Just to bring us back to the reality, which was again outlined by the noble Baroness opposite, there are three key aims for the department. I do not think they have changed from the previous Government. Those aims are affordability, security and decarbonisation. Noble Lords will recognise the reality of government that sometimes hard decisions must be made. There is no better example of that than the steel industry. I was at the steel summit. Many Labour MPs, understandably—and, in one sense, rightly—argued that there should be relief for those businesses. We seek to go forward with all three aims together. I do not disagree with that.

All I am saying on this particular point is that there is a massive opportunity for British businesses. I will come on to that in a minute. It is not just the Government that must address these issues; it is also cities, businesses and individuals. We have touched on all that. A massive part of the UK economy is already low carbon. If we translate that, say, to the opportunities for zero-carbon cars, again we are already the second-largest producer of those. This is another massive opportunity for the United Kingdom. Work is being done on this, but again it is not simple. It is a question of ensuring that we have battery storage and so on. This work is going on.

Baroness Worthington: It is a challenge and there needs to be cross-departmental thinking, but I always feel that at the heart of this is the Treasury. A positive statement from the Chancellor on the kind of approach that the Treasury wants us to take—that is, least cost, focusing on those win-win situations where we can attract inward investment into the UK—would be enormously helpful to reassure people ahead of Paris that the whole Government share this agenda. Could the Minister commit to speaking to the Chancellor to get him to say something positive on this, please?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: The noble Baroness is not wrong about the need for messaging. My right honourable friend the Chancellor has on many occasions spoken of the importance of addressing the two challenges of climate change and the economy at the same time, and noted that we can go forward on the two together. I will endeavour to get her copies of that. Of course the Treasury is central to this. It is central to it in any Government. That almost goes without saying.

I addressed the points from the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. I understand the points she made about the great advantage we have with the United

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Kingdom’s strong position on law and order, and the importance of the legal system, and so on. I absolutely agree with that.

To illustrate the fact that this is being taken forward internationally, and that not only the United Kingdom has moved on in climate change policy, since 1997 there have been globally 750 new policies enacted. Now, we all know the challenges in making sure that those translate into action, but at least there is a recognition internationally of the nature of this challenge. That is really one of the very heartening things about the position at the moment. Of course there are differences of opinion on the way forward in the sense that each country will want to puts its own particular case, quite naturally, but there is an international recognition of the nature of this challenge.

I certainly do not need convincing about the scientific case. I do not believe that the great bulk of the overwhelming scientific evidence is wrong; it is right. I do not believe that 155-plus countries are wrong; they are right. This is a massive challenge and one we need to address. Indeed, it is one we are addressing. I was talking with representatives from South America yesterday, and there is recognition across the board that this is a crucial issue that needs addressing quickly.

I shall pull my comments to an end because, although I have not got to the end of my 20 minutes, I think that the debate has run out of time. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, also raised the issue of economic growth and climate action going forward together, and I entirely agree with that.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has vast experience of overseas matters. He asked, perhaps slightly mischievously, if the Prime Minister will be going. He will know that the Prime Minister’s diary would not be public at this stage—but, suffice to say, the Prime Minister, DfID, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and the Foreign Office are all very closely involved with this, and all regard it as imperative. We have had a state visit by President Xi, when these were discussed. We are about to have a visit from Prime Minister Modi of India, when these things will be discussed. These are all crucial.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, asked some very interesting points, although I was slightly blindsided because I had not thought of this dimension. I shall get a detailed response to her on those points, but it is certainly true to say that she raises relevant issues on air and water pollution and the use of energy.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord McFall, for endorsing the Pope’s encyclical in this regard; that is entirely right.

On domestic adaptation, we are doing many things domestically; it is partly about mitigation and change of policy and partly about adaptation. That means things like coastal protection on the east coast, in Clacton, and flood measures in Leeds, as well as the Boston barrier. We are looking at how effective the Thames barrier is. Thank goodness that we have it, but we need to look at it again in the light of changing circumstances.

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I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, in relation to the tax regime on community energy schemes, because I do not have the answer to hand. I have a feeling that it was recognised in the consultation as a special case. However, I may be wrong on that and I shall write to him in detail.

This has been an excellent, first-class debate. I shall make sure that a detailed response goes to noble Lords on points that have been discussed and that I have not covered, and that those points will go to all government departments. Once again, many thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.

2.22 pm

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: I thank the Minister and other noble Lords for their participation in this debate. We have had very interesting speeches—I am looking forward to hearing about whether the fashion dimension will also go to Paris and upstage the conference—and many other important aspects were introduced.

Motion agreed.

Syrian Refugees

Question for Short Debate

2.23 pm

Asked by Lord Truscott

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent assault by the Syrian armed forces on Aleppo, what is their strategy for tackling the refugee crisis in Syria.

Lord Truscott (Ind Lab): My Lords, no one can fail to be moved by the harrowing scenes that we have witnessed on the beaches of Greece and in the mud and rain of the Balkans. The Syrian refugee crisis is a humanitarian disaster of epic scale and biblical proportions. Europe has not seen such a forced movement of people since the end of the Second World War. The Syrian people are a proud people with an ancient civilisation. They are not leaving their country because they are economic migrants but because they have to. Four million people have left already, and more than 11 million, half the country’s pre-crisis population, have been forced to flee their homes. Overall, an estimated 12 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance, half of them children. The figures are mind-boggling.

The Minister will no doubt tell your Lordships’ House how much Her Majesty’s Government are already doing to help. The UK has committed over £1 billion in aid to support the refugees, doing more than any other European country, and is the second largest bilateral donor. Britain has provided over 18 million food rations, given almost 2 million people access to clean water, and provided education to 250,000 children. The Government have provided sanctuary to 5,000 Syrians in the UK, and promised to take in another 20,000 by the end of this Parliament. All these efforts are highly commendable, yet they provide no solution to a refugee crisis that threatens to overwhelm Europe by its sheer scale. They partially address the symptoms while failing to offer a solution to the cause.

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As the Prime Minister told the other place on 7 September last:

“This issue is clearly the biggest challenge facing countries across Europe today”.

He added that in helping the refugees, including those from beyond Syria,

“we must use our head and our heart by pursuing a comprehensive approach that tackles the causes of the problem as well as the consequences. That means helping to stabilise the countries from which the refugees are coming, seeking a solution to the crisis in Syria”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 7/9/15; col. 23.]

The issue here is that the Government appear to have no strategy whatever to stabilise the situation in Syria. In effect, we have contracted out our foreign policy in Syria to others. Without bringing peace to Syria, Europe will never stem the flow of refugees who are understandably fleeing the civil war, and facing death from both the Assad regime and its opponents. If the war continues, millions more will leave and head to Europe. The UK’s offer to take in 20,000 people will be less than a drop in the ocean.

In August 2013, the Government’s policy was to join the United States in bombing the Assad regime. Over two years later, the policy is to bomb President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents, ISIL, ISIS or Daesh, if the other place allows it. Back in 2013, a historic opportunity was lost to work to achieve a diplomatic solution in Syria with the Russians, who managed at least to get the regime to give up most of its chemical weapons. Today, the West’s approach to the Middle East is in tatters. The policy of regime change in Iraq and Libya led not to democratisation but to chaos and a flood of refugees. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is resurgent, leading to yet more refugees heading towards the UK and Europe.

In supporting regime change in Syria and the removal of the indisputably brutal Assad regime, why does the West expect an outcome different from Libya or Iraq? In Syria, the West seems to have very quickly forgotten the lessons of history. In Afghanistan in the 1980s, the US and UK trained and armed the mujaheddin, including a certain Osama bin Laden. We are still suffering the effects more than 30 years on. The US has spent $500 million in a programme to aid Assad’s rebel enemies, with the result that just four or five US-trained individuals are still in country, and some of the weapons that the US paid for ended up in the arms of ISIL, which is particularly barbaric, executing hundreds of people and beheading hostages—but other jihadi groups, such as the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, which operates in north-west Syria, are hardly benign.

The Syrian civil war has become a proxy war between the Shia Alawite-dominated Assad regime, backed by Shia Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, against Sunni rebels backed by Sunni Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the United States. In the mix are the Kurds, detested by the Turks but one of the most effective fighting forces against the extremist Sunni ISIL. The allegiances are fluid, both between jihadi and rebel groups and their allies and opponents. To try to pick the “good guys” in such a struggle is not an easy task. Instead, the Government should make an effort to

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promote a political solution to the Syrian conflict. This may mean making a choice between the lesser of several evils.

US and Western policy to date to defeat or even contain ISIL has failed. We have all witnessed the tragic destruction of Palmyra’s irreplaceable antiquities and the growing threat that ISIL poses to our domestic security and well-being here at home. Some humanitarian groups have said there is no difference between Assad and ISIL. I would disagree; while both are barbaric, it is only the latter that poses an existential threat to our very society here at home. However bad Assad may be, he does not pose a terrorist threat on the streets of London.

