Clause 1 : Amendment of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
Clause 1, page 1, leave out lines 9 and 10
My Lords, this is purely a drafting amendment to correct a drafting error in the Bill. It deletes paragraph (d) of new Section 5(1) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which the Bill would insert into the principal Act. Paragraph (d) refers to the new subsection (9A) which an earlier version of the Bill would have inserted but which is no longer in the Bill. This reference to the subsection was inadvertently left in the current version of the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I wish to make a brief comment that the Minister may wish to take into account. It relates to the young people in our armed services fighting for our freedom and safety and putting their lives and their health at risk. I want to draw attention to the recently published report by the Howard League for Penal Reform, The Inquiry into Former Armed Services Personnel in Prison.
I submit that the armed services provide an excellent canopy of care and support while the individual personnel are in service, but on retirement that canopy partly disappears and the gap is admirably filled by charities such as the Royal British Legion, Crisis and many others, not to forget and to acknowledge the exceptional work of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham.
As a result of the problems and issues mentioned in the report that I have just quoted, some of these personnel end up in prison. My plea is that such people need greater understanding and support from the Government in designing amendments that give an easier and faster route back to society and jobs once they have served their time in prison. These armed services personnel risk their lives and health because we, the politicians, decided to send them to the battlefield. Therefore we, as the politicians, should now help to design and craft legislation that recognises the needs of those who retire and that enables them to have a quicker route to training, jobs and a normal life like anyone else.
The jobs market is difficult in the present economic climate. If an ex-member of our armed services has to declare that he has served his time in prison, his chances of getting employment will reduce substantially. Employers have a much bigger pool of people to choose from. I recognise that it will be difficult to find a solution to enable the retired person to be put on to a fast track to a job, but I sincerely believe that the public will sympathise if we legislate for positive discrimination for our retired armed services personnel. I fully support the amendment.
My Lords, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for taking forward his Private Member’s Bill. I know that reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is an important issue for him and one that he has raised consistently in this House. I hope the noble Lord will understand that the Government are currently considering reform of the ROA and that I am not in a position today to make any announcement in respect of that review.
I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, says and will ensure that my colleagues take his points into consideration. That said, this amendment seems entirely consistent with the intentions of the Bill, and I am happy to accept it.
Clause 1, as amended, agreed.
Clause 2 agreed.
Bill reported with an amendment.