Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, were there a topical question for today, my noble friend might well have secured it, because this is the day when the first household forms will be sent out. Advertising for the 2011 census has already started. The first television advertising began on 21 February and will continue up to and beyond census day on 27 March. In England and Wales there will be a national campaign, including TV, online and outdoor advertising on, for example, billboards and bus shelters. Separate targeted advertising is aimed at black and ethnic minority audiences, students and young people who are traditionally hard to reach.
Lord Newby: My Lords, given the importance of the census information and in light of the fact that in 2001 many people did not complete a form, and with a return rate of under 80 per cent in some London boroughs, how confident is the Minister that completion rates will be higher this time, particularly among households where English is not the first language?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, the Government share my noble friend's concerns. There are areas of the country where returns are low, and those are the very areas where accurate information can often assist government decisions on resource allocation. I should remind the House that £100 billion-worth of resource allocation depends on the sort of information that the census provides. The advertising campaign is therefore constructed to that end. The organisers have been working in partnership with local authorities to plan and prioritise engagement, and advertising with voluntary groups, organisations and community leaders to promote the census.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: A large number of specialists have been recruited and translations of the questions and information leaflets will be available in 56 languages. There will also be drop-in centres located in local communities to assist in completing the forms where
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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am afraid that much of the effort involved in the census has to be made in chasing those who have not returned the form. The task of some 35,000 field staff will be to chase up the addresses from which no return has yet been received. That is the reason for the chase-up advertising.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I think that the noble Lord has made that point before when we were discussing other matters, and I appreciate his contribution on this. I am sure that he will agree that getting accurate information is important for proper and effective government.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Does the Minister accept that there is a certain lack in the census? There is no way of taking into account illegal immigrants-the "invisible" people, of whom it is estimated there are many hundreds of thousands in this country-if they cannot be identified in any way, and do not wish to be.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, it is a household census; therefore the head of the household is responsible for accounting for the people within it on census day. When the Government examine the future of the census, the points that my noble friend has made will be borne in mind.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it is rumoured that this will be the last census in its current form because of cost. Can the Minister confirm whether that is the case? If it is, how will such data be collected in future? These data are important not only for current planning purposes but for historical purposes as well.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the noble Baroness for that question. The cost of conducting a census is £487 million-an enormous sum which Governments have found has augmented over time. The Government are indeed looking at alternative methods. It may be possible to have much more real-time information-after all, at the end of the 10-year period, the data are already very out of date. A project beyond 2011 has been set up to provide and examine alternatives to the current paper-based method of collecting these data. It will report within the next three or four years.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, given the importance of the information to be obtained by the census and the uncertainty about its future, will the Minister make certain that, on this occasion, very careful study is made of the value for money of the contracts that have been placed to carry it out?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Yes. Although the contracts have been placed under open tender, the Cabinet Office and the Government in general have a policy of transparency in contracting and of making sure that cost-effectiveness is at the top of the list.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, the census form arrived in our household today and, on immediate reading, it seemed to state, "complete on 27 March or as soon as possible thereafter". It is not immediately apparent to me-I may have to look at it again-that there is a closing date for putting in the information. Is there such a closing date on the census form?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The chase-up period will go on until 9 May. It may be necessary for people who are absent to complete the form after 27 March, but the Government's objective is to have a snapshot view on 27 March. That is the end in mind. I should add that it is possible to complete and submit the form online in anticipation of 27 March, if one wishes to do so.
Lord Christopher: My Lords, my impression is that not many people have seen the form yet. I had the misfortune of getting it this morning. I glanced at it only very quickly, and will not ask the unkind question of whether the noble Lord has seen it, but I think that it runs to 32 pages. It provides some notes for what you should do if you make a mistake-well, there is some opportunity there, I can assure the noble Lord. So my question really is: what steps are proposed to monitor the accuracy of returns, even for those of good will who might wish to return them? I did the census 60 years ago, for £10, when every form was taken and completed by an operative, but we are now relying on the public.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am pleased to hear that the noble Lord received his form this morning; he is higher in the alphabet than I am, so mine might come a little bit later-but I have actually downloaded a form online. I will make sure that a copy of the form is available in the Library for examination.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, the EMA is currently paid to 45 per cent of 16 to 18 year-olds in full-time education at a cost of £560 million a year. Research commissioned by the previous Government showed that about one in 10 of those receiving EMA would not have continued in learning without it. We are currently considering the replacement arrangements with the aim of targeting support more closely on those facing the greatest financial barriers to participation.
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that some colleges have estimated that up to 50 per cent of young people will have to leave post-16 education when the EMA payments stop, thereby joining the growing ranks of those not in education, employment or training? Has the department considered the economic and social impact of this? Would it not have made more sense to finalise the details of the new discretionary scheme before announcing the end of the EMA, to minimise the upset and uncertainty that many young people who do not know whether they will qualify under the new scheme are feeling?
Lord Hill of Oareford: On the noble Baroness's second point about sequencing, I accept the force of her argument. As she will know, the Government were confronted with a situation where they had to take urgent decisions rapidly because of the scale of the deficit, and we took those decisions first. I take her point, but we acted in the way that we did because we needed to start cutting the deficit quickly. On her first point, I am aware of the views of many principals of sixth-form colleges and young people, who have expressed concerns to me about the loss of the EMA. The noble Baroness referred to 50 per cent; I come back to the research commissioned by the previous Government which looked at the impact and stated, consistently across two or three pieces of work, that about one in 10 said that they would not have carried on. We will target the arrangements we work out on those who need help most, because I accept that we need to ensure that the children who face the greatest barriers get help to carry on in education and training.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his undertaking to concentrate on those young people who need the support most. Does he agree that young people in care, who have had the poorest of starts, need support to access education? Will he make certain that they do not lose out because of this change?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I agree with the noble Earl about the importance of children in care. It is a consideration that the Government will have to bear very much in mind as they work out exactly how to deliver targeted help. I accept in full the force of his comments.
Baroness Walmsley: Does the Minister accept that for young people in rural areas the cost of transport to and from a sixth form or college can be very high? Is that one of the priority areas that the Government are considering while studying what to put in place of the EMA?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I accept completely my noble friend's point about the element of transport costs, particularly in rural areas where it makes up a proportionately larger amount of the costs a young person might have. It remains the case that local authorities have a statutory duty to make arrangements-either through provision or funding-for transport for those groups. As she will know, currently the discretionary fund operated by colleges does not allow payment for transport. While one does not want to get to a scheme whereby all the discretionary fund goes on transport, or to relieve local authorities of that statutory duty, nevertheless we are looking at the point she makes about the importance of transport, particularly in rural areas.
Lord Tomlinson: Is the Minister aware that there is no golden rule that said you had to make these cuts in educational maintenance allowance-that it is a matter of judgment? Is he further aware that it is our view, which we suspect will be shared by the majority of the people in this country on 7 May, that in exercising that judgment the Government got it right-oh! I mean that the Government got it wrong-and that this side of the House is correct?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I will pass on the endorsement by the noble Lord. I fully accept that it is about judgment. Overall in the settlement got by the Department for Education, particularly on the schools side, we managed to maintain cash flat per pupil and to fund a pupil premium. One would always like to have more but I accept the point about judgment. The Government made the judgment across the piece that the priority was to cut the deficit and get those interest payments down. In due course, we will be happy to be judged on that judgment.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, does the Minister accept that among the categories that may require special attention under the review are black and minority-ethnic communities who often place a high value on education but come from poorer homes and are more dependent on this kind of help than many others?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, the Government want to look at a number of groups carefully in the replacement scheme. One group is children in care. There are issues to do with rurality and transport, as
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Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, are we now seeing an unfortunate pattern from the Secretary of State for Education-a rush to cut without any apparent concern for the consequences and no attempt to consult beforehand? Does the Minister not regret that, on EMAs, Booktrust, school sport, music tuition and of course the Building Schools for the Future programme, the Secretary of State has failed to undertake the normal processes of consultation that really should be part and parcel of good government? Is that not why he is getting so many of these things wrong?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I think I said in my first answer that, as with other departments, my department has been driven by the underlying need to grapple with the inherited financial situation. In those circumstances, where one is ratcheting up the debts, I do not accept that it is wrong to press ahead in dealing with those issues.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will exercise the power in Section 94(5) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 so as to restore the right of appeal against refusal of asylum to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people from Jamaica, Nigeria and Ghana.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, unsuccessful asylum claimants have a right of appeal to the UK courts. Designation under Section 94(5) does not deny a right of appeal to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual applicants from designated countries including Jamaica, Nigeria and Ghana. However, claims from nationals of non-suspensive appeal designated countries that are clearly unfounded must be certified as such and can be appealed only from outside the UK. There are no plans to change this.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the UKBA has collected figures on LGBT asylum seekers since last July, immediately after the Supreme Court ruling that the wrong test was being applied to them. How many cases have been recorded for each of these countries since then? If the overwhelming majority of them were either granted asylum on their application or allowed an appeal notwithstanding the provisions of the Act, does my noble friend agree that the law should correspond with the practice, as it already does for women?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord suggested that the wrong test was being applied previously. We are happy with the new test in HJ and HT. He asked me to cite some statistics and I will write to him, but a clearly unfounded claim is one that is so clearly without substance that it is bound to fail even were all other aspects of the applicant's claim accepted. Certification is subject to judicial review.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, if it is the Government's view that the right of appeal already exists, as I understand the Minister to have said, in the light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that application for asylum should be accepted if it is satisfied that a gay person who lived openly would be liable to persecution in the country of origin, would it not be appropriate to amend Section 94(5) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act to add sexual orientation to the list of specific descriptions of named categories of people who have the right of appeal?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, no, because all cases are considered on their merits. If there is no reason to suspect that an applicant is not gay and he comes from a homophobic state, he will have a good claim for asylum.
I am not asking the Minister to give a direct answer now but perhaps to take my question back to consider it, because I have not given him warning of it. In Section 94, there is the opportunity for the Secretary of State, when he thinks that it is appropriate, to add other attributes. Is the word "reasonably" implied when the Secretary of State has to consider those other attributes?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right on her first point on the difficulty of reliably determining whether someone is gay or not. I accept that point. But if the claim is not clearly unfounded, the applicant will be able to put that to officials and, if necessary, to an appeal court.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, all passengers arriving at King's Cross St Pancras have been cleared for immigration purposes at juxtaposed controls in France and Belgium. The primary function of officers at St Pancras is to undertake checks for prohibited goods and restricted items. If there was any suspicion that a child arriving at St Pancras was at risk, the UKBA would refer to the appropriate authorities.
