureaucratic and expensive. It might have been the right way to go for CROW, but there is a general view that it is not the right way to go for the coast. Mapping does not react to change. Finally, there was the innovative and exciting option that Natural England came up with of a coastal corridor or zone between perhaps the mean low-tide mark and an appropriate boundary with developed land or improved farmland inland.
The Government have now said that they will consult on all these options. Will Natural England’s preferred option get some sort of lead status in the consultation? Is it being put forward as the preferred option? Will it cover a broad zone that extends down to the sea, which I believe is necessary? In particular, are the Government committed to enabling movement along the coast so that people can walk right around the coast of England? Are they committed to access within the corridor, whether for wildlife purposes, for recreation, for just admiring and enjoying the landscape, or for getting down to the sea to paddle canoes, to go swimming or just to paddle?
Is there a commitment to a corridor for protection and enhancement of wildlife and landscape as well as informal outdoor recreation—what might be called the “quiet enjoyment of the coast”? I wondered whether to write down the words “quiet enjoyment”, since there have been occasions in the past when perched half way up a steep cliff face on the coast—whether or not I was enjoying myself tackling the crux of a climb that was probably too hard for me to tackle anyway—I may not have been very quiet about it. Nevertheless, is there a commitment for quiet enjoyment of the coast, as opposed to enjoyment with mechanical contraptions such as cars, buggies or whatever? Will all that be within a framework of a code of practice that is sensibly worked out between the different bodies, which the Government would no doubt call stakeholders but I would probably not?
Is the Government’s view that any restrictions should be based on common sense and negotiated locally between the different interests, based on much of the experience of access lands under CROW and particularly of the very successful voluntary restrictions that climbers have on cliffs all over the place? Do the Government intend to provide sufficient resources for Natural England and local authorities to provide the infrastructure and the management arrangements—the signs, gates, routes around obstacles and new paths to the coast? Finally, if this issue needs primary legislation, have the Government yet reached a view on whether the marine Bill would be an appropriate vehicle to include such legislation?
These are all key questions. The Minister may say that it is too early to answer them because we have not entered the consultation, but some indication that the Government have taken these matters seriously would be extremely valuable. I look forward to the Government introducing coastal access that fulfils the very real vision that David Miliband has been talking about.
My Lords, the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is very important, but it is not without difficulty. Perhaps it is more difficult than one might suppose from listening to his opening remarks. I live on the coast of East Anglia in Suffolk. Walking along the coastal path is a favourite activity. In this case, the path is on a river bank on a tidal estuary of the River Alde, which is known as the River Ore closer to the mouth.
The banks were created when the monks of a nearby monastery in the Middle Ages drained the marshes, thereby creating fertile land, which has, incidentally, produced valuable foodstuffs ever since. The path separates the river from the drained marshlands. The bank requires regular, routine maintenance. For some years, until recently, the Government have helped to finance this work with a small annual grant. Recently, in the lifetime of this Government, the funding was taken away, and the funds so liberated have been given to local authorities, which have mistakenly allowed housing to be built on local flood plains. I add that I am a member of an important local society, the Alde and Ore Association, which my wife and I helped to establish, and for which I have served as an unpaid officer in the past. Our local Member of Parliament, John Gummer, is an active supporter of it.
In the context of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, the important point is that in this case there is a coastal path, which is widely used by local inhabitants and visitors. There are active plans, supported by our association, to extend it by creating a new ferry at the northern end near Aldeburgh so that there will be access to the river bank from the other side of the river, and, at the southern end over the Butley River, a tributary of the River Ore, by establishing a ferry to permit access on foot to the outflow of the river at Shingle Street—a fascinating place that would welcome some more visitors.
We need to re-establish funding for the maintenance of the river banks, principally to prevent damage on the ebb tide, which, with the growth in global warming, can be expected to be very strong. Without this funding there would be no path to walk on. So the Government have a role to play here.
I am not opposed to the general drift of the noble Lord’s remarks. The whole subject needs careful study and proper funding. We should not repeat the unfortunate errors made over the designation of open countryside in the CROW Act, when zones were designated simply by examining maps indoors. Careful study on the ground is essential if these ideas are to be brought to a successful conclusion.
I shall be interested to hear the other speakers. I am interested in improving access to the coast. A lot of unpaid local work goes on to produce the results in which the noble Lord is interested, but we need some more help from the Government.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for once again asking a Question on this issue to keep the House on its toes on future policy.
As the House will have expected, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has for some time been anxious to know when the Government will produce their proposals for consultation on this matter. He has now managed to get the answer, which is very useful for all of us. One can see from the policy paper prepared by the Natural England board that a great deal of preparation has been going on both by and for Natural England—with Defra’s coastal land advisory group, the RPA consultancy on the costs, Peter Scott Planning Services Limited and even a MORI poll, along with Defra’s regulatory impact assessment.
One of the first considerations that I need to address is whether the measure is intended to alter the present legal rights to the foreshore, which I understand to be the land below mean high tide, especially when it is Crown land. I understand that that is reliant largely on a de facto presumption of access, unless the right has been dedicated expressly or by presumption. There is always the possibility that that can, in certain circumstances, be taken away, and even then it does not provide a path of continuous access of the type that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was looking for.
It appears from the paper produced for Natural England that the favoured approach is that there should be a statutory methodology which will be applied to specific areas. Can the Minister give us a list of what he expects the elements of that methodology to be? If the final agreements are to be tailored individually, does that not suggest that the Government should begin by identifying and addressing the areas where there is the greatest demand? Given that an estimated 86 per cent of demand is for linear or circular routes of three hours or less, that statutory methodology should be applied, taking into account local consultation with access groups and land managers. Much of that will work best if it can be achieved on a voluntary basis. Are the Government prepared to enter negotiations on that basis and bring in statutory requirements only if all else fails? To progress on that basis might have another advantage, in that the cost would become more transparent as the agreements are rolled out.
It is interesting to read studies undertaken to evaluate access provision in other countries. The countries chosen by Natural England will remind noble Lords of discussion that we had when the House was considering the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Our dilemma is that we live on a heavily populated island. Figures that I obtained then showed that 77 per cent of the UK's surface area is managed either by farming or forestry, whereas, in some other countries, the proportion is nowhere near that amount. In Norway, the figure is 26.5 per cent. Denmark is a bit closer to our situation at 72 per cent, so the impact of access can be felt by more individuals. The current legislation in Scotland is still sufficiently new that lessons still have to be resolved, so our consideration of all those experiences needs to be tempered by an understanding of the differences.
The proposals take into consideration that an exception from access provision should be made to land subject to development. That is obviously important in urban or industrial areas, but an area that has been subject to development which will not be excepted is agricultural land.
In the list of the Government's outcomes and assessment criteria, it is intended that there be,
“softening of intensive agriculture along the coastline”.
Almost by definition, there will be no intensive arable agriculture anywhere near a cliff face, as there will be thin soil and a danger from any machinery going too near the edge. So one can only assume that the Government are referring to intensive livestock production. If the current rules that apply to access routes are to be implemented, does that mean that those access routes will have to be fenced off from livestock, especially from cattle? Will that not raise the question of compensation for the fact that an area of land will be completely removed from grazing production?
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act contained certain powers for the owner or occupier to restrict access at certain times and seasons for reasons of land management. That was enlarged on by the Access to the Countryside (Exclusions and Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2003, presumably to ensure that interested parties did not try to use those powers irresponsibly.
