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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The amendment attempts to change the aim of the service. In part, it is a re-run of an earlier argument.

The current aims as stated in the Bill are generic. They are not intended to be precise in their terms, but we believe that they are in general terms the most important. I believe that to add to them would begin to dilute them. The aims have been carefully devised to inform everything which the service does. We believe that they can do that by their generic nature. Adding extra words would reduce the focus.

I am not sure what adding the word "effective" would achieve. We all want to see effective practice both in terms of the enforcement of orders and the rehabilitation programmes which are successful in reducing reoffending. I congratulate the noble Baroness on her important role in ensuring that "What Works" had a good start in life. We believe that it is effective and that we have added to that effectiveness. I am happy to try to facilitate the noble Baroness's wisdom by providing her with any background briefing she might want to receive on the "What Works" programme and on what is proving to be effective in the Probation Service.

We do not believe that adding the words "effective" or "appropriate" to a Bill of this nature is a good idea. It could cast doubt in cases where similar words do not appear; in other words, whether other things need to be done effectively or appropriately.

The aims of the service are carefully devised to inform everything that the service does. For those reasons, we cannot support the amendment, although we support its spirit. We want the service to be effective and that is our shared concern. There is consensus about that and I congratulate all those who have played a part in securing that consensus for the service.

Baroness Blatch: I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that it is for the courts to dispense punishment. Indeed, if that were followed through logically the entire line should be removed from the Bill. It asks the Probation Service to be concerned with the application of proper punishment. It is not the role of the Probation Service to administer punishment; its role is to supervise the punishment which is meted out by the courts. I argue that it should do that effectively. Acting "effectively" is not just about being tough or returning people to prison; it is about being so effective that fewer people reoffend. That is the meaning to which I was referring.

The Minister said that he would provide me with any briefing that I need, but I was asking for it on behalf of the whole Committee. Our debates would be informed if we had that information. Has there been

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an evaluation report on the "What Works" approach? If so, can we see that? What are the current overall statistics as regards reoffending? What are the best and worst practice figures? Would it be helpful to produce that information before we meet again? It would certainly be helpful to me.

Clearly, the Minister will not accept the word "effective". I shall withdraw my amendment, but I want to think about what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. I hope that we can include a provision in the Bill which properly reflects my point that the aim of the service should be to be as effective as possible in overseeing the proper punishments which are meted out by the courts. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 2, line 10, at end insert--

("( ) ensuring offenders' awareness of the effects of crime on the victims of crime and the public").

The noble Baroness said: I have coupled together Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 and I hope that the Minister will see their merits. It is important to ensure the awareness of offenders of the impact of their crimes on the public, individuals and victims of crime and to be concerned with the education of offenders. That education can take many forms.

We all know that in parts of the Probation Service much work is being undertaken as regards offenders facing up to the pain and anguish that they have caused to their victims. However, I hope that the Minister will agree that it is patchy and that more needs to be done.

The process of rehabilitation for many on probation will require a reawakening to the seriousness of their behaviour and its impact. It will, or should, involve many educational programmes from basic skills teaching, home management and childcare through to therapy programmes designed to wean people away from drug taking and sexual offending.

However, I was dismayed to read in the Official Report, Standing Committee, of another place (cols. 15 to 29 and 715 to 733) that to add these amendments would have the damaging effect of narrowing the work of the Probation Service rather than recognising the breadth of its work. I find that completely and utterly baffling. How can it be narrowing to ask the Probation Service to concern itself with raising offenders' awareness of the impact of their crimes on the victims? That is not narrowing; it is a core part of the work of the Probation Service. Furthermore, how can it be wrong to have as another aim the education of offenders?

Wonderful work is being undertaken in the Probation Service on both those aspects. I know of impressive programmes in which young and not-so-young offenders have been brought face to face with their victims, and the impact has been profound. I am familiar also with some impressive educational programmes, which take many forms. They can wean people off habits that have got them into trouble or

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provide offenders with basic skills such as reading and writing, homemaking or child caring. It is incredible that the accusation against these amendments is that they would narrow the focus of the service.

The proper protection of the public and property, the reduction of offending, and the proper and effective punishment of offenders are not narrowed by raising awareness of the impact of the offenders' activities. I hope that the Minister will think again, not repeat the arguments put in another place--which do not make sense. I beg to move.