Baroness Doocey: My Lords, does the Minister accept that that means that a 12 year-old child can travel from Europe to St Pancras without any checks at all on their safety when they get here? Would he not agree that there ought to be a specialist child protection team at St Pancras to ensure that children trafficked into the UK are not being brought in and then used for sexual exploitation and benefit fraud?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, there is no need for a specific team at St Pancras as the noble Baroness suggests, because the necessary checks are carried out in France and Belgium by specially trained UKBA officials. Obviously, a child travelling on their own would arouse some suspicion and attention from officials, who are very likely to intercept them and satisfy themselves that everything is in order.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I think that the Minister is unduly optimistic about the way in which children come into this country. I declare an interest as the co-chairman of the All-Party Group on Human Trafficking. Is he aware that the majority of children trafficked into this country are never actually identified at all? Some are identified and go into local authority care, but very large numbers of missing children are not identified by local authorities as trafficked.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am certainly not unduly optimistic, and I was far more apprehensive about taking this Question than the previous Question. Trafficking is a hidden crime and, for that reason, is difficult to measure and detect. It is usually for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation or domestic servitude. Some 1,048 individuals were referred to the UK's human trafficking victim identification and support framework, the national referral mechanism, from 1 April 2009 to 30 September 2010. Those are the ones whom we know about because they have been referred, so to an extent the noble and learned Baroness is quite right-this is a serious problem.
Baroness Goudie: My Lords, is it not correct that the European convention on human trafficking was amended at the end of last year and that the United Kingdom has decided not to sign up to that amendment? Would it not be right now, after what the Minister has said further to what we know about human trafficking, for the Government to sign up to that? The amendment would ensure tougher border controls, tougher recovery of money across borders and a longer time for victims to be taken care of. Will the Minister please take this back since the UK is, through its Government, one of the two countries that has not signed up?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Baroness is experiencing exactly the same difficulties as I did when researching this. There is the convention and there is the directive. We are confident that the UK is compliant with the Council of Europe trafficking convention, an issue that is already in place. The noble Baroness is referring to the EU trafficking directive. We are looking closely at that directive's text and considering its merits. If we conclude that opting in to the directive would benefit the UK, we can apply to do so. The UK has a strong record in the fight against trafficking and already complies in both legislation and practice with most of what the draft directive requires.
Lord Laming: My Lords, the Government have been looking at that directive for some considerable time. Can the noble Earl assure the House that a decision will be made shortly, rather than allowing this situation to drift on indefinitely?
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: Is the noble Earl aware that when a specialist unit was set up at Heathrow it found that, of 1,800 unaccompanied children, half were under 11 and one-third were deemed to be at risk in some way? Have the Government given any consideration of whether the age at which children can travel unaccompanied is appropriately set?
Earl Attlee: The noble Baroness makes an important point. I am quite confident that we have considered carefully the matter of the age of the child. However, where the child is obviously younger or more vulnerable more attention will be paid by the UKBA officials.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, can the Minister tell me what role the British Transport Police has to play, particularly in relation to those two passenger stations? Also, in view of the Government's dangerous proposals to politicise our police forces through elected police commissioners, what changes are envisaged for the British Transport Police?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, this issue is primarily a responsibility of the UKBA, not the British Transport Police. However, if those police saw a child at St Pancras or at any other station who appeared to be vulnerable in any way, but particularly to trafficking, it would obviously be their duty to do something about it and to refer the child to the local authorities.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: Can the noble Earl tell the House how many prosecutions there have been in the past 18 months in respect of this serious criminal enterprise, and how many of those have been successful? Should not those agencies responsible for gathering evidence be greatly strengthened so that credible cases can be brought before the courts?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, some of these cases are extremely difficult to prosecute. What distressed me a lot was that there were very few prosecutions for sexual exploitation. However, the police and the CPS use every legitimate means at their disposal to disrupt this trade and make it difficult and unprofitable for the perpetrators. This approach has led to convictions for a range of serious charges including rape, brothel management and money-laundering. It is also important to note that where charges are brought against suspected traffickers they may not be charged with specific offences of trafficking, depending on the facts of the case.
Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, I suggest to the Minister that this is not a new concern. Forty years ago on Camden Council we were worried about vulnerable people turning up at Kings Cross, Euston and St Pancras and being at the mercy of evil people. In the Minister's earlier Answer he said that, once located, vulnerable people would be passed over to the statutory authorities. Is he convinced that the local authorities-in this case, probably Islington and Camden-have sufficient resources and the proper trained personnel to deal with these people, who are in a terrible state when they have escaped the clutches of the people who bring them in?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point, but very few trafficked children appear at St Pancras for the reasons that I have described. However, considerable numbers turn up at Stansted and Heathrow, and both Hillingdon Council and Essex Council have made progress on improving some of their statistics, which in the past were not very good at all.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, when UKBA officials intercept a child being trafficked in France or Belgium, that child is quite properly handed over to the French or Belgian authorities. We are confident that they have the necessary procedures and facilities in place because they are signed up to the same conventions as we are.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, will the Minister assure the House that the UKBA officials in the juxtaposed zones in Belgium and France have the right capacity to identify people perpetrating this, given the difficulty that he has highlighted in doing so? Is there social work input into what they do? Perhaps he might write to me with the details of their training.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am convinced that UKBA officials are specially trained to be able to detect children being trafficked. There are tell-tale signs when something is wrong, and I am confident that they are properly trained in that respect.
That Lord Inglewood be appointed a member of the Select Committee in place of Lord Dixon-Smith, resigned; and that Lord Inglewood be appointed Chairman of the Committee in place of the Earl of Onslow.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 67A, 88A, 139A and 165A. This is a group of probing amendments. I am keen to understand the Government's intentions on the three general lighthouse authorities-Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board and the Commissioners of Irish Lights-and to see how that connects, if indeed it does, to the possible changes to other maritime organisations, specifically the Marine Management Organisation, which we will discuss in Amendment 80 later today.
The Government have included two of the three GLAs in Schedule 7. I think that the schedule is now to be withdrawn, but it would be good to hear the Minister's confirmation of that. In some ways, it is a pity that Trinity House will be removed from Schedule 7, given that, after all, Trinity House was founded by Henry VIII and most of us refer to Schedule 7 as a good Henry VIII clause. It is rather sad if that is to happen, but I am sure that we will all survive.
I am not going to go into the details of the general lighthouse authorities-I had the Second Reading of my Private Member's Bill here a few weeks ago-but the issue within the Public Bodies Bill is a question of governance. The three GLAs are unique organisations in that they fix their own budgets and get the Government's approval. Having given their approval, the Government make the ship owners pay whatever is needed to balance the books. That is not strong governance in my view. The previous Government allowed the charges to ship owners to go up by 67 per cent in one year, which was very excessive. More recently, the present Minister for Shipping, Mike Penning, has announced that he has sorted out the Irish question. In this context, that relates to the fact that ships coming into British harbours
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Another inconsistency among the three GLAs concerns the Freedom of Information Act. The Northern Lighthouse Board is subject to FOI, whereas Trinity House is not. I know that discussions are going on between the Ministry of Justice and Trinity House but it is rather odd that there is this inconsistency. The Commissioners of Irish Lights cover Northern Ireland as well as southern Ireland and are generally seen to be most generous in their payment of their staff. A Written Answer I received a few months ago suggested that six of their senior executives were paid more than €1 million. That seems quite excessive for managing some lighthouses. They are not subject to FOI because they are partly managed by the Republic of Ireland.
It is good that the Government are cutting off the Irish subsidy by the end of this Parliament, but could the Minister in responding explain what, if anything, the Government intend to do about the governance structure of the three GLAs? There is not much incentive at the moment for them to cut costs or for the Government to make them do so. The shipping lines pay whatever the Government decide. Therefore, I would be very pleased to hear what the Minister has to say in response. I beg to move.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I spoke in an earlier fascinating debate on the Irish lights and other matters in this field. I hope that this is a probing amendment. I listened with interest to the questions. As a lad who was born and brought up in Harwich, which is now the hub of the Trinity House universe, I would be deeply opposed to seeing it abolished, which is what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, appears to seek to insert into the Bill.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the House is grateful to my noble friend for raising this matter yet again. As he rightly said, we had the opportunity to discuss these issues at the Second Reading of his Private Member's Bill. However, there are some interesting dimensions to this, which we were not able to clarify entirely on that occasion. Indeed, it was suggested that I had made a slight slip-a rare occurrence, as the House will appreciate-when I referred to the payments to the Irish being a subsidy. As my noble friend has rightly identified, it is not a government subsidy; the money is paid by the ship owners and those who pay the dues. The payments are close to being a subsidy, given that people have no choice but to pay and the Government enforce them. Nevertheless, that is one indication of how careful one must be in dealing with these issues.
The Government are to be congratulated on having sorted out aspects of the finance of this issue to do with previous support, which was paid directly to the Irish for the Irish lights. Nevertheless, my noble friend has drawn attention to a number of interesting questions.
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Lord Greenway: My Lords, I admire the tenacity of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on this matter which, as the Minister well knows, we have discussed on a number of occasions. I declare a non-pecuniary interest as an elder brother of Trinity House and I will address my remarks mainly to Trinity House. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, I do not think that it would be within the powers of any Government of this country to enact something relating to a body set up in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. Therefore, any thought of doing things with regard to Ireland must be out of order.
The noble Lord's other main concern relates to the payment of light dues and particularly to the efficiency of the general lighthouse authorities. The previous Administration commissioned a report by Atkins, which looked into further efficiencies that could be made in addition to those that have already been made over a number of years, certainly in the case of Trinity House. Its recommendations were accepted and are being implemented through the new general lighthouse authority joint strategic board, which was set up by the Atkins review. In parallel, the Shipping Minister asked the GLAs to consider how they might achieve an additional reduction in expenditure, averaging 25 per cent over the period ahead, which Trinity House will deliver in full through a six-year programme. This programme has also been accepted by the Minister.
Lord MacKenzie of Culkein: My Lords, I also pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Berkeley for raising this matter again. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, said, my noble friend is tenacious. However, I am sorry to say that I disagree with the points that he has made. We debated this matter extensively on 21 January and I want to reiterate a couple of points from that debate. The WS Atkins report went into considerable detail on the general lighthouse authorities. The British and Irish Governments have dealt pretty comprehensively with the so-called Irish question and the new strategic board has been set up which will drive further reductions in costs. At the end of the day, the shipping companies pay these costs.
Last Saturday I picked up a lovely little book about the Bell Rock lighthouse, comprising a series of articles written by an assistant lightkeeper in about 1904. The foreword to the book describes how the lighthouse authorities in the UK work. One of the interesting points was that, despite repeated reductions in costs
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I do not know many, if any, organisations that could have cut their costs and increased efficiency in the way that the lighthouse authorities have. There have been massive cuts in personnel, huge advances in technology, and that is the way forward. If technology moves forward and becomes affordable, I have no doubt that there will be further reductions in light dues. For the present, however, I see no useful purpose in pressing these amendments. I am pleased to note that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has said that they are probing amendments.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, this has been a useful debate-I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, believes that to be the case-and I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. This is a probing amendment and I accept that in my response. I understand the noble Lord's purpose, because he has proposed for some time that the general lighthouse authorities that serve the coast of the United Kingdom and Ireland should be merged into one body. Indeed, mention was made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, of the Bill that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has presented to the House. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie of Culkein, for his contribution that shows that a lot of progress is being made in this area. It is an opportunity for the use of technology that the authorities have taken advantage of. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, for his involvement with those bodies, particularly Trinity House. I hope that my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree will accept that these are probing amendments. I respond in that spirit.