There was an enlightening and erudite exchange on the Syrian crisis in your Lordships’ House last Thursday, when the noble Lord, Lord West, said:

“Unless we start to discuss and talk with Russia, Iran and—I am afraid—the butcher Assad, and all the coalition, we are not going to be able to put together a package that will enable us to destroy ISIL, which is the group that we have to destroy because it is the greatest threat”.

The noble Lord, Lord Reid of Cardowan, talked then about shooting,

“the wolf nearest the sledge first”.—[

Official Report

, 22/10/15; cols. 783-85.]

He meant ISIL—and he quoted Winston Churchill saying that if Hitler invaded hell, he would at least make a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, broadly concurred.

There has been much discussion about Russia’s aims in Syria, a country where it has had an alliance and a strategic interest since the 1950s. It is perhaps worth quoting Churchill again:

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia: it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

What is often not quoted is the next line, which is,

“but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest”.

We do not have time today to discuss Russian foreign policy. I have been following Russia for almost 30 years, and my books on Russia will show that I am not an uncritical friend of the country. Almost 20 years ago, I wrote that those who felt that Russia would follow the path of western-style democracy and a market economy were deluding themselves. I see the world how it is, not how I would like it to be.

There is scope for a political solution to the Syrian conflict. Russia has no intention of turning it into another Vietnam or even Afghanistan. It seeks an exit strategy that maintains its bases and influence in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean and the wider Middle East. It has stepped into the vacuum created by the United States, and it has genuine concern that the 4,000 citizens from the former Soviet Union fighting in Syria do not return home to further stir up Islamist fundamentalism. President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov, at both the recent talks in Vienna and the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, talked about having broad discussions with all opposition groups to secure a political settlement. They also asked for co-operation and co-ordination from the West in the fight against ISIL.

It makes no sense, as the Times reported recently, to freeze out the Russians in the fight against our common enemy ISIL by refusing to share intelligence or co-ordinate

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air strikes against it. The Government should join a broad coalition to eradicate ISIL once and for all, and that means working with Russia, Iran and the Kurds to do so. I welcome the fact that Russia and Iran will be represented at tomorrow’s Vienna summit on Syria. The Assad regime, whether we like it or not, as the only effective opposition to ISIL on the ground, along with the Kurds, has to be part of the diplomatic talks to seek a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

On Tuesday, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said:

“My noble friend is absolutely right about this. We are treating the symptoms, but we need to address the cause, which is the carnage that is happening in the wider Middle East and particularly in Syria. A political solution has to be brought about by the international community working together in harness”.—[Official Report, 27/10/15; cols. 1093-94.]

I would like Her Majesty’s Government to be a bit more proactive on that score. In any event, we should prioritise the destruction of ISIL and the diplomatic peace process. Only peace will stem the otherwise inevitable continuing flood of humanity from Syria and its neighbouring countries to our shores.

2.32 pm

Baroness Morris of Bolton (Con): My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, so vividly reminded us, the horrors in Syria continue. I am grateful to him for affording us another opportunity to look at what we can do to help the people caught up in this prolonged and vicious sectarian war. I declare my interests as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Jordan and the Palestinian territories and as president of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

In our previous debate on the Syrian refugee crisis, I spoke of the desperate plight of the Palestinians of Yarmouk camp caught between Daesh and Assad’s forces, their only choice to stay and face near starvation and typhoid in the camp, or to chance their fate with the people traffickers, although for many even that horrific choice is unavailable as they simply do not have the funds to pay those evil people. The Minister wrote following the debate, and I am most grateful to her for her thorough and thoughtful reply. I am enormously grateful for the work of UK aid in addressing the immediate need for food and blankets for those fleeing the camp, and for the millions of pounds the Government have allocated to UNRWA to help the Palestinian refugees affected by the violence in Syria. Despite all this, their situation remains precarious, and they really are some of the most vulnerable people in this whole sorry mess. I wonder whether it would be possible for my noble friend to arrange a meeting with her and the Minister for Refugees, Richard Harrington, to discuss the Palestinians in Syria.

I shall spend my last couple of minutes on the Syrian refugees in Jordan. The world owes Jordan and the other countries surrounding Syria a huge debt for having so selflessly opened their borders to those in need. This has placed an enormous strain on their services and economies and that all-too-precious balance between helping others and looking after their own. On the third of this month I visited Zaatari camp in Jordan, which is situated just 10 kilometres from the Syrian border. I was proud of the new wells that UK

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aid and UNICEF have provided and of our work in providing education. I was enormously impressed by our DfID team in Jordan led by Jeff Tudor and by the international aid workers I met at Zaatari, especially the wonderful Hovig Etyemezian, the camp leader, but however good our aid, and however talented our aid workers, the people of Zaatari need hope, and that is in very short supply.

Many of the refugees had hoped that Daraa would fall and that they could return home, but that did not happen, and now the Russian intervention has led to more uncertainty. The young with no access to higher education or training and no prospect of a job have a stark choice: do they stay in the camp, do they return home—as one refugee put it, to “live, or to die quickly”—or do they set sail for Europe? Many of the younger ones are choosing the third option and starting to sell their land in Syria to raise the money to get to Europe. The provision of jobs is essential to stabilise the refugee population and curb the mass exodus to Europe, as is access to higher education and training, but it has to be done without taking jobs away from local Jordanians. That is why the Prime Minister’s visit to the camps last month was so welcome and so timely and why I hope that the talent that resides within DfID will be addressing these problems.

It is always easy to say we should do more, but I have been privileged to see just a tiny fragment of what the British Government and the British people are doing to support the Syrian refugees, alongside all our other commitments. We combine compassion with ingenuity and good common sense, and we can hold our heads high and be proud of our contribution to this heart-breaking situation.

2.36 pm

Lord Williams of Baglan (CB): My Lords, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, for obtaining this debate. Aleppo has tragically been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of this war, which has destroyed an historic city which bears the marks of so many of the great civilisations of the past. The most sustained urban fighting of the brutal Syrian civil war has divided the city between Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the central and western neighbourhoods and the Syrian rebels, including various Islamist factions, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, in the eastern parts. Despite the city’s strategic location only 50 kilometres from the Turkish border and its role as a commercial hub, it is particularly important to the conflict because the loss of the city would deal a substantial blow to the Assad regime. It would entrench the demarcation line that has already emerged between the interior areas and regime-controlled areas around Damascus and the Mediterranean coast, where the Alawite minority is concentrated.

Because of the city’s importance, Aleppo’s civilian population has been subjected to severe and sometimes indiscriminate violence from both sides of the conflict since mid-July 2012. This includes the regime’s infamous use of barrel bombs, which have claimed thousands of lives. As early as January 2014, the REACH Initiative, a UN-affiliated group focusing on humanitarian action, estimated that up to half a million people from the eastern side of the city were displaced due to the random bombardment of opposition-held areas by

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regime forces and the lack of basic services in the city. There are some estimates that, of the 1 million inhabitants of the eastern part of the city, only 40,000 remain. Given the severity of the bombing of civilian targets, will the Minister say what consideration the Government have given to referring those acts to the International Criminal Court?

The regime, Iran and Russia have largely focused their efforts over the past month on rebel groups in northern and central Syria, including those which have received weapons from the US. The assault they launched against rebels south of Aleppo earlier this month has allowed them to recapture some villages but has failed to substantively reopen the Aleppo-Damascus highway.

Tens of thousands of refugees have left Aleppo alone. On a recent visit to Lebanon I was able to see at first hand what that small country has done in taking in over 1 million refugees, 42% of them children. In Lebanese schools they now teach Lebanese children in the morning and Syrian children in the afternoon, a level of generosity humbling compared to the position of most European countries. I hesitate to make the comparison with what Europe has done or the UK, but could the Minister at least assure us that we will continue to support Lebanon generously and consider intensifying our support for children and education there?

This war has raged now for more than four years. Only with a political settlement can the refugee question be finally addressed as it was in other post-conflict situations where I served in the 1990s, such as Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia. In this context I warmly welcome the talks beginning tomorrow in Vienna between the United States and Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The involvement of Iran and Saudi Arabia is absolutely critical to advancing the cause of peace. Coming soon after the nuclear agreement with Iran, it is encouraging that the Government in Tehran are coming to the negotiating table. Equally, Saudi Arabia is to be commended for its willingness to sit with the Iranians, with whom it has been at odds for so many years. We must push for a negotiated settlement. I am pleased that the UK, together with Turkey, Germany, France and the Gulf states, is now attending. In this regard can the Minister say whether the Government are reviewing the level of representation that we have in Tehran with a view to announcing a new ambassador soon? This would send an important signal and would further advance the possibilities of peace.

2.41 pm

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan, and his very wise words.

The great city of Aleppo was of course the beginning of the Silk Road but is now the beginning of a very different road for a large number of people who are now—quite rightly, from their point of view—trying to get out and are moving to other countries, particularly Turkey, and on to Greece and perhaps Bulgaria. There has been a lot of publicity recently about the position in Lesbos. That is not surprising, because of the Greek islands just off the Turkish coast, Lesbos has taken the

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most refugees. I have figures which suggest that it has taken 273,000 refugees this year—it is probably higher than that now, two weeks later. However, there are other islands in that area: Chios, Samos and Kos, which have all taken 45,000, 63,000 and 69,000 refugees according to these figures. The figures suggest that Leros has taken 26,500, and only three days ago it took 730 in one day. People are being held up there by the bureaucratic necessity that is being put on them to register, and the situation in those islands is desperate.

