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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I, too, heap praise upon the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for his selfless work in

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relation to NACRO, over many years. I know that this is an issue dear to his heart, and rightly so. The new clause, after Clause 294, requires the Secretary of State to inform both Houses of Parliament whenever—that is the issue—a prison is to hold more prisoners than its certified normal accommodation, which is the uncrowded capacity, and that a responsible authority had considered it safe to do so.

I understand the import of what the noble Lord seeks to do, but it is unnecessary. It is important, but existing procedures already ensure that the conditions under which prisoners are held are humane and decent and that a responsible authority exists to ensure that prisoners are held safely.

As noble Lords will concede, certified normal accommodation is a measure of the uncrowded capacity. It represents the good, decent standard of accommodation that it is aspired to provide to all prisoners. The degree by which an establishment can exceed its CNA is known as the "operational capacity", which is determined by operational managers on the basis of their operational judgment and experience, taking into account control, security and the proper operation of the planned regime. Notwithstanding these considerations, all accommodation must be certified in accordance with Section 14 of the Prison Act 1952 and Rule 26 of the Prison Rules 1999.

Details of changes to individual prison capacity are already made available on a monthly basis. Any requirement to inform Parliament before a change occurs would be difficult to deliver practically. Every week, several prisons may adjust their capacity for operational reasons—such as, refurbishment or opening new capacity—sometimes outside parliamentary business hours.

I hear what noble Lords have said about overcrowding and pressure in prisons. To reinforce what we said earlier, we wish prison to be the port of last resort. We have invested greatly in this area. The Government are already investing 1.3 billion in extra capacity in 2005–06. The Prison Service will increase capacity by nearly 3,500 places in existing prisons by 2006. A further 1,290 places will be provided through the new prisons currently under construction at Ashford, near Heathrow, and at Peterborough. The Prison Service continues to investigate options for providing further increases in capacity over the coming years.

Longer-term planning is being taken forward within the correctional services review, which is looking at the future direction of correctional services as a whole. Noble Lords know all that we are doing in respect of home detention curfew, intermediate sentences, conditions and reformation and the way in which we are able to take advantage of opportunities to release people safely into the community slightly earlier than we would otherwise. We take on board the noble Lord's concerns. I assure him that we are addressing them. The procedures are there to ensure that there is proper accountability.

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6.45 p.m.

Lord Dholakia: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. In the light of what she said, I shall look at the amendment again. However, I suspect that I shall continue to support what both noble Lords said. There is very serious concern about our prison population. No amount of tinkering or building more prisons will help because, put simply, they will be filled up.

My approach is simple. Ultimately, if Parliament is not informed about exceeding normal capacity, the only alternative is to raise repeated debate on the subject, which we have done in the past. It will be helpful to examine what the Minister said and perhaps return to the matter on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 28 [Parenting orders and referral orders]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 234:

    Page 338, leave out lines 4 and 5 and insert—

"(2) A parenting order is an order which requires the parent—
(a) to comply, for a period not exceeding twelve months, with such requirements as are specified in the order, and
(b) subject to sub-paragraph (3A) below, to attend, for a concurrent period not exceeding three months, such counselling or guidance programme as may be specified in directions given by the responsible officer."

The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 234 to 239 are necessary because of amendments made in the Anti-social Behaviour Bill to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998—the legislation dealing with parenting orders. The changes made in the Anti-social Behaviour Bill allow greater flexibility in the delivery of parenting programmes. They allow a programme to consist of, or to include, a residential course, provided that the court is satisfied that this is likely to be more effective than a non-residential course and that any interference with family life is proportionate.

The amendments deal with changes to the numbering of the Crime and Disorder Act and also ensure that, where a parenting order is imposed following a parent's failure to attend a youth offending panel meeting, the parenting order can include a requirement to attend a residential course in the same way as other parenting orders.

Residential parenting support will be appropriate only in exceptional cases for families in serious crisis, where the court is satisfied that this is likely to be more effective than a non-residential programme. The residential approach would enable parents to be taken out of their home to a setting that is structured so that more sustained counselling and guidance work can be carried out. Proper arrangements for the care of children will be crucial. Courses would be tailored to meet specific circumstances. Therefore, children might attend residential courses on a voluntary basis, thus enabling work to take place involving the family.

Intensive work involving the whole family can be very effective. It can be carried out at a residential centre to supplement work being carried out with parents and their children separately. In some other

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circumstances, a short period away from their children is exactly what parents need in order to concentrate and benefit from structured counselling and guidance.

I have sought to outline these amendments more fully because I know that a number of noble Lords not present in the Chamber today are anxious about such provisions. I thought it right to put them on record. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendments Nos. 235 to 237:

    Page 338, line 6, leave out from "under" to "are" in line 7 and insert "sub-paragraph (2)(a) above"

    Page 338, line 9, at end insert—

"(3A) A parenting order under this paragraph may, but need not, include a requirement mentioned in subsection (2)(b) above in any case where a parenting order under this paragraph or any other enactment has been made in respect of the parent on a previous occasion.
(3B) A counselling or guidance programme which a parent is required to attend by virtue of subsection (2)(b) above may be or include a residential course but only if the court is satisfied—
(a) that the attendance of the parent at a residential course is likely to be more effective than his attendance at a non-residential course in preventing the commission of any further offence by the offender, and
(b) that any interference with family life which is likely to result from the attendance of the parent at a residential course is proportionate in all the circumstances."

    Page 338, line 14, leave out ", (5)"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 28, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 295 [Arrangements for assessing etc risks posed by certain offenders]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 238:

    Page 169, line 5, at end insert—

"( ) every local education authority any part of whose area falls within the relevant area,"

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 238 and 239 respond to an undertaking made by the Government in Committee in the Commons to consider, in light of a proposed amendment, whether to include local education authorities in the list of agencies on whom a duty to co-operate with the police, probation and prison services—the "responsible authority"—in the establishment of arrangements to assess and manage the risks posed by sexual and violent offenders will be placed.

These arrangements, commonly referred to as the multi-agency public protection arrangements, the MAPPA, were originally introduced by the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2001. The Criminal Justice Bill strengthens them by requiring other agencies to co-operate with the responsible authority in each area to the extent compatible with their existing statutory responsibilities.

In practical terms, including local education authorities in the "duty to co-operate" provisions will help the responsible authority to take fuller consideration of any risks that a particular offender

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may pose to children for whom the LEA has a statutory duty. It will also enable LEAs to draw to the attention of the responsible authority, and to the other duty to co-operate bodies, concerns that they may have about the vulnerability of a particular child to the risks posed by an offender.

Such a strengthening of the MAPPA will therefore improve inter-agency liaison and joint working to which the report of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, into the tragic death of Victoria Climbie drew attention. We have sought to respond here to concerns that were raised on this issue. I hope that these amendments will find support among noble Lords. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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