A briefing that I have received from the National Farmers’ Union once again raises the question of access with dogs—not, this time, on the always tricky issue of livestock with young, which can be considered on a seasonal basis, but for the growers of salad crops and vegetables. In that case, if there is any chance of contamination, there is a good chance of losing the whole contract. That was not the sort of issue that would come up when we were considering mountain, moorland, heath and down, and there cannot be too many areas where vegetables are growing right down to the shoreline, but the fact that a dog could get loose and roam across tens of hectares raises an issue. Any question of making it impossible for dogs to have access could be achieved only at exorbitant expense. We may need to consider a permanent restriction.
Local negotiation will be very important where there is housing with gardens that run down to the shore. It is a great relief to see in some of the current papers that the concept of curtilage is being considered. Ideally there will always be an area between the curtilage and the beach along which a path can run, but especially in areas experiencing erosion it may become necessary to divert the access to a more inland route if the situation is tending to become dangerous.
The outcome of the legislation will be an interesting test for Natural England, as our coastline contains some of the richest and most exotic sites for wildlife. An assessment was made by the Ramblers Association when we last debated the issue that there were 2,733 miles of coastline and estuaries. Can the Minister tell us whether an estimate has been made of how much of the coastline and estuaries contain areas designated with a classification of SSSI or higher rate of conservation?
With the demise of English Nature, Natural England will now have both to decide how to achieve the access desired and to avoid compromising conservation value. Who do the Government expect to monitor whether that has been achieved? I am sure that when the Government finalise their consultation we shall have a chance to air any of those issues. Let us hope that we can come up with practical rather than triumphalist solutions.
My Lords, I am very grateful, as the House will be, to the noble Lord for securing the debate. It is very useful to have a run around the course, if I may put it that way, prior to the publication of the consultation. I am in no position either to confirm or deny any dates. All I can say is that the consultation will appear shortly. That is meant in the most sincere and positive form, believe you me.
To be honest, many of the questions that I have been asked will be answered in the consultation. I have to be careful, because I do not want to prejudge the consultation. There is no secret about what is promised at present, but I hope that I will cover the points raised. Others will be left to consultation.
Before I talk about coastal access, it may be useful to look back, as the noble Lord did, on the major success of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. It gave access to about three-quarters of a million hectares of mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land that had not previously been open to the public. We have every right to be proud of the Government’s achievement in introducing the legislation and getting Parliament to approve it. As was implied by what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, it was a piece of social legislation in the fullest sense of the words. I was not in the department at the time, but I remember reading many of the reports of the debates, and the House was certainly instrumental in ensuring that the right of access is a responsible right that balances the interests of users and landowners—this is important, and has proved to be successful in practice—and in ensuring that wildlife and the environment are also protected. That legislation showed what can be achieved when all the interested parties work together.
People are enjoying their access rights responsibly, with absolutely minimal disruption to landowners. When the legislation was first mooted, the forecasts of what would happen as a result of it were a bit like the forecasts for the minimum wage legislation; they did not manifest in reality. That legislation was the result of good discussion in both Houses to try to achieve a practical solution to these problems. The Government had made it clear that we were going to legislate. It set a good precedent for thinking about coastal access, which we need to continue in this process.
It is our belief that people want and should have uninterrupted, safe and secure access to the English coast, whether to enjoy a walk along the rocky headlands and secluded coves of the south-west or to experience the ever-stretching sandy beaches of Northumberland. There are people in some parts of the country who have said, “We have a real secret here. We would rather that the rest of the country did not know about it”. I can fully understand why people have said that about certain parts of Northumberland. I have paid only one visit to the coast of Northumberland, and thought it was absolutely striking. It was a wonderful experience. It is certainly a big secret of the north.
As has been stated, the Government have already set out a vision of a coastal environment where the right to walk along the length of the English coast lies within a wildlife and landscape corridor that offers enjoyment, an understanding of the natural environment and a high-quality experience, and is managed sustainably in the context of a changing coastline. We are investigating the best way to deliver that vision, which is what this is all about. In 2005, we asked the Countryside Agency, English Nature and the Rural Development Service to consider how best to improve access to the English coast. Last October, these bodies came together to form Natural England, which, at the end of February this year, provided advice to the Government. That advice was based on detailed research, which included market research to assess current public knowledge and the use of and demand for coastal access; the collection and analysis of spatial coastal data; an investigation into coastal access in selected European countries; an assessment of the best way to integrate and maximise the landscape, the historic environment and wildlife benefits with access provision; and detailed investigation of study areas believed to be representative of different coastal land types. The study areas, which I believe are well known, were County Durham and the Hartlepool coast; the north Devon, Exmoor and west Somerset coast; the southern Cumbrian coast and Morecambe Bay; and parts of the Suffolk coast, which I particularly enjoyed in the Easter break.
Natural England considered four options for improving coastal access. The first would use the Highways Act 1980 to create new rights of way around the coast. The second would use the power in Section 3 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned, to include coastal land in the definition of open country, to which the right of access applies under that Act. The third would use voluntary measures to create more permissive access. The fourth would be new legislation to create a coastal access corridor. When the Natural England board met to finalise its advice to the Government, it also issued a press release setting out the main thrust of that advice. It will therefore be no surprise to anyone when I say that Natural England has recommended the fourth option—new legislation to create a coastal corridor—as the way forward.
The Government now intend to get the views of the public on all four options for improving access to the English coast that Natural England considered, and we will shortly launch a full public consultation process to do this. On the same day on which our public consultation document and partial regulatory impact assessment are published, Natural England will make public its research studies and its full advice to the Government. The whole package will be available for everyone, so we can have full consultation. We want an approach to coastal access that balances the interests of users and landowners in that same way in which the right of access to open country does that protects the rich and unique landscape and wildlife of our beautiful coastline. Involvement is the key to getting this right.
The consultation will seek opinions on the four possible ways to improve coastal access. Each one has its own strengths, but they will not all deliver the same results. Natural England has concluded from its work that none of the three existing options could fully achieve at a national level the vision that I have set out. Its view is that none of these options can create the right mix of national momentum and local delivery and design, and future-proof coastal access against coastal change. Its recommendation is that the creation of a coastal access corridor through new legislation would combine the best features of existing options, and would give it the powers to make sense of the unique coastal situation and to ensure the necessary flexibility to take account of the circumstances on each section of the English coast.
We have said that we are particularly interested in Natural England’s recommendation to create a coastal access corridor in new legislation, and we are looking in detail at how this option might work. We are, however, genuinely interested in views on all the options. It is a genuine consultation. The consultation will be an opportunity for individual users and landowners, as well as local access forums and the many people and groups who promote and manage the marine and coastal environment, to share their expertise with us and to help us shape the way forward. They will do this with the benefit of the detailed background work carried out by Natural England and my department. I cannot say at this stage whether it will be possible to deal with the fourth option, if it is chosen, in the context of the Marine Bill. Obviously I cannot say whether the two pieces of legislation can be matched at the same time when I cannot give the House a date for the consultation. By definition, any consultation that starts next month, or at least as soon as possible, will cover the summer period. First, there will be complaints about it over the holiday period, so we will need longer consultation. Obviously we will want to follow the Cabinet Office rule of a minimum of 12 weeks, but there might be pressure to extend that. The minute that starts to happen, there could be difficulties because of the marine legislation. It is a question of balance. We are very hopeful that we can deliver on this manifesto commitment in as practical a way as possible.
As I have indicated, some of the points that have been made in the debate this evening will be covered in the consultation, but I am not in a position to deal with them at this point. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, when he first secured the debate, he thought that he might be able to take tonight as part of the consultation. I fully assure him that the points made in the debate tonight will certainly be taken on board as part of the consultation. It is quite important that Parliament has a role. We may not have actually launched the consultation yet, but the points made will certainly be taken on board by officials at Defra. We have had an early debate. The Government had an exchange on this issue in response to a recent Parliamentary Question about the noble Lord’s initiative, and I have no doubt that there will be others. It is only through that informed debate that we will reach a solution in what will be a really exciting initiative.