From Greece, the refugees move on to Macedonia, Croatia and now to Slovenia. These countries are doing their very best to cope with the crisis within their borders; the crisis is nothing to do with them, it is not their fault, yet they are having to cope. Hungary has put up borders and is behaving in a way which is quite disgraceful for a member of the European Union. Croatia is trying to cope—they are building a new winter transit centre in Slavonski Brod as the desperately cold Balkan winters approach, but that will take only 5,000 people. How many people are trying to cross Europe now? Nobody knows, but we know that some half a million people have sought asylum in European countries this year already—I do not know how many of those are Syrians, but very many of them are—including all those who are setting off from their camps in Turkey and trying to cross the Aegean. Those who get across successfully are crossing Greece, the Balkan countries and Austria, which is now talking of putting up fences.

When my wife was looking at the internet to discover for me what the situation is for people crossing Europe she came across an astonishing Facebook site, which I will put on the record for anybody who wants to look at it. It is called People to People Solidarity: Southern/South-East Europe. It is full of stories of people—not necessarily the refugees but people across Europe who are helping the refugees trying to cross Europe. People in this country are collecting, making and buying stuff to send over there, which was the original purpose of the site. Some are organising transport in vans, not to Calais any longer but to Croatia, Slovenia and to wherever they think it is necessary; other people are flying to Greece and going to Lesbos. Some are volunteer drivers, others are going to provide help and support for people, and others are medical people who are going to give medical advice. There is a huge, spontaneous movement in this country of people who are trying to help.

However, one theme that comes across by reading the huge amount of experiences, questions and discussion on this Facebook site is that there is a lack of co-ordination, support and help for people trying to do their best. This at least is perhaps something the Government might look at doing rather better than they are doing at the moment. At present these people are on their own, doing their best, working together and with some NGOs, and they appear to me to be getting no support and help from the Government.

2.46 pm

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I have the honour to be a patron of the charity Embrace the Middle East and visited Syria in May of last year for

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the enthronement of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, His Holiness Aphrem II, at Maarat Saidnaya, just outside Damascus.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, for giving your Lordships the opportunity to discuss this pressing matter. With over half its population displaced, Syria is now a land of the dispossessed, and we are looking at a topography of dust, rubble and dried blood. This is the land where we read in Acts that the designation Christian was first used but where all minorities are now especially vulnerable in the particular context of the destabilisation of the state. We are witnessing a humanitarian disaster in slow motion, with repercussions which are impacting on many nations including our own.

Some in your Lordships’ House can speak with more expertise than me on diplomatic process, military options and geopolitics. Noble Lords will know of the Bishops’ letter to the Prime Minister, which called for a more generous response on the number of refugees from the Syrian conflict who will come to this country during the life of this Parliament. Today, however, I will concentrate on two areas only. One is the condition of the refugee camps in the countries bordering Syria and the second is the role that development agencies and churches are playing in the region and within Syria itself.

I pay tribute to Her Majesty’s Government for their financial commitment, which in bilateral terms is second only to that of the United States, which is a far larger economy. Indeed, UK government aid to Syria is significantly ahead of our European partners, although of course the refusal to work with other European Governments with regard to the migrants now in Europe significantly reduces their authority in encouraging others to help with aid in the region. I do not say that Her Majesty’s Government cannot do more, but it has done a great deal through DfID to help to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable people in Syria and of refugees in the region, although it needs to be noted that the UK’s investment overseas in aid will decrease given the Government’s decision to use the aid budget to meet the costs of the 20,000 Syrian refugees to be brought to this country. Nevertheless, there is a pressing diplomatic need for the Government to pursue: it is for our European and international partners to invest more heavily in aid to the region in a way they have not done before. Why? The answer is simply that life in the refugee camps is not sustainable on the current levels of funding. No amount of resettlement will mitigate the continued failure of the international community to address the refugee crisis at source. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has calculated that for what was needed in the way of humanitarian aid, in three successive years the amount raised fell—from 71% in 2013 to 57% in 2014 and to a mere 37% by October this year.

What will Syria’s youth, when they are old, tell their children about this conflict? They will talk of cowering in flimsy houses while watching the regime’s barrel bombs fall, of watching beheadings and crucifixions of family members at the hands of ISIS, of payment of the extortionate jizya tax as humiliated minorities, of the deadening existence in refugee camps and of hazardous journeys to foreign lands. All will have stories that

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reflect the trauma of this avoidable tragedy. A recent study by the University of Saint Joseph shows that in Lebanon 24% of Syrian refugees are getting married before they are 18 and are becoming more vulnerable as a result.

Secondly, parishes and churches in this country are continuing to support a range of charities and mission agencies at work in the region, including Christian Aid’s Syria emergency appeal. The Jesuit Refugee Service may well be the largest Christian organisation working in and around Syria, serving, by its own estimates, nearly half a million people in the region. Our sister church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, is also active in Jordan and Lebanon, supported by the British charity Jerusalem and the Middle East Church Association.

I recognise that mass resettlement is neither possible nor desirable. The English bishops share the concern of the Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo but also distinguish themselves from him on a number of points.

In conclusion, I have a few questions for the Minister. First, I note that the Home Secretary, speaking at the Conservative Party conference, made a commitment to community sponsorship schemes to bring refugees to the UK. It would be good to know from the noble Baroness in what way this is being taken forward. I trust that Her Majesty’s Government will persist in their generosity in this crisis. The United Nations’ humanitarian summit in 2016 may prove such an opportunity, not least in seeking to restore some sense of international order in dealings with refugees. I would therefore also be glad to know from the Minister what steps are being taken to use that summit early next year to regalvanise the international community’s commitment to refugee protection and support. Lastly, what steps are being taken to reverse the declining mobilisation of funding for the UN humanitarian effort?

2.52 pm

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (LD): I thank the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, for giving us the opportunity to speak in this highly important debate. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for the extraordinary work that her department has been undertaking. In my remarks I will focus not on aid but on some of the other broader issues, so perhaps if the Minister cannot answer me without a departmental input immediately, she can ensure that written answers are provided to me.

My first question is a very simple one. What are Her Majesty’s Government’s plans for the aftermath of the current violence in Syria? We are faced with a society that, for whatever reason, has disintegrated. The international record of rebuilding societies in the Middle East and north Africa is not a good one. I would single out the United Nations, which, despite its immense attitude of well-meaning for the public good, is essentially powerless—people can just choose not to obey it. Sometimes the United Nations’ concepts in the region seem to be almost wholly unrealistic. I recall with pain and grief the first election in Afghanistan. The enormous complexity of the electoral system that the UN itself put forward was such that, when I invited the UN to comment on it privately—I was monitoring the election—I was told that it was a

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system that had never been tested anywhere in any democracy in the globe, yet it had been put in a country that had never had democracy in its entire history. So the record of the United Nations in rebuilding disintegrated societies in this region is not a desperately good one.

That leaves us with the coalition. I do not think that the different coalitions have proved adequate for this particularly complex and difficult task. You have only to look at Yemen collapsing, as it is, or at Libya. Indeed, there are other nations in the region and elsewhere where coalitions which come together to try to create peace are not equipped to rebuild a society. A good example of how that can be done is the European Union enlargement process. It is highly detailed and long-running, and is very descriptive of what should happen. I ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans we have for rebuilding Syria when the aftermath of violence has calmed. We must remember that the military make the space, but the question is: who will fill that space? Whom are we planning to put into that space? I suggest that the only people who could really rebuild the society are the people themselves.

I come to my second question. I had the opportunity recently to bring over to the United Kingdom three Yazidi victims. Mercifully, thanks to the good efforts of Germany, they are now in Germany or on their way there. Why are Her Majesty’s Government looking solely at Syrians? As I said a year and a half ago in a speech to your Lordships’ House, it would appear that genocide is being carried out against the Yazidis. Last night I was at the service in Westminster Abbey for the Armenian martyrs. We have a huge track record in Britain of picking up those who suffer from genocide. I ask Her Majesty’s Government very seriously: why not the Yazidis? It will be very difficult for them to return to any former home once the calming has taken place, as we anticipate it will.

My final question is a very simple one. In Germany there is a huge programme for the integration of refugees as they arrive. The Yazidi victims—the young ladies whom I hosted here—were in German language classes within a week of arriving there. They have futures: they may well go to university, and they are being offered training, jobs and skills development. I saw a similar excellent programme recently in Utah, America, called Pathway. It is run by LDS Charities, headed up by Sharon Eubank. It is a non-governmental programme and does not take any national or local government funding. What plans do Her Majesty’s Government have for the real integration of the refugees whom we take here? I believe that the plans should be transparent and open, and I firmly believe that the plans for reintegrating institutions, civil society and a community in Syria should be just as open and transparent. May we have sight of those plans now? I urge the Minister to speak.

