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If a child is running wild late at night, why is that? If a child is not attending school properly, why is that, and how can we deal with it? Because there is no doubt that poor school attendance and low educational achievement lead to a significant part of juvenile crime. That is how we have structured the Crime and Disorder Bill which, by and large, received a good welcome in your Lordships' House. There is no doubt that parents have to be involved, which is another significant and deliberate aspect of the Crime and Disorder Bill under which we can have parenting orders, where parents who may not be sufficiently equipped to be good parents will be encouraged rather than bullied or threatened to see whether, as I said earlier, their children's lives may not be better than were their own.
Equally--I take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McNally--this is not just a Home Office point, because it depends upon education. It is of great importance that my right honourable friend Mr. Blunkett is putting such emphasis on a broad education in schools to include parenting responsibilities. I know that that is jargon, but it is jargon that contains an important point. I agree with the noble Lord.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, the Minister mentioned the heavier use of imprisonment as a penalty, and longer sentences. We all know that that is what is happening. Will the Minister explain why the Statement makes no reference to non-custodial sentences, to getting mentally ill offenders out of prison, or the long-standing question of access by all prisoners to the NHS?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I did not say longer sentences. I said that Crown Courts and magistrates were using imprisonment more readily than they formerly did. It is not right to say that the Statement does not consider alternatives to prison, because it spends a great deal of time on increased investment in the Probation Service, for instance. It does not include the question of access to NHS facilities. I think that I answered that Question yesterday in a different context. There are arguments on both sides. The noble Lord is right: the Statement does not mention that point.
The whole of the Crime and Disorder Bill, which is the Government's flagship strategy in dealing with the prevention of crime, seems to me to devolve entirely upon alternatives to prison. The whole construct of the Bill is to try to deal with people at a young age, before they go to prison. The Statement has to be seen in the context of what we have already done and what your Lordships have, as I think I said earlier, almost unanimously approved.
We deal with children in a non-custodial way, but there are children who will go into custody and there are adults who will go into custody. It is our duty as a civil society to provide better regimes for them, not least productive activity and education. The Statement deals with that issue. There will never be a time in this country when some people will not be in prison. Our aim should be to have as few people in prison as is sensibly consistent with public confidence in the judicial system and public safety and security.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, will the Minister bear in mind that modest sums of money might make a difference in our prisons? While I do not suggest that this is one of the major issues, will the Minister look favourably upon charities such as Natural Justice which is looking at the link between diet and violent behaviour, particularly in prisons?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I can agree with two points that the noble Lord has made. I recognise his enormous experience in this area. First, volunteering and charitable work is important; and, secondly, it can be achieved at a relatively modest cost. We intend to provide over £5 million to support volunteering. I cannot deal specifically with the question of diet. I am aware that the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, has frequently asked Questions, orally or in writing, about that. I cannot say that there is anything in the Statement that points to that. It is an important question, so I will have further research done and write to the noble Lord, if that is helpful, and put a copy in the Library.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, it would be churlish not to pay tribute to the Government for their good intentions, so ably expressed by the Minister. Without studying the proposals in detail, it would be imprudent to offer any view as to whether they represent a repudiation of the disastrous policies pursued over the past few years by various governments, which won almost universal condemnation in your Lordships' House, as illustrated in the debate initiated recently in your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Allen.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I believe that they are a repudiation. What has bedevilled us in the past is that every approach has been made piecemeal, often as an over-reaction to a limited problem. In the Crime and Disorder Bill we are looking at the causes of crime, and setting out the statutory purpose of that new regime; namely, to prevent people offending. The Statement of course does not recite the whole philosophy behind the Crime and Disorder Bill. I do not think that it could have. It is saying that we must look at the judicial system; the sentencing regime; the prison
Lord Mishcon: My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted to congratulate my noble friend the Minister on his ability to make this historic Statement, as I believe it to be, this afternoon. I pay tribute to the part that I know he played in making possible this Statement and the policy that is contained in it. Am I, as an amateur politician--my noble friend referred to his being in that category--permitted to dream for a moment, that the subject of crime, the causes of crime and how to deal with it, could be taken out of the political arena?
Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. No discourtesy was intended. It was merely a matter of referring to the timing of the next Business. I do apologise to him that I was not paying attention.
Lord Mishcon: My Lords, no one would ever accuse the noble Baroness of being discourteous. However, I venture to suggest that she might refrain from making such political speeches in the future, which I do not think that the nation would appreciate in view of its great concern about crime, its causes, and the way to deal with it.
I have just two observations. I borrow a phrase used by my noble friend the Minister who said that he obviously would not wish to anticipate the results of the inquiry into the Lawrence case or the recommendations that might be made. The reputation of the police--the people who represent law and order to the man in the street--which in my youth was so high, is suffering a deterioration unworthy of the great traditions that the majority of the police still uphold.
Quite apart from enquiries being made into early retirements, sick pay, and so on, I hope that when communicating with the heads of the various police forces it will be emphasised by the Government that the conduct of the police is of supreme importance in connection with the battle against crime. I yearn for the day when the police were regarded as the friends of school children and others alike. They were the honoured guests of schools. Their bands played and school children and youngsters loved them. I wonder whether that position can be still be secured.
I have only one other question. Expenditure was mentioned in connection with much that would help with juvenile crime. However, I found no reference in the Statement to the encouragement and extra financing of youth clubs. One of the chief causes of crime is the
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, my noble friend is right: there was no specific reference to youth clubs. But again one goes back to the Crime and Disorder Bill, and considers the strategies with which local authorities, voluntary organisations, chief officers and police will be involved. I am happy to reaffirm that there is no doubt that all voluntary organisations, including youth clubs which do such useful work, will be included in that co-operative regime.
I can say no more about the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence except this. I do not think that it can be doubted that the present Home Secretary has an absolute commitment to doing away with that endemic vice, not simply in setting up that inquiry, but also in the introduction of the offence of racial harassment. Having listened with care to amendments that both my noble friend Lord Mishcon and the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, wished, we were able to respond in a firm and constructive way.
My noble friend Lord Mishcon referred to me as an amateur politician. I assume that he refers to the extremely modest remuneration that Ministers in your Lordships' House receive. It is not a perfect amateur but very close to it. I chided the noble Baroness gently because I am happy to say in all honesty that in every contact we have had across the Dispatch Box and, more importantly, in private letters and conversations, the noble Baroness has never sought to make these matters a party political football. I believe that she was led for a moment into temptation; and, as Oscar Wilde said, the one thing to do with temptation is to give into it.
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