I end with the caveat that this is a question for England. I have spoken particularly about the English coast tonight; indeed, I have mentioned it more than once. We are an island, but the island is not England, so there will be issues. I understand that the law is different in Scotland, so this is not an issue for Scotland. So far as Wales is concerned, this matter will have to be dealt with at some point, but it will be a matter for the Welsh Assembly. We will be dealing only with the English aspect when we draw up the legislation. I cannot answer all the questions simply because we have not yet had the consultation. To give any greater or lesser emphasis than I have already given would make it look as though we were prejudging the consultation. I have said that the fourth option is an interesting way forward, and we will give it due weight, but we will look for views and consult on the practicalities or otherwise of all the four options that were originally considered. As I have said, people will have the benefit of the full research, which will be published on the same day, so they will have the same information that the Government will have.
My Lords, I am grateful for what the Minister has said. On the question of legislation, my understanding is that the Welsh Assembly can go ahead under existing legislation only where it exercises the powers that the Secretary of State exercises here, subject to parliamentary approval. If the Government are minded to introduce primary legislation to do something different—perhaps built around the fourth option or whatever—would that not have to encompass Wales as well as England?
My Lords, I do not think that that is necessarily the case, although it is possible. I am speaking without advice. However, if we legislate under the process of devolution, it will be possible for the Welsh Assembly to introduce mirror image secondary legislation if it agrees with what is in the primary legislation. That is the whole point of devolution. The Welsh Assembly has no power of primary legislation but it can introduce secondary legislation. It would have to have the necessary power to put through the secondary legislation if it chose to go down that route. It will be a decision of the Welsh Assembly, not the Westminster Parliament. That is the whole point of devolution. The Assembly needs to be given the legislative wherewithal to achieve the outcome that it desires, and obviously that is the way it will be done. But I cannot say what form it would take in the legislation.
Offender Management Bill
House again in Committee on Clause 1.
5: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, leave out paragraphs (a) to (f) and insert—
“(a) the reduction of crime through working in partnership with appropriate public, private and voluntary sector organisations at local level;(b) courts to be given assistance in determining the appropriate sentences to pass, and making other decisions, in respect of persons charged with or convicted of offences; (c) authorised persons to be given assistance in determining whether conditional cautions should be given and which conditions to attach to conditional cautions;(d) the supervision and rehabilitation of persons charged with or convicted of offences, including those released from prison; (e) the supervision and rehabilitation of persons to whom conditional cautions are given;(f) measures to ensure compliance with court orders;(g) measures to ensure offenders’ awareness of the effect of crime on victims, both generally and in relation to their specific offence; and(h) the giving of information and advice to victims of persons charged with or convicted of offences.”
The noble Lord said: My amendment may initially look exactly like the content of the main part of Clause 1(1), “Meaning of ‘the probation purposes’”. In fact, I deliberately selected the order of the paragraphs I put down here. They link to, and follow on directly from, Amendments Nos. 3 and 9, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, which we have just debated. With this amendment I am seeking to spell out rather more of the methods, having had the purposes explained in the amendment the noble Lord hoped would be accepted.
Like everything else, you need to set out clearly the purposes of everything from which the methods flow. That clarity is needed above all when you are in an operational service such as the Probation Service, which has an operational responsibility for the management of the offenders who are put into its charge. At the same time you must describe the arrangements for people, so that they know where they come from. It is true that while we all instinctively support the idea of end-to-end management, whatever that means—in other words, there should be consistent oversight—we also support, and by “we” I include all the probation people with whom I have spoken, the fact that what needs to be delivered cannot be delivered by any one organisation alone; it needs the partnership of all available in the public, private and voluntary sectors. Indeed, partnership with the voluntary sector has been at the heart of the Probation Service since well before the 1997 Act, quite apart from what has happened since. I find it slightly ironic to learn that the Probation Service was actually commissioning more voluntary sector work before the Government made their changes than it is able to now. One of the problems, those in the service tell me, is the extreme financial pressure they are under; indeed, the financial officer of the London Probation Service described the problems of trying to manage his budget as trying to land a jumbo jet on a postage stamp—they are of that degree of magnitude.
As my noble friend Lady Howarth said, we have to make certain that the authority of those people dealing with offenders is understood and absolute. This is about the management of offenders, and we must look after the people who do that. Therefore, I am slightly concerned that the tenor of the Bill, as reflected in what the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Warner, said, is about commissioning and contracting, not about people. I submit that the first and most immediate thing to be put right when you are dealing with people is the people who will work with them. You have to have the right numbers; they have to be trained, directed and resourced. If that does not happen, the amount of commissioning and how it is done does not matter a damn.
As we are talking about people and we look at how the Probation Service works, as my noble friend Lady Stern said so movingly, it is all about relationships between probation staff and others. Therefore, the methods by which you achieve the purposes must make certain that those probation officers are put in front of the people they have to look after, ready and able to do the work that is required.
I spent all my working life, before leaving the Army, in an organisational service where we were accustomed to a hierarchical system. Everyone knew that they were responsible and accountable to someone, from the lowest rifleman right up to the Chief of the General Staff, the professional head of the Army who, in turn, went straight to Ministers. As has been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, the Probation Service, which needs exactly the same responsibility and accountability chain, is to be bereft of its professional head, who is no longer to be the link between the service and the Minister. That is a retrograde step, to be avoided at all costs. Having a person who is both the professional head of the Probation Service and the adviser to the Minister sitting in the Ministry of Justice is a means of entry into the delivery of probation everywhere which is simple, clear and well understood.
I admit that in my amendment, paragraph (b) is exactly the same as subsection (1)(a) in the Bill; my paragraph (c) is exactly the same as subsection (1)(b); my paragraph (d) is the same as the Bill’s subsection (1)(c), but strengthened, as I shall explain; my paragraph (e) is the same as subsection (1)(e); and my paragraph (h) is the same as subsection (1)(f). I set them out like that because I suggest that that is a more reasonable and understandable interpretation of the purposes and order of priority. Very deliberately I put first what I think ought to be the purpose, which is,
“working in partnership with appropriate public, private and voluntary sector organisations at local level”.
That is at the heart of what must be done—empowering local probation services to go to whoever will provide the work appropriately. If that provision is included in the clause, a great deal of the rest of the Bill becomes unnecessary, because you have laid down that the partnership between the public, private and voluntary sectors is at the heart of how the services are delivered. There is no argument about it. All you need then do is make certain that the probation hierarchy, which is responsible for leading that partnership, has the resources with which to contract whoever it has to do whatever has to be done.
If it is proposed that some contracting will be national, some regional and some local, it is essential that the person responsible overall for the delivery of probation lays down guidelines about which contracts will be national, which regional and which local. I have seen no regulatory impact assessment—that may be the wrong term—of whether the private and voluntary sectors are able to deliver the sort of probation services that appear to be expected from them but of which there is no description. We do not know, and I wonder whether that work has been done. While everyone has aspirations, it is no good announcing them as policy unless you are certain that they can be delivered.
Deliberately I have put the courts in the second paragraph because it explains that the relationship between the courts, probation and the police is absolutely fundamental. Assistance with conditional cautions must remain, but in paragraph (d), after,
“the supervision and rehabilitation of persons charged with or convicted of offences”,
I have added the phrase,
“including those released from prison”.