I should explain to noble Lords that the Commissioners of Irish Lights has functions in relation to Northern Ireland and to the Republic of Ireland. Moreover, it is a body established in Dublin under Irish law. In case people fantasise about people earning enormous salaries, no staff member earns €1 million in the employment of that body. It is not for the UK Parliament to purport to abolish or otherwise this body or its functions in relation to the Republic of Ireland.
A recent independent study by the consultants Atkins, to which reference has been made-it was a comprehensive review-addressed the provision of marine aids to navigation and concluded that the present arrangements, whilst complex, achieve the basic objective of ensuring the safety of the mariner and provide high-quality, comprehensive and integrated maritime aids to navigation all around the British Isles. Notably, Atkins recommended some changes to the governance of the general lighthouse authorities through the creation of a joint strategic board. Since last year, with the Shipping Minister's endorsement, the joint strategic board has worked closely with the Department for Transport and the three general lighthouse authorities to identify further efficiency measures to drive down running costs.
The general lighthouse authorities are no strangers to minimising their costs, as the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie, said, by adopting new technology, estate rationalisation, joint operational initiatives and the generation of income from their commercial activities.
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I know that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has pursued this issue with terrier-like commitment, but I hope that I have been able to provide some clarity on the recent progress that we have made in this area of policy.
I am afraid that I am not in a position to answer the question on the Freedom of Information Act and its application to the various authorities, but I shall try to do so and will write to the noble Lord with that information. With that in mind, and in view of the general lighthouse authorities' excellent reputation for delivery, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Berkeley: I am very grateful to the noble Lord. Before I withdraw the amendment, perhaps I may invite him to comment on Amendments 139A and 165A. In the light of the statement that the noble Lord made on the previous occasion that we debated this matter, it is not clear to me whether Trinity House and the Northern Lighthouse Board are meant to remain in Schedule 7 or whether they will be among those that are to be removed. My amendments would remove these two authorities from Schedule 7 to avoid them being changed; the Government have included them in Schedule 7 but they may want that schedule to be removed. My original question was: if the Government want them in Schedule 7, what are they going to do with them when they are in that schedule? Therefore, in theory, the noble Lord should accept my Amendments 139A and 165A on the basis that there will be no change for these two organisations.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the noble Lord for his ingenuity in this respect. He should know that I have added my name to those opposing the question that Schedule 7 stand part of the Bill. Therefore, Schedule 7 will not apply to the Bill, and the noble Lord can rest at east that there will be no way in which these bodies will be included in that schedule.
Lord Bach: I have played a very limited part in this Bill so far, so I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I do not get the spirit of it straightaway. I have been involved in other matters that have taken up quite a large amount of the House's time.
I make it clear at the start that this is a probing amendment. However, that does not imply that we on this side are satisfied with the way in which Her Majesty's Government are supporting victims of crime. It has often been said in this House, in particular, that for years victims were the forgotten people of the British criminal justice system. Sometimes they were not listened to; sometimes they were not consulted; and quite often they were not given the information that they were entitled to know. To sum that up, they were not treated as seriously as they should have been. However, I believe that there has been something of a revolution during the past 15 years or so, largely down to some fantastic victims' organisations that have grown in strength over that period, becoming effective and powerful players, but also because of the work and extra resources that the previous Government-the Labour Government-put in to this part of the criminal justice system. In the past, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has been graceful enough to acknowledge that resources and effort were put in by the previous Administration.
As I understand it, victims' panels, with which the amendment is concerned, have worked well and, importantly, they have been able to give victims direct access to government in its widest sense but to Ministers, too, and of course vice versa. However, we are told that the Victims' Advisory Panel is to go. Some suggest that it may have gone already and I would like the Minister to comment on that.
Of course, we support the establishment of the first Victims' Commissioner. It would be rather surprising if we did not because we appointed her in March 2010. There is no doubt that Louise Casey is held in the highest possible regard by all sides of this House and outside this House, too. Does it follow that that appointment, crucial as no doubt it was, has to spell the end of the Victims' Advisory Panel? If the answer is yes, why does it have to end and why do victims' panels have to go? What will take the place of those direct meetings between victims and those who run the criminal justice system, even going up as high as Ministers of the Crown? We would argue that it is crucial that, if the Government are really to understand what victims have to go through-what it is like to be a victim of crime-more sensible meetings should be encouraged.
I hope that the Minister can satisfy the Committee on this matter. We would very much welcome his and the Government's views on the way they see the future in terms of victims and the support given to them. We are not overly encouraged by moves that the Government have already made in this area. Is it right that the large-scale surveys-I believe that they were known by the name "WAVES"-have already been abolished? As I understand it, those surveys provided, or were capable of providing, very useful information indeed for government about victims. If they have been abolished,
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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, I am grateful for the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, about the Victims' Advisory Panel. Let us be quite clear: the Victims' Advisory Panel is not a body that gives help to victims. It does what it says on the tin: it is an advisory panel. It was established in 2003 and is a statutory, advisory, non-departmental public body, established to enable victims of crime to have their say in the reform of the criminal justice system. This is not a cost-driven proposal, although the abolition of the panel will save up to £50,000 a year.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, is valid: that the appointment of the Victims' Commissioner, Louise Casey, has changed the priorities and many of the things that the Victims' Advisory Panel aimed to do have now been overtaken by the Victims' Commissioner. Since her appointment, the Victims' Commissioner and her team have regularly met victims in the course of their work; they have met more than 300 groups and individuals since May 2010. The Victims' Commissioner has organised workshops and focus groups with victims of crime, organisations that represent victims and their families and organisations that provide services to victims. She and her team have also held specialist meetings with young people who have been affected by crime and carried out in-depth telephone interviews with members of the public.
It is not true that the Government have turned their back on victims of crime-quite the opposite. We have looked at a relatively small body with a relatively limited remit and taken the opportunity to remove it while also taking on board the opportunity to use the Victims' Commissioner and her work much more extensively. The proposed abolition will in no way limit the opportunity for victims to articulate their opinions. The existence of the Victims' Commissioner is a more effective and flexible means to ensure that victims' views are independently represented to government. The Government's intention to abolish the panel is in no way a reflection on the efforts of its members or the important recommendations that it has made to improve victim and witness services.
Lord McNally: One of my weaknesses as a politician is that I am never expert on the specific pledges made in election manifestos. The last one that I remember in detail is one that I helped to write, but I will not mention which one and for which party. When the
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Lord McNally: Absolutely on cue. That was the situation. I am not claiming that the £50,000 being saved by abolishing the panel will right the public finances. What is more important is that the coming into being of the Victims' Commissioner, a creation of the previous Government, has overtaken the work of this relatively small body. I do not think that it is possible to put the interpretation on it that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, did, because the Victims' Commissioner has in the past year been carrying out an extensive consultation with the public and victims, which will feed in very much in the way that the work of the panel has. As I said, I strongly doubt whether in either manifesto there was a commitment to this body one way or the other.
Lord McNally: I will not say anything about the noble Lord and his dedication to reading election manifestos in detail, but it is often said that the only people who read election manifestos in great detail are the opponents of the parties that write them. I am absolutely willing to accept that.
The proposed abolition of the panel is based on the understanding that the Ministry of Justice will, through the commissioner and as a matter of course, continue to consult victims' groups and engage with a vast range of criminal justice system agencies and voluntary and community sector groups on matters related to the views of victims.
On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, there is a large number of groups doing very good jobs on this, so it is over-egging the pudding a little to say that closing this relatively small group with a very short lifespan, which has been overtaken by the work of the Victims' Commissioner, is going to damage victim support in the way that was suggested. Indeed, the victim sector contains many organisations set up by victims themselves that focus on specific issues such as homicide and sexual violence. The commissioner provides a valuable function in helping the Government to engage with this sector by ensuring that future policy is informed by the views of an appropriately broad and diverse range of individuals and groups. The commissioner has been meeting victims, and these representative groups across the country tell her their own experience of what has been happening. She is currently consulting on a range of issues, including the treatment of young victims and witnesses in cases that involve adult defendants and provision for the bereaved. Additionally, the Ministry of Justice has invited the commissioner to consult widely on and to participate in two of the department's priority strands of work: the development of a more transparent sentencing framework and victims' views relating to the rehabilitation of offenders and ways in which the victim might contribute to reducing offending.
The Ministry of Justice will continue to consult and meet victims and victims' groups. We have just commissioned a full review of the services and support offered to victims of crime. Officials have commenced, as part of the review, a series of workshops with victims' representatives to consult them on future strategy. These workshops have been attended by the Minister with responsibility for victims' issues, the honourable Member for Reigate, Mr Crispin Blunt.
The proposal to abolish the Victims' Advisory Panel should not be taken to indicate any wavering in the coalition Government's support for victims of crime. Although the panel was set up to offer advice to the Secretary of State for Justice on matters relating to victims, it has never provided any form of victim support. The Government remain committed to ensuring that appropriate support is available for the most serious, vulnerable and persistently targeted victims of crime and to ensuring that the concerns of victims of crime are heard. I hope that I have reassured the noble Lord, Lord Bach.
On the specific question about WAVES, I will have to write to the noble Lord. I will investigate what has happened. On the crime survey, I have not been briefed that there is any threat to it, but I will inquire and write. I say to the noble Lord that I can understand why and, as I have said, I do not disagree that the previous Administration gave priority to the victims of crime. Building partly on their bringing in the Victims' Commissioner, the removal of the Victims' Advisory Panel is not the threat to victim support that he might have suggested in moving this amendment, which I hope he will withdraw.
Lord Newton of Braintree: Before the noble Lord, Lord Bach, withdraws his amendment, I shall express my frustration that the amendment on the Valuation Tribunal Service was not moved, because I anticipated that it would give me my first, and possibly my last, opportunity to be fully supportive of the Government in the course of these proceedings. I take this amendment as a similar opportunity. First, I express my sympathy to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, on his inability to remember the detail of everybody's election manifesto. Secondly, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that I take his observation to mean that there was no reference at all to the Victims' Advisory Panel in the two manifestos, from which it appears to me to follow that there was no commitment to keep it regardless of changes in circumstances. Thirdly, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, made some perfectly good points, but they did not have much to do with the question of whether there was a need to keep this body. Fourthly, I thought that my noble friend made an overwhelming case in saying that there is no need for this panel now that we have the Victims' Commissioner. The commissioner can take advice from whomever she wishes, so I support the Government.
Lord Bach: I thank all those who have spoken in this debate. The Minister has clearly persuaded at least one member of the governing coalition of the wisdom
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Victims are a serious and substantial issue and I make no apology for talking about them in more general terms when I introduced my short amendment. I cannot say that I am totally satisfied with the Minister's answer because I do not believe that the Victims' Commissioner, a post that we set up and that the present Government very much support, was necessarily meant to be at the expense of the advisory panel, which is due to be abolished. There seems to be no reason why the two should not work hand in hand. Maybe there would not be as many advisory panels as there were before the commissioner was appointed, but the direct contact that there was between Ministers and victims of crime under the advisory panel system should be encouraged; it was of considerable use and advantage to Ministers.
