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Offender Management Bill

Volume 694: debated on Monday 16 July 2007

Read a third time.

Clause 3 [Power to make arrangements for the provision of probation services]:

1: Clause 3, page 3, line 31, leave out “designate individuals” and insert “authorise individuals under section 10(2) to act”

The noble and learned Baroness said: My Lords, these amendments are technical in nature. They were identified as necessary by parliamentary counsel during his final proof-reading of the Bill. We hope that they will be entirely uncontroversial. Amendment No. 1 simply brings the wording in Clause 3 into line with that used elsewhere in the Bill, so that we talk consistently about individuals being “authorised” rather than “designated”.

Amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6 to Clause 10 and Amendment No. 13 to Schedule 3 clarify the definitions of providers of probation services and officers of providers of probation services, to enable consequential amendments to work properly.

Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 apply to the offences related to prison security in Clauses 25 and 26. They simply bring consistency to the way in which “specified” is dealt with in the various subsections. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

2: After Clause 3, insert the following new Clause—

“Model contracts

(1) The Secretary of State may produce model contracts for the purposes of seeking tenders for, and agreeing, contractual arrangements under section 3(2).

(2) If the Secretary of State exercises his power under subsection (1) he shall produce different model contracts for private and voluntary sector providers.

(3) A model contract may be amended or withdrawn at any time other than during the course of tendering.

(4) There shall be published in the London Gazette—

(a) a copy of any model contract produced under subsection (1),(b) a copy of any model contract amended under subsection (3),(c) a notice of the withdrawal of any model contract.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Companion to the Standing Orders says that amendments may be moved at Third Reading. The principal purposes are to clarify any remaining uncertainties, to improve the drafting, and,

“to enable the government to fulfil undertakings given at earlier stages of the bill”.

When we on these Benches moved the amendment on Report, I made it very clear that this was intended to give the Government a chance to tell us more about how to manage contracts and how contracts would be provided differently for different private providers of services, such as those with profits, not-for-profits and voluntary organisations.

The Minister provided us with a very rapidly produced 25-page letter at that time, and I understood her to promise that she had given an undertaking that we would return to this on Third Reading. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said on Report that she had raised this issue in Committee and that she had also understood that the Government would come back to her before Report. I therefore press the point further today because, to our surprise, we have not heard further from the Government. I phoned the Minister’s office last Wednesday to ask when we might hear further about this. The amendment was intended to be friendly and helpful. However, we have not yet heard from the Minister, nor have the next 25 pages on warm paper yet hit these Benches, so I wish to press forward on this. Indeed, the Minister said in answer to me on Report that,

“it is important for us to come back to this”.—[Official Report, 27/6/07; col. 652.]

Let me briefly reiterate the principle. We are talking about a mixed economy in the provision of an important public service. That mixed economy will consist of some with-profit providers, some not-for-profit providers and some voluntary organisations. Some of these will be national organisations; others will be regional or local. I heard an executive of one of the potentially important for-profit providers say on Friday that, if commissioning was to be local rather than regional, his company might not be interested in applying for contracts. There are some large issues at stake here to which we have not yet had a satisfactory reply from the Government. The amendment provides the Government with an opportunity to give what I hope will be a more satisfactory reply. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving us another opportunity to discuss the important issue of how contractual arrangements will operate, particularly with regard to smaller providers. He is quite right that on the last occasion, to be helpful, we produced quite extensive documentation which noble Lords did not have an appropriately long time to look at. However, we hoped that they would have had sufficient time by Third Reading and that I would be able to explain the way forward to the House with this sample document in their minds.

The noble Lord’s amendment envisages the production of model contracts, with different models applying to providers from different sectors. I absolutely understand the concerns that have prompted the approach in the amendment, but it is not the right way to achieve what we all want. I shall explain why. Noble Lords will recall from our debates on Report that the National Offender Management Service is developing a contract for probation services using the concept of generic terms and conditions under which the appropriate schedules and service specifications will sit. This will allow commissioners to be clear about what they require from lead providers and from organisations to whom lead providers sub-contract. This will include provisions to ensure the protection of employee rights, including the requirement to abide by the Cabinet Office code of practice on workforce matters.