That is because they form a large part of probation responsibility, and that provision is not included in the current Clause 1. In paragraph (f) I have added,
“measures to ensure compliance with court orders”,
which links in closely with our discussion about punishment in the earlier amendment, because it ensures compliance with orders of the court, which is what we are really talking about. It could be that it could go somewhere else, but it is absolutely essential to include a provision ensuring compliance in order to express the purpose of what has to be done with people.
Paragraph (g), which refers to
“measures to ensure offenders’ awareness of the effect of crime”,
again links in with what has been discussed already. However, it is terribly important to include it here for the simple reason that it is the direct connection with all the work being talked about under the principle of restorative justice. Many claims are made for restorative justice, but only if it is actually put down as one of the methods to be encouraged will people take it more seriously than is currently the case. Finally, paragraph (h) provides for,
“the giving of information and advice to victims”.
What I have suggested in this amendment should be considered by the Ministry of Justice, on whose behalf the noble Baroness is conducting this Committee stage. It is clear that she cannot give verdicts on what might or might not happen and obviously has to report back to the Minister now responsible for taking the Bill through. I would ask that what I have said should be considered carefully. If the idea of partnership is accepted right at the start of the Bill, it would make some of the rest of it not quite so necessary. I beg to move.
I should like to take this opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for his contribution to the earlier amendment. Amendment No. 5 is an extension of much of what he said. In my interpretation of the amendment, it would make four key additions to the purpose of probation as presently set out in Clause 1(1). The first additional purpose appears in paragraph (a):
“the reduction of crime through working in partnership with appropriate public, private and voluntary sector organisations at local level”.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, spoke at some length about the role of these organisations.
My main concern is the omission of any reference in the present Clause 1(1) to the reduction of crime. That is astonishing. Perhaps the Minister can explain why it has been missed out. The role of the Probation Service since its beginnings a century ago has always been to reduce crime by steering offenders towards a better way of life. It is this mission which motivates people to join the service, so to omit all mention of it is to reduce the purpose of probation to a mechanistic set of functions rather than a set of purposes which reflect an overall moral purpose.
The second part of paragraph (a) refers to appropriate organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors at the local level. This recognises that it will be impossible for the service to achieve the aim of reducing crime on its own. Indeed, this is something I have often spoken about, and the amendment backs it up. For offenders to be rehabilitated effectively, the service must liaise with education and housing providers, employers, training providers, drug and alcohol agencies, mental health services, victim support organisations, and groups which offer support to offenders’ families. In addition, faith organisations and representatives from black and minority ethnic communities have a vital role to play in the support and rehabilitation of those being supervised by the Probation Service. In the United States, I was impressed with the work carried out by African-American citizens on the rehabilitation of those from their community. They may well be an example of what the Probation Service needs to do as regards liaison with some of these groups.
The amendment’s second addition to probation purposes is the reference to the supervision and rehabilitation of those released from prison in paragraph (d). Supervising and rehabilitating released prisoners is a crucial part of the Probation Service’s mission and should be recognised in any legislative statement of the purposes of probation. I believe that it should be in the Bill.
It is estimated that around 1 million offences are committed every year by released prisoners, which represents about a fifth of recorded crime. If you could reduce crime committed by released prisoners, it could make a substantial contribution to reducing overall rates of crime. The Probation Service’s work of supervision and rehabilitation is vital in this process and should be clearly recognised in any statement of the purposes of probation.
The third addition is the reference in paragraph (f) of the amendment to measures to ensure compliance with court orders. The whole purpose of supervision by the Probation Service is to ensure that orders are successfully completed. This means setting clear expectations of offenders, providing them with the support necessary to build up and sustain their motivation and helping them to deal with the multiple problems which have led them into criminal activity. If offenders persistently fail to comply with court orders, the service has a duty to take them back to court. The service’s record in promptly initiating breach proceedings has greatly improved in recent years. However, it is preferable for a probation officer to motivate offenders to comply with court orders rather than end up having to take them back to court for non-compliance. This positive evidence should be reflected in setting out the purposes of probation in statute.
Paragraph (g) of the amendment refers to,
“measures to ensure offenders’ awareness of the effect of crime on victims, both generally and in relation to their specific offence”.
Building up empathy with victims is a vital part of focused work to change offenders’ attitudes to crime. All too often offenders dissociate themselves from the impact of their action on their victims. If they think about this at all, they often try to downplay its seriousness. The experience of restorative justice programmes shows that enabling offenders to see the devastating impact which their crimes have on victims can have a salutary effect on their attitudes, which in many cases can produce a genuine and lasting change. This should be seen as a central part of the purposes of the Probation Service.
In summary, the changes which the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, would make to Clause 1(1) would produce a much better balanced statement of the purposes of probation. I hope that the Minister will feel able to accept the amendment or agree that the Government will table their own amendment along similar lines at a later stage.
I am sure that the Minister will look at this list carefully. I wish to make one or two comments about the list and say something about lists generally. My worry is that if I were part of a group of professionals in this area, they would think of half a dozen other things or come up with a different wording. My great worry is that a list becomes a job description. I should like to see a probation service that is released from many of these shackles and able to start developing different services to help offenders. Indeed, many of the very pertinent points that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has made about bureaucracy might not be helped by other measuring provisions in lists.
I particularly want to mention paragraph (a) because its wording would do two things. First, it talks about “working in partnership”. No one can criticise that, unless it excludes the whole concept of commissioning. We need to look at commissioning carefully. Secondly, the amendment mentions organisations “at local level”. I declare an interest as the deputy chair of the Faithfull Foundation. We have had extraordinary difficulties commissioning a vital service to deal with sex offenders because the funding was all at local level. Where there is more central funding, some of those more essential services might be commissioned in a different way. Is that behind some of the thinking?
I apologise for having been delayed and not hearing the first three minutes of the exposition of my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham. There are two concerns on which I would appreciate a response from the Minister. First, the businesses that I have spoken to are very keen to work with governors in prisons rather than remotely through a third party. They are taking a risk in taking on ex-offenders, so they need to develop a relationship of trust with the governor who is responsible for that prisoner. A comment on that would be very welcome.
Secondly, I am not sure that I quite understood the position being proposed, but I notice that, to a degree throughout the Anglo-Saxon world, there is a rather fragmented approach to services for vulnerable people. For instance, in children’s homes in the United States, one sees examples both of shining good practice and of appalling provision. I think that that is true in Australia too. It is all rather piecemeal. Having visited children’s homes and private providers in this country, I know that some produce fairly good training packages of their own. Some recognise that they need to attract good people to the work in children’s homes because of the challenging children that they have to work with, so they develop a course at a university so that there is a career progression for their staff to work towards a degree in therapeutic childcare. Each of those organisations is reinventing the wheel for themselves. There is no sense of being joined up, which is something that the state might have provided as a framework in this area. In Germany and Denmark, the state has a role providing that sort of professional framework for the people working in those situations. I was alarmed by what my noble friend said about the danger of fragmentation of provision and the lack of clarity about what is required.
I want to make one point and to seek clarification from the Minister. I said in supporting Amendment No. 1 that a probation service is an essential part of the criminal justice system and is one of the feet on which it stands. On the one side, there is the Prison Service, which is powerful, resonates with the public, sucks in a lot of money, is always in the front of the news and is a preoccupation for those who are responsible. On the other side, there is a community-based service that emphasises rehabilitation, gets less coverage and is easier to take the money from when there is a crisis. Those are two sides of the sanction system, and ideally there should be some balance between them in the strength of their voices and in the way in which they are regarded by Ministers. Some might argue—I will not do so tonight—that we have the balance wrong.