Lord Dholakia: I support the sentiments expressed by the noble Baroness, which make a lot of sense. Some time ago, a number of us attended a conference on rehabilitative justice arranged by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, with participants from America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. There was remarkable consensus on taking public perception into account. I understand that that is being seriously considered by the Home Office. If so, it should be included as an aim of the Probation Service. That applies equally to education.

Amendment No. 5 in my name is about the rehabilitation of offenders. I was surprised to hear the Minister say, when speaking to Amendment No. 1, that the aim of the service was the rehabilitation of offenders. Where is that wording to be found? I cannot find it. If the Minister thinks now that it is included but finds that it is not, he should consider including what is a fundamental aim.

We are surprised that the existing objective of the rehabilitation of offenders is omitted, particularly in respect of the Probation Service--to be replaced by,

    "the proper punishment of offenders".

The supervision of offenders is not a process of continual punishment. That would be counter-productive and perpetuate criminality, not reduce it. Community court orders are handed down by magistrates and judges as a punishment but not for punishment.

The aims and functions described in Clause 2 would not address the underlying problems that contribute to offending behaviour--education, training and work, emotional difficulties, poor housing, anti-social behaviour and so on. Attention to rehabilitation is a priority to ensure that there are fewer victims in future--an aim to which we all subscribe. Unless the courts and public clearly understand that the rehabilitation of offenders is a prime function of the Probation Service, it will be undermined.

Of the service's other aims, contributing to the protection of the public is achieved through reducing offending by participation in effective programmes and group work--but neither process by itself addresses the underlying causes of criminality. It is right and proper that the rehabilitation of offenders should be one of the primary aims specified in the Bill.

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3.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I understand the arguments made by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord but I cannot agree. There is some confusion between aims and functions. The word "rehabilitation" is used in Clause 1 where it is described as one of the functions of the Probation Service. The function inherited by the Government as a central rubric was to assist and befriend offenders. We have moved on from there. It is important to have a clear statement in the legislation on the purposes of the service. Those are set out in the aims and functions but we should not confuse the two.

Baroness Blatch: Will the Minister produce a document stating that a central aim of the previous government's policy for the whole Probation Service was to assist and befriend?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: That is the term used in previous legislation. I believe it was used in the 1993 Act, having been inherited by the previous government from 1973 legislation. I speak from memory but that was the general rubric for the Probation Service. Clause 2 attempts to describe its aims and functions with much grater clarity. We do not want the service's aims and functions cluttered up or confused.

I accept the point that rehabilitation will be part of the Probation Service's core business in ensuring that people understand the nature and impact of their offending behaviour. The education of offenders when they are under forms of supervision will also be important. It is our intention to ensure that education and training are provided in the community for those who are released from prison after serving part of their sentence.

We warmly embrace the need to ensure that offenders are made fully aware of the impact of their criminal activities. As a Government, we have been championing victims and ensuring that courts are made aware of the impact of particular crimes, through victim personal statements and so on. We need to ensure that the public are educated about those points.

We agree that it will often be necessary for the Probation Service to assist in educating offenders on a number of important social issues but we are not satisfied that that needs to be among the service's statutory stated aims. We want to position the national service as an agency within the criminal justice system as part of its law and order work. It is no longer right to view the Probation Service as a social work organisation, as it has partly been seen in the past.

Although I agree that such work is important, it is too narrow to form part of the service's statutory aims. The Government have no intention of neglecting the appreciation of the impact of crime on victims. Far from it. That work is significant for seconded probation staff working inside prisons and in community activities. Education will have priority. We take seriously the lack of literacy skills that is clearly evident among many offenders--a key

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handicap to obtaining employment. Useful employment is one of the best ways of keeping people out of difficulty and out of trouble with the law.

We want the new service to concentrate on activities that reduce crime. In many cases, the way to reduce the likelihood of an offender reoffending is by assisting in their rehabilitation, which is why that is specified in Clause 1(1)(b) as an overarching purpose and function of the service. We think that rehabilitation goes much wider, to include all sorts of social needs with which other agencies are better placed to deal. We believe that to add a broad-based aim such as that proposed would deflect the focus of the service away from its primary role as a law enforcement agency. As ever, I am open to persuasion. We shall continue to review the way in which the aims are defined in legislation and reflect on these matters at greater length.

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