However, these contracts will, as the noble Lord has indicated, also need to cater for different factors such as variations in the type, size and location of services to be delivered, so they will have to be tailored to meet the local environment in which they operate. This is vital if we are to ensure that contracts maximise community engagement, deliver local as well as regional and national priorities, and foster innovation—all of which the noble Lord and others have commented on. There can therefore be no one-size-fits-all approach, which is why the proposed model contracts are not appropriate. Nor are different approaches for different sectors the right way forward. We need a system that supports a contracting process that is fit for purpose. If, for example, we were to request a provider to do work for £1,000, the checks and documentation required should be significantly different, and perhaps less complex, than if we placed a contract for £10 million.

The use of flexible contracts within a framework, rather than model contracts, will allow probation trusts and other providers to develop innovative ways of delivering services, which is particularly important. I know that the noble Lord, among others, has commented on what will happen about small organisations which will target their efforts on perhaps a small group of offenders or victims who may need particular help and support that others cannot provide. We would not want to drive those people from the market because they give a lot of innovation, help and support. We need to keep that richness if we can.

Work is under way on the development of new agreements. The draft scoping document and service- level agreements provided on Report, together with early stakeholder consultation—we are going out and asking people what they think about these models—are informing our thinking on which elements of the contract can be used to encourage innovation and flexibility. Detailed consultation will be held with the first wave of probation trusts as the contracts develop before formal negotiations begin.

Although I understand absolutely the concerns that have been expressed about the process of awarding contracts and how they may put the voluntary and community sector at a disadvantage, we are determined that that should not happen. The National Offender Management Service is working with colleagues across government to look at ways of reducing the burdens and barriers to contracting for the voluntary and community sector organisations generally. NOMS is now committed to paying voluntary community service organisations on a full-cost recovery basis to ensure that they are not unwittingly subsidising public sector organisations. We have heard that theme for quite some time, and it needs to be better addressed than we perhaps have had an opportunity to do in the past.

NOMS is supporting probation boards and trusts in its sub-contracting by providing guidance and hands-on assistance on how to procure services, including the development of a generic set of terms and conditions. A wide range of commercial workshops are under way to ensure that boards and trusts provide fair and transparent tendering processes with minimum bureaucracy. NOMS is also starting work with providers from the voluntary and community sector to develop and sustain small-scale providers. We recognise that many such organisations do not want to enter into consortia or to bid for work as a provider at a national level, and we want to cater for that too.

One of the key objectives of these reforms is to enable the voluntary and charitable sector, in all its diversity, to play a greater role in the delivery of probation services. We are determined to work closely with the sector to make sure that this happens. With these assurances, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, will understand that we have fully taken into account the import of what he seeks. The framework and the flexibility will better deliver what he wants from this situation—we want to achieve the same thing—than a sample contract, which may not precisely meet the needs of any given local situation. I know that that is what the noble Lord wants. With that, I hope he is content that we certainly have fulfilled our purpose at Third Reading and that we have clarified the detail, and will feel able now to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, I think that one of the anxieties at the back of the mind of the noble Lord who moved this amendment is anxiety that commissioners will squash out the ability of small organisations to innovate by the form of contract on which they insist. Is there any way small organisations can get advice about how to resist any attempt to prevent innovation? That is an anxiety of mine and, probably, of the noble Lord.

My Lords, in this consultative process we are going out to some of the small organisations. I mentioned on the previous occasion that Clinks has been very helpful in helping us to think about this. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said last time that there are of course some organisations which simply do not want to enter into large consortia. They have honed a skill for a tiny, specialist group, are doing a fantastic job and wish to preserve that as a reality.

One of the beauties of the commissioning process is that there will be needs-based analysis, so the commissioners will have to look at how those needs are being met. Some of the specialist needs are more likely to be met by the smaller group, which might have honed its specialist skills for those needs. We are moving forward by creating a framework, getting the flexibility, looking at full cost recovery and ensuring that there are no perverse disincentives to enabling the smaller organisations to continue to thrive, but looking too at how we can get umbrella consortium bids that would encourage the others to take advantage of those opportunities. I understand what the noble Baroness is saying, and why the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is anxious. That is why the framework we have set up provides the flexibility that will ensure that that does not occur. We will have a robust suite of measures that will meet the needs.