I wonder whether the Minister agrees that the community-based rehabilitation service that the Probation Service is has a much wider function than supervising individuals. I am a little concerned about what she said earlier, and I am sure that she will put me right. Does she agree that it has functions in relation to the courts and to public confidence and a role in looking for volunteers, getting the public involved and being seen out in neighbourhoods and the streets? Does she agree that it should be well represented in the poorest communities and should play a part in trying to build social cohesion there, and that it should be in prisons carrying out a resettlement and welfare role? Those are the implications of the amendment. I would like to understand a little better where the Minister is coming from in her view on this. Is the intention of the Bill to turn the Probation Service into an “offender management service”, as she said earlier, in which individuals are allocated someone who will work with them from one point in their lives to a later point? That would be a fundamental change in the Probation Service as we have known it. Or does the Minister see the wider role of the Probation Service as more along the lines of the amendment?
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, because he has taken forward our debate on the issue of “purposes” in Clause 1. We have tabled a further amendment to Clause 1(1), but Amendment No. 5 very effectively rounds off the debate on the principles underlying the purposes. He has put the list in a different order of priority; I am not trying to apportion priority, so that will remain a difference of view.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, that there is a danger of fallibility in lists, because something else could always be added to them. That is why Governments are always reluctant to accept lists when Oppositions try to put them in. Here, the Government are trying to be helpful by including a list, and have found themselves on the receiving end of all of us saying, “Yes, but what if?”, and, “Could we not put this in?”. Noble Lords have been helpful on this amendment, because the Minister will wish to take this away and perhaps look more carefully at how this list may be drafted and what is included.
I share the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, that paragraph (a) in Amendment No. 5 may aim, intentionally or unintentionally, to exclude contestability from the working of the Bill. I shall keep my powder dry on partnership versus contestability, because I had intended to argue my case on Amendment No. 15, in relation to “Duty to co-operate”, and it would be wrong to repeat myself. I will try to hold back tonight. I have made it clear that I am in favour of trying to give contestability a go.
I may diverge from the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, in that I much prefer local control. It is a question of how we achieve that while retaining back-stop powers for the Secretary of State. I will listen to her arguments about the difficulties of commissioning and whether it is a small or large organisation. We will look at the various aspects of that.
Paragraph (a), while meaning well in trying to address the reduction of crime as a priority, perhaps carries within it, in its reference to “working in partnership”, something with which I could not go along. We will deal with that in detail later. By including “the reduction of crime” in the list, does the noble Lord intend the probation purposes to cover those who have not yet committed any offence? That is the implication, and it may be a drafting matter. I do not think that he means that the purposes of the providers of probation services should include those who have not yet committed a crime. There may need to be befriending or mentoring from resources—perhaps at schools or in other ways—but not necessarily through probation.
I was interested to see the inclusion in paragraph (d) of the words,
“including those released from prison”,
so that the provision now says:
“the supervision and rehabilitation of persons charged with or convicted of offences, including those released from prison”.
I seek an assurance from the Minister that these people are already included by definition in paragraph (c). If so, I would not support the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in his extension of paragraph (c). This is an important amendment which rounds off a day’s debate on the principles that underlie the Bill. After this, the dam will break and we will be able to move forward rapidly on more concentrated issues.
I wish to make two brief points on the amendment. The first relates to paragraph (d) on supervision and rehabilitation. In the debate before the dinner break, we learnt that the Government are putting in place a very effective system for end-to-end management but that the introduction of mentoring—some sort of relationship involving advice, help or support—is probably some way off in the future. It is worth distinguishing between the two.
My second point concerns a matter raised made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. I love the reference to “the reduction of crime” because it would of course include a reduction in the causes of crime. I am concerned that the Bill is entirely predicated on the prevention of reoffending when, in fact, the best way to prevent reoffending may be to prevent offending in the first place.
I support the amendment and agree entirely with what the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has just said. I understand the thinking behind what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is trying to do in reordering the paragraphs, as there may be a more logical sequence to the list, but I also hear very clearly what the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, says. It is not so much a question of whether the list is inclusive or exclusive; the point is that it may become a straitjacket and a kind of job description. That is the risk you always run when you try to tease out all the crucial elements which you do not want to miss. I do not know whether there is a straightforward answer to that, but the issue is fraught with that kind of hazard.
It is absolutely right that the probation purposes should emphasise partnership working, with whomever it may be, and that that should, wherever possible, take place at a local level, because that is where the offender lives. If the pillars of a roof, a relationship and a job, which can be the structure around the work, are met, then there is a context and a more realistic chance of a successful outcome.
The amendment proposes a mixture of some new probation purposes and some which are, as we have already discussed, in the Bill. Paragraph (d) is significant because it introduces the element to which I referred earlier and which is palpably absent from the Bill—the place of prison in offender management and, in particular, the role of the Probation Service when offenders are released. Not including prison in the plans for resettlement makes a nonsense of the notion of end-to-end management. Therefore, we welcome that addition as being essential in the planning of supervision and rehabilitation purposes.
Paragraph (f) in the amendment is also new. It is helpful in that it highlights the issue of compliance with court orders and clearly reflects our earlier discussion on the role of probation vis-à-vis the court. Probation’s task is to use all the available skills and professional expertise to carry out the orders of the court and ensure compliance and then to return to court if they are not adhered to. Achieving compliance is the one measure of success in probation work and it should be clearly stated as an objective.
The core value of a belief in the ability of people to change is inherent in the aims of probation. Therefore, it is right that the aims are restated in this logical way.
Finally, the inclusion of offenders’ awareness of crime brings in, for the first time, the possibility of restorative justice being more embedded, expanded and developed within the context of offender management.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Northbourne, who mentioned the important matter of mentoring. I should like to ask the Minister how many Probation Service volunteers there now are in England and Wales and whether she foresees their number increasing under the Bill and under the new dispensation. It is a very valuable resource; it should not be lost but should be improved on.
It would be helpful to hear in more detail from the Minister how the end-to-end offender management will work. My noble friend Lord Northbourne reminded us of a little bit of what we have learnt, which spurred me to think about the relationship between prison officers and the offender managers—normally probation officers. I have noticed in other circumstances where there is a need for close partnership—for instance between children’s homes and schools, children’s home staff and schools, or children’s home staff and social workers—that when there is a great disparity in the professional development and qualifications between the two partners, it is much more difficult to work together. Staff in children’s homes say, “Teachers don’t respect us”, and teachers say, “Children’s home staff don’t know anything. We can’t deal with them”. There is a danger of mutual recrimination unless there is a fair degree of parity of professionalism between the two.
Has the Minister’s department considered whether further development of prison officers might be in order to take them closer to the degree-level qualification of probation officers? I understand that there has been some progress in such development of prison officers recently and it would be interesting to hear more of that if the Minister has time.
I have found the discussion around this amendment and clauses extremely useful and I take the point about lists to which others have referred. Equally, we are all waiting to hear the Minister’s reasons for accepting or not accepting an extension of the list. Above all, I, too, emphasise the point made by my noble friend Lord Northbourne about the ability—perhaps we are now somewhere near it—to prevent offences. We need to concentrate on that much more as a group at local level among all the social services as well as the voluntary sector. I very much look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.
We have had a very interesting debate. As we have seen already from our discussion, Clause 1 sets out the various purposes that govern the probation services that are to be provided under the rest of Part 1 of the Bill. I remind the Committee that they are essentially the same as the current ones, set out in Section 1 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000. The way in which they are interpreted is very well understood. They have been used for the past seven years.