My noble and learned friend Lady Scotland, who is in her place today, reminds me that she used to chair one of the panels. She says that she got a great deal of information and knowledge from it that might not be so available to Ministers in the future. This is meant as no criticism of the Victims' Commissioner, who is an outstanding public servant, as the Committee knows well. I just ask the Government to think again about whether they should get rid of the concept of this advisory panel altogether. They should ask themselves whether the panel did not add something to the very difficult relationship between victims of crime and government.
Lord McNally: On the point about the thinking behind this, I note that a year before the Victims' Commissioner took up her post the then Minister wrote to all the members of the advisory panel, whose terms were all coming to an end, asking them to stay on for an extra year until the commissioner was appointed. The panel members agreed to work on until May 2010, which suggests that even the previous Administration might have thought that the arrival of the Victims' Commissioner would call into question the future of the panel. That relates to the question that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, asked me earlier about whether the panel had already been abolished. There was this hiatus because the previous Administration had not appointed a new panel. I suspect that it was thought somewhere that there would be an overlap between the Victims' Commissioner and the work of the advisory panel.
Lord Bach: The Committee will be grateful to the Minister for mentioning that point, but it does not take away from the fact that the previous Government were not committed to scrapping the Victims' Advisory Panel. At the time, it would have been quite understandable for a Minister, knowing that an election was due and that whoever became the Victims' Commissioner would want to look at the position once he or she had taken their place, just to write that letter. Is it really the main,
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Lord Warner: My Lords, it is appropriate that we move from discussing victims to discussing the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales because many of the victims of young offenders are themselves young people. I am moving this amendment in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, because I am deeply concerned about the Government's decision to abolish the YJB, particularly regarding the inconsistency of that decision with the content of their own, perhaps I may say, rather creative White Paper, Breaking the Cycle, with its emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation.
First, I declare an interest as the first chairman of the board between 1999 and 2003 when I left to become a Health Minister, which I suppose is a logical kind of progression. I was very involved in developing the policy on the youth justice reforms, of which the board was a part. In deciding to abolish the YJB, the Government have shown very poor understanding of the history of unsatisfactory youth justice policies that led to the reforms.
Putting responsibility for youth justice back into a government department with many other responsibilities would simply repeat the mistakes of the past-dare I say, especially post-1979. It was the failure of the Home Office to work with other agencies and to deal with the special needs of children who offend that led to the establishment of the board after the highly critical 1996 report by the Audit Commission entitled Misspent Youth. Given that the Government think that the board's job is done, which I find surprising, does the Minister really believe that young people will stop offending because the Ministry of Justice is in the driving seat? We should stop pretending that the board's work is complete, for reasons that I will outline.
The history of youth justice is one of fantasy and error. The fantasy is that young people will grow out of offending, so we do not need to do too much. For some young people that may well be true, but for many the culture of offending that surrounds their daily lives is deeply established, difficult to resist and requires specialised interventions that are bespoke to young people. The error is to avoid the uncomfortable fact that many of the agencies involved with young people who have offended have no history of working together to tackle these complex issues and are reluctant to commit resources to this area without much prodding.
The purpose of the YJB was to oversee the work of the multi-agency youth offending teams and to keep on the case of their participating agencies, as well as to produce research and new ideas of what works best with young offenders. That work continues to need the attention of a national body which is independent of government and composed of members and staff with expertise in dealing with young offenders. This expertise has taken a decade to build up. Now the Government want to throw away all the hard work that has been done because of some misguided idea that they can save a bit of money and get the board's work done by a few civil servants and, perhaps I may say, a motley crew of transient Ministers-that goes across the political spectrum-both of which are groups with no lasting investment in the work of youth justice. This is a costly error of significant proportions both for young people and the communities affected by their offending behaviour. The Government will find this out in a few years' time as youth crime figures rise and more young offenders are banged up in costly, overcrowded establishments with fewer and fewer proper educational or behavioural change programmes.
Not everything that the YJB has done has been perfect; mistakes have been made. The reduction in research expenditure, for example, was a mistake. But the board's overall achievements are considerable. Over the past 10 years, there has been a 30 per cent reduction in the number of young people brought into the youth justice system, from 90,000 to 60,000 young people. This policy of diversion, started in my time, has gathered pace since then, but it takes investment in and commitment to preventive programmes and independent board leadership to do this in a criminal justice system that is all too often preoccupied with short-term considerations. Stopping young offenders reoffending is one of the hardest things to do in criminal justice, but the latest figures show that between 2000 and 2008, the volume of reoffending by young people dropped by 25 per cent. At the end of 2008, the number of young people held in custody was under 2,000 compared with around 3,000 when the YJB was set up. It was the board that introduced more intensive supervision in the community to give the courts an alternative to custody. It is these reforms and improvements that the Government are now choosing to put in jeopardy with their ill-considered abolition of the board.
It is not just me banging on about something I helped to establish; independent reviews have said much the same thing. In 2004, the Audit Commission's review of the reformed youth justice system said:
"The board has been an effective leader of efforts to create and maintain a national youth justice system with a risk-based approach, and in recent years key youth crime indicators have been falling substantially".
"The planned abolition of the Youth Justice Board has arisen from a policy decision and not as a result of any assessment of the board's performance. The Board has developed and maintained a distinctive focus on youth in the justice system and has contributed to positive outcomes in recent years. There is a risk that some of the factors that made the Board successful will be lost in the transition".
It is not a risk, but a racing certainty that absorbing the YJB's functions into the Ministry of Justice will be a major setback for an effective youth justice system and will have to be reversed in the future.
When the youth justice reforms were designed in 1996 and 1997, we gave careful thought to and took expert advice on the issue of putting the YJB's functions in the Home Office. We decided that innovation, monitoring and encouraging local performance, tackling bad performance, reducing custody, increasing prevention and leading change would not be advanced by placing the functions in a government department. I would suggest that most objective observers would say pretty much the same thing today. Even as we consider this Bill, my intelligence is that a bureaucratic struggle is going on in the Ministry of Justice about who gets these functions, thereby reducing job losses in the successful part of the MoJ that wins the struggle. Despite its chequered career, which compares unfavourably with the YJB, the National Offender Management Service seems to be the front runner to absorb the work of the board. Can the Minister give a categoric assurance that under no circumstances will any of the YJB's functions be transferred to NOMS or the Prison Service?
Before I close, perhaps I may be permitted to detain the House briefly with an anecdote from my time as YJB chairman which illustrates my concerns. We discovered that the Prison Service was in breach of its contract for providing education by keeping youngsters in their cells and not sending them to education classes. After repeated warnings and threatened sanctions, nothing changed, so I authorised the withholding of a monthly payment to the Prison Service. This captured the attention of top management and led to a major row, played out in front of the then Home Secretary. Eventually, the Prison Service got its money, but only after a significant improvement in performance. Frankly, I cannot see the MoJ's civil servants deploying challenge mechanisms of that kind to underperforming large-service providers, but perhaps the Minister will tell us that a series of Rottweilers is now staffing the MoJ.
I close by giving the Minister some youth justice advice from an old hand. It is not unusual for people of previous spotless character to fall into bad company. They suddenly find themselves in a successful gang after being ignored by everyone for years. "What is wrong with a bit of vandalism?". But it is never too late to change, and to go in for an intensive course of restorative justice and see things from the victim's point of view. I am prepared to set the Minister up with an intensive programme of rehabilitation before Report in the hope of returning him to the straight
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Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for the time, care and attention that they have devoted to meeting and briefing those of us who are involved on this Bill, particularly on this contentious issue.
In 1809, elements of my regiment, the Rifle Brigade, were greeted by those whom they were relieving during the mismanaged and ill-fated expedition to the island of Walcheren with the words, "Good luck, boys. You, too, are being made the sport of theory". These came to mind as, incredulously, I read in the briefing paper on the abolition of the Youth Justice Board the statement:
With that coming on top of the impact statement for the Public Bodies Bill's stating that the Bill will have no impact on either the criminal justice system or human rights, I can only conclude from the proposed abolition of the one body responsible for overseeing youth justice within the system and the oversight of the human rights of young people involved with it that, as in 1809, theory has been allowed to subsume common sense.
The Youth Justice Board has been publicly recognised by Ministers as having played a critical role in transforming the delivery of youth justice, creating a safer, more distinct secure estate, reducing offending and reoffending by young people, and overseeing the successful establishment of youth offending teams, of which the Minister, Crispin Blunt, has said:
"The multi-agency YOT approach to justice that is embedded in local communities and heavily focused on rehabilitating offenders is the right way forward. One of my aims in my job is to adapt the adult system on the lessons from the youth system".
If it has achieved, and is achieving, so much, why remove it? The secret of its success is that one organisation has provided continuous and focused oversight of a very particular part of the criminal justice system. Abolish it, and you risk all that has been achieved, and could be achieved in the future, by maintaining the momentum of progress.
"Our current proposal, subject to the outcome of the Rehabilitation Revolution consultation ... is that the main functions of the Youth Justice Board should be delivered within the Ministry of Justice's Policy Group".
I first became aware that all was not well with the administration of youth justice in the first week of my appointment as Chief Inspector of Prisons in December 1995, when I was alerted to the appalling treatment of and conditions for young offenders, particularly those under the age of 18 held in Prison Service custody. At that time the Social Services Inspectorate was responsible for inspecting all facilities for children in this country under the age of 18, except for those in the hands of the Prison Service, which claimed Crown immunity from the provisions of the Children Act 1989. This was something that I immediately campaigned to have changed and eventually happened following court action by the Howard League, but that is another story.
I therefore invited a social services inspector to come with me on my first inspection of a young offender institution at Onley-a split site, which holds both those between 15 and 18 and 18 to 21 in separate accommodation-to assess the conditions for and treatment of children who were held there. She told me that if it had been a social service or local authority children's custody centre it would have been closed because of the lack of acceptable facilities or a suitable regime for children.
I then found that, as I had feared and as remains the case today, no one in the Prison Service was operationally responsible and accountable for children in prison and, therefore, there was no one whom Ministers could task with making the necessary improvements or chase when these did not materialise. For some inexplicable reason, the Home Office and the Prison Service believed that the young offender estate could be directed and overseen by bureaucratic diktat from people in policy branches. The results that I saw on the ground, over and over again, confirmed by experts, proved how wrong they were. On what evidence does the Minister think that substituting the Ministry of Justice for the Home Office will make it right now?
Against this backdrop, I well remember the collective sigh of relief among all those involved with youth justice when the Youth Justice Board was first introduced because they could now work face to face with someone responsible and accountable, who could come round and see for him or herself what they were doing on the ground, rather than impersonally with faceless bureaucrats behind desks in Whitehall ministries. I was naive enough to hope that making someone responsible and accountable for, amongst other things, the treatment of and conditions for children in prison, would be followed by similar appointments for other groups of prisoners. Because we were responsible for monitoring and hopefully influencing the treatment and conditions of children in custody, my inspectorate worked very closely with the YJB from the outset, passing on all our observations and recommendations as soon as possible, and very soon we began to see improvement because the YJB was able to override deficiencies in Prison Service management by requiring it to satisfy conditions and treatment criteria laid down in contracts.