2.58 pm

Lord Dykes (Non-Afl): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, and her very wise words. I agree with a lot that she has said. Above all, I warmly thank the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, for taking the initiative in launching this

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debate. It is extremely timely, with the tragedy that has been laid out so clearly in the speeches that we have already heard. I agreed with most of them wholeheartedly, particularly those that set out the tragic statistics of this later stage—the refugees, the deaths and so on—and the great tragedy of the disintegration of Syria, which has always been a very great country. Therefore, it behoves us all to think very seriously about how we resolve these matters.

I am also saddened by looking back at the examples of how the West has miscalculated so much on these foreign policy initiatives in the Middle East and elsewhere, but mainly, and tragically, in the Middle East itself. I am going back a long way now and thinking about the 1 million, or maybe even 1.5 million, people marching down Piccadilly to object to the Iraq war. I was one of them. There is a notion that there was another motive behind the war and not just the ones that were stated at the time. Regime change was hinted at last week by a very prominent international figure who used to be the Prime Minister of this country. That, as we know, is illegal under international law unless it is certificated in advance by the United Nations through the appropriate machinery and resolutions. That did not happen in that case. Saddam Hussein before then had invaded Kuwait and quite rightly was expelled by the international community, with the United Nations leading the way, a year later. I am a life-long admirer of the state of Israel, but I find it rather peculiar, in contrast, that Israel is still in Palestine, 50 years after the 1967 war, because of the way in which the United States has allowed that to happen and international law to be violated in that way by the key democracy in the Middle East, which is Israel.

None the less, we look now at the results of the West’s mistakes in Iraq and what happened there. Whether the eventual judicial murder of Saddam Hussein was right or wrong is a very interesting question and a difficult one to answer properly. The situation in Syria is that Assad is still in power. Even if one finds a regime obnoxious and the leader of that regime even more obnoxious—people have different views on that—it is not for the West to determine who is in charge of running a country or how a country is run; that is for the United Nations to determine. Look at the situation in Libya. Again, having had a friendship agreement with Gaddafi, he was then killed by his opponents in Libya, which was regarded by many as a good thing. But is it a good thing when those countries are now broken countries? They are not operating properly at all, and that is partly the responsibility of the West, led by the United States, which has made many mistakes in the Middle East. Thank goodness that now, at long last, the United States has agreed to let Iran attend the conference. It took a long time to be persuaded, but now Iran and other parties essential to this will be there to try to resolve the problem.

I believe that the problem can be resolved, but only with a different approach. Church leaders, and Christian Aid’s excellent memorandum on the subject, called this approach an “inclusive peace gathering” to achieve peace in Syria. It cannot be selective, with some people excluded and others included. That is a great mistake in the West, and the more we do it, the more mistakes we make. It must be put to an end now.

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I make my final request to the Government, echoing what the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, said: we must be more generous in taking more Syrian refugees than the figures that were enunciated for the five-year period to 2020. In comparison with other European countries, this is a very niggardly number. Once again, church leaders are quite right in saying that the number should be at least doubled, and perhaps more than that. There is a lot that we can do to resolve the situation with humanity and common sense.

3.02 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, I was a little puzzled by the introduction from the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, to a debate on the strategy for tackling the refugee crisis, in the light of the current violence in Aleppo. It seemed to me that he focused on the Russian narrative of how the conflict began and how we had to accept the Russian terms for resolving the conflict.

Lord Truscott: I hate to intervene, but my point was that, in analysing the situation, we really should be looking at dealing with the causes rather than the symptoms.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: We will leave that to one side. I simply say that I do not accept his interpretation of the origins of the conflict.

On the immediate crisis, we see that Aleppo, the largest city, is now being substantially destroyed by barrel bombs dropped by the Syrian Government in Russian-made helicopters and by Russian planes that are bombing rebel forces in Aleppo and not ISIL. We know that that is going to lead to a further surge of refugees leaving the country. The weather is now turning worse—I am told that the temperature in Damascus and Aleppo goes down to minus 10 degrees or lower in winter—and there is no heating. They will try to get to Europe, and many more will die on the way because it will be cold, and next summer, we will face a very large surge. That is the immediate issue and concern for us. As some of us were saying to the Russian ambassador last week, “We have interests in what you do in this conflict, because the refugees will not try to get to the Crimea; they will try to get to Europe”.

That is where our immediate concerns have to be and we have to deal multilaterally with all the other actors in the conflict: supporting the Lebanese and the Jordanians; encouraging the Turks—whatever is happening in Turkish politics—to maintain their assistance; and saying to the Saudis and the Gulf states that they also have to accept their share of the responsibility and their contribution to a multilateral solution.

The violence that the Syrian state has conducted against its citizens is horrifying. When I saw pictures of Yarmouk, a part of Damascus that I visited seven years ago, and how appallingly it now has been almost completely destroyed, I was horrified that a state could do that to its own citizens.

The question is: how do we begin to work towards a situation in which we resolve this conflict, before Syria becomes a country in which only a very small minority of its 22 million people feel it is safe to live? It of

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course has to be by a multilateral approach, and certainly we need to include the Iranians, the Saudis, the other Gulf states and the Russians. As a country, we need to approach it in the way that we approached our negotiations with Iran—as the E3. That was very effective, with William Hague, his French and German counterparts, and the European Union special representative working multilaterally.

This morning, I heard Kate Hoey on the “Today” programme say that the one thing in which we do not want anything to do with our western European partners is foreign policy co-operation. Frankly, without foreign policy co-operation, we will not get anywhere. In the Middle East we have to work with our neighbours and our partners and say to them that they should be contributing more financially to the immediate effort for the refugees, but we have to work with them also in trying to build a multinational coalition.

An immediate concern has to be the refugees. We have to anticipate that it will get worse next spring and summer. We have to attempt to persuade the Russians that what they are doing—assisting the Syrian state to destroy those parts of Syria that have not yet been destroyed—is absolutely wrong-headed. Let us remember that ISIL now controls the most thinly inhabited parts of Syria. The areas that are being fought over by the other non-ISIL rebels and the state are the heavily inhabited parts. Beyond that, we have to attempt to negotiate with the major Middle East states, as well as with the Turks, the Russians and the others, to find a solution that will not be easy to reach.

3.07 pm

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, for initiating this timely debate, especially with international talks resuming in Vienna today and with Iran joining them tomorrow.

The Syria war has killed a quarter of a million people, contributed to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II and become a breeding ground for Islamic State and other extremist groups that threaten not only Syria but its neighbours and all the powers supporting one side or the other. Desperate conditions in the refugee camps are driving more and more to risk their own lives and that of their families to reach Europe.

But, as we have heard others ask, what of the strategy? A June summit resulted in a voluntary agreement to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers from front-line states. August saw the western Balkans emerge as the route from southern to northern Europe. The Vienna summit of regional leaders did little to prevent Hungary and Macedonia unilaterally stopping migrants from crossing their borders. In September, there were two more summits, at which a majority vote finally pushed through the use of mandatory quotas to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other member states over two years. There were also pledges of more aid for regional responses to the Syrian crisis, particularly in Turkey—the main launch point, as we have heard, for Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe. This month, October, EU leaders backed an action plan to offer Turkey various incentives in return for its co-operation

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in stemming the numbers of migrants and refugees boarding boats for Europe from its coast. Next month will see the major summit in Valletta, in Malta, which will focus on gaining more co-operation from key origin and transit countries, particularly in Africa. What sort of agreement with the African countries does the Minister hope will come out of Valletta? What incentives and support will be given in return if one is achieved?

I, too, pay tribute to the support provided to the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, but clearly we need to apply pressure on other European countries to increase spending so that the current cuts to the World Food Programme budget are halted. Britain is the biggest donor, but this effort needs to be matched by other EU countries in order to provide adequate financial assistance. Perhaps the Minister can outline what the Government are doing to encourage other donor countries to give their fair share in addressing the refugee crisis.

Finally, as we have heard in the debate, the Prime Minister told the other place in September that the UK will now accept 20,000 Syrian refugees, but over the course of this Parliament. The crisis is getting deeper and deeper. In light of the deteriorating weather conditions in Lebanon, how many refugees do the Government plan to take from the camps before Christmas?

3.10 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Verma) (Con): I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, for securing this debate and all noble Lords for their contributions. It is a short debate, but it has been a very well-informed one. We could have spent much longer discussing the issues that we all feel so passionately about. The noble Lord, Lord Truscott, has pointed out a number of things that DfID and the UK Government are doing but, as with all these things, it is good and right that we remind ourselves that as a country we have taken the lead in many areas in ensuring that we persuade others to make their mark to try to help those who live in such terrible conditions, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said.

In Syria and the region, the Syrian conflict has taken a terrible toll. The humanitarian crisis has reached catastrophic proportions. The UN estimates that 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and almost 4.2 million refugees are in neighbouring countries. The UK has a proud record of leadership on the response to the Syrian crisis. As has been pointed out by a number of noble Lords, we have pledged more than £1.1 billion to date. That is our largest response to a single humanitarian crisis. Again, as was rightly pointed out, we are the second-largest bilateral donor after the US. By the end of June 2015, our support in Syria and the region has delivered almost 20 million food rations. Each ration feeds one person for up to a month. We have provided more than 2.5 million medical consultations and access to clean water for 1.6 million people in Syria.