We have before us a range of suggestions on how the list might be improved. Of course, I am sympathetic to many of the points made. However, I do not consider any of the activities that have been mentioned not to be the proper business of the Probation Service. They are all things that the service can do. Our debate reminded us, if such reminding were needed, of the wide range of activities in which the Probation Service is engaged throughout the criminal justice process. The question is whether additional explicit provision on the face of the Bill is required, or whether these activities are adequately covered by what is already there. All the things alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, are already part of the framework of what the Probation Service does.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, that by explaining how offender management will work I do not seek in any way to diminish the other important parts of probation work. I think that the noble Baroness neglected to mention another group of people with whom it is extremely important for the Probation Service to work: the victims. It works not just with offenders but with victims. That part of its work should continue. When considering what we need to do to reduce offending and reoffending, which is the focus and the part which the Probation Service plays, we must ensure that it properly concentrates on those issues. I remind the Committee that the Probation Service is a partner in the local strategic partnerships. It will play a part in the crime and disorder reduction partnerships. It plays a part in the local criminal justice boards, which some chief probation officers chair. It has gone right to the centre of the criminal justice system. In the past, it was often seen as a bit of a Cinderella on the edges. Now the Probation Service sometimes drives change and welds the criminal justice system together, an important cultural shift that has rightly happened in the past few years.
I remind the Committee that the role of offender management gives the managers a more important role. They will be working very much on a par with their Prison Service colleagues, and they will be very much in control of the direction of the care of that offender, notwithstanding that the offender will perhaps be housed in the prison system for a significant time. All significant sentences will be served partly in the community and partly in prison, and the nexus between the two is absolutely critical in getting the sort of improvements we need.
I thank the noble Baroness for what she has just said, which is what I thought she would say. I was hoping to hear it, so I am very happy. However, does she accept that, for those people who have not heard about it, calling a bit of the Ministry of Justice the National Offender Management Service is extremely confusing? What she has just said describes a set of activities that could in no way be called a national offender management service but are, rather, the activities of a probation service, described in a way that I heartily endorse.
I thank the noble Baroness, but I must remind her that the Probation Service is only one part of the National Offender Management Service. The other part deals with prisons, and the conjoining of those two services is important. If we are to have a seamless provision, end to end, we must encapsulate both services.
When the Probation Service advises the court—which it will still do under the Bill—it is important that it gives the court advice as to what the sentence plan should be. Can the offender be safely managed in the community? Under the 2003 criteria, can they be properly punished and rehabilitated? Can proper reparation be made in the community in a way that is meaningful for the victim and the offender? Or is it a case in which, because of the nature, history and pattern of behaviour of the offender, the court must take the view that imprisonment is the only appropriate sanction, confident that a period of time will be spent in prison and a period of time in the community?
When the probation officer makes that report, he or she must advise the court how the community part will be managed. Is there a necessity for an educational part, because there must be a skills assessment? Is there a health issue with drugs, or other matters that must be dealt with? When that person comes out, what about accommodation? All those matters must be considered in a sentence plan, which must be put before the court in the sentencing advice that it will be given. If the court must sentence in accordance with the principles laid down in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, all those factors must be taken into account. It is appropriate that the National Offender Management Service should be so described because it conjoins probation and imprisonment and accepts the reality that the offender faces: he or she will spend part of their time in prison and part in the community.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, that it is difficult to provide a list that seeks to delineate every single dot and tittle with which the person will have to comply. If we do that, I fear that we will make a rod for the back of the service and stifle innovation. As noble Lords have said, such a list would become the job description and we would incarcerate the service’s innovation in a way that none of us would like.
I do not think that it is. We must look at our experience since 2000. That is why I highlight the fact that we have preserved in the Bill the criteria expressed then. We know from experience how that has been interpreted, and we are all content with how it has operated. It has not impeded the development of services or activities; indeed, many have praised how it is dealt with. We can therefore have a certain degree of confidence that it will not be misunderstood.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked about how prison governors would work, the relationship with trusts and whether there would be a fragmented approach. It is critical that we do not have a fragmented approach. If I can take up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, we must commission according to need. The whole point is to assess what offenders and victims—we must remember that it is not just offenders—need in an area and to commission appropriately. It is likely that the majority of services will be commissioned by local trusts because they will be the most knowledgeable about the needs.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, referred to other services that may be more efficaciously commissioned on a regional basis. That applies to certain specialist services. To take the example given by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, of services for sex offenders, we are fortunate not to have such a body of sexual offending in every area that each needs a specialist service. We therefore need to collocate relevant services on a regional basis to provide as efficaciously as possible easy access for those who need it. It makes sense to commission such services more regionally.
Other services, because of their specific nature, may have to be commissioned nationally. However, the local flavour is critical. We expect that the majority of commissioning will be done locally. A commissioner will contract with the local trust, which will then co-partner. I do not think that commissioning and partnership are contradictory terms because we intend commissioning to focus on need, and we know from our analysis that, if you follow need, it leads you to work in partnership with public, not-for-profit and private bodies. That configuration delivers the appropriate service to match needs. It is already being looked at in the best areas.
As this is likely to be our last general exposition, I wish to give examples of regional contracts. In the east of England, a commissioning pathfinder was established in 2006 with Serco, Turning Point and Rainer to reduce reoffending by increasing the take-up of sustainable employment by offenders. Initially, the projects focused on Luton, Southend and Bury St Edmunds, where key workers were given individualised support to motivate, mentor and prepare offenders for work. Key workers engage with employers to boost confidence in offering work to offenders. The project runs until 2009 and aims to place 460 additional offenders into employment each year. That is an example of services coming together to meet identified needs.
The point about volunteers made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is absolutely right. Volunteers working as mentors can have a fundamental impact on offenders. They can walk with the offender at a time when the public service and the not-for-profit service may not be available so to do. We want to enhance that work. Part of it will be driven through the work we are doing on the alliances, but also through the work we are doing through the reducing reoffending boards. We absolutely understand that it is not just the public services that must do this work; we have to brigade communities generally and help better to inform them so that they can help us better to address some of these problems and bring about the change. There is an opportunity for us to do that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, talked about the prevention of offences. We will be working in partnership with other government departments, including the Home Office. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is right that the Home Office remains responsible for crime reduction, crime prevention and the crime strategy. The Home Office will continue its work with CDRPs, local strategic partnerships, schools, health authorities and all the others to prevent crime. The Home Office will be working very closely indeed with the Ministry of Justice.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that when I stand at this Dispatch Box, I speak on behalf of the whole Government, not one department. Therefore, I can assure him that these issues will be raised. They have been raised; the Ministry of Justice has looked at these issues, and we will look at them again. They are very important.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, proposes a number of additions. The most significant is perhaps the reduction of crime through working in partnership with appropriate public, private and voluntary sector organisations at a local level. As I hope I have made clear, this is an important part of probation activity. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires probation boards to co-operate with local authorities, the police and others on the formulation and implementation of strategies for the reduction of crime and disorder. Those responsibilities will be carried forward into the new world. We will ensure that providers of probation services continue to contribute to the crime and disorder reduction partnerships, as boards do now. In addition, Clause 3(3)(a) makes express provision for contractual arrangements with providers of probation services to require them to co-operate with other providers of probation services or persons who are concerned with the prevention or reduction of crime. One of the key drivers of our proposed reforms is a desire to see much more partnership working than we do now.
It is precisely because we think that probation boards are currently trying to do too much themselves and are making insufficient use of the resources of providers and other sectors that we want the powers in the Bill. We want to use the commissioning powers to encourage trusts to subcontract services to other providers locally so that the public sector Probation Service can concentrate on its strengths. I strongly suspect that the outcome that I envisage is remarkably similar to that which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has in mind. Where I think we may differ is that I believe that we need more than an amendment to the probation purposes to achieve that. We need a change in the current structures. That is what the rest of the Bill delivers.