The Minister will be familiar with the Crime and Disorder Act 1998-Chapter 37 of 1998-which established the Youth Justice Board. I will quote only from Clause 41(5)(f), which states that, among other functions, the board's functions shall be,
"The Board has been an effective leader of efforts to create and maintain a national youth justice system, with a risk-based approach, and in recent years key youth crime indicators have been falling substantially".
Like the Public Accounts Committee, I do not pretend that the YJB as currently constituted is perfect; improvements could and should be made both to its place and role in the criminal justice system hierarchy and the scope and methods of its activities. However, those can be rectified through the traditional review process. They do not justify the abolition of something that has proved itself to be a sensible agent of progress. The ideological reasons behind its abolition have been hinted at already by the noble Lord, Lord Warner.
My reason for pointing this out is that there appears to be an inherent contradiction between what is proposed in the Bill and what is in the Ministry of Justice Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle, from which I quote two statements. First,
The Cabinet Office appears to be saying in the Bill that, yes, trying to run operational functions top-down from Whitehall clearly does not work and the practice is condemned. Yet although the alternative-appointing a named person to be responsible and accountable for independent oversight of operational functions-is successful where Whitehall has failed, it is no longer required because its laid-down role conflicts with the government policy, as confirmed in the letter from the noble Lord, Lord McNally, from which I have already quoted, which states:
Change is the name of the game. The rehabilitation revolution has been publicised as a "once in a generation" opportunity for change, ignoring the fact that it is only seven years since the last "once in a generation" change with the introduction of NOMS. It seems the Cabinet Office must make the only change possible, namely reverting to the "Whitehall knows best", top-down approach that it has condemned, pretending-because it says so in its impact statement-that reintroducing failure will have no impact on the criminal justice system.
"With Ministers making themselves more accountable, independent oversight of the youth justice system is no longer required, and the Ministry of Justice is able to lead an effective system going forward, building on the improvements that have already been made".
What on earth does he mean by "more accountable"? Ministers have always been responsible and accountable for the YJB, as the chairman of the YJB has been to them. Is Blunt implying that it needs to be in the Ministry of Justice because accountability will be easier to exercise in the same building, or is he frightened by any suspicion of independent oversight? It is unfortunate that, in the recent past, there has been a lack of clarity about whether it was the Secretary of State for Justice and the Prisons Minister or the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and the Children's Minister who were ultimately accountable for the YJB, but that is a matter for Ministers, not the YJB, to resolve. It is important that the YJB chairman should know precisely to whom he or she is accountable. Lest Ministers think that I am a lone voice in all this, let me again quote from the Public Accounts Committee report, which I read only after I had prepared my remarks to the Committee:
On previous occasions in this House, I have wished that the clocks should now show the letters "PANT"-for "People Are Not Things"-instead of "0:23"; Ministers responsible and accountable for the conditions for and treatment of young people in contact with the criminal justice system must surely realise that, because so many of them are damaged and vulnerable, they need care that is positive and personal, transparent and consistent, provided and led by people. An impersonal, commissioned approach to that task, conducted by bureaucrats in policy departments, is neither practical nor sensible, as has been proved. I hope that, faced with that reality, Ministers will not be tempted to think of delegating oversight within the Ministry of Justice to the National Offender Management Service. NOMS would be a wholly unsuitable organisation because, first, it is not a service; secondly, it is all about adults; thirdly, within it, the Prison Service has already gobbled up the Probation Service; and, fourthly, its management structure is about commissioning and not oversight.
I will not mince words. On the basis of what I have seen, I regard the flagrant abolition of a personal system, responsible and accountable for the care of vulnerable and impressionable young people, reverting to a failed impersonal one, as nothing other than thoroughly irresponsible. The Government have had the courage and good sense to listen to reason about other parts of this Bill. I appeal to the Minister to adopt the same approach to the proposed abolition of the Youth Justice Board.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: I support many of the coalition Government's initiatives on criminal justice, which makes it absolutely surprising to me that, among all the good initiatives, they should go in for the idea of abolishing the Youth Justice Board. I strongly support the noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment.
It seems extraordinary to me that a government department, the Ministry of Justice, which has a huge remit and numerous issues that it needs to resolve, would want to take in-house dealing with youth justice. If it chooses to do that, there will be an inevitable loss of expertise and specialisation in relation to child and youth offenders, who are, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, wholly different from adults and need to be looked after separately.
There is a huge importance in continuing the good work of reducing reoffending-and there has been a substantial reduction in reoffending-but it needs to go much further. To achieve this, we need a separate body from government to monitor and support that important initiative of reducing reoffending. Could the Government think again and consider that if it works, why break it?
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am delighted to speak to this amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Warner and Lord Ramsbotham. During my time on the Front Bench for the Liberal Democrats, I have been a firm advocate of the work of the Youth Justice Board. Even now, I continue to be so, despite the fact that it may affect my promotional prospects in the coalition Government. I would go even further. Despite my criticism of the plethora of criminal justice legislation in the life of the previous Government, I have held out YJB as a success. Credit must be given to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, followed by Professor Rod Morgan and now Frances Done. Each of these individuals, as chair of the Youth Justice Board, has provided sound leadership and positive outcomes. Their contribution to the work of the YJB should be recognised and applauded.
My interest has not been limited to the YJB; in fact, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, will recollect that he advocated a debate on a women's justice board, and I was delighted to support him in that initiative. It is hardly appropriate for me to opt out of my support for the Youth Justice Board.
I am delighted that my noble friend Lord McNally has written to noble Lords in advance of this debate. I thank him for that, as it helps to clarify the Government's stance on this matter. I commend my noble friend for maintaining a dedicated focus on the needs of children and young people-precisely the objective of the Youth Justice Board. I am delighted that he intends to retain the youth offending teams which deliver youth justice on the ground-precisely the objective of the Youth Justice Board-and that those are not going to be abolished. Again, that is very much a sound judgment.
I am also assured that the department does not intend to dilute in any way the commissioning of a secure estate that is driven by the needs of young people and that the YJB's oversight and commissioning role will be preserved. As the noble and learned Baroness
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The YJB has a positive story to tell. It has diverted young people from the criminal justice process, which is remarkable when we think that 74 to 75 per cent of young people offend within two years of leaving a penal institution in this country. It has also helped to reduce the reoffending rate, the effect of which can be seen in the reduced numbers in our penal institutions. I suspect that its success depends, to a great extent, on the fact that it is an arm's-length body. That factor may be compromised if the main functions are to be delivered within the Ministry of Justice policy group.
I suggest to my noble friend the Minister that the best way to proceed is perhaps to allow the YJB to continue its present functions but at the same time to introduce pilot schemes in some areas, to see which of the two systems is better able to meet the needs of young offenders. Perhaps my noble friend could look at this suggestion and come back on Report so that we can be satisfied on the most appropriate way to tackle this problem. It is right that we devise a system that is effective. Public confidence will be shaped by the quality of the service that we provide rather than by looking at a simple argument of reducing the resources.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and supported by my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham. It troubles me that something that has proved to be so valuable is being done away with. Look at the numbers of young people under 18 held in custody at any one time, which have reduced significantly. Whereas in December 2000 there were 2,704 young people in custody, in December 2010 there were 1,918. The bulk of the reduction in the numbers of young people in custody has taken place over the past two years; at their peak, custody numbers were as high as 3,200. There has been a significant reduction in the numbers of young people in custody while the Youth Justice Board has been at work, saving the taxpayer the huge sums of money needed to keep those young people there.
I am grateful to the Government for the briefings that they have allowed us to have on this area. I am deeply grateful for the commitment that the Government have shown to vulnerable young people, starting with the work done by the right honourable Iain Duncan Smith. I also admire very much the work of Tim Loughton MP in his area as Minister for Children, so I am puzzled by this proposal. As vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for children and young people in care and leaving care, I am well aware that 50 per cent of the girls and 25 per cent of the boys and young men in custody have come out of the care system. Very many of those young people have come from deeply damaging backgrounds. They are often troubled and need a system that is child-centred and attends to their needs. It is still far from that, but there has been much good progress.
On Friday, I visited Wetherby young offender institution, particularly to see its Keppel unit, which caters for the neediest young people in YOIs. Most
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What I found at the Keppel unit particularly was a positive ratio of young people to prison officers. Within the system, there is always supposed to be a designated personal officer for the young people. The idea behind that is that many of these young people have never experienced what it is to have a relationship with an interested elder man. Many of them have not had fathers or any stable familial experience. It is tremendously important to them and to their rehabilitation that they have something of that kind. Unusually at the Keppel unit, the ratio with prison officers is something in the region of 2:10, so each young man has a personal officer and two support officers. Sitting down with them and speaking to them, I heard-and this has not been my experience of other young offender institutions-of the very positive experience that they had with their prison officers.
Another issue that comes up again and again when visiting these secure units is the cliff-edge that young people experience when they leave the secure estate. No matter what good work takes place while they are in custody, they move out into the community, they are lost, they do not get the support that they need to get back into education and they do not get the right accommodation. This has been vigorously addressed by the Youth Justice Board. Frances Done, its chair, has been building consortia of local authorities. That has brought chief executives and chairs of local authorities into the secure estate and highlighted to them their responsibility to look after these children once they leave. I pay tribute to the work of my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham in ensuring that local authorities recognise their responsibilities, particularly to looked-after young people. He referred to the Munby judgment in this area.
The Youth Justice Board has also overseen the introduction of advocacy services for young people in the secure estate. This has been a very positive step forward. Advocates can go and speak to young people about their needs-for instance, when they move on from the secure estate-and be their voice to ensure that those needs are addressed. Unfortunately, the contract for this expires in, I think, 2013, so without the Youth Justice Board one has to be concerned that there will not be advocates in future. I would appreciate an assurance from the Minister that consideration will be given to looking at the rules in this area so that we can perhaps enshrine advocacy as a right for children in the youth justice system. Many of these children will see their parents very seldom, if they even have parents to visit them, so they need someone to look after their interests.
I am troubled by this proposal from the Government. I am grateful for the care that the ministerial team is taking to reassure us that careful consideration is
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Lord Beecham: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of an advisory group to the Prison Reform Trust, which by sheer coincidence is meeting tomorrow to consider its response to the Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle. I join my noble friend Lord Warner in congratulating the Government-that is perhaps the first time I have done so since joining your Lordships' House-on a refreshingly open approach to an issue on which I fear that my party did not excel in general when in government. That said, the Youth Justice Board was a commendable feature of that Government's policy and I entirely endorse what all the speakers today have said about it.
The reality, though, is that this country has a fairly shameful record on youth justice, only partly alleviated by the very good work of the Youth Justice Board. It is true that, thanks in good part to the board, the number of children and young offenders now in custody has diminished over recent years, but it very much needed to. Over many years, we had, and I suspect that we still have, a significantly higher number of children and young people in custody than most other countries in the European Union-something like six times more than France and 100 times more than Finland, with a figure in the UK of around 25 per 100,000 in the population.