We have been at the forefront of efforts to push the United Nations and other agencies to co-ordinate better and deliver more effectively. There have been

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substantial improvements in co-ordination which have saved lives over the past year. We have also co-sponsored and lobbied hard for UN Security Council Resolutions 2165 and 2191, which have enabled the UN to deliver aid across borders without the consent of the regime. By 30 September this year, the UN and its partners had delivered 189 convoys of aid across the border since the adoption of Resolution 2165 in July 2014. These convoys of aid have helped to provide food, blankets, water kits and vital medical supplies to the thousands of people in Syria.

Furthermore, the UK continues to play a leading role in encouraging the international community to make generous pledges in response to the humanitarian crisis. We have lobbied hard and mobilised funding from other donors ahead of the third Kuwait pledging conference in March, which raised $3.6 billion. Now we are exploring with the UN and other major donors how best to ensure that the momentum on fundraising is maintained over a longer period, which the noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about.

Longer term, Syria needs hope and opportunities. To increase their prospects of being able to stay in the region close to home, specifically we need to give Syrian children education and the adults the chance to earn a living. That is why the UK helped to launch and continues to support UNICEF’s No Lost Generation initiative to provide education protection and psychosocial support for children affected by the crisis.

We are also scaling up our support for longer-term stability and resilience-building work inside Syria and neighbouring countries, which the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, asked about. It is not just about the now, but about the rebuilding once this crisis is resolved—sooner rather than later, we hope. We want to make sure that we help to expand job and education opportunities for refugees and assist with the impact on local services. All that requires a long-term sustained and scaled-up commitment from donors.

The conflict in Syria has intensified in recent weeks with major regime offences on several fronts, with Russian air support. One such front is Aleppo, as the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, identified. Hundreds of thousands of people living in areas under the control of armed opposition groups are at risk of displacement. The United Nations and NGO partners are reviewing and revising the Aleppo contingency plan. A negotiated political settlement in Syria has never been more pressing. The worsening conflict has already led to hundreds of thousands of people being killed, and left millions in need and displaced from their homes. It has created space for extremism to spread through the region and beyond. Political transition by mutual agreement of the Syrian parties, supported by the international community, remains the only way to bring about sustainable peace in Syria.

The UK’s vision for Syria is for an open democratic society with greater social, economic and political participation, where violent extremism does not have a place and where refugees will feel safe to return. To that end, the UK has committed more than £84.5 million to support governance, security and livelihoods in Syria and the region. In particular, we have trained and equipped civil defence teams to carry out search

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and rescue operations, trained Syrian journalists and activists to help develop an independent Syrian media, and funded local-level peacebuilding projects within Syria and between communities in neighbouring countries where refugees are based. We are also supporting the Free Syrian Police, which is responsible for providing basic civilian policing in large areas of opposition-controlled territory.

A great range of questions has been asked today. I will endeavour in the remaining five minutes or so to answer as many as I can. However, in the event that I do not, I undertake to write to all noble Lords and place copies of those letters in the Library.

The noble Lord, Lord Truscott, said that the emphasis should be on a political solution. I could not agree more. A negotiated transition in the Syria area is the only way to end the conflict and alleviate the humanitarian crisis. Political dialogue remains active between the UN and the international community, but we have to make sure that those who are in this conflict do not add to the complexity. That is why, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said, it is really important that debates and discussions are held collectively with a common goal of peace for the people in that region. Ending the conflict in Syria and addressing the national security threats posed to us from there will of course take time, resolve and determination. Defending our national security means that in Syria we must support moderate groups and tackle extremists and the drivers of extremism. That does mean tackling ISIL directly, as we and our allies are doing, and there is a case, of course, for doing more. In parallel with that, we must put pressure on Assad. We need to build the conditions for political settlement and a Government who can represent all Syrians. The only way that will happen is if we work together to undermine the extremists and defeat ISIL in the long run.

I know that my noble friend Lady Morris is incredibly passionate about her work. She asked a number of questions about what she has seen being done with Palestinians in Syria. As my noble friend is aware, we have been supporting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other UN partners for Palestinian refugees in the Near East to ensure that the needs of highly vulnerable Palestinians are addressed both within Syria and in neighbouring countries. To date, the UK has allocated approximately £59 million to UNRWA to provide food parcels, relief items, hygiene packs, education and cash assistance for Palestinian refugees affected by the violence. She asked if I would agree to a meeting with herself, a group from the Refugee Council and Richard Harrington MP. I am happy to do so and I will ask my office to contact her directly to put the meeting in place.

As is the way with these things, I am running out of time so I need to gallop on a little to address a few more questions. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about our support for Turkey. We have allocated £34 million for programmes supporting Syrian refugees, including the provision of food, shelter and primary healthcare, and we are working in partnership with multiple Turkish institutions on targeted projects in order to build capacity to target irregular migration. He also asked about the cuts made to the UN World

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Food Programme. As I stated earlier, we are the second-largest donor to this programme. Since the start of the crisis, we have committed £227 million to provide food support in Syria and the region, but we acknowledge that the needs continue to grow and that the UN World Food Programme is underfunded. We will be working to secure more funding with our partners, but we know that we need to direct what we are delivering into the areas where it is most needed and encourage others to do the same. The noble Lord also asked me how many people we will have taken in by Christmas. I think that the number in my brief is 1,000, but I will correct it if it is not.

I have run out of time and I still have a huge bundle of questions to go through. I apologise that I have not been able to answer them all, but I think that we all realise that a transition away from Assad to a more inclusive Government who can represent everyone is what we envisage the Geneva process delivering. We will continue to work with our international partners and, as I said earlier, I undertake to write to all noble Lords.

Prisons: Young People

Motion to Take Note

3.23 pm

Moved by Lord Harris of Haringey

To move that this House takes note of the case for taking action to address the problems of young people before they enter the criminal justice system in order to reduce the prison population, improve conditions within prison, and focus on the rehabilitation of prisoners, as set out in The Harris Review: Changing Prisons, Saving Lives.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce this debate. I should make it clear that this is not out of any sense of self-promotion, but because I believe that the issues raised by the independent review that I led are so important. Indeed, I believe that they are important for the Government, because as they wrestle with the comprehensive spending review, they need to recognise that prison is a hugely expensive intervention and yet the benefits of this spend are questionable. It has a relatively low impact on crime, and indeed rates of reoffending are high, particularly among young adults.

Last year, I and my team were commissioned by the then Minister for Prisons to review the 83 self-inflicted deaths of young people in prison from April 2007 to the end of 2013. We also looked at the deaths of the four under-18s who died in the same period. Uppermost in our minds throughout the exercise was that every single one of the young people who died and whose cases we examined was someone’s son or daughter, sister or brother, partner or even parent. Each of the deaths represents a failure by the state to protect the young people concerned, which is a breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is a failure by the state which is all the greater because the same criticisms occur time and time again. Lessons have not been learned and not enough has been done over the years to bring about substantive change.

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We considered an enormous volume of evidence that included submissions from 54 organisations and individuals. We conducted 26 hearings and consulted senior experts through a series of meetings and seminars. We visited prisons and young offender institutions, spending time at each one listening to the views of young prisoners themselves. The excellent charity INQUEST, which does so much valuable work supporting people who have had a loved one die in the custody of the state, helpfully organised for us two listening days with the families of those who had died. We surveyed young adults in institutions and received 50 audio submissions from prisoners following broadcasts that I made on National Prison Radio. Then there was the detailed examination of the 87 cases themselves.

Our conclusion was that all young adults in custody are vulnerable. Some had led chaotic lives and had complex histories, while others had been subjected to child abuse, or had been exposed to violence or repeated bereavement. Many had been in foster or residential care, and often their problems had been further compounded by mental health issues. In the 87 cases we examined, many of the young people’s problems and vulnerabilities, including their mental health issues, had been evident from an early age. Why did so many of them end up in custody?

Billy Spiller was 21 when he died in prison in November 2011. His mother said:

“Throughout Billy’s life I tried to get proper care and support for him but all the doors were shut in my face. From the moment he was sentenced to imprisonment, I knew that they wouldn’t be able to look after him. They should have diverted him from the courts or made sure that everybody in the prison had training to deal with him”.

The same mistakes have been repeated time and time again. Nicholas Saunders was 18 when he died in April 2011. The pre-sentence review had recommended a community disposal but the judge decided that prison was the best option for him. The documents describing his vulnerability and a previous suicide attempt were not transferred with him when he was moved from HMP Woodhill to HMYOI Stoke Heath, where six weeks after the transfer he was found hanging in his cell from a ligature attached to a light fitting—despite a similar suicide, also from a light fitting, at the same establishment just a few years earlier.