The noble Lord also proposes an addition to Clause 1(1)(c) to refer to persons released from prison. I am happy to confirm to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that that is already covered by the subsection as it stands. The noble Lord then proposes making specific reference to compliance with court orders. This is an area in which probation performance has improved beyond recognition in recent years. For example, enforcement action is now taken swiftly in over 90 per cent of cases. However, it is an integral part of the supervision of offenders and does not require separate mention. En passant, I should say that what has happened is that, as enforcement has gone up, so has compliance. That is a very important indicator.
The same is true of measures to ensure offenders’ awareness of the effect of crime on victims. Of course that is important, which is why it is mentioned in the aims in the following clause, but it is an integral part of supervision and rehabilitation, not something separate.
I am grateful for the debate that we have had on these matters, which has helped to establish the context for the more detailed discussions that will follow. I agree with the noble Baroness that we will, I hope, be able to deal with them far more quickly, as we have now set the framework and the context for the debate. We could debate the precise wording and emphasis of the different subsections, but the fact remains that the probation purposes in Clause 1 are, as I have indicated, already well established. They have already been the subject of parliamentary debate during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act, and, with the addition of paragraph (f) on work with victims, they have served us very well indeed. I think that they work well as a foundation for the further provisions that follow. On that basis, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Before my noble friend does, I thank the noble Baroness for replying to my concern about fragmentation and partnership between businesses and governors. Perhaps I may encourage her to take away and consider, rather than responding now, the relative professional status of probation and prison officers. I add for her consideration that not only in the culture of probation but throughout the whole culture of social care—the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, will be able to discuss this with her if she wishes—good supervision is fundamental. That is individual one-to-one supervision on a regular basis with a senior practitioner of that person working on the front line, to look not only at performance and check that the job that is required is being done, but also at the impact that working with vulnerable, damaged people has on that person at the front line. It is considered indispensable.
When one hears of the experiences of people who end up in custody, of their drug addictions, their learning disabilities and their other disabilities, it seems to me there could be three positives here: first, prison officers have a terribly challenging job to do and one might find them enjoying it more if they had better support; secondly, they would probably do a better job, in terms of engaging young offenders while in custody, if they had that support; and, thirdly, the cultures would be more similar if both prison and probation officers had a similar form of supervision. I am sure we will discuss these points later on, but I would appreciate it if she would take that away and think about it.
I apologise for not dealing with that matter. I will certainly take it away. I say to the noble Earl that we are already working very hard on prison officer training. They are undertaking some of the training courses with probation officers. Those undertaking that training have indicated that they very much enjoy it. We understand this issue. Getting a culture where both services feel conjoined in their efforts is very important, and we will continue to do everything we can to generate that ethos. I will be very happy to take the matter away and give the noble Earl’s issues further consideration.
I am very grateful to the Minister for the way she has answered the question. I am also very grateful to those who have contributed. We have had an extremely useful discussion, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said, to wind up the rather wider issues we have been discussing today.
I would like to reassure my noble friends Lady Howarth and Lord Listowel that I did not ignore commissioning, because commissioning is how the partnership will be processed. I was not going to raise that issue in this part, I wanted to make the point that they were working together, and that that was in the method. There are ways that the actual business of commissioning has to be obtained, and I deliberately left that out. On central management and the direction, and fragmentation, which my noble friend Lord Listowel mentioned, that is one of the reasons why I believe there needs to be a central management structure.
One of the weaknesses in the Prison Service, for example, is that there is no way to spread good practice. One of the most important things in spreading good practice is to have a system for doing so. From the chief of the Probation Service down through the director of probation and the chief officers is one way to do that. That is simple, clear and people know from who they will get direction. I am aware of fragmentation and it is to prevent fragmentation that I suggest that that structure should exist. That way, good practice will be spread.
I was very glad that the noble Baroness mentioned the enormous success that some chief probation officers have had in leading local criminal justice boards. That needs emphasising. Indeed, I go further to say that perhaps that should be regarded as the default position. Chief probation officers who have acted in that role to whom I have spoken have spoken warmly of the opportunity that has been given to them and said that their delivery of service has improved as a result of the relationships that have developed as a result of working in that way.
In that connection, I was interested because I thought that, at last, I had had an answer from the noble Baroness about what NOMS was. What she described was a system conjoining two services. I accept that; that is fine by me; I will buy that, because then we know where it stands. But then she called it a service again, so I was back to where I was.
I absolutely accept the need to commission according to need. Of course that is what will be done locally when it is determined what is needed to be done. Of course, as my noble friend Lady Howarth mentioned, certain things must be done nationally and certain things regionally. That is why, in introducing my amendment, I suggested that it was important that what was to be done at national, regional and local level should be laid down. Some things can and some things cannot be left to a lower level.
In the amendment, I describe the general method by which probation would be delivered, which emphasises the local level—I do not discount that. I accept what the Minister said: that much of my amendment is already enshrined in other Acts, but I understood that one of the Government’s purposes in putting the provisions together in this way was to bring them together in the Bill so that people could know their purpose without having to rummage through to find where they were. All that I was doing was lifting things that I felt appropriate to the purposes and putting them all there, acknowledging that they all have another source.
I am much comforted by the fact that the noble Baroness, representing the Government as a whole, said that what we have said will be taken away and considered carefully in the processing of the Bill. In that spirit, I am very happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 6 to 10 not moved.]
11: Clause 1, page 1, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) the Parole Board and the Secretary of State to be given assistance in making decisions in respect of persons sentenced for offences.”
The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 25. I fear that we have not quite left the issue of lists—the overarching broader brushstroke, as it were—because my amendment would insert the words:
“the Parole Board and the Secretary of State to be given assistance in making decisions in respect of persons sentenced for offences”,
at the bottom of the list. Although lists have their pros and cons, we are working with a list in the Bill.
We recognise the considerable, indeed central, work of the Probation Service in connection with the release and recall of sentenced prisoners. The Home Secretary recognised in the other place that this part of the role of probation officers is a core task and should be reserved to the Probation Service alone. In general, their skills are deployed in assisting the courts by providing impartial, accurate, reliable, skilled and professional advice when a decision is being taken, whether in the youth courts, the magistrates’ courts or the Crown Court. Where this is pre-sentence advice, it may be written or verbal and, wherever appropriate, will offer alternatives to custody.
The clause refers to assessments of people who have committed offences. These may include assessments of factors that are likely to contribute to the reduction of offending, such as their needs, the risk of harm to others and the risk of reoffending. This is an area where public protection and safety can be an issue, so it is vital that the probation officer is in a position to assess risk and dangerousness. Apart from the Parole Board and the Secretary of State, this may also involve the courts and the Prison Service. This assessment and advice is of course based on professional skills and is inextricably linked with the process of managing offenders. It requires a knowledge and understanding of the individual concerned, continuous assessment of how they are coping with their lives, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. All this stems from the quality of the relationship between the probation officer and the individual.
The management of risk and dangerousness may be involved, and the process of serving a community sentence is organic. For the assistance to the courts to be meaningful, it requires ongoing knowledge of the dynamics of an individual’s life. This cannot be detached and farmed out to some other provider to be the offender manager, as the probation officer would no longer be in a position to discharge his duty to the courts adequately. In turn, this means that offender management is also a core role that should be dedicated to probation. It was decided in the other place that this should be the case, but only for three years. This is wrong and should be amended so that these interlinking roles can be carried out properly.