Looking at the composition of that group of young people, one can perhaps understand the reason for their entering the justice system. Thirty-nine per cent of children in custody have been on the child protection register and/or have been neglected or abused. Forty-eight per cent have been excluded from school. Eleven per cent of children in custody have attempted suicide. Indeed, the latest figure is that one young offender commits suicide every month while in custody. The youth offending team officers report that children who have learning impairments or difficulties more frequently receive custodial sentences than those who do not. Fifty per cent of young offenders are committed to custody for non-violent crimes. There is a real issue over the number of such children. What is perhaps even more striking is the level of educational attainment and the IQs of those in custody. Twenty-three per cent of young offenders in custody have an IQ of less than 70. Another 36 per cent have an IQ of between 70 and 79. We are dealing, on any view, with a significantly disadvantaged part of the population.
The Youth Justice Board has done excellent work, particularly, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned, in co-operating with local authorities in tackling this problem. However, there is little financial advantage to those authorities in so doing. Two councils have been singled out in the documents that I have just read in preparation for tomorrow's meeting: Leeds and Hull. The latter is still a Liberal Democrat-controlled council. The former was until recently, effectively, a coalition-controlled council; it was a Conservative
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The Prison Reform Trust has yet to make its conclusions known or to determine its response to the Green Paper. However, it looks as though it will suggest that the sentencing guidelines that have recently been published should be supported. The guidelines state:
There are also recommendations for bail legislation. Just as we criminalise young people at an earlier age in this country than anywhere else in Europe, so we remand them in custody at a younger age than anywhere else in Europe. That should be reviewed, too.
The Prison Reform Trust will also make some observations on the assumption, which I hope will turn out not to be correct, that the present proposals for how the functions of the Youth Justice Board could best be delivered by the Ministry of Justice will stand if that remains part of the Government's policy and if Parliament approves. Two particular concerns are likely to emerge. One is that the responsibilities of the Youth Justice Board for commissioning a secure estate and placing individual young people in custody should be fulfilled by MoJ staff working within the youth justice unit, rather than NOMS. While commissioning and placing in the juvenile secure unit are clearly important parts of this role, they are not well met by current young offender provision. The secure estate team should be separate from those dealing with adult custody so that independent decisions are made that make custody truly appropriate to the needs of vulnerable children. All this suggests the key importance of independence and the ability to work with local partners, particularly local authority services and the local community sector, which has a clear role in helping to resolve the huge problems faced by many of these young people.
Like other noble Lords, I hope that the Government will seriously think again about this matter. I cannot see what is to be gained by translating the functions of the Youth Justice Board into what is effectively a bureaucracy, thereby diminishing its visibility and public accountability and the capacity to work at the appropriate level-that is, locally, in conjunction with other partners-and reducing the independence that ought to be brought to bear on a crucial social issue of this kind. I hope that the Government will think again about this.
Viscount Eccles: My Lords, I cannot resist following the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, as he used the word "bureaucracy". We are faced with a point of principle comprising the difference between administration and management. Ministers manage and civil servants administer. To bureaucracy-regrettably, perhaps-the process is more important than the outcome, which does not make the bureaucrat a good manager. Ministers are short of time. They would do all the good things to which expert noble Lords around the House have referred if they could and if they had the time and energy to do them. However, if they cannot, to ensure that they get done they need to delegate their management to somebody else.
I am very sympathetic in principle to the idea of being able to collapse functions back into departments but in this case the Government should think very carefully about whether that is an appropriate thing to do. It seems to me from what has been said that the management challenge is considerable and that the possibility of Ministers having sufficient time to guide their administrative colleagues in the department to do the things in the right way is pretty remote. Therefore, we should think carefully before we take the delegated responsibility to manage away from the Youth Justice Board. It is not so much a matter of independence-we tend to use that word rather loosely as regards non-departmental public bodies-but of giving a group of people the responsibility and space to manage complicated matters which, arguably, are better managed outside the department rather than inside it.
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, as is clear, there is widespread concern around this House about the Government's plan for the abolition of the YJB, and indeed more widely among those organisations which work with children in trouble. I add my voice most wholeheartedly to theirs. This concern arises for a variety of reasons. Despite the consultations which have taken place with civil servants, the detail of the practicalities of how any change will actually work once it has been subsumed into the MoJ is a cause for concern, particularly if the quality and scope of what the YJB is doing and achieving are to be sustained. It has developed an extremely important role and expertise in this very specialised field.
From my recent contact with the YJB and the many other agencies that work with children who offend, or are at risk of offending, I know how good and important the YJB's work has become, particularly in the past few years. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for his vision in setting it up in the first place. However, there is considerable anxiety and distrust about what is likely to emerge beyond the immediate future if the YJB is abolished. There is particular concern, which has also been echoed around the Chamber, that elements of the YJB's work will be taken over by NOMS, which is specifically an adults', not a children's, service. Indeed, it is not really a service at all, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, rightly said. NOMS inevitably lacks the expertise required for children and is therefore quite inappropriate. I hope that when my noble friend the Minister replies, he can assure us that NOMS will not take over YJB functions.
This is because children who offend are not small adults to be taken over like a series of parcels. Indeed, they are the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, complicated and challenging individuals in our society. They are children who have experienced a "disproportionate experience of loss"-indeed, one in eight has actually experienced the death of a parent or sibling-while 76 per cent have had an absent father and 33 per cent an absent mother. Thirty-nine per cent are on the child protection register, 75 per cent have lived with someone other than a parent at some time, and 40 per cent-I repeat, 40 per cent-have been homeless. The rate of children with special educational needs or who are underachieving is 46 per cent, while 90 per cent of boys who offend have been excluded from school. Finally, around 85 per cent of those in custody have mental health problems.
This is a tragic picture. Those alarming children who we see on street corners, possibly collecting ASBOs, are quite likely to have no real loving home to go to that any of us might recognise. The gang members who carry knives may be doing so because they themselves are in a state of fear from what others may do to them, and the gang is their only family. This is why a specialist body for children in trouble should be maintained, just as in medicine and teaching there is a distinction in provision between children and adults. We have a duty of care to all our children, which is or should be a priority of government and all its agencies and sectors. This should never be more true than when things are going wrong.
In my experience, while troubled children command considerable care and concern in the public mind, children who are in trouble do not. These children tend to have not our sympathy but our censure. I am not arguing for sympathy, but I am arguing for the knowledge, skill and understanding that are vital to how we manage and treat such needy children so that they do not offend or reoffend. Our society should be safer as a result. To do this, we need on the ground not only the multiplicity of agencies that are the bedrock of provision but a body that has the experience, knowledge and understanding to stand at the interface between all the elements of the justice system and give leadership and coherence to the very complex whole. The YJB does exactly that. It works with the complexity of the youth justice system that spreads across three government departments-the MoJ, the Home Office and the DfE-as well as the DH and DCLG, and the range of local agencies, to bring some coherence and leadership to a complex framework for youth justice services.
A review of full searches in the secure estate-one of the YJB's most recent bits of work-relating to children and young people has just been completed, so what is now a routine practice in many secure establishments but is both traumatic and distressing for many children, especially young adolescents, should be taken forward only on a risk-led basis. Another project on children's views on safeguarding, carried out in conjunction with the Children's Commissioner, covers complaints, full searches, helplines and separation, which in "other speak" means the segregation of children. It has just been published and will have implications
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The YJB has in the process been on a steep learning curve and has come into its own over the past few years after a difficult start. The national leadership that its work demands cannot, and should not, just be lifted out and carried on by other less experienced bodies. I now quote, as others have done, something that I hope merits repetition. The Public Accounts Committee concluded:
This comment is gently put but needs strong endorsement, for, as we have already heard, our record of incarcerating children is one of the worst in western Europe and a source for condemnation by many. However, in the past two to three years the YJB has helped to make significant inroads into the numbers in custody. They are still far too high but the signs are that the downward curve is steady. Now, pressing issues wait to be addressed, such as the use of restraint in custody-which, shamefully, is now on the increase-and even children sustaining fractures. There is a lot of work to be done.
We sacrifice the role that the YJB now plays at our peril, and the children it serves will suffer. I thank the Minister for his letter and for the attention he is now giving the subject. I sincerely hope that he will listen very carefully to the almost uniform expression of concern that we have heard today. He may also like to consider as a possible alternative, on which there could be some debate, that the YJB could be given the status of an executive agency in parallel to NOMS, which is also an executive agency. It would have its own identity and chief executive and, importantly, a degree of separateness. Of course, as we have heard, it would also ultimately always be answerable to the Minister. This, as its admirable chair Frances Done says, would then give the YJB the ability to get on with the job. That is what it needs and what the children whom it serves need too. I sincerely hope that, by the time this issue comes back at Report, my noble friend will have some words of comfort to give on this very serious suggestion.
Lord Elton: My Lords, so much that needs answering is building up around my noble friend on the Front Bench like a snow drift that I feel, if I add too much, he will not have his hands free to start digging. Therefore,
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My points arise from the fact that in my party, as in others, there is a convention that when you intend to make a strong stand against your own party, you are honour bound to write to all Ministers and to the Whips. I dutifully wrote to my noble friends on this Front Bench and to the responsible Minister in another place. That responsible Minister, for whom I have a great deal of time, Mr Crispin Blunt, wrote me a letter, which I regret I do not have with me, that contained two points which I clearly remember and which I thought worth mentioning.
The first was that I inferred from it-I think not wrongly-that the principal motives he was giving for this move were the fact that the reoffending rate was stuck at around 75 per cent, which is far too high. It is worth saying that that results from a change in the population in which the reoffending occurs. At least two noble Lords have pointed out a 30 per cent reduction in reoffending and a substantial reduction in the YOI population. That is because the YJB has been faithfully carrying out a policy of which we all approve, and of which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State also approves, which is to keep young people out of custody. Who do you keep out of custody first? The answer is those least likely to immediately offend again. So you have a diminishing number of harder-nosed inmates who are more likely to reoffend, and when they come out they do reoffend. What is surprising is not that the statistic has not gone down, but that, as a result, it has not gone up. That is a mark of success by the YJB.
The second point I draw to your Lordships' attention is that, in his reply, the honourable Minister, Crispin Blunt, suggested, indeed asked me-I will not say implored as it gives the wrong impression-to get in contact with some youth offender team leaders before I contributed to this debate. I suppose he suggested that in the expectation that my case would be weakened and his would be strengthened by the process. However, the opposite is true. There was one who, I thought a little timidly, did not wish to be committed, even though I said that everything was unattributable, but the others were quite clear in their own minds that this is a serious threat. A number of them thought that it would inevitably result, as your Lordships can clearly see, in a reduction in the quality of service, control and care which these young people receive. They said that the YJB had started off being bureaucratic, but that it had learnt not to be and in the past two years, in particular, it had made great progress in that direction. They said it had been a wonderful gift to them in providing a means of sharing best practice round the country. All these disparate and very complicated teams could work out the best standards to apply and learn from each other regularly. They said that they had succeeded in raising the profile of juvenile offenders when it had been, most unfortunately, too low before and that people now knew what they were about.