I agree with the noble Baroness: we have to ensure that we get the best out of those currently participating. However, we have to remember that we want to encourage more people to become involved as well, so we have to create the environment that will enable that to take place.

My Lords, there were important assurances in the Minister’s speech. I am conscious of how complex this set of issues is. I spent much of Friday with my noble friend Lord Shutt in a large private prison in Doncaster, and came away from that with an even greater understanding of how complex the situation is. We are asking for partnerships between national, regional and local organisations, some people who are working for for-profit organisations and others who are working for voluntary organisations. The situation demands real care and attention. Some of us will want to ensure, as this moves towards implementation, that those concerns are fully taken through.

The Minister will also understand that many of us in this country are concerned that the system we operate is much too top-down, compared with our counterparts on the Continent and in Scandinavia. That makes it more difficult to take local and small organisations into account. On Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, talked about small voluntary organisations that used to receive grants to help them with their activities. It is precisely those sorts of organisations that we are concerned about. However, I take the Minister’s assurances, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Annual plans etc]:

3: Clause 9, page 6, line 25, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

“(5) In subsection (4)—

“annual plan” means a plan setting out the way in which the person required to publish the plan proposes to carry out any specified activities during the year to which the plan relates;

“specified activities”, in relation to a person with whom arrangements under sections 3(4) or (5) are made, means activities of a description specified in those arrangements for the purposes of subsection (4) above.”

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a simple drafting amendment, intended to clarify the definition of “annual plans” and specify the activities referred to in the amendment my noble friend Lady Anelay moved and inserted into the Bill on Report. We are grateful for the advice of the Public Bill Office on the drafting of the amendment.

The Bill’s passage has not been smooth—at least, I suggest, not from the point of view of the Minister and her colleagues. However, we on these Benches, and others, will feel that many positive changes have been effected in your Lordships’ House; changes which, if carried, would strengthen the Bill immeasurably in realigning the mode of commissioning and in ensuring that the Bill itself is revised and revitalised in the light of new reports. I urge the Minister to support other noble Lords in sending a message back to the other place that these changes are for the good, however bitter a pill that may be to swallow. I thank her for her customary assistance and engagement in the debates throughout the Bill, before she moves to at least equally distinguished pastures.

Amendment No. 3 represents a tying-up of loose ends. The work your Lordships have done on the Bill has amounted to far more than that, and I commend the amendments made in this House to another place. I beg to move.

My Lords, my task is simple: to accept the amendments. We do not agree with the arguments behind them that were made at an earlier stage, but we understand that these are tidying-up amendments. Noble Lords on the Opposition Benches have been advised on this course of action by the Public Bill Office, and it is on that basis—though without prejudice to the Government’s position on the underlying policy intention—that we are happy to accept the amendments.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for accepting the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 10 [Officers of providers of probation services]:

4: Clause 10, page 6, line 36, leave out from “under” to end of line 38 and insert “subsection (2) (and “officer”, in relation to a particular provider of probation services, means a person so authorised to act as an officer of that provider).”

5: Clause 10, page 6, line 39, leave out “as an officer of the relevant provider”and insert “to act as an officer of a particular provider of probation services (“the relevant provider”)”

6: Clause 10, page 7, line 3, leave out subsection (4)

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 11 [National framework for qualifications of officers]:

7: Clause 11, page 7, line 21, at end insert—

“( ) The probation boards and probation trusts shall not exercise their powers under section 3(2) to make contractual or other arrangements with another person unless they are satisfied that that person has complied with any guidelines published under subsection (1).

( ) The Secretary of State shall not exercise his powers under section 3(4)(a) to make contractual or other arrangements with another person unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that that person has complied with any guidelines published under subsection (1).”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a clarifying and tidying-up amendment, relating to the clause which states that the Secretary of State shall have regard to the need to secure that guidelines have the same effect in relation to every provider. The amendment seeks guidance particularly on training, because a number of small voluntary organisations have expressed concern that the implications of the training that is required to carry out functions for which they may be contracted need to be carefully thought through. Do they need qualifications in order to apply for a contract or can qualifications be gained after a contract has been awarded and before work starts? The clauses that we discussed earlier mention the requirement placed on the Secretary of State to issue guidelines that apply to everyone involved in delivery, whether they are public, private or not-for-profit. It is important that the many small voluntary organisations whose vital role in the management of offenders in a variety of activities has been mentioned many times during this debate are clear about the qualifications their staff will need in order to qualify for contracts. I beg to move.

