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The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I know that there is a great deal of interest in this Question but the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has been trying to ask a question and the Liberal Democrats have not yet made a contribution.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House. May I commend the Minister because he is right to draw a distinction between the horrors of history? No one alive remembers the Armenian massacre, awful though it undoubtedly was. I believe that the Minister is right to commend the idea of conflict resolution and an attempt to reach a peaceful settlement of such issues. That is different from the Jewish Holocaust--and for that matter the Cambodian holocaust--which represented a systematic attempt to try to destroy an entire section of the people by a deliberate decision of government.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. She always speaks with great wisdom and experience of these matters and I am sure that the Government will welcome her comments.
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: My Lords, will the Minister accept that as regards such issues two important things are occurring? First, these events are of such a horror that the communities which are not involved have a tendency to suppress them and to want to forget them. Secondly, the communities which are involved so build them into the consciousness of those people that they shape the very way in which they see their lives and shape the way they react to issues.
Unless we have mechanisms for continual education and remembrance around such events, not only do we not remember the history but we do not understand the roots of many of the conflicts which continue to persist in our own time. Is that not reason enough for ensuring by the means of Holocaust memorials and other means that we remember all these matters?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, effective resettlement work, in particular improving the opportunities for prisoners to obtain employment and accommodation on release, is a key priority for the Prison Service. It has recently established a new custody-to-work programme and has given one of its directors overall responsibility for resettlement.
Where a court order has already been made for the confiscation of assets obtained through the proceeds of crime, there may be scope for some of those funds to be used to offset the costs of imprisonment and the Government are carefully examining that option.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. Anyone who watched David Frost's programme last Sunday would have wondered from where within the Home Office such a proposal emerged. Does he accept that, although there is general support for the confiscation of criminally acquired assets of wealthy offenders who have been involved in large-scale criminal activity, many prisoners have few assets other than homes and furniture?
Does the Minister further accept that it would be ridiculous for the basic necessities of such people to be confiscated by the state? Taking into account the fact that prisoners who are released homeless are two-and-a-half times more likely to reoffend and that prisoners without family support are seven-and-a-half times more likely to reoffend, does not the Minister consider that such a proposal will be of no help in reducing crime?
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, as a deterrent rather than rehabilitation, would not a common-sense approach be to require people who go to prison to pay for their keep, which averages £28,000 a year? Why should not those who can afford to do so pay their own "hotel bills"?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, if the noble Lord had listened carefully to what I said, he would know that in principle I have not disagreed with him. It is worth reflecting on the fact that last year the turnover from prison industries and farms was the highest ever, at £53 million. Obviously, all prisoners who are working in those prison industries make a contribution to their keep--the noble Lord put it in that common-sense way.
We are trying to ensure that prisoners come out of prison with a greater potential for gaining employment. We are trying to double the number of prisoners obtaining a job because we believe that that is the best way to keep them away from a criminal future.
Lord Acton: My Lords, in the light of the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, about prisoners paying for their own "hotel bills", can my noble friend say whether such a policy has been implemented in other countries, and, if so, what effect it has had on the rate of reconviction?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I cannot give my noble friend the precise detail that he seeks. I am content to ensure that further research is undertaken. However, the general point that I make is an important one. The more people we can train and educate so that they are able to get jobs when they leave prison, the greater the chance that they will not reoffend, and that has a beneficial impact on offending rates within society generally. I believe that everyone supports that common-sense approach.
The noble Baroness said: In rising to move Amendment No. 38 I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 40. Subsections (3) to (7) of Clause 4 provide for subordinate provisions of orders to be amended by negative resolution procedure. We on this side of the Committee are very concerned about the potential for abuse by the use of that procedure. As presently drafted, the clause allows a Minister to designate certain provisions in an order as subordinate provisions for the purpose of that clause. There is no indication as to what provisions in an order can be subordinate.
The Minister can designate any provisions that he chooses to be subordinate provisions. Those subordinate provisions can then be modified and, more worryingly, the Minister can add other provisions relating to the modifications. All the Minister need do is to state in the order that the order makes only provision which either modifies the subordinate provisions of an order previously made or is incidental, consequential, transitional or supplemental to the modification. All that the Minister is required to do is to make the statement in the order. The Minister may be completely wrong, but that is irrelevant. The only requirement for making a subordinate provisions order is that it contains the
In its second special report the Deregulation Committee in another place expressed similar concerns. The committee also said that the clause opened up potential for abuse and that Ministers would be able to avoid subjecting proposals to amend subordinate provisions to the rigorous scrutiny which the affirmative order procedure provided. The committee believed that Parliament would be unwise to accept that procedure. It concluded that the negative resolution procedure was not appropriate in the circumstances and should be withdrawn from the Bill before its introduction. Despite those helpful comments, the Government have ignored those recommendations.
I turn next to paragraph 8 of the Explanatory Notes in which it is said that on no occasion has a Minister ignored an adverse report from either committee. The notes go on to say that the Government intend to continue this practice in their use of regulatory reform orders, and the Minister reaffirmed that intention. Those words are hollow in light of the fact that the Government have ignored the recommendation of the Deregulation Committee that Clause 4(6), which applies the negative resolution procedure to subordinate provisions, should be withdrawn.
I have, however, digressed to an extent, because the negative resolution procedure does not involve seeking the views of the Deregulation Committee. However much that committee may oppose these orders, it is powerless; and it now appears that if it expresses a view it may well be ignored. It is our view that subsections (3) to (7) should be deleted from the Bill. I beg to move.
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