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Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 12:


The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 12 and 102 are designed to ensure that the new statutory responsibilities placed on the Probation

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Service by Clause 66 in connection with the victims of certain offences are fully integrated at the heart of probation work and systems.

Subsection (8) of Clause 66 was designed to ensure that the local boards could use people other than their own staff to perform their functions in respect of victims. This arrangement would be helpful, for example, when an offender lived in a different area. The responsible local board would be able to arrange for the local board in the area where the victim lived to undertake liaison work on its behalf. But there is nothing in Clause 66 to ensure that other general provisions in respect of probation services actively apply to this important work with victims.

The amendments, which delete the specific provision from Clause 66 and create a general provision in Clause 5, will ensure that this work with victims is subject to inspection and can be complained about by using the complaints procedure, as well as ensuring that local boards can use people other than their own staff to perform their functions in respect of victims. Moreover, these general provisions will, if the amendments are accepted, apply to any further functions conferred upon local boards under Clause 5(5).

Amendment No. 13 is a drafting amendment which ensures that local boards will be able to make arrangements for any of their work to be undertaken on their behalf by another organisation where it is deemed appropriate. As currently drafted, using the word "functions", Clause 5(2)(a) could be taken as referring only to functions defined in Clause 5. The amendment extends the subsection to anything done by a local board for the purposes as defined in Clause 1.

I recognise that noble Lords opposite are on a bit of a roll today, but I am rather hoping that these amendments will be seen as helpful, uncontroversial and an improvement to the drafting of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord intends to be helpful. I hope he will be more helpful and explain to me where he wants to end up if the amendments are accepted. I half expected the noble Lord, in moving the amendment, to say that the amendments in the group were all drafting ones and should therefore be waved through with a green flag. He nobly resisted that temptation. But he now has to tell noble Lords why the Government were not satisfied. That is not clear to me from his brief speech. I have two questions. First, why were the Government not satisfied with things as they were? Secondly, what precisely do the three amendments together do which was not done in the earlier version? As a result, is the noble Lord left in a state of blissful content with the new version? I should like to be assured on those points.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as I said in my opening remarks, we are trying to improve the way in which the legislation works so that it is more flexible, enabling the service to work with other areas in a more effective and efficient manner. For instance, where the

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offender lives in a different area, the responsible local board will be able to make arrangements for the local board in the area where the victim lives to undertake liaison work on his behalf. We are seeking to create and engender more efficiency and greater flexibility across the service. As the noble Lord said, I could have stated that these are technical and drafting amendments. But what we are trying to do is make the legislation workable and remove inflexibilities within it.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, in general I speak in support of the proposals. However, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question. It concerns a point which I and other noble Lords might have been expected to pick up earlier. Subsection (5) of Clause 5 states:


    "Regulations may confer further functions on local boards".

Amendment No. 12 brings that into the main provision of Clause 5(1)(a). As the clause is drafted, would it not be possible for wide, extra duties to be incorporated into the Bill without the use of the affirmative procedure in either House?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not believe that that would be the effect of the amendment. I certainly hope that that would not be the case. We need to be clear about what we can and cannot do. It is exactly for that reason that the amendments have been introduced. However, I listened carefully to what the noble Lord said. He is a consummate reader of the detail. I would not like there to be any suspicion in his mind so I shall take further advice on the point that he has raised.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 13:


    Page 3, line 13, leave out from ("for") to ("behalf") in line 14 and insert ("provision to be made on the board's").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 14:


    Page 3, line 24, leave out ("accommodation") and insert ("supervision").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I feel very strongly about this amendment. I received a letter from the noble Lord giving the Government's defence of the words in the Bill. The Bill refers to a board,


    "providing accommodation in approved premises for persons who have at any time been charged with or convicted of an offence".

As we know, the crude statistics in this country show that a third of all males under the age of 30 have committed an offence other than a driving offence. When one takes that across the whole of the population, one is talking about a potentially massive client group.

In his letter the noble Lord admitted that in Committee he had not explained very well the Government's proposals. He said:


    "I am not sure that I explained the Government's intentions as to hostels very clearly in the debate at Committee stage".

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That is true, because I certainly did not understand some of the arguments that were made. The noble Lord also said in his letter that when the Bill was originally drafted the intention was to have three kinds of bail hostels; bail hostels, community rehabilitation hostels, and so-called "other premises". That has been overtaken by some changes. The amended version of Clause 9 simply provides for the Secretary of State to approve premises which could accommodate either those granted bail or those who are being supervised or rehabilitated, having been convicted of an offence.

I am comparing what was said in the noble Lord's letter with what is stated in the Bill. I keep on going back to the Bill, which refers to,


    "accommodation in approved premises for persons who have at any time been charged with or convicted of an offence".

The noble Lord rightly said that that includes offenders on community sentences, not necessarily those on community rehabilitation orders, and those on licence. In paragraph 36 of his letter the noble Lord said that,


    "hostels would only accommodate those who needed to be there because of their bail conditions or because of the need for ... a supervised environment in terms of protecting the public and helping to prevent their reoffending".

When the noble Lord addressed these issues in Committee he used the word "supervise" throughout his response. I want the word "supervision" on the face of the Bill. That is what the noble Lord was saying and that is what the noble Lord continued to emphasise that he meant and the Government meant. If that is the case, it is right that it should appear on the face of the Bill. But the Bill does not say what the noble Lord said in his letter, that,


    "hostels would only accommodate those who needed to be there because of their bail conditions or because of the need for ... a supervised environment in terms of protecting the public and helping to prevent their reoffending".

The noble Lord went on to say:


    "In the overwhelming majority of cases, residents would, as now, be those currently on bail, currently serving a community sentence or currently on licence".

That is not true, either. The Bill refers to persons who at any time have had a conviction. They could be people in their 50s or 60s who had a conviction many years ago. That is what the Bill actually states. For example, it could be used as a means of providing temporary homes for the homeless--for a homeless person who has had a conviction. That is not what hostels are about.

In paragraph 37 the noble Lord said:


    "Clause 9, as amended, does not restrict the power to accommodate offenders to those currently serving a sentence".

That is the point I have just made. It continues:


    "This is in order to provide the opportunity where, and only where, it is necessary to accommodate dangerous offenders released from prison without licence and those on licence who are not strictly 'serving a sentence'. There will only be a handful of such cases, but in these circumstances it is quite possible that accommodation for a period in a hostel will be a most effective way to protect the public".

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I agree with that, but it is not in the Bill. The Bill does not say that. It is what the noble Lord is saying he thinks the Bill means, but it is not in the Bill. What would help would be for the noble Lord to accept my amendment so that the accommodation was supervised accommodation.

The noble Lord referred to someone being on bail who would not necessarily be on a supervision order. That is also true. But the reason that person is put in a hostel is so that he can be supervised. In the eyes of the court there is a fear that he might run away or default on his appearance in court. So there is a degree of supervision even with people who are on remand, waiting for their cases to come to court but are on bail and have been referred to a hostel; otherwise, why not send them to their homes or to bed-and-breakfast or some other accommodation?

Bail hostels are to be used because, for whatever reason, the people there are to be supervised. It is important that the word appears on the face of the Bill. If the noble Lord is intent on repeating what he said on the previous occasion--that he is in fact talking about supervision--the logical next step would be to accept the word "supervision" on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.


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