Each year, the Probation Service starts the supervision of some 175,000 offenders. At any one time, the caseload is more than 200,000. Seventy per cent will be on community sentences, and 30 per cent will be imprisoned with a period of statutory licence. There will be about 246,000 pre-sentence reports, and 20,000 bail and information reports. Advice is given on the early release of prisoners, which is specific to this amendment, in 87,000 cases a year. Finally, there are about 50,000 cases in which victims of serious crimes will have chosen to express their concerns and the impact of the crime on their lives, and it will be included in the report. This is part of the process of working restoratively with victims and their families, and it both benefits the victim and contributes to the offender’s better understanding of the effect of the crime that he has committed. It is important that this highly skilled and very important part of the service provided in probation is recognised and put in the Bill.
The same arguments apply to Amendment No. 25 as they did to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, at the beginning of this debate. We often tread similar ground as we go through these amendments. I hope that I can add usefully to the debate. Amendment No. 25 would insert the words “enforcement of court orders”, which is, of course, what the court expects to do when it has taken its decision on punishment. However, while attempting to ensure compliance as far as possible with the terms of the court order, should that not be possible, the probation officer will be expected to return to court for a revision of the punishment and the order. Beyond giving advice on the circumstances of the offender and as much background information as possible, the probation officer has no part in the court’s decision on the type of punishment. Nor can he add or detract from that decision. This provides the offender with a safeguard, and reassures the public, by depersonalising the concept of punishment at its point of delivery.
There is a parallel in the role of prison staff—this was clearly gone into by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in an earlier discussion—vis-à-vis punishment and the decision of the court. If custody is the punishment, it is the role of staff to enable the prisoner to do his time in such a way as to be more able to lead, as we have heard, “a good and useful life” on release as stated in the prison rules. A person is sent to prison as a punishment but not for punishment. Prison officers are not people who are themselves expected to inflict further punishment on a prisoner. Indeed, if suspected or found to have done so, they would be very likely to find themselves being disciplined. The expectation is that all concerned will be using their skills to make the experience of prison constructive and positive. This is extremely difficult in the current situation, but that remains their role.
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 not being properly punished—“walking free from court”, as we often see in the newspapers. This is the perception of the tabloid press in particular and nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, as all the recent studies and polls show, as I mentioned earlier, the public have no appetite for prison as punishment. The really difficult thing is change. These are huge issues which have to be addressed in the context of a person’s life in the community.
For many probation officers the term “enforcement” is a very strong one, at odds with their rehabilitating role. This is entirely understandable because they stand at the very interface between punishment and rehabilitation. “Enforcement” describes a duty, but the spirit in which it is carried out will be determined by the nature of the relationship with the offender, the skills of the officer and the manner in which this duty is exercised. I beg to move.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, for the way in which she has explained her amendment. Not only has she genuinely rounded off the debate on Clause 1 and purposes but she has also added to the concerns that we had earlier about how one can get into difficulties when one tries to draft lists. When I read Amendment No. 11, I had some deep concerns, most of which she has allayed. Obviously the noble Baroness is talking about services to courts and, when she refers particularly to the Secretary of State being given assistance, she is really referring back to the Parole Board, the first part of her amendment, and early release matters.
When I read the new subsection, my immediate concern was whether it would be appropriate for the Secretary of State to be given assistance from probation services, for example, on matters such as those relating to people who are subject to extradition proceedings and foreign prisoners and whether they should be sent back overseas. The way in which the amendment is drafted means that the probation purposes will go much broader than I would wish them to go. I wish to see the Home Secretary’s role in making executive decisions retained. But I appreciate now that the noble Baroness means something rather different and that she is referring only to early release matters. I certainly sympathise with that and I hope the Minister will tell us that matters such as what happens to someone on early release are already covered by the list we have before us.
I shall not stray into speaking to Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 because I have said everything I can on them.
I am extremely glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, has proposed the words in the amendment because, as she so rightly says, this takes one step further our earlier discussion on punishment. Certainly the terms she has used should be considered to describe that particular part of the aims which, at the moment, we think is inappropriately done. The way she has described will be hugely helpful to my thinking on what I bring back on Report.
As a previous member of the Parole Board, I no longer have to declare an interest. However, I support the amendment because it makes very clear how important it is that the Probation Service and probation officers retain the role. If this is accepted, we will only be able to ensure that that happens for the next three years but, beyond that, no doubt there will be other opportunities to argue it further, if it is appropriate at that stage.
I rise to answer this useful debate, in part to give my noble friend Lady Scotland a little respite from the rigours of the Dispatch Box. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, for tabling the amendments. They have enabled us to have a little extra focus on some issues that have already been exorcised somewhat over the six and a half hours that we have been at it so far.
Amendment No. 11 usefully seeks to explore and, in its drafting, add the assistance that probation gives to the Parole Board and the Secretary of State to the probation purpose, and which the noble Baroness describes as “a list”. That is fair enough. That is exactly as it appears.
Probation involvement in the parole process is already sanctioned by specific provisions in the Parole Board Rules 2004, and in the formal directions to the Parole Board made under Section 32(6) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. Examples of such provisions are the requirement to include a home circumstances report—which, among many other things, seeks to reflect the attitudes and concerns of the victim and their families—and the inclusion of non-standard licence conditions. The proposed revision of the Parole Board Rules will see them take the form of a statutory instrument rather than the previous administrative means by which they were framed, so they will be given extra authority.
That involvement forms part of the primary functions of probation in supervising and rehabilitating people convicted of offences. Probation advice is given because of the expertise and knowledge that probation staff obtain in exercising those functions. That does not mean that the resulting assistance should itself become a primary probationary function and be referred to explicitly in the Bill. That is not to diminish the importance or significance of that work, but in our view it does not need to be set out in terms in the Bill in the way that the noble Baroness suggests.
Amendment No. 25, as the noble Baroness said, touches on similar territory to Amendment No. 2, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, which has had an extensive discussion. I do not particularly wish to go over the ground that has already been covered, but the case is that the amendment seeks to replace “punishment” with “enforcement of court orders”, and while that might act as a descriptive term, we do not believe it accurately reflects the position. As was said earlier, society has always expected that those who break the law should be punished, and we have enshrined that expectation in legislation. I well remember the form that debate took when we were discussing the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill back in 2000. That Bill became an Act, and it currently governs the Probation Service. The same spirit is contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which sets out the purposes of sentencing. That punishment is an integral part of these purposes and enforcement is now a well established concept, and I am afraid that the amendment fails to recognise that fact.
We have not heard from the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, whose Amendment No. 26 is also in this group. I am therefore reluctant to deal with the amendment he would ordinarily, I am sure, have spoken to.
I hope that the noble Baroness, having heard what I have said and what was said earlier, particularly about the second of her amendments in this group, will feel able, having had some extensive discussion on that part at least, to withdraw her amendments today.
I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed to this mini-debate and for the support that I have had from around the Committee. I listened with care and interest to what the Minister said. We have, as has been agreed, been over this territory already, although I feel that the assistance given to the court and the Parole Board of is central importance. Now that it has been recognised by the Home Secretary as a piece of non-negotiable core work, it has a place. I also confirm that I recognise the place of punishment—it depends who is the source of the punishment, and enforcement should be the role of the probation officer rather than the court. I will cogitate on the Minister’s reply. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill
The Bill was returned from the Commons with certain Lords amendments disagreed to but with an amendment proposed in lieu thereof and with the remaining Lords amendments agreed to. The Commons reason was ordered to be printed.
House adjourned at 9.56 pm.