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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord asks some valuable questions. In view of his great knowledge of these matters, I always expect him to do so on such occasions.

On the noble Lord's question about secure training centres, I completely agree with him. In a sense, small is beautiful in that context. It enables greater concentration on the individual circumstances and problems that young offenders confront. Today, on one of my visits, I met someone who had recently returned from the Medway centre, which, he disclosed to me, had provided him with considerable hope for the future, important training and help with his personal development. For those reasons if not others, I support the development of secure training centre places.

As I understand the situation, the number of sites will be driven by the number of places that we seek to establish. Roughly speaking, most of the centres have in the order of 40 places. I hope that that gives the noble Lord some idea of the number of additional sites that we may need to develop in order to secure the 400 additional places. I am happy to do further research into our plans in that regard and shall further inform the noble Lord.

The noble Lord asked about the children's fund. That involves money that has been announced before, although it was obviously new money when it was announced. That is how things are supposed to be. The announcement has already been made in part. That new and important development clearly contributes to our overall strategy because it will provide a range of services through the voluntary and statutory sectors, which will assist young children.

The noble Lord asked how voluntary agencies could apply. There will be an announcement about that. I believe that the children's fund will come on stream from April this year.

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The noble Lord also discussed excluded children and the Government's view of the importance of securing full-time education for those children. That is important. The Secretary of State for Education has given a commitment about that and about funding the extra work that will be expected of schools to ensure that as many children as possible, who might previously have been excluded, will remain within the education system.

The noble Lord also commented on our investment in the Prison Service. We make no apology for that. We recognise the importance of drug treatment and testing. For that reason, we are seeking to purchase and acquire more relevant spaces and places. The noble Lord said that the report's approach involved a basket of eggs and oranges. There is more coherence in the approach than he suggested. Yes, there will be offender treatment programmes, drug treatment programmes and a commitment to ensuring that there is training, which will ensure that when people come out of prison they have a reasonable expectation of returning to the world of work.

Lord Elton: My Lords, my question was about funding the programme.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the funding for those important developments is from the spending review. It has already been put in place and is secured.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, I had assumed that it was common ground that overcrowding is the biggest single corrosive factor to prison administration, but that problem does not feature prominently in the report. Is the Minister aware that in many prisons overcrowding is undermining the Prison Service's attempts to deal with reoffending? Is he aware that despite an extensive prison-building programme, more than 12,000 prisoners are held in overcrowded cells and some prisons have overcrowding of as much as 80 per cent? I expect that the Minister will accept that as a result of that problem about 25,000 prisoners are held more than 50 miles from their homes. That means that family relationships are disrupted and that effective resettlement is more difficult.

I also take it that the Minister is aware that during 1999-2000, just 7 per cent of the average daily prison population completed an accredited offending behaviour programme. Prisoners now receive just 10 more minutes a day of purposeful activity compared with the figures of 10 years ago, despite the extra money that the Prison Service has received. Does the Minister accept that it remains the case that only a minority of prisoners benefits from programmes that are designed to reduce their propensity to reoffend?

Such matters are being carefully recorded by the Prison Reform Trust. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice referred in a recent speech to overcrowding being analogous to AIDS. Others have referred to it as a cancer or a severely dangerous

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disease. What does the Minister propose to do about overcrowding? How will it be reduced and in what way?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I thought that I had made it plain that we were seeking to secure an extra 2,660 prison places and that there is a prison-building programme to match that target. I take the noble and learned Lord's point and those made by the Prison Reform Trust. We had a related debate in your Lordships' House only last week and questions are asked regularly on this issue. We take overcrowding very seriously. It is perhaps worth pointing out that back in 1991, some 30 per cent of prisoners--one in three--were in overcrowded cells, and trebling or doubling was involved. The administration of the day decided that that was unacceptable and commenced a prison-building programme to try to reduce that number. We share that objective. Since we have been in government, overcrowding has reduced to 14.6 per cent. But I accept that there is more to be done.

I do not believe that overcrowding is either right or appropriate. But given that the prison population has been rising, that it is important that we have a facility for custodial sentences and that that is again a shared objective, we expect that over time we will be able to reduce overcrowding.

The noble and learned Lord made some important points in relation to the value of education. I greatly regret the fact that during the last administration insufficient was invested in education. It is for that reason we are beginning to invest more in education services within the prison estate and for young offenders. Our target is for young offenders each to benefit from 30 hours' education every week. We believe that training and education can make a major contribution to ensuring that people have real choices and opportunities when they come out of prison.

Offending behaviour programmes have been fully financed in the current spending review. The settlement provides for 17 million to deliver 9,000 accredited programme places aimed at reducing re-offending. The programmes will be accredited by the Joint Accreditation Panel. Those are important commitments. We must improve on our current record and we want to do so. We hope that we are supported in that. It can clearly make a major contribution to reducing offending. One of the core purposes of the Government is to reduce rates of offending when people come out of prison and when they end their sentences, however they are served.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, my noble friend is well aware of the great public concern that there should be a more visible presence of uniformed police on the streets. I should therefore like to follow up the earlier query of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. He referred to uniformed traffic wardens and others who, with suitable additional training, could deal with quite a lot of what he called "lower order" crime.

Is my noble friend aware that last week the organisation, London First, made a presentation in the presence of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner

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and the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Committee, in which the commissioner welcomed that sort of development in which his force could be involved? He referred to a number of pilot studies in other parts of the country where such schemes had been found to be useful in providing figures of authority which could be both a deterrent to crime and a force with which to deal with lower order crime.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Borrie for raising that subject again. I am aware of that presentation. I know that it was well received. Members of the public generally find a uniformed presence, in whatever shape it comes, reassuring. Although traffic wardens are not always as popular as we would like, the public also find their presence reassuring.

The Government actively support the development of neighbourhood wardens. I have visited a number of neighbourhood warden projects. They too offer a measure of reassurance. Indeed, I commend Tameside's neighbourhood warden system, a uniformed force which works closely with the police and is actively supported by them. We have invested more into the neighbourhood warden services.

The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and my noble friend Lord Borrie were extremely helpful. We are of course open to imaginative uses of those who provide patrolling and supervisory services, whether they be park keepers, park constables, who have a wide range of responsibilities, or park wardens. They can all have an important impact on levels of minor crime. Those were helpful contributions and we want to see more such schemes in operation.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether the new charter of victims' rights will contain provisions for restoring the measure of compensation which an earlier Labour government introduced in the 1960s? As he rightly said, that government established the compensation scheme based upon the measure of damages payable at common law. The Minister referred to the successor government enhancing that scheme. They did not enhance it; they destroyed it. They cut the level of funding by half and at that time, in 1993, the loudest in attacking those proposals was the then shadow Home Secretary, Mr Tony Blair.

The White Paper said that the Government are determined to do still more to deliver a better deal for victims and witnesses, including the large number of victims of crimes which are never solved. It also makes clear that the level of clear-up dropped from 40 per cent in 1980 to 24 per cent at the present time. That means that 76 per cent of victims never have the opportunity of being informed of the progress of their case, because there is no case. They never have the opportunity of submitting a victim's personal statement to the courts or of tracking their case. Will the Minister confirm that proper compensation will now be paid to the victims of crime as originally envisaged by his own party?

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