My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham. He is absolutely right. Small or large voluntary organisations should know the level of training that will be necessary to deal with the rather more difficult offenders whom they will be required to manage. One needs to be assured on that by the Minister. Nobody is trying to do the voluntary organisations out of the vital role they play, be they small, large or the church. We all know the roles that they play. I am sure that there is plenty of scope for those roles to evolve into the future. We certainly hope that that is so. Perhaps the Minister will reassure us on this point.

My Lords, we on these Benches have made it clear during our debates in Committee and on Report that we regard training as central to the success of any rollout of contestability. The qualifications and calibre of those who deliver probation services have always been and will remain vital. We supported the Government’s new Clause 11 on qualifications, which was accepted on Report. It will ensure that the Secretary of State provides through regulations a benchmark for the minimum required qualifications of those who carry out the day-to-day delivery of probation services. The new clause seems to have got the balance about right. However, it is helpful that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has tabled Amendment No. 7. It will enable the Minister to put on record further clarification on training and qualifications. It is important that those who bid to deliver services, particularly the third sector, are given as much guidance as possible to assist them in tendering successfully for contracts.

My Lords, I shall ask a further question, having heard this short debate. I, too, am grateful for this amendment for clarification. One needs the utmost qualification for dealing with a range of offenders. The organisation with which I am closely involved has some of the most skilled workers in any organisation. It also works with a number of volunteers and other kinds of people. I want to be sure that we can take some risks, because risks have to be taken when people are in the community; otherwise, the risk is even greater, because no one keeps an eye on them. I want to be sure that we can work with volunteers, while ensuring that the supervision and oversight is left to those professionals who know how to do it. I would be worried if these measures simply implied that only those with the highest-level qualification could have contact, because that in itself is dangerous.

My Lords, I take this opportunity to seek clarification from the Government over their policy towards supportive supervision for probation and prison officers and the volunteers that my noble friend has just spoken of. I was most grateful for a recent letter from the Secretary of State assuring me that supervision of probation officers was being monitored. In my view, Her Majesty's Government should be as explicit as possible about regulations about such supervision. This is all the more important as we move towards a more differentiated workforce. The appropriate level of one-to-one supportive supervision must not be lost in the changes.

As the Minister made clear on Report, such supervision is expensive and so must be jealously guarded. I look to the Minister for further reassurances that supervision for probation officers and para-probation officers will be protected by him. I also encourage him to consider extending such supportive supervision to prison officers. It is welcome that he seeks to develop a common culture between prison and probation officers and that for the first time the two cadres are training together. Such communality will contribute to the mutual respect required for effective end-to-end management and reducing offending. The introduction of supportive supervision for prison officers would be a considerable boost to this common culture and to the status of prison officers. It would be worth the cost; in particular, it would increase the level of retention of staff in the private sector, some private prisons having a staff turnover of nearly 50 per cent per annum. It would promote humanity as reflection is necessary in treating the vulnerable, the young and the mentally ill with respect. It would demonstrate the respect in which the Minister holds prison officers as they work daily with the mentally ill or disordered, those with learning disabilities and those who pose a threat to themselves, to prison inmates, to officers or to the public.

I hope that the Minister will undertake to take away and consider how supervision might be improved for probation officers and para-probation officers and perhaps introduced for prison officers. How is a culture of reflection being promoted in the probation and prison services?

My Lords, I thank all those who have spoken. I am grateful, too, to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for what they have said about their proposal to extend Clause 11, which makes provision for publication and enforcement of a national framework for qualification for officers. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, was right in saying that Clause 11 has got it about right, but I hope that what I say will add clarification on that so that I can give a little comfort to the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. The noble Baroness is right when she says that in this arena there are some very skilled and committed volunteers whose contribution we would not wish in any way to undermine or discourage, as it is so valuable in keeping safe the people whom we care about. By “the people we care about” I mean both victims and the offenders who wish to rehabilitate and restore their behaviour.