I have some experience in the administrative side of this area: I have considerable experience as a Minister and three and a half years of very relevant experience
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That means that in two or three years' time, whatever assurances we are given now, it will be back to bureaucracy. For all the reasons that have been iterated so variously, powerfully and persuasively around the House so far, I strongly advise my noble friend to listen to noble Lords and to whatever else it may be necessary for me and others to say after his lengthy reply, which I now eagerly await.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I did not intend to speak in this debate, but in listening to the speeches, I could almost hear the Minister's reply. I just add three short points. First, when the coalition began, I was extraordinarily encouraged by its approach to offenders and rehabilitation and felt that it was developing a real understanding of what would make a difference and, as the noble Lord said, the factors that lead to the offending of young people in particular. Secondly, I was encouraged because I felt that we now had a Government who would listen and, on listening to evidence, could change their mind. I think that that is the sign of a mature Government. The press may make something of the Government changing their mind, but I think that ordinary folk see that as a strength.
The three points that I want to make are as follows. First, all the evidence points to the fact that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said so eloquently-I will not repeat speeches that have been made-bureaucracies do not run organisations well; we have to find alternative structures. I can say that from a long career as a director of social services, having been in three non-departmental public bodies and having reorganised at least three huge departments to ensure that the service was delivered more directly. The Youth Justice Board has learnt-a point that I will repeat. As the chair of the Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service, I know how long it takes to change a service to something that delivers not simply the service as before but one with outcomes-not outputs-for children that make a difference. My second point is based on that. The present Government should be looking for structures that represent people; not structures that meet a particular dogma or even, dare I say, a manifesto. The Government have already made changes; they could look at this one.
My third point is very different from those that have been made by others-I shall not repeat all that has been said about the vulnerability of those young people, which I know as well as anyone in the House.
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At the moment, there is an increase in the number of children coming through the care system. I can judge that only by the fact that, a few years ago, CAFCASS was dealing with 86,000 children; at the moment, we have 145,000 children in private and public care. They are children coming through the care system and children who will be in divorce. I often stand up for single mums, but we know that broken families give children less life chance.
Let us look at what is likely to happen in future. I hope that local authorities will be able to develop their services, but with the necessary reductions in their budgets, that will be very difficult. Unless those preventive services are on the ground and we stop the large number of children coming through the courts and into the care system, it is inevitable-because all experience tells us-that we will have an increase in the number of young people in the young offender, prison and mental health systems. Therefore, it is crucial that the Government hold on to the professional expertise and to what works. I am not saying that the Youth Justice Board is the end of all that might be wonderful because everything needs review at some point, but we know that it is better than going back into departments where people do not have that professionalism and expertise because it is very difficult to build them fast. If the Government want to hold their position in caring for children and keeping the numbers down, then they need to hold on to those people who know how to do it, who know how to manage those teams and work with them and who know about multidisciplinary working with young people in the very difficult climate that we all know we are facing as a result of the economic position.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, those of your Lordships who were in the Chamber about an hour and a quarter ago when I was assiduously seeking to gain some brownie points from my Front Bench in order to have some cash in the bank to spend later will know that later has now come. Before I say anything else, I perhaps ought to declare some kind of interest in that I chair a mental health trust which runs a low-secure unit and provides mental health services to a young offender institution in the vicinity. That does not make me an expert in the sense that many of those who have spoken are experts, but it gives me an interest in the matter.
I do not want to make many points because they have all been made, and I cannot think of a word, so far, with which I have disagreed. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, understated the position: there has not, so far, been a word that I take to be supportive of the Government's current position, including, if I read them aright, the remarks made by
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My final point, except one, is that I am slightly saddened by all this because of the link that has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, with the admirable White Paper Breaking the Cycle. This is inconsistent with the spirit of Breaking the Cycle. It is certainly an approach that, if persisted in, could alienate many of us, including me, who very much support the thrust of Breaking the Cycle and who believe that it is productive and a sensible way forward. I really do hope that the Minister will be able to give us some hope of further thought, discussion and compromise on this.
Indeed, I was much attracted by the idea that was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, of a possible NDPB with non-executive directors. That could be a better mechanism, but, whatever else, we need something other than just abolishing the YJB, the proposition that is implied in the schedule at this stage. I do hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some hope of change.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I shall, at what looks like being the end of this debate, be very brief. I, too, am a huge supporter of the Youth Justice Board, particularly in its latter years. Frances Done has done a quite remarkable job, as I think we have all said. We have had such a compelling debate that I really cannot bring myself to believe that the Minister will be able to reject such a range of compelling arguments.
I will make just one point that is pretty much based on what my noble friend Lady Howarth has just said. I really do think that built into the system as it is there will be a likely growth in the number of young people who are deprived and who are in huge danger of continuing their life in the criminal justice system. Just think back to Keith Joseph and his "cycle of deprivation". That said it all. Let us face it; we did not do much to reduce the number of those coming into that cycle until quite recently. I hope that what we have seen the beginning of will contribute to that, but we need to look much more widely. Early intervention will certainly be one of them-and I mean very early-as well intervention as at other stages at which problems are identified.
I thank the Minister for the way in which he has kept us informed and for his latest letter on 3 March. I am concerned that the type of big society that the Government are backing will have different approaches in different areas. We have the Youth Justice Board, which does a marvellous job of co-ordinating different departments and putting the whole view to others to take note of. However, in the future, so far as I can see it, we will have individual bodies with their own views, which the Government encourage. What about the bodies that, frankly, do not think that this is a priority? My question to the Minister is this: what are the Government going to do to encourage them to change their minds? They must have something up their sleeve -I will not call it a bribe, but I think that that is what I mean-to change their policies and to realise just how huge the long-term cost will be in not addressing this whole subject.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, on behalf of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition I give my wholehearted support to the amendment moved so ably in the names of my noble friend Lord Warner and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. I declare an interest because, as the Minister knows, I too was a Minister with responsibility for the YJB at a number of stages.
I bow to no one in my admiration and affection for the Minister, and I commend him for his bravery in seeking to reply to what has been an overwhelming debate. However, I urge him, perhaps with great expedition, to take immediate advantage of the very kind and generous offer which my noble friend Lord Warner made to him and to submit himself to the intensive supervision and treatment so that he can be restored to his previous good conduct. We know that for someone who has always been of good behaviour, returning to good behaviour is easier when the treatment is swift and direct, so let me assist.
I hope that it is by way of comfort when I say to the Minister that when considering this amendment I reasonably anticipated-although I did not see who would be here-that one would expect to hear from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Elton, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, my noble friend Lord Beecham and the noble Baronesses, Lady Linklater and Lady Howarth. I have to confess that I was surprised that their ranks were swelled by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and I was warned that the noble Lord, Lord Newton of Braintree, could be added to the list, because he was not on it before I entered the Chamber.
All that I can say to the Minister is that when I was in a similar position to that which he now occupies and was privileged to be a Minister, the one thing on which I could absolutely rely was the trenchant support which the Youth Justice Board would rightly receive from all sides of the House. One of the first leading the charge when he sat on the Liberal Democrat Benches would always have been the noble Lord, Lord McNally, ably assisted or led by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. He is only lucky that several other noble Lords are not also here-the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and others-to swell the ranks. But he can imagine what they would all be saying to him at this
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I know that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, believes that the Youth Justice Board has done a splendid job and has achieved much. What I do not understand is why he thinks that the job of the YJB is over when the vulnerability of those young people, who are still ensnared by criminality and the tentacles of dysfunction, means that they persist in needing the specialist care and holistic treatment which the YJB so ably provides. I say holistic because, as has already been made clear in the very eloquent and informed speeches which have gone before me, the YJB encompasses issues which are far broader than those which remain the preserve of the Ministry of Justice.
The board's success has rested in no small part on its ability to draw together issues which are the responsibility of a number of different government departments-the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Health, the Department for Education, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and my old office of the Attorney-General-together with local and other public authorities in the third sectors. As such, youth justice is now a national system, albeit that it is primarily locally delivered. It really has enabled an array of agencies in criminal justice, which need to work in an integrated way with a range of organisations providing services to children and young people, to do so. As a consequence, the youth justice system is necessarily complex and I know that the noble Lord understands that complexity. Therefore I am puzzled as to how the innovative multi-agency work that the Youth Justice Board does so well, and which it has hitherto been able to develop by working in unison with all the other agencies, is going to be continued.
Much of what I would have said has, thankfully, already been said by many noble Lords, so I will not subject the Minister to the pain of having to listen to me recite all those comments, but I will say to him that I agree with every single word that has been spoken in this debate. The YJB has been able to do something quite remarkable. It has honed the skills and expertise it needs to make a difference to those vulnerable young people who need its care. That journey, as the noble Lord will recall, has not always been an easy one. Experience has enabled the YJB to cut away much of that which was unnecessary, leading to an efficacious, fair and effective system. When I say "effective", it is effective in terms of delivering real change and real opportunity to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in the country, and I am not talking just about those who perpetrate crimes because, as the noble Lord will know, many victims of crime are also young people
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No one in this debate-indeed, from talking to those outside this House, no one at all-has been able to come up with a solution that better delivers that which is needed for our young people, so I urge the Minister to think very carefully about all the suggestions that have been made on how we could amend or change some aspects of the YJB. However, I also ask him to consider the strength of feeling that exists around the House. It is a strength of feeling driven not by any sort of political agenda, but by real care and real commitment to those who have been powerfully engaged in this area for a long time and want the very best for our children. I further ask him to think carefully about the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who sits just behind him. Having been part of a Government, the noble Lord was entrusted to deal with exactly the same issues. He remembers how difficult it was to do that without the agency of the YJB to assist him. I never had the trauma of doing that, and I think it would be wise if in the future we asked no Minister to be placed in that position.
Lord McNally: My Lords, the noble and learned Baroness sees an open goal when there is one before her, but she has approached it with charm and a great degree of kindness. Thinking of which quotes come to mind, I considered Sir Robert Peel who said during the Corn Law debates, "You must answer them, for I cannot", but I know that that is not my responsibility this afternoon. I shall settle for Denis Healey's "When you're in a hole, stop digging". I fully acknowledge the widespread feeling around the House about this matter and I am sure that feeling and indeed that passion will be noted by my colleagues.
I have noted, as did the noble and learned Baroness, that we have had all the usual suspects on parade, plus one or two others. I am keeping a tab on the noble Lord, Lord Newton. Earlier today, he went 4-3 ahead in terms of interventions that are supportive of me when I am at the Dispatch Box, but that lasted for only an hour and now he is back to 4-4. I went to Braintree the other week to speak to the Braintree Liberal Democrats and had to spend a good part of the evening hearing what a wonderful Member of Parliament the noble Lord was, so his lack of support is even more hurtful.
However, I understand where people are coming from on this. I understand also what the YJB set out to do and what it has achieved. A number of noble Lords have pointed out that it does not have a perfect record, but it is neither my job nor my wish to detract in any way from its achievements over these past 10 years. In 2000, there was a need for the YJB to provide coherent leadership and to establish a new youth justice system. However, the youth justice landscape has changed immeasurably since then. We fully intend to retain the youth offending teams and a dedicated secure estate, which are not being abolished with the Youth Justice Board. However, Ministers should be accountable for youth justice.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and others for their comments about the Green Paper. It was
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I note some of the views expressed about NOMS, although it already has responsibilities within the youth justice system. I shall try to say where the department is coming from at the moment but then perhaps address some of the specific points which rained down on me during the debate. In doing so, I immediately pay tribute to the record of the noble Lord, Lord Warner, with whom I had a very good discussion, as I did with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the origins of the Youth Justice Board. They both gave a vivid description of the situation prior to the board coming into being. It is not true that the youth justice system is the poor relation, nor is there any danger of it being so under our proposals.
