The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the Prison Service is fully committed to tackling all aspects of racism and is concerned by the findings of this report. It accepts fully that there are improvements still to be made in many areas of race relations practice. A comprehensive joint action plan to combat all aspects of racism has recently been agreed between the Prison Service and the CRE.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that encouraging reply. However, does she agree with me that, given that the 45 black young people interviewed were all preselected by the three institutions visited, is it not likely that the findings of that report are but a tip of a very unpleasant iceberg? Can the Minister give the House more detail about what the Government will do to protect young people in custody from intolerable racist treatment of this kind? Will she reassure your Lordships that young people will be better informed about their rights, about the existence of the race relations officer and about the process for making complaints without them being further victimised, and above all that police officers are regularly retrained on required behaviour?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I say straight away that, as I said before, the research is very worrying. We do not know the basis upon which the young people were preselected. The research upon which the Children's Society's findings were based has not as yet been disclosed to the Prison Service. That is a matter of real importance. I certainly assure the noble Baroness that we have taken steps to ensure that prisoners are able to complain much more easily than has been the case hitherto. The forms are available. A box is placed at the end of a corridor. Prisoners take the forms, which are subsequently placed in sealed containers so that no one
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, training has been a very important part of the Prison Service's work. There has been clear leadership on the matter. We have a very diverse workforce. Board members and area managers were trained jointly in June 2001. The existing training for the race relations liaison officers and the race relations management teams was overhauled in 2000 to make it more focused on management. Since October 2001, the initial training for all prison officers has included a minimum of four hours on race issues, made possible by removing previous training in drill. Training for all other staff has been developed using external expertise. Entry training for officers now has a dedicated module. There has been a total review and there is commitment. I reassure noble Lords that these matters were audited. The ratings demonstrate major improvements over time. From 2002 to date there is a 96 per cent acceptable or better scoring for the establishments, which is a major improvement from the position in 199697 when they scored 84 per cent.
Lord McNally: My Lords, although the Minister's expressions of confidence are reassuring, is not the brutal fact that this report is realism in counterpoint to the optimism of the Statement made two days ago on managing offenders? Is she really confident that there is not institutionalised racism in the Prison Service? Will the Minister give figures on the recruitment of black prison officers? If we are to get to the root of the matter, officers from the ethnic communities must work in the new National Offender Management Service and voluntary organisations must participate so that this kind of charge cannot be levelled against the new service. Will she assure us that this is an "action this day" matter for Martin Narey and the new service?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I reassure the noble Lord that it is very much part of the Government's objective to ensure that we have a more diverse workforce. The figures and the report are not the antidote to what we discussed two days ago; they go hand in hand. We must put in place both measures. We have had great success in improving diversity in our workforce with a robust recruitment programme backed by a series of outreach events. We have significantly bettered targets set by the Home Secretary. In 199899 the figure for ethnic minority staff was 3.2 per cent. The figure for 200102 was 4.9 per cent. There has been a massive improvement in relation to recruitment. I wish to make it clear that we think that more needs to be done. We are on our way but we can do better.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, knowing that the reoffending rate is disproportionately high among young black people, does the Minister give her support to such initiatives as the resettlement programme to be launched by the Feltham chaplaincy next week? In such ways will the Minister encourage all those disturbed by the Children's Society report to get involved themselves with positive action for young black people?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I wholeheartedly endorse that. The incidents of racism have been very disturbing and the resettlement issues incredibly important. We very much support such initiatives.
Lord Elton: My Lords, on Tuesday the Minister repeated a Statement announcing a single service to manage offenders. What proportion of adult black prisoners have previously been convicted and served custodial sentences? As juveniles are not covered by the new single service, how will the management of those children be made consonant with what is to follow when they are adults?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the figures collated are not collated in a way that would enable us to give an answer on the first issue. We are making sure that we adopt a holistic approach to the management of offenders generally, be they minors or adults. The whole purpose of the changes that we are bringing about is to enable that synergy to take place. It is a challenging agenda, but one that we now believe that we have the tools to address, and there is the commitment to do it.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the decision on whether to reduce the number of managers in Royal Mail is an operational matter for the board of the company. The proposed reduction in managerial jobs will be part of the 30,000 redundancies announced at the start of the
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Does he agree that for the Amicus communications association to be informed on 21 November that there would be a further review of managers, followed on 2 December with a verbal statement and on 11 December by a letter saying that there would be 3,000 redundancies in the region, does not comply with Section 188 and is not consultation? It is obvious that the partnership with Royal Mail is not working, so what will he do about it? May I suggest that he cuts the substantial funding from the DTI partnership fund to Royal Mail until the managers agree to introduce a genuine partnership with trade unions?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the official announcement that there would be an overall reduction in managers' jobs of 3,000 was made on 12 December. It was not then possible to have the detailed consultations required under Section 188 of the Act, because obviously, at that point, one does not have the information necessary for the consultation under that Act, which has to be undertaken on a specific location and job basis. As that information has become available, it has been used to have those consultations, so some consultations have taken place already. The Act is being complied with in a proper way.
As for the partnership, I think that I am right in saying that it was the unions that withdrew from the partnership arrangements. It would be highly desirable for the two sides to come together again to drive forward the agenda.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page