Currently the clause makes it clear that the Secretary of State may publish guidelines about any qualifications, experience or training required to perform the work of an officer or a provider of probation services and must—and I emphasise must—publish guidelines for the work that involves the supervision of and direct contact with offenders. It also requires the Secretary of State, when carrying out his commissioning functions, to ensure that the guidelines apply to all providers whether from the public, private or voluntary sector.

Amendment No. 7 links to the earlier amendment which the Government opposed on Report and continue to oppose. However, I shall deal here with the amendment’s substantive effect—which is to ensure that commissioners do not exercise their power to enter into contracts unless they are satisfied that the other party has complied with these guidelines. I understand the point which the amendment is intended to address, and of course commissioners will need to be confident that a provider has enough appropriately trained staff before entering into a contract. However, that is not quite what the amendment says. It says that a commissioner shall not make arrangements with a provider unless the commissioner is satisfied that the provider has complied with the guidelines. As it is difficult to see how a new provider could demonstrate that he had complied, the amendment’s unintended effect would be to restrict the ability of new providers to deliver probation services.

Clause 11 as drafted already provides what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, would wish, and, in effect, it gives the necessary safeguards. It is already implicit in Clause 11(4) that, in commissioning services, the Secretary of State will need to be assured that the provider will be able to comply with the guidelines. I therefore hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, will see that the amendment is unnecessary and that the noble Lord will agree that it should be withdrawn.

I very much hear what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, says about supervision, the need for protection and the way in which the two are now being conjoined between prison officers and the Probation Service. The fact that they are learning together, training together and developing a joint ethos is very important indeed. I shall take back the noble Earl’s comments to my colleagues at the Ministry of Justice and ensure that they hear what he said. It very much fits within the new culture that we are trying to inculcate into the service and might be something that people will want to look at in due course.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for providing precisely what the amendment sought—clarification. As I said in opening, we needed to tease this out. I am grateful also to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for mentioning risk and all the people involved. A whole raft of skills need to be harnessed particularly within these small voluntary organisations and those people should not be impeded or made to feel unwelcome in doing their work.

I thank all those who spoke in this short debate. I think that we have achieved what I had hoped by putting these thoughts on the record for the commissioners to take into consideration when the time comes. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 [Conveyance of prohibited articles into or out of prison]:

8: Clause 25, page 15, line 37, at end insert—

“In paragraph (a) “specified” means specified in the authorisation.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 26 [Other offences relating to prison security]:

9: Clause 26, page 18, line 18, at end insert—

“In paragraph (a) “specified” means specified in the authorisation.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Probation trusts: further provisions]:

10: Schedule 1, page 28, line 16, leave out paragraphs (c) and (d)

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment has already been the subject of discussion among the Front Benches. I shall make one or two further comments on the Motion that the Bill do now pass but have nothing further to say at this point. I beg to move.

My Lords, we have had helpful discussions on the subject of magistrates with the senior presiding judge and the noble Baronesses, Lady Anelay and Lady Linklater. I am grateful to them all but particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, who tabled the amendment which has been spoken to so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. The Government continue to believe that magistrates have an important role to play under the new arrangements and that they have a lot to offer trusts. However, it is more appropriate for them to be appointed in a personal capacity on the basis of their individual skills and experience rather than as a result of statutory prescription. I am therefore happy to support the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

11: Schedule 1, page 29, line 29, leave out “Subject to sub-paragraph (2),”

The noble and learned Baroness said: My Lords, the amendments in this group are technical. This is a straightforward consequential amendment. As we have previously noted, a large number of such amendments need to be made to the many references to local probation boards across the statute book. Clause 41 enables this to be done by means of secondary legislation, which will be the most appropriate mechanism for making most of them.

However, we have made a small number in the Bill to show the House how these matters are being approached—for example, in relation to the Race Relations Act and the Children Act. The amendment before us concerns the duties that the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 places on local probation boards in relation to youth justice and youth offending teams. It shows how those duties will apply under the new arrangements and takes a similar approach to the Children Act amendment that we considered earlier.

