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The noble and learned Baroness said: My Lords, the amendments in this group are technical. This is a straightforward consequential amendment. As we have previously noted, a large number of such amendments need to be made to the many references to local probation boards across the statute book. Clause 41 enables this to be done by means of secondary legislation, which will be the most appropriate mechanism for making most of them.
However, we have made a small number in the Bill to show the House how these matters are being approachedfor example, in relation to the Race Relations Act and the Children Act. The amendment before us concerns the duties that the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 places on local probation boards in relation to youth justice and youth offending teams. It shows how those duties will apply under the new arrangements and takes a similar approach to the Children Act amendment that we considered earlier.
The Government are determined to ensure that probations commitments to a wide range of multi-agency partnerships are maintained under the new arrangements. I take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked so hard on this Bill during all its stages for their commitment, tenacity and consideration. I beg to move.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I moved Amendment No. 10 formally partly not to hold up the process. Therefore, I hope that I may be allowed to say a few words on this Motion. First, I apologise that noble Lords have had to hear the substitute from these Benches rather than the real expertthe noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, has been detained in Scotland on family business. This has been a very steep learning curve for me, which I have nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed. However, I watch the Bill leave this House with foreboding. It seems to me that it has several different rationales and several layers of the Labour Partys modernisation project for the public services, which remain unresolved.
I very much thank the Minister for the way in which she dealt with the Bill, although I was not always entirely sure that she was in full sympathy with some of its aims. The noble Lords, Lord Warner and Lord Filkin, sometimes sounded a great deal more enthusiastic about some of its aspects than she did. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, suggested that the principles that applied to the National Health Service would apply to the Probation Service and offender management. I passed that remark on to staff at Doncaster prisona private prisonand was greeted with complete and utter horror. They said that the last thing that they wanted was to have the same churning reorganisation. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, accused the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, of being anachronistic. As the Minister will know, I think that there is nothing so anachronistic as a management fashion that is now 10 years out of date.
The Bill does not deal with some of the underlying problems that we face as a country in offender management, such as the non-enforcement of fines. The Carter report, which is where we started, referred to that problem in its analysis but did not deal with it in its conclusions. There is an immense problem with overcrowding in our prisons, which means that many of the things that are most important in terms of reducing the rate of reoffending simply cannot be done. The two prisons that I have been to over the past few months cannot fulfil their education and training programmes, while the resettlement problems are enormous. Overcrowding in prisons, as we all
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Perhaps I may touch on a particular issue on which we have not put down an amendment at Third Reading because we were discouraged from doing so by the Public Bill Office: the question of Clause 19, which covers the removal of the statutory duties of the controller and passes them on to a private prison. On Friday, I asked whether I could talk to people about this in particular, and I am grateful to the staff of Doncaster prison for arranging for me to see a controller. I also happened to meet a deputy controller from another prison and a former controller now working for the regional offender manager. They all said that they were not entirely sure why Clause 19 is in the Bill. They said that there is no demand for it, while the most experienced observed that it probably came from the understanding and expectation some years ago that statutory duties of adjudication did not take very much time and that the main job of the controller was to monitor the implementation of a private sector prisons contract. But, they all went on to say, we have now all discovered that statutory duties and adjudication take a great deal of time. If those duties are transferred to a private prison, additional staff will be needed to cope with that, with some adjustment to the contract to pay for those staff. There is no financial saving to be made.
As I dig into the Bill, I have a number of questions for which the Government do not appear to have a clear and coherent underlying rationale. While we accept that this Bill will now pass and go back to another place, Members on these Benches are unhappy that, while we have managed to improve it in a number of areas, it was not subject to pre-legislative scrutiny; it would have been a perfect candidate for such scrutiny, as some of its contrasting rationales could have been ironed out at that stage. We have done our best, but I fear that it may not be enough.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I am afraid that these Benches are also fielding a B-team today. On behalf of my noble friend Lady Anelay, who is similarly delayed on family business, I thank all noble Lords who have been of great assistance in the progression of this Bill. I wish the Bill well on its progress through the House of Commons and I thank the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for their invariable courtesy in dealing with the legislation. I also offer the noble and learned Baroness our best wishes in her new role.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches, I, too, thank the noble and learned Baroness and the noble Lord for the way in which they have conducted the Bill. It would be
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During our consideration of this Bill, we have covered an immense amount of ground but, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said, a great deal has not been covered in the management of offenders. We mentioned some of the issues during the debate. I agree about the lack of pre-legislative scrutiny. I mention that in the context of the regulatory impact assessment, which I did not think had been carried.
We send the Bill back to another place with two important amendments in respect of local commissioning and delaying implementation until further consideration has been given. In this connection, I hope that the attention of the other place will be drawn to the recently published annual report by the Chief Inspector of Probation, in which he says that a review of certain matters is under way in the Ministry of Justice and, in particular, that end-to-end supervision of offenders should be sensibly implemented because the Governments goal of co-ordinated, continuous management of offenders risks being undeliverable. It was in that context and the context of the further study of prisons by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, as well as against the background of frozen budgets in the prison and probation services and the rising numbers of people in prison, that I felt that consideration should be given to the impact of all the legislation in the field, not only this legislation.
In connection with that, I am enormously encouraged by the response of the Ministry of Justice and, in particular, of the new Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, with whom I had a very encouraging meeting last week. We discussed disability and he has assured me that the Disability Discrimination Act applies to both staff and prisoners. He has written to me accordingly and he has undertaken to include the Department of Health in discussions on diversity, because it has responsibility for the primary care trusts, which are responsible for its provision.