The youth offending teams will remain in place. They are perhaps the greatest of the Youth Justice Board's achievements. The holistic approach at local level of the youth offending teams has achieved real success and we want to build on that. Our reforms will build on the progress made by the YJB while restoring direct ministerial accountability for the delivery of youth justice.
The Government believe that youth justice, which involves the incarceration of children, is an important issue for which Ministers, not unelected arm's-length bodies, should be accountable. The principal aim of the youth justice system, as established by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, is to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under the age of 18. It is a system in which local authority-led youth offending teams have the primary responsibility for delivering youth justice on the ground. These YOTs comprise representatives from local authorities, health, education and children's services. The system also includes a dedicated national commissioned secure estate for young people. Both these crucial delivery elements will be retained and neither will be adversely affected by the reforms we are proposing.
This is not because the YJB does not itself deliver front-line services. The YJB was established by the 1998 Act to provide leadership and coherence to the new system by exercising oversight functions. Its abolition is therefore a separate issue to the future of the youth justice system because its functions are to oversee local YOTs, disseminate effective practices, commission a distinct secure estate and place young people in custody. These functions are, of course, crucial in support of the effective delivery of youth justice and will, therefore, be transferred to the Ministry of Justice under our proposals, with an appropriate senior and visible level of leadership.
Since its establishment, the YJB has undoubtedly helped to transform the youth justice system. It oversaw the establishment of local youth offending teams and has fulfilled an important role in reducing offending and reoffending by young people by spreading best practice and helping to make youth justice a priority for local authorities. It has also put the delivery of youth justice at the forefront of local authority partnership working and has driven up standards in a discrete secure estate for young people. As I have said before, the noble Lord, Lord Warner, as the first chair of the Youth Justice Board, must take credit for bringing a level of coherence to the system and for raising the profile of youth justice issues.
There were good reasons why the YJB was initially established at arm's length from government. This gave it the autonomy to make much needed changes and enabled staff with expertise in front-line delivery to lead the national rollout of youth offending teams. However, a decade on, the context in which youth justice is delivered has changed enormously, with youth offending teams now fully embedded at the local level and children's services delivered through children's trusts. The Government therefore believe that the oversight function of the YJB should be performed in a different way. Further, Ministers are ultimately accountable for youth justice and it is therefore right that they alone should be responsible for overseeing its delivery. Bringing the YJB function into the Ministry of Justice represents the most effective way to continue to secure the best outcomes for young people.
In reaching this decision the Government have taken into account the recommendations of the review of the YJB by Dame Sue Street, to whom I have also spoken. It should be pointed out that whether or not the YJB should be abolished was not within the scope of her study. The issue was also covered by the Ministry of Justice's own review of public bodies.
We remain committed to maintaining a dedicated focus on the needs of children and young people in the youth justice system, while ensuring that there are appropriate and proper links to the wider criminal justice system, and that this system serves to protect the public. We also want to capture and replicate some of the best elements of the Youth Justice Board. The YJB successfully brought together staff from a number of different backgrounds, including staff with a direct experience of youth justice, social and health services, police and probation officers. This mix of skills and knowledge enables us to inform Government policy, both in Westminster and Cardiff, while also maintaining effective links with local delivery.
We want to continue to harness this expertise and experience, and I take on board the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, about how you renew that within a department. As such, and in terms of developing transitional arrangements, we are consulting on how best to maintain a specific focus on youth justice as part of the discussions on the Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle. We are committed to making sure that as few young people as possible end up in the youth justice system in the first place and that those who do
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We also recognise that a successful transition will be achieved only by working with the Youth Justice Board itself. I pay tribute again to the chair of the YJB, Frances Done, who has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords, for her contribution to a successful transition. As I have said, I am grateful to the chair, the chief executive and all the staff of the YJB for the constructive way that they are working on the transitional plan with the Ministry of Justice. Our proposed national governance arrangements aim to build on the recent success of a youth justice system which has seen a significant reduction, as a number of noble Lords mentioned, in the number of first-time entrants, the frequency of reoffending and the number of young people in custody.
Our current proposal, subject to the outcome of the rehabilitation revolution consultation, is that the main functions of the Youth Justice Board should be delivered within the Ministry of Justice's policy group. Bringing the functions of overseeing the youth offending teams and commissioning a secure youth estate together within the policy group ensures continuing leadership of the youth justice system.
I went through all of that to get on the record where the Government are coming from on this issue. I note what a number of noble Lords have said about this and am smart enough to know that, if the noble Lord, Lord Warner, wanted a Pyrrhic victory this afternoon, he could probably get one-although I am not sure how good our Whips are. It would be absurd not to take back what has been said this afternoon by all parts of the House.
However, it seems that an enormous amount of what has happened has been attributed to the Youth Justice Board. No credit is given to the possibility that it could be done in a different or better way, while retaining what is best within the YJB. I fully appreciate what has been said. I have argued, both in this House and outside, that it is not rocket science to notice that, time and time again, in youth offending four or five elements come up: a dysfunctional family life; illiteracy, innumeracy and truancy-as one of the guys showing me round a youth offender institution said, "The trouble is that most of these kids have had only passing contact with education at any time in their life"-as well as drug addiction and alcoholism and, as I said before, broken homes. That is not an endless list, but those are issues on which intervention is possible. The House is not divided on that.
Where the House and this debate may find itself slightly out of kilter is with the way our national media sometimes treat these problems. I have already been described as "McWally" by the Sun for suggesting that there might be a different approach to treating young criminals. That is clever because it only changes one letter of my name, which I had never noticed before. I also believe that if you are a Minister of Justice and you have not been attacked by the Sun, you must be getting something wrong.
There has been a lot of emphasis on the Youth Justice Board, perhaps quite rightly so, but without enough attention to the success of the youth offender
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Lord Elton: The noble Lord said that not enough attention was paid to the youth offender teams. I specifically asked the Government to pay more attention to the youth offender teams, which do not want the Government to go on with what they are now proposing.
Lord McNally: The noble Lord gives me the opinion of the youth offender teams. It is always a bit dubious when noble Lords claim to know the opinion of a section under inquiry. In fact, we are also in contact with youth offender teams, but I take the point that he mentioned them.
I am trying to see whether there is anything that I should particularly answer beyond these points. As I said at the beginning, it is a cheap shot to say that bureaucracies cannot run things. The term bureaucracy is easily slung around. I take the point that we should concentrate on structures not dogma. The issue is not dogma but whether, within the constraints that we face, we can organise this more effectively. I take on board the criticisms and we are listening.
If the noble Lord, Lord Warner, wishes to test the opinion of the House, that is his right to do so. He is a former Minister and there are a number of others around. One of the problems as well as pleasures of being a Lords Minister is that, when you are in a position like this, you cannot make policy on your feet. You can take it back to colleagues and you can listen. I have listened and I will take the issue back to colleagues, if the noble Lord, Lord Warner, is in a mood to take that in the spirit that it is offered. I cannot promise beyond that, as he knows. As many have said, gathered together in the House today is an enormous level of ministerial, local government, social service and charitable experience that any Government willing to listen should listen to. I will take this away and am also happy to talk further with the noble Lord on the matter, but that is as far as I can go today, having set out where we are trying to go and why.
Viscount Eccles: There has been no mention of money or expenditure, which is not what this House has come to expect when discussing parts of this Bill. Does my noble friend have anything to say about that?
Lord McNally: The Youth Justice Board has at its disposal about £500 million a year, most of which is spent in procuring secure places. It is not that cancelling the Youth Justice Board would save £500 million or £400 million a year or whatever-I think that the estimate is something like £6 million over the period of this spending review. We are not arguing this as a money-saving exercise. Our judgment is that, successful though the Youth Justice Board has been, it has done its job and we want to try to do it differently within the Ministry of Justice while keeping much of the ethos of the Youth Justice Board and much of the lower structure at local level that has been the basis of its success. However, I am interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Warner, has to say to my reply.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Warner, will be minded to make up his mind at this rather early stage and decide whether to test the opinion of the House. There is one thing that I would like to impress on the Minister-that no matter how hard his hand may be pressed to his heart when he gives an undertaking that something will be kept for ever out of NOMS or that personnel will be recruited for ever from outside the Civil Service, his hand will wither and he will pass away and the statute will survive. Therefore, I hope that the rock-bed minima that we will require before agreeing to this part of the Bill can be expressed, and the Government must undertake to express them, in a parliamentary instrument, which, if it is to be revised, will have to have the approval of Parliament again. That is the only way in which to preserve a ministerial undertaking beyond the life of one Parliament-and, sometimes, for even less than that.
The other thing that I am tempted to dwell on is the context in which the Government are making up their mind. The Minister is operating in two contexts. One is a political context in which a coalition is committed to a bonfire of the quangos. I could make a long speech about that, but I remind my noble friend the Minister that the function of a bonfire is to get rid of rubbish. You do not hack fruiting branches off a healthy tree and chuck them on a bonfire. That should not be any constraint on the Minister.
Then there is the administrative context at the heart of a substantial government department. I have been in such a place and I, beyond anybody, admire the independence and rectitude of the Civil Service. But in this case, the Civil Service is faced with swingeing cuts in personnel. The Minister asks for advice on how to set up a body of 12 people, each of whom he appoints, whose chairman he appoints and all of whose functions he can dictate-that is all in the statute setting up the body under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. It is entirely his responsibility and he is entirely answerable for it already. The question is where that advice is coming from; it is coming from a department, which has, as far as I know, been asked only for the positive arguments and how to sell this measure to Parliament. When there is a prospect of those 12 places, and the 301 people employed by the body, suddenly being drafted into the department, diminishing the need for redundancies by that number, the department is not going to drag the seabed to find arguments against.
I hope that my noble friend the Minister will encourage his honourable and right honourable friends to stand aside from where they are at the moment-in the heart of their department-and look at this from outside, as we do, as people passionately concerned for the future welfare for the children of this country.
Lord McNally: That is the second intervention that has reminded me what a bird of passage is ministerial office, for which I am duly grateful. I take note of the intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Elton. What would have happened if I had said that I was going to stand firm? I have said that I would take the matter back; I cannot make any more promises than that. I
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The Earl of Listowel: I am grateful that the Minister has undertaken to take the concerns of the whole House back to his colleagues and to reflect on what has been said, but I have a couple of questions about specific points.
First, on advocacy and social work provision in young offender institutions, advocacy has been put in place by the Youth Justice Board for a number of years now. I declare an interest as patron of Voice, an advocacy provider in several young offender institutions. It seems very clear to me, when I speak with advocates and visit young offender institutions, that this service is very much valued by the young people but also by the governors of those institutions. They can be particularly helpful in working to encourage local authorities when people are resettled to provide them the services that they need to resettle successfully. Will the Minister in the interim, between this and the next stage of the Bill, look at the role of advocates and, at the next stage, give some reassurance about advocacy provision under the new arrangements?
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