The Government are determined to ensure that probation’s commitments to a wide range of multi-agency partnerships are maintained under the new arrangements. I take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked so hard on this Bill during all its stages for their commitment, tenacity and consideration. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

12: Schedule 1, page 29, line 34, leave out sub-paragraphs (2) and (3)

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

13: Schedule 3, page 36, line 31, at end insert—

“Interpretation Act 1978 (c. 30)1A In Schedule 1 to the Interpretation Act 1978 (words and expressions defined) there is inserted, at the appropriate places—

“Officer of a provider of probation services” in relation to England and Wales, has the meaning given by section 10(1) of the Offender Management Act 2007;”; and

“Provider of probation services”, in relation to England and Wales, has the meaning given by section 3(6) of the Offender Management Act 2007;”.

14: Schedule 3, page 36, line 31, at end insert—

“Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c. 37)(1) The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 38(2) (provision of youth justice services), after paragraph (a) (but before the “and” following it) there is inserted—

“(aa) the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under sections 2 and 3 of the Offender Management Act 2007;(ab) every provider of probation services that is required by arrangements under section 3(2) of the Offender Management Act 2007 to carry out the duty under this subsection in relation to the local authority;”. (3) In section 39 (youth offending teams)—

(a) in subsection (3), after paragraph (a) (but before the “and” following it) there is inserted—“(aa) the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under sections 2 and 3 of the Offender Management Act 2007;(ab) every provider of probation services that is required by arrangements under section 3(2) of the Offender Management Act 2007 to carry out the duty under this subsection in relation to the local authority;”; and(b) in subsection (5)(a), after “board” here is inserted “or an officer of a provider of probation services”.(4) In section 41(10) (the Youth Justice Board) and 42(3) (supplementary provisions), after “probation board” there is inserted “a provider of probation services”.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

My Lords, I moved Amendment No. 10 formally partly not to hold up the process. Therefore, I hope that I may be allowed to say a few words on this Motion. First, I apologise that noble Lords have had to hear the substitute from these Benches rather than the real expert—the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, has been detained in Scotland on family business. This has been a very steep learning curve for me, which I have nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed. However, I watch the Bill leave this House with foreboding. It seems to me that it has several different rationales and several layers of the Labour Party’s modernisation project for the public services, which remain unresolved.

I very much thank the Minister for the way in which she dealt with the Bill, although I was not always entirely sure that she was in full sympathy with some of its aims. The noble Lords, Lord Warner and Lord Filkin, sometimes sounded a great deal more enthusiastic about some of its aspects than she did. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, suggested that the principles that applied to the National Health Service would apply to the Probation Service and offender management. I passed that remark on to staff at Doncaster prison—a private prison—and was greeted with complete and utter horror. They said that the last thing that they wanted was to have the same churning reorganisation. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, accused the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, of being anachronistic. As the Minister will know, I think that there is nothing so anachronistic as a management fashion that is now 10 years out of date.

The Bill does not deal with some of the underlying problems that we face as a country in offender management, such as the non-enforcement of fines. The Carter report, which is where we started, referred to that problem in its analysis but did not deal with it in its conclusions. There is an immense problem with overcrowding in our prisons, which means that many of the things that are most important in terms of reducing the rate of reoffending simply cannot be done. The two prisons that I have been to over the past few months cannot fulfil their education and training programmes, while the resettlement problems are enormous. Overcrowding in prisons, as we all know, also means that people are being imprisoned further and further away from their home base and are transferred more often from one prison to another. The resettlement people at Doncaster prison told me that they now have to deal with resettlement issues connected to East Anglia and the Home Counties because so many prisoners in Yorkshire are now drawn from the south-east. There is a range of issues here with which I feel we have not fully dealt and the Bill does not fully deal.

