Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Earl Russell: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for her helpful remarks. What she said about ignorance I can confirm; I, too, have knowledge of such cases. What she said about the fine not being fully levied is a point of considerable importance and deserves thought. Many of the people we are concerned about could not of course possibly pay the kind of fines that we are envisaging.

I am grateful to the Minister for the care and thoughtfulness of his reply. I agree with a great deal of it, but not, unfortunately, with the parts which most bear on the point at issue. I accept his point that children get only one chance, but the point at issue is whether the amendment will make the situation any better.

I accept also what the noble Lord said about parental collusion. Where parental collusion can be proved, I am quite prepared to have it treated as aiding and abetting truancy from school--but one would have to prove the mens rea of the parent before taking any action. What I am not happy about is the concept of vicarious guilt, of holding the parents responsible for things that they have not done, did not wish, and in some cases may have been unable to prevent even if they had tried.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The noble Earl confronts an interesting issue. The concept of vicarious guilt exists whether or not we raise the threshold and the

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1658

penalty, does it not? Therefore, what bearing does it have on this particular proposal? The noble Earl's argument stands or falls, does it not?

Earl Russell: I entirely accept what the Minister says; I thought that he would say as much. I have in fact opposed this concept from the beginning. I have not always been able to be present in the Chamber when it has arisen, but on this occasion, when I see matters getting worse and more serious, I am able to be in the Chamber and I am able to say so.

I entirely accept the Minister's point about it being the intention of the measure to get the parents into court. What I am not certain about is what the effect of that will be. For most parents, whether they can do anything about it or not, it will be a very shaming experience. Parents who have been shamed by the behaviour of their children tend rapidly to translate that shame into the form of anger with the child. That anger can be extremely explosive. I remember a case being reported in the Evening Standard following a riot at Chelsea football ground during which people were throwing iron bars across the pitch. A woman watching television observed her son to be among those doing it. When he returned home that evening, he found his bed out in the street and was told that he would sleep there because he was not coming into the house.

One may, in the short term, laugh sympathetically at that story, but in the long term if the intention persists it will create a major problem. That is precisely the effect that the Minister will achieve in getting parents into court. The provision will be counter-productive. It is too late at night for any further debate on this matter. I hope that we may return to it at a later stage of the Bill.

Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I may put a question to the Minister. Is this a magistrates' court issue, or a youth court issue?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am told that it is a matter for the magistrates' court. I am fairly clear that it must be. I shall take further advice, but that is the indication. If it is not, I shall inform the noble Baroness.

Baroness Blatch: My noble friend sitting alongside me, who is a magistrate, says that truancy is dealt with in the youth court.

Clause 63 agreed to.

Clauses 64 and 65 agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

[Amendment No. 158 not moved.]

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 159:


    Page 56, line 39, leave out ("4(1)(c)(ii), 5(1)(c)(ii)").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 160 to 187. With the leave of the Committee, I shall then move those amendments

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1659

en bloc. Amendment No. 188 in this group is an opposition amendment, after which I should like to move en bloc Amendments Nos. 189 to 225.

This group of amendments makes the necessary changes to Schedule 6, so that the amendments are made to other enactments that are needed to ensure that the measures in the Bill that we have already discussed can take full effect. Schedule 6 to the Bill contains only amendments that are consequential on the substantive provisions contained in the Bill. The Committee may be relieved to hear that I do not intend to go through each one of the amendments in turn; however, I am in a position to give some brief examples if that would be of assistance.

This group of amendments includes amendments to Schedule 6 to the Bill which provides for amendments to be made to other enactments that are consequential on the changes to the names of community orders; for example, Amendments 159 and 160 relate to paragraph 1 of Schedule 6 to the Bill, which provides for references in other enactments to probation orders to be changed to references to "community rehabilitation orders". Such changes are consequential to Clause 38 of the Bill, which, as Members of the Committee will remember, renames probation orders as "community rehabilitation orders". That is just one example. I am in a position to give the Committee more, if required. However, for the moment, I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: The Minister will be relieved to know that I do not intend to ask many detailed questions on this grouping. I say that more in sadness than in anger. Indeed, I am not even equipped to ask questions about it. I find this wholly and utterly baffling. I received a copy of a schedule today, following a request that I made yesterday. I have that copy of Schedule 6 before me. It has light type printing, dark type printing, side-lining, underlining and crossings out, without a single key to tell me what it all means.

I do not know how to interpret the document. It arrived without an explanatory or covering letter, other than a notification to tell me that a copy of Schedule 6 was attached. There is nothing in the Explanatory Notes. There is no reference to Schedules 6 or 7. In fact, I was collecting amendments during the summer as they arrived, only to find that yet further amendments were arriving to amend those I had already received. This is about the worst possible example I can remember of legislative drafting. These amendments will go through tonight due to sheer ignorance on my part. I have no idea what all this means; it is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.

Lord Bach: I am sorry that the noble Baroness feels that way. I know that some effort was made to ensure that a copy of the revised Schedule 6 reached the noble Baroness. The crossings-out are omissions in the amendments--deliberate omissions in the amendments. The underlinings indicate additions to

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1660

the amendments. I am sorry if this does not please the noble Baroness. However, an attempt was made to try to make the position clearer.

Baroness Blatch: I am sorry. The Minister's response is not very satisfactory. There are underlinings, crossings-out, light and dark typing and side-lining in the copy schedule, with no reference as to what any of it means. As to the noble Lord saying that a great effort was made to ensure that I received this copy today, I should point out that late last night the Chief Whip insisted, because I was insisting upon it, that I saw a re-drafted schedule. I asked for a completely re-drafted Schedule 6. I wanted it to look like a re-draft so that I could then compare it alongside Schedule 6 in the Bill. I should still like to see a completely re-drafted Schedule 6 without all these markings. No one, not even the noble Lord, has explained the position to me.

The noble Lord has said that the underlinings are the new parts. If that is so, what do the crossings-out represent? What is the distinction between the light and dark typing? Moreover, what is the significance of the side-lining?

Lord Bach: The underlinings are the new parts; the crossings-out are the omissions; and there is no relevance at all either in the light or the dark shading.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 160 to 187:


    Page 56, line 40, at end insert--


("in Schedule 4--
in paragraph 1, sub-paragraphs (1) (in each place), (2), (3) (in both places) and (4) and the preceding cross-heading,
in paragraph 2, sub-paragraphs (1) (in both places), (2) to (4) and the preceding cross-heading,
paragraph 5(a),
paragraph 6(4) (in both places).").


    Page 57, leave out line 19 and insert--


("paragraph 1(1)(c),").


    Page 57, line 20, leave out from ("(2)") to end of line 21 and insert ("and (3)(a)").


    Page 57, line 22, at end insert--


("in Schedule 4--
in paragraph 3, sub-paragraphs (1) (in the first, second and third places), (2) (in the first and third places) and (3) (in the first place) and the preceding cross-heading,
in paragraph 4, sub-paragraph (1) (in both places), sub-paragraph (2) and sub-paragraph (3) (in the first place),
paragraph 5(b),
paragraph 6(4)(c).").

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1661


    Page 57, line 38, leave out ("4(1)(c)(ii), 5(1)(c)(ii)").


    Page 57, line 42, at end insert--


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page