We have covered an enormous amount of ground in the Bill and I am grateful to the noble and learned Baroness for the way in which she has taken it through. I hope that the other place will take into consideration not only what has been said but what has been going on around the Bill. That all needs to be taken into consideration in the proper management of offenders, which is something that affects us all.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. I hate to end on a sour note, but I do not accept for one moment that either of them could ever be a member of anyones B-team. Both are fully paid-up members of the A-team and have made a sterling contribution to the Bill.
I thank noble Lords for the kindness that they have shown me. I regret, of course, that I shall have less opportunity to discuss matters from the Dispatch Box, but that may be a great relief to the House. I take this opportunity to thank my noble friend Lord Bassam for his sterling efforts, not only on this Bill but on each and every Bill in which I have been involved over the past four years.
The Bill has a joint purpose: to improve the supervision of offenders and better to protect victims. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that what all have done in this House has been to that end. As the Bill moves back to the other place, we wish it Gods speed.
The noble Lord said: We start again. Amendment No. 204CF refers to the part of the Bill that is about parish reviews, the constitution of new parishes, existing parishes under review, and so on. The first amendments in the group are fairly minor, but they nevertheless will be of interest to people involved in their local parishes.
Amendment No. 204CF challenges the suggestion in Clause 89 that a review must make recommendations in relation to new styles. Members of the Committee will remember from our debates last week that the new styles will make it possible for a parish council to be called a community council, neighbourhood council or village council instead of a parish council. It is not clear to me why a review that is about the existence of parishes, the areas that they cover, the grouping of parishes and the possible abolition of parishes should make recommendations about the styles. Surely, that should be left to the individual parishes once they are set up to make their own decisions. If we believe in devolution, that is the kind of decision that should rest at parish level; and for all existing parishes it will be taken at parish level. It is not at all clear why a new style should be imposed on a parish by the district council as part of a review.
Amendment No. 204CG is about a parish name change, and Amendment No. 204CH is about whether there should be a parish council. Again, it is not clear why those have to be the subject of recommendations in the parish review, but they clearly may be, and they may be an important part of the parish review. If there
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Amendments Nos. 204CQ and 204CR are slightly more substantive. They are about the criteria that a parish review must take into consideration in deciding whether the parish should be divided into wardsin other words, have more than one electoral areaor whether it should be elected as a whole, as many smaller parishes are. At page 62 of the Bill, a number of criteria are set out that must be considered. They relate, for instance, to the number and distribution of local government electors for the parish; whether community links make it desirable that that part of the parish should be separately represented; the size and boundaries of the wards and the number of councillors to be elected; the number of local government electors and likely changes to that; and easily identifiable boundaries and local ties.
In Amendment No. 204CQ, I propose that in each case an additional criterion should be whether the parish is divided into wards for elections to a principal council. In most cases, that would be the district council. Some parishes might be big enough to have two or three district council wards, or perhaps even more, and it is an important criterion in deciding whether the parish should be divided. In the interest of convenience and people understanding the local electoral system, it is sensible that parish wards should, where possible, be based on district council wards. It may be that in some cases the district council ward is big and may form two parish wards. However, that does not alter the principle that it would not be sensible for a parish divided into district council wards to ignore those divisions and to have different wards or to elect at large. That important consideration should be included in the Bill.
Amendment No. 204CS relates to the circumstances in which a district council can ignore the review. I am not sure that this is the right place for this amendment and I probably should have taken out some earlier words. Its purpose is simply to probe the circumstances in which a district council, having conducted a parish review, can ignore it. The implication would be that if a parish review was taking place, the district was going to carry it out. Would the district simply be able to ignore it or make changes in any way that it wanted? Would the district have to give reasons and what would those reasons be?
Amendment No. 204CV, the last in the group, is to probe the statement of intent on how restrictive the Electoral Commission advice on parish reviews, ward boundaries and the number of parish councillors should be. Is it intended that this will be done on some sort of sliding scale, whereby if there were a population of so and so, there would be so many councillors, and so on? Or will there be reasonable flexibility and scope for local choice? For example, a parish with 5,000 electors might want considerably more councillors if it consisted of a number of villages in a far-flung rural areaor even a far-flung rural area without villagesthan if it was a compact
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Baroness Crawley: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for the manner in which he has spoken to these amendments and I hope that I can allay his concern that we have moved away from the concept of devolution in this part of the Bill, which we most certainly have not.
This group of amendments deals with a number of points related to community governance reviews. I shall deal with each amendment individually. First, on Amendment No. 204CF, when a principal council makes a reorganisation order under Clause 88, it may also provide for any new parish to have an alternative style. The amendment would prevent principal councils making this recommendation, and the noble Lord set out reasons why he felt it necessary to table the amendment. A community governance review that recommends the creation of a new parish needs to make an initial recommendation as to the style of that parish. This is simply because, until the parish is actually created, there is no parish council or parish meeting to make that decision. That recommendation is very much a technical step in the process of creating the parish and does not take away the autonomy of the parish in deciding its style.
At all other times, after a new parish is created, it will be for the parish council or the parish meeting to decide whether it wishes to adopt a different style. Therefore, once the parish council or parish meeting is created, it will be able to decide to adopt a different style immediately, if it so desires. I hope that the noble Lord will be satisfied with that explanation and that he will feel able to withdraw Amendment No. 204CF.
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