Perhaps I may touch on a particular issue on which we have not put down an amendment at Third Reading because we were discouraged from doing so by the Public Bill Office: the question of Clause 19, which covers the removal of the statutory duties of the controller and passes them on to a private prison. On Friday, I asked whether I could talk to people about this in particular, and I am grateful to the staff of Doncaster prison for arranging for me to see a controller. I also happened to meet a deputy controller from another prison and a former controller now working for the regional offender manager. They all said that they were not entirely sure why Clause 19 is in the Bill. They said that there is no demand for it, while the most experienced observed that it probably came from the understanding and expectation some years ago that statutory duties of adjudication did not take very much time and that the main job of the controller was to monitor the implementation of a private sector prison’s contract. “But”, they all went on to say, “we have now all discovered that statutory duties and adjudication take a great deal of time”. If those duties are transferred to a private prison, additional staff will be needed to cope with that, with some adjustment to the contract to pay for those staff. There is no financial saving to be made.

As I dig into the Bill, I have a number of questions for which the Government do not appear to have a clear and coherent underlying rationale. While we accept that this Bill will now pass and go back to another place, Members on these Benches are unhappy that, while we have managed to improve it in a number of areas, it was not subject to pre-legislative scrutiny; it would have been a perfect candidate for such scrutiny, as some of its contrasting rationales could have been ironed out at that stage. We have done our best, but I fear that it may not be enough.

My Lords, I am afraid that these Benches are also fielding a B-team today. On behalf of my noble friend Lady Anelay, who is similarly delayed on family business, I thank all noble Lords who have been of great assistance in the progression of this Bill. I wish the Bill well on its progress through the House of Commons and I thank the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for their invariable courtesy in dealing with the legislation. I also offer the noble and learned Baroness our best wishes in her new role.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches, I, too, thank the noble and learned Baroness and the noble Lord for the way in which they have conducted the Bill. It would be quite wrong not to say, too, that we have been enormously impressed by the way in which the noble and learned Baroness has handled the most immense legislative burden over the past few years. We wish her well in her new appointment. While we may not have agreed on everything on this and previous Bills, I am conscious that we have shared the same motivation; namely, that we have been all about the improvement of the management of offenders and the speedy introduction of deliverable change where it is appropriate.

During our consideration of this Bill, we have covered an immense amount of ground but, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said, a great deal has not been covered in the management of offenders. We mentioned some of the issues during the debate. I agree about the lack of pre-legislative scrutiny. I mention that in the context of the regulatory impact assessment, which I did not think had been carried.

We send the Bill back to another place with two important amendments in respect of local commissioning and delaying implementation until further consideration has been given. In this connection, I hope that the attention of the other place will be drawn to the recently published annual report by the Chief Inspector of Probation, in which he says that a review of certain matters is under way in the Ministry of Justice and, in particular, that end-to-end supervision of offenders should be sensibly implemented because the Government’s goal of co-ordinated, continuous management of offenders risks being undeliverable. It was in that context and the context of the further study of prisons by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, as well as against the background of frozen budgets in the prison and probation services and the rising numbers of people in prison, that I felt that consideration should be given to the impact of all the legislation in the field, not only this legislation.

In connection with that, I am enormously encouraged by the response of the Ministry of Justice and, in particular, of the new Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, with whom I had a very encouraging meeting last week. We discussed disability and he has assured me that the Disability Discrimination Act applies to both staff and prisoners. He has written to me accordingly and he has undertaken to include the Department of Health in discussions on diversity, because it has responsibility for the primary care trusts, which are responsible for its provision.

We have covered an enormous amount of ground in the Bill and I am grateful to the noble and learned Baroness for the way in which she has taken it through. I hope that the other place will take into consideration not only what has been said but what has been going on around the Bill. That all needs to be taken into consideration in the proper management of offenders, which is something that affects us all.

My Lords, I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. I hate to end on a sour note, but I do not accept for one moment that either of them could ever be a member of anyone’s B-team. Both are fully paid-up members of the A-team and have made a sterling contribution to the Bill.

I thank noble Lords for the kindness that they have shown me. I regret, of course, that I shall have less opportunity to discuss matters from the Dispatch Box, but that may be a great relief to the House. I take this opportunity to thank my noble friend Lord Bassam for his sterling efforts, not only on this Bill but on each and every Bill in which I have been involved over the past four years.

The Bill has a joint purpose: to improve the supervision of offenders and better to protect victims. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that what all have done in this House has been to that end. As the Bill moves back to the other place, we wish it God’s speed.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.