In an earlier case, Joseph Scholes was 16 when he died in 2002. He had a long history of vulnerability, repeatedly told staff he would kill himself, and was never seen by a psychiatrist. When he did make a noose from a bed-sheet and hang himself from the bars of his cell, he left a message for his mother and father telling them he could not cope and that:

“I tried telling them and they just don’t fucking listen”.

We have heard the same stories time and time again over the past 13 years, and the cases do not stop coming. There were 69 self-inflicted deaths in the first nine months of this year alone, and 12 of those were of young people under the age of 24.

There are no simple and easy solutions to such deaths, but the weight of evidence shows the need to look broadly at the reasons for the deaths and how they might have been prevented by much earlier

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intervention. Our conclusion was that there must be a commitment to support vulnerable young people before and after their contact with the criminal justice system, and the objective of policy must be to assist them to become productive citizens.

I am pleased, therefore, at the hints that have been dropped by the Secretary of State for Justice that this is the direction of travel that he wants to follow, but on Monday our review will have been with the Ministry of Justice for seven months, and even now there is still no sign of the Government’s response. Last week, the grandly titled Ministerial Board on Deaths in Custody met, but apparently it did not have the time to discuss the review at that meeting. Indeed, the review has yet to be presented to it, let alone considered. I know that the review raises some difficult issues and I know that the National Offender Management Service is extremely defensive about some of its findings, but if the Government do not act decisively, the distressing cases we considered will be repeated and more young lives will be wasted.

Indeed, there is already evidence of backwards movement. NOMS has been reviewing the ACCT process—the existing arrangements for addressing the needs of those considered to be at risk of self-inflicted death. The NOMS conclusion, I am told, is that these arrangements are overused and that it should be easier to take a prisoner off the process. Presumably this is intended to save money, but it runs directly against the research that was done for us on the clinical reviews of those who had died, which found that in many cases the young people had been taken off the ACCT process prematurely or inappropriately.

Let us be clear: prisons and young offender institutions are grim environments, bleak and demoralising to the spirit. The experience of living in a prison or a young offender institution is not conducive to rehabilitation. What is more, when this is coupled with the current impoverished regimes caused by staff shortages—a situation that can only get worse with the likely budget cuts that the Chancellor will impose in a month’s time—it makes the experience particularly damaging to developing young adults who are in those institutions.

It was clear to us also that young adults in prison are not sufficiently engaged in purposeful activity and that their time is not spent in a constructive and valuable way. Indeed, the current restricted regimes that we observed—again because of staff shortages—do not even allow for the delivery of planned core day activities that might help rehabilitation. We came across repeated examples of medical and mental health appointments being missed because there were insufficient staff to escort the patient—the prisoner—from their cell to the medical practitioner.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the philosophy of prison. We recommended a new statement on the purpose of prison: its primary purpose should be rehabilitation, along with keeping prisoners and the public safe and secure. This will require leadership and that must start with Ministers.

Leadership in individual establishments is also critical. In some prisons, the governors have a positive vision of what they are trying to do, and that feeds through the culture of the entire prison. In others, the governors

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say all the right things, but they are not borne out by what you see as you go round the prison. As young prisoners said to us on at least one occasion, “It’s all different when the governor is on the wing”. And there are some prisons where the governors are completely overwhelmed by the administrative and managerial challenges that they face, so that concern for the welfare of individual prisoners seems to have been crowded out.

There is a disconnect between what those in charge think should be happening and what actually goes on in individual prisons. NOMS prison service instructions are by and large sound and, if implemented, would deliver good practice, but there is a yawning chasm between what they contain and what happens in practice. There are also some ominous gaps. In many of the 87 cases examined, the vulnerable young adults were going through a period of particular distress that might have passed if they had not been spending so much time locked inside their cells with nothing to do other than stare at potential ligature attachment points. But NOMS centrally does not know how many functional safer cells—those where ligature attachment points have been by and large removed—exist in individual establishments because it does not collect the data. Nor does NOMS know—again, because it does not collect the data—how many hours prisoners spend out of their cells on purposeful activity. There are other omissions. Frankly, we found it surprising that NOMS does not have a discrete policy on bullying or on the management of gangs.

So there are issues of leadership and issues of policy, but then there is the question of who takes responsibility for the individual prisoner and her or his journey through the prison. A central recommendation of our review was that the prison workforce needs to be trained and developed to a higher professional standard. There should be a new role: we called it the custody and rehabilitation officer, who would take personal responsibility for the health, education, social care, safety and rehabilitation needs of each individual prisoner. These officers would be suitably trained professionals with a small enough caseload—we were thinking 15 to 20—that they would know the individual prisoners well, would deliver the right package of services to assess their needs and deliver their support and rehabilitation.

Our central message was that much more needs to be done to support young adults not only after they come into contact with the criminal justice system but before they ever get into trouble. I repeat: these are young people whose problems have been evident from an early age, so why was nothing done long before they ended up in custody?

We looked at the work of the Government’s Troubled Families programme, which concentrates the efforts of all public agencies to resolve the problems of families whose problems, if left unresolved, are a drain on the state’s resources. Why is it not possible to adopt a similar approach to the needs of troubled adolescents? Reinvestment and redirection of resources to the health and welfare system to resolve the issues creating problems for the troubled child or adolescent before they ever enter the criminal justice system, or investment in

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effective alternatives to custody if they do get into trouble, will be money well spent and will reduce the numbers in prison so as to enable better support and rehabilitative efforts for those who do become prisoners.

Delaying action until the resource position is easier is not an option. It would mean young people continuing to die unnecessarily in our prisons and we will continue to waste countless millions of pounds on failing to rehabilitate those who could be rehabilitated, locking up those for whom a non-prison option would be more appropriate, and failing to intervene early enough to prevent people entering the criminal justice system in the first place. Our proposals were rooted in the impressive body of evidence we received and considered.

We recognise that they involve substantial changes and a significant shift in approach, but they are changes that are urgently needed if the waste of resource that is our present penal policy is to be stemmed and if—even more importantly—the tragic preventable loss of young lives is to be halted. Those who ignore the lessons of past failure are condemned to repeat them. That will be the fate of policymakers who fail to act on these recommendations. The 87 tragic cases considered by our review deserve as their memorial that this time it must be different. We owe them no less. I beg to move.

3.39 pm

Lord Dholakia (LD): My Lords, I am delighted to take part in this debate and to lend my support to the recommendations made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and his team.

This is an outstanding report dealing with self-inflicted deaths of young people in custody. Like many serious and persistent young offenders, the young people concerned—as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, identified—often had a combination of problems and experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, family conflict, parental neglect, traumatic loss, exclusion from schools, drugs or alcohol misuse or mental health problems. I have highlighted these factors in previous debates; almost all the research that I have studied points to these factors, so I am saying nothing new. However, how we deal with such issues has a direct impact on the criminal justice system.

I declare an interest. I am president of Nacro, formerly the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders. Its mission is to positively change lives, strengthen communities, enhance social inclusion, reduce crime and prevent new offending behaviour. All available evidence points to the fact that young adults require a distinct approach that takes into account their unique needs and vulnerabilities. The current strategy is grossly inadequate; for example, there is no specific system-wide provision for young adults, and the lack of provision for young women and minority-ethnic young adults is even more evident.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, rightly argued that tackling this problem requires a wide-ranging strategy, an approach I fully endorse. We need to ensure that vulnerable young people are diverted from the criminal justice system wherever possible, that custody is used for young offenders only when absolutely essential, and that custodial regimes can provide young people with care, support and rehabilitation that takes the particular needs of this age group into account.

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The Government should adopt the same approach for young adult offenders aged 18 to 24 as that for under-18s, which has produced a significant fall in the number of juvenile offenders in custody in recent years. This is not science; it is common sense. For example, the Sentencing Council could be asked to produce a set of overarching principles for sentencing young adults, similar to the old Sentencing Guidelines Council’s principles for sentencing juveniles, which helped to create a climate in which significantly fewer juveniles were sentenced to custody. Measures such as the restorative caution and the referral order, which have worked well for juvenile offenders, could be extended to young adults. The Government could set targets for reducing first-time entrants to the young adult criminal justice system, similar to those which helped to increase the diversion of juveniles from the youth justice process. They could also set targets to reduce the number of young adults entering custody, as the Youth Justice Board did for juveniles. The intensive alternative to custody sentence for young adults, which was successfully piloted a few years ago in Manchester, could be introduced nationwide.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, chairman of the Youth Justice Board, should take credit. The Youth Justice Board is one of the few success stories in the criminal justice field. He will not thank me, but let us work to increase his workload by ensuring that these nationwide objectives are also implemented for young adults. Unless we take measures of this kind, it will be very difficult for overstretched prisons to provide the regimes that vulnerable young adults need.

In almost all previous debates on this matter, I have argued that far too many young adults are still being put into custody for short sentences that serve little purpose. They are too short for sustained rehabilitation programmes, but they are long enough for young people to lose jobs and accommodation and to weaken their family ties—all of which makes them more likely to reoffend. This is a root cause of the repeat offending that clogs up our criminal justice system and our prisons. Many offenders return to prison repeatedly, in a pointless and depressing revolving-door process. Many of them would be better dealt with by community orders, which can provide a longer period of supervision, better support and more intensive work to change offending behaviour. If they were removed from the prison system, custodial establishments would have a more realistic chance of providing suitable, supportive regimes for those young people who genuinely need to be in custody. This is not a soft option; it is the right option.

