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Lord Hylton: My Lords, I declare an interest as President of NIACRO. Does the Minister realise that Northern Ireland is affected as well as England? Is he aware that there will be fewer voluntarily managed training places, both for ex-offenders and for those at risk of offending, as a result of the cuts imposed by the Government on the ACE programme?

Lord Henley: My Lords, obviously the noble Lord would not expect me to answer in detail on the Northern Ireland position in relation to programmes provided by that department. Although in Great Britain as a whole we had to make cuts to training for work, it was in the light of a particularly difficult public expenditure round. We were still able to maintain the same number of opportunities as before. We believe that at a difficult time we must allocate resources in a sensible way. That is why I emphasised the priorities that I mentioned in my original Answer.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, it seems to me that my noble friend Lady Seear made an entirely socially desirable proposition. Will the Minister indicate what extra expenditure there would be in following her proposal?

Lord Henley: My Lords, not without notice. As I said earlier, public expenditure remains difficult and we have to cut our cloth according to whatever resources are available. We allocated the extra resources to the groups that we thought had a higher priority than ex-offenders. However, we see a case for ex-offenders and that is why they have immediate entitlement to training for work the moment they come out of prison, without having to wait six months, as other unemployed people do.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Home Secretary will bring forward proposals which will inevitably increase the prison population, as is widely recognised. Will the Minister give assurances that the funding of training programmes for ex-offenders will be increased proportionately to the increase in spending on the prison system?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord will accept that that is another Question. However, I can make it quite clear that we have no intention of changing the basic eligibility for training for work. Ex-offenders will be entitled to training for work when they come out of prison.

Lord Richard: My Lords, will the Minister confirm some figures on this? Am I right that the training organisations hoping to run pilot courses, including

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NIACRO, have put in bids to the TECs which last week submitted proposals to the department? Bids were made for 19,000 training places, of which 8,500 will be funded. Is that the scope of the problem, that only about 40 per cent. of the applications will receive government funding? If so, is that not too extreme a cut?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I cannot confirm the noble Lord's figures without notice but I should be more than happy to write to him. As I said at the beginning, we must cut our cloth according the resources available to us. We give basic eligibility to those who come out of prison for training for work, without their having to wait six months. As regards the extra resources available for certain groups, we believe that it is right to target those I mentioned in my original Answer.

Earl Russell: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House when ex-offenders on training for work programmes last had their allowances up-rated for inflation?

Lord Henley: My Lords, not without notice.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, the Minister said that it is important that we use our money sensibly. Will he agree that to keep an ordinary grade offender in prison costs at least £400 a week? To keep a high category offender in prison costs over £1,000 a week. If we can save ex-offenders from going back to prison, is that not economical?

Lord Henley: My Lords, it obviously costs a great deal to keep offenders in prison. Training is provided to those offenders while they are in prison and we hope that it is of benefit to them. That is why so much is spent on them. However, as I made clear earlier, we have to cut our cloth according to the resources available. I do not believe that merely increasing money for one particular group would necessarily prevent all the recidivism that the noble Baroness fears. It is right that we should do what we can, and that is why we target the resources on ex-offenders in the way I described. However, there are other groups: the disabled, those with literacy and numeracy problems and those with English language training needs. It is right that they should receive higher priority than ex-offenders.

Cheltenham Festival: Risks to Racehorses

3.23 p.m.

Lord Kirkhill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the number of horses destroyed at the recent Cheltenham Festival was unacceptably high and, if so, whether they will take steps with the racing authorities to reduce the risks.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, it is a matter of sadness that the recent Cheltenham Festival was marred by the deaths of

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those horses. However, the safety of horses at individual racecourses is a matter for the responsible racing authorities.

Lord Kirkhill: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. However, will she agree that there is considerable public anxiety about the fact that 10 horses were destroyed at a three-day race meeting held in the name of sport? Is it not now time for the Government to set up the appropriate form of joint consultation with the racing authorities so that the continuing national scandal of equine slaughter may be seriously examined?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it was not a three-day but a four-day event. It is a wholly exceptional occasion when 10 horses die in one event. It is fair to say that it is not just the public who are distressed by the fact. The owners, trainers and riders of the horses are too, as well as the Jockey Club, the officials of the course and everyone else connected with racing. Bernard Donigan of the RSPCA said:

    "Together with the Jockey Club, we have made great advances. We have left nothing to chance. Cheltenham race-course has done everything possible and you cannot criticise them. Everyone there did all they could".
It is a matter for them and it would be quite wrong for the Government to intervene in the process in a knee-jerk reaction.

Lord Harding of Petherton: My Lords, will my noble friend agree that horse-racing, especially jump racing, is a high risk sport both for horse and rider, but it employs thousands of people and gives pleasure to millions? It is inevitable that accidents will happen and it is unfortunate that so many should occur at one meeting. Will the Minister further agree that when a horse fractures its leg or otherwise damages itself so that it is no longer able to walk, the most humane thing to do is to have it destroyed as quickly as possible?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is a sad occasion, particularly when as many as 10 horses are involved, but it is a wholly exceptional occurrence. It is also true that almost no sport is without risk. There is always risk and many horses ridden not for sport but for pleasure die in the field as a result of broken legs or, even worse, broken necks.

The Jockey Club takes its work seriously and the officials of the course take their work seriously. It is our view that everyone concerned is highly responsible and they do all they can to minimise such occurrences. I again quote Bernard Donigan who said:

    "To lose one horse, never mind 10, is a source of great concern to us. But in racing there will never be a situation where there will be no casualties".

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I happened to be in Cheltenham last week and saw this unprecedented number of fatalities? Nearly half of them were on the flat, between jumps, so it is bewildering. I have sympathy for those who are worried. Will the Minister agree that the probable explanation is the unusual combination of the exceptional speed and

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competitiveness of this great festival, together with perhaps a lack of preparation of some horses whose training was hindered in the bad winter?

In order that we may know the facts, will the Minister press for general publication of the report of the inquiry which the racing authorities set up, I may say with commendable speed? Although in top jump racing it is inevitable that there will be great danger for jockeys as well as horses, no one who loves racing would like to see a repetition of fatalities on that scale.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, as the noble Lord said, an inquiry has been set up by the Jockey Club and the officials of the racecourse. We understand that anyone will be free to give evidence to it, including welfare organisations. The inquiry will report to the board of Cheltenham Racecourse. I simply do not know the answer, so I cannot say whether the report will be made public, but I will take the point away with me. It is in everybody's interest that the inquiry is thorough, and we have every reason to believe that it will be. As to speculation as to what happened, it would be inappropriate to guess. My understanding is that the combination of weather both last summer and during this winter may have been a contributory factor. It is also true that it was a very fast course during those four days. If I may be forgiven the pun, I am told that there was a very serious tailwind, so they were even faster than normal.

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