The report from the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has highlighted the way in which prison regimes have suffered as a consequence of the large reduction in the number of prison staff over the last few years. This is a result of spending cuts. Inaction now would be a recipe for future disaster. The amount of purposeful activity in prisons has fallen in consequence, as reports by the Chief Inspector of Prisons have repeatedly made clear.

Since resources are so stretched, we need to make sure that we are using them in the best possible way. We need to rethink an approach that incarcerates so

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many young people and impoverishes regimes for those young people who genuinely need to be in custody. I have repeatedly urged successive Governments to legislate to make sentencing guidelines that take into account the capacity of the prison system. This proposal was first made by the Carter report on the prison system in 2007 and it still makes sense. At a time when all other parts of the criminal justice system have to work within the reality of limited resources, there is no reason why sentencers should be exempt.

Reducing the number of young adults who are unnecessarily imprisoned would enable the Prison Service to provide more constructive and caring regimes for a smaller number of young prisoners. These regimes should include increased opportunities for work, training and education, as well as healthcare provision that is at least equal to that in the outside community.

It is particularly important that the Government should implement the proposal by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for young adult prisoners to have a suitably trained custody and rehabilitation officer with a small enough caseload to give adequate support to vulnerable young people. As the noble Lord’s report proposes, young prisoners should also have individual custody plans based on a multidisciplinary assessment project.

Above all, we need a determined and co-ordinated strategy from central government to ensure that everything humanly possible will be done to avoid the tragic and all-too-often avoidable deaths of so many vulnerable young people in custody. Any nation that aspires to civilised values must surely treat this as an overriding moral priority.

3.48 pm

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers (CB): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, and his panel on their most impressive and wide-ranging review. It makes harrowing reading, particularly the individual case studies. These are young people whom our society failed. There is evidence in the individual cases of failure to take steps that might have prevented their deaths and the review makes practical recommendations aimed at preventing those failures. But, much more significantly, it concludes that the deaths are extreme symptoms of an attitude to the purpose of imprisonment that needs to be fundamentally changed.

One section of the report looks at steps that should be taken to keep young people out of the criminal justice system altogether. I must declare an interest: I have in my time sent quite a lot of people to prison, some of them to serve lengthy sentences, but I have an interest in keeping people out of prison. That is evidenced by my involvement, in one way or another, in a number of charitable organisations that help to do this: the St Giles Trust, Endeavour Training and Youth at Risk.

The review emphasises that, if there is to be change, it must come from the top down. The top is, of course, the Secretary of State for Justice. When responsibility for prisons was passed from the Home Secretary to the Justice Secretary the judges had reservations. We were concerned that the funding demands of the Prison Service might be met at the expense of the court system and the administration of justice, but it seems

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to me that there is something to be said for the same Minister considering the actions that will give best value for money in both areas. Value for money is critical. We are in a period of financial stringency and it is not realistic to expect Ministers to take actions that will increase overall demand for resources. Some of the review’s recommendations call for an increase in the resources devoted to looking after those in prison, but I suggest that these resources can and should be funded by a reduction in the overall size of the prison population.

As the review points out, the prison system costs in excess of £3 billion a year. The cost of a single place in a male young offender institution is approximately £40,000 a year. The substantial savings that can be made by a reduction of the prison population is obvious. How can this be achieved? There are three ways. The first is by diverting young people away from the criminal justice system. The second is by rehabilitating those in prison, so that they do not reoffend. The third is by reducing the length of sentences served by those who are sent to prison.

Most young people who end up in custody have a history, going back in many cases to early childhood, of disability or disadvantage. Many have mental health problems. Almost all have one thing in common: a lack of self-respect. They do not believe in their own worth because no adult has ever suggested that they were worth anything. Rather, they become used to denigration and abuse. If you do not respect yourself, you do not respect others. The Harris review emphasises young people’s need for peer example and approval. It is this that the charities with which I am involved, and many other charities, provide. They show young people that they are capable of achievement and that their worth is appreciated. I have seen in practice young lives literally transformed in this way.

Such organisations are having a hard time. Many of them rely on funding by local authorities but cash-strapped local authorities are withdrawing that funding. This is perhaps not the best day to emphasise the value of government support for charities that work with young people, but I do so none the less. Of course, those providing funding must be satisfied that it is being put to a use that is cost-effective.

Young people who offended under the influence of mental illness should not be given custodial sentences when what they really need is psychiatric help. It is critical that the sentencing judge is fully informed in such cases. The review draws attention to the fact that many defendants are being given custodial sentences on the basis of presentence reports completed on the day of conviction. This surprised me, for it was not my experience. I endorse the recommendation that a custodial sentence for a young adult is serious enough for a full and comprehensive written report to be prepared for the court.

I turn to rehabilitation of those in prison. It is a depressing fact that a large proportion of those who come out of prison soon go back in again, having reoffended. Anyone who has read the Harris review and some of the reports that it considered will not be surprised by this. The review paints a depressing picture of prison life today. Shortage of staff means that

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prisoners are spending a disproportionate amount of time locked in their cells. Opportunities for constructive activity are very limited. The review rightly comments that this is “impoverishing to the spirit”. It is a vicious circle because employment in such an environment is not attractive, so that some staffing vacancies are not being filled.

A fundamental recommendation of the Harris review is that there should be a change in attitude as to what prisons are there to do. They are there to impose the punishment of deprivation of liberty by holding prisoners securely and safely. That said, the prison regime should not itself be designed to be punitive. It should be primarily designed to rehabilitate. Restrictions should be the minimum necessary. Life should approximate as closely as possible to the positive aspects of life in the community. I hope that the Justice Secretary will endorse that recommendation.

I turn to my third and most controversial source of savings—reduction in the length of sentences served. The objects of sending people to prison are punishment, rehabilitation and protection of the public. I believe that we are sending people to prison for longer than is necessary to impose the appropriate punishment. The review provides the figures. On 31 December 2014, there were 84,691 people in prison—almost double the figure in the early 1990s. Why is that? Courts have been sending more people to prison and for longer terms. The average sentence length has increased by about 15%. Why is this? Are people more wicked than they were 25 years ago? I do not believe so. I think that the increase in imprisonment is in part attributable to statutory imposition of minimum terms for murder, which have had a knock-on effect on other crimes, and in part to media pressure for longer sentences. How does one reverse this trend? Keeping old men in prison for years and years when they no longer pose a danger to society is, I believe, disproportionately expensive when the money could be better spent preventing young people becoming criminals in the first place. Government should try to get this message across to the public and look for ways of reducing, rather than increasing, sentence length. For all these reasons, I support this Motion.

3.55 pm

Baroness Healy of Primrose Hill (Lab): My Lords, I welcome today’s debate and thank my noble friend Lord Harris for producing his excellent and ground-breaking report Changing Prisons, Saving Lives.

The issue of self-inflicted deaths in custody of 18 to 24 year-olds must be addressed, the rate of which increased in 2013 for this group, who make up 21% of the prison population. As the report states,

“all young adults in custody are potentially vulnerable”;

and it goes on to ask,

“why were so many of these young adults in custody in the first place?”.

The case studies are heart-rending to read. The statistics are damning. As of 31 December 2014, 101 people under 24 have died in our prisons since April 2007. As the report makes clear,

“some radical changes are needed if we are to bring about a reduction in the number of deaths of young people in our prisons”.

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The powerful recommendations that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, sets out must be seen in the context expressed by his review that young adults in custody, and indeed those under 18 who share similar characteristics, are young, vulnerable and still developing individuals who need to be nurtured and supported safely to navigate through the complexities of their lives into purposeful, mature adulthood.

But why are so many young people sent to prison? There must be better ways to divert them earlier in their lives. I very much hope that the liaison and diversion services are fully rolled out across England by 2017. I ask the Minister to reassure me on this point. These services identify those with mental health problems, learning disabilities, autism, substance misuse problems and other vulnerabilities as early as possible as they come into contact with youth and criminal justice services and can lead to more community sentences and fewer custodial ones.

If fewer young people were sent to prison, there would be more resources devoted to keeping those unavoidably detained more secure and safe and enabling them to receive appropriate therapeutic or rehabilitative interventions. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has said:

“Some of the young people had had chaotic lives and complex histories. Some had been subject to child abuse, been exposed to violence or suffered high levels of bereavement. Others had been in foster and residential care”.

The review states:

“Each of those deaths represents a failure by the State to protect the young people concerned”.

It points out that lessons have not been learned and not enough has been done to bring about substantive change and calls on the Government to make a number of key policy changes to help these vulnerable young people to become productive citizens, desist from crime and be kept safe while in custody. I welcome its call for,

“an inherent shift in the philosophy of prison”.

My noble friend Lord Harris has already set out the key recommendations and I support the call for the new custody and rehabilitation officer who would replace the personal officer and be a specialist, suitably trained professional, with a small enough case load so that enough time can be given to each vulnerable adult. It is especially important that one of the roles of the CARO should be to ensure that better links are maintained with the families of young adults, ensuring that they are involved in the management of vulnerability.

The review also recommends that young adults should be,

“able to spend a reasonable part of the day (8 hours or more) outside their cells, engaged in purposeful activity of a varied nature”,

and that never again should access to books be denied as a punishment or used as a “perk and privilege”. The review is concerned that the IEP—incentives and earned privileges—scheme does not take into account the impact of what may seem like small privileges on mental well-being in the austere prison environment, and that fatal incidents occurred disproportionately among prisoners on the lowest level of privileges, which reduced protective factors such as association,

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activities and access to television. In evidence, the Criminal Justice Alliance said that,

“restricting books, television and artistic materials also limits the activities of prisoners who face being locked up for longer due to staff shortages. All of these factors may in the future be shown to increase prisoner vulnerability and a propensity to self-harm”.

Imprisonment should be the last option, not the first. Another shocking statistic is that between 1978 and March 2014, 26% of all the deaths of young adults aged 18 to 24 were within the first week of their arrival in prison; 46% died within the first month and 86% died within the first six months. The National Offender Management Service—NOMS—must urgently identify and keep a record of the number of certified “safer cells” both in use and available for use across the prison estate. Tragically, all the children and 78 of the 83 young adults whom the review looked at died as a result of hanging through utilisation of a ligature point, such as a window, light fitting or upturned bed, within their cells. Proper use of safer cells must be an immediate and achievable priority.

Other noble Lords will, I am sure, highlight the plight of certain groups within the young adults in custody—women, BAMEs and those leaving care, all of whom have particular vulnerabilities that I would like to raise but time does not permit me to. I will just point out that 27% of the adult prison population are care leavers, despite the fact that less than 1% of under-18s enter local authority care annually.

Finally, I ask the Minister to look at the findings of a report published last week by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness. Mindful Nation points out that:

“Nearly half the prison population have depression or anxiety … suicide rates are considerably higher than in the general population”,

and that in the year after release prisoners who have these conditions are more likely to be reconvicted. Given the evidence of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy—MBCT—preventing recurrent depression, it could be very useful for helping those in prison, especially the young adults this debate is concerned about.

It would be far better for young people to be diverted away from imprisonment at a much earlier stage, but if this cannot always be the case, greater efforts must be made by prisons and the politicians who dictate policies to ensure that the young are kept safe and are successfully rehabilitated.

4.03 pm

Lord Adebowale (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for bringing this important debate to the Chamber. I declare my interest as chief executive of Turning Point, a health and social care charity and social enterprise which works with people with complex needs—including mental health, substance misuse and learning disabilities—many of whom are young people. In a sense, we are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff which works with the results of failure, I guess.

I reiterate the call in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on deaths in custody of 18 to 24 year-olds that more needs to be done, in and out of prison, to ensure that the number of self-inflicted deaths is reduced. Indeed, I agree with all the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, the noble and learned Lord,

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Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, and the noble Baroness, Lady Healy of Primrose Hill. We need to start looking more carefully at this group of young people, and the requirements for sufficient numbers of appropriately trained staff in young offender institutions and prisons; a wider range of better-resourced residential placements outside the prison system for young adults in conflict with the law; adequate sharing of information across and within agencies; and mechanisms to monitor, audit and follow up recommendations from investigations and inquests.

It is important, as many Peers have mentioned, that one reads the stories of these young people to understand the impact of the failure to provide adequate services properly. One case study sticks in my mind after reading through the Inquest and T2A report Stolen Lives and Missed Opportunities. It is that of Alex, a 15 year-old mixed-race boy who was found hanging in his cell by his shoelaces in 2012 and, sadly, died while in custody. Alex was placed in long-term foster care at five years of age after being sexually abused by a member of his maternal family. He suffered trauma from the abuse later on and became difficult to manage due to his complex needs: ADHD, attachment issues and educational difficulties. He had a total of eight different social workers from the age of five until his death. In 2011, he received a 10-month custodial sentence. This was his first time in custody but, due to his age and vulnerabilities, he was sent to an institution where he was one of the youngest children.

On the day of Alex’s death, he was in a clearly heightened state of distress and had made a disclosure about his sexual abuse to a prison officer for the first time. It was found that adequate support was not given. The failures included: having no named social worker; a lack of communication with external agencies; no support for Alex’s specific mental health needs; not having an adequate level of support for him or other vulnerable looked- after children; and that youth offending workers did not have enough responsibility for Alex’s care needs while in custody—and before he arrived in custody, there was no evidence of an appropriate forensic psychiatric assessment. When you look at that case, you can see the litany of errors. There was no adequate psychiatric assessment when he could have been diverted from custody and subsequent fatal actions. This is clearly a tragedy and one which could have been avoided.

It is a welcome statistic to note that the number of young adults in custody is declining, but there are still too many with complex needs entering the prison system. We know that management of young adults requires a distinct approach. Those who remain in custody are some of the most vulnerable, troubled young adults with complex needs such as family discord, substance misuse, mental health difficulties and learning disabilities. They are often the victims of exploitation, abuse and trauma, underpinned by poverty and inequality. We need to change the cycle that exists between poverty, complex needs and prison so that the number of people entering the criminal justice system with complex needs is reduced. My view is that young people with the needs that Alex had and who end up in prison should be seen as a “never” event. It is a crisis, not something that we should accept as a given.

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It is therefore clear that we need to intervene early, but there is a significant group of young people who we still too often ignore. The noble Baroness, Lady Healy of Primrose Hill, made this point about children in care but I wish to emphasise it. There are 69,540 children in care at any one time, with 6,000 leaving each year. We know where they are and when they leave. Statistics released by the Department for Education show that as of 31 March 2015, there were 260 looked-after children in England’s YOIs out of a custodial population of 706—a proportion of 36.8% were in care. As has been pointed out, less than 1% of all children in England are in care but, according to the Beyond Youth Custody report, looked-after children make up 33% of boys and 61% of girls in custody. These children are meant to be looked after by the state; that is evidence that it is just not happening. Prison is overused, due to the shortages in the health and care systems to address their complex needs. Young people need interventions, not incarceration.

Children in care are there because of abuse and neglect; that is not an excuse for their criminal behaviour but the pattern that leads to that behaviour is clearly established, well before they come to the attention of the criminal justice system. Such children are four times more likely than their peers to have mental health difficulties, less likely to do well at school than their peers and more likely to experience even more abuse and/or neglect when in care. There are clear patterns that health and social care professionals can work with.

It often strikes me as odd that we know where these children in care are. For example, in Stoke, I am told there are 500 kids in care at any one time. I do not think it is beyond the wit of women or man to create a life care plan for each of these young people within the population of a county, town or borough such as Stoke. Such a care plan should start with understanding the dreams, desires and wants of that young person. They are not unlike my kids or kids that any of your Lordships might be privileged enough to have. What do they want to do? How do they want to do it? Using the private sector, public sector and voluntary sector resources in such a town, it should be possible to create a life care plan for each young person, which they are involved in and engaged in. It could be reviewed annually, or on a six-month basis, so that that individual gets attention and knows that they are surrounded by the kind of soft boundaries within which they can experiment, not unlike most middle-class children. That is surely possible, and if it were to happen, we would have fewer cases of children needing the criminal justice system in the first place. Where children have the complex needs that Alex had, they can be signposted and approached with the appropriate individual health and social care interventions. They are an ever smaller proportion of the 500 or so in a place such as Stoke.

Sweeping that to one side, let us look at the cost. Some 72% of children released from custody reoffend in one year, according to Barnardo’s. Doing nothing is not only immoral but expensive, as is carrying on what we are doing. If we know this, we need to do something about it and address the stock and flow problem that currently exists. It is surprising, and a bit sad, that the

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learning from the report of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is similar to that from the report I did with the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, which I chaired. The conclusions are similar, and frighteningly so: a lack of clear communication between agencies; a lack of adequate resources to staff these agencies; and those involved in criminal justice, health and social care not being fully trained to deal with complex needs. Indeed, the criminal justice system, just like the police system, is being used as a care resource rather than a resource of last resort. This is not the care that these young people should be getting. As I say, we need to change the cycle. The thinking that got us into this state cannot be the thinking that gets us out.

One way of doing this is through more community or residential-based institutions which work with children and young adults who are in the stock, as it were, of prison and young offender institutions, to progress them back into the community and keep them there. As I say, I think that is perfectly possible—I know the noble Lord, Lord Younger, is going to shut me up in a moment, but I will continue for one more minute. It is possible to provide the care that these individuals need.

I close by reiterating my support for the noble Lord’s report. Prevention needs to be funded adequately and children in care need to be prioritised, because the maths is obvious. If we can deal with children in care, we can make inroads into this problem. On behalf of Alex and many others, there is no excuse. The report of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is an excuse remover: we know where these kids are, we know where they come from, we know what the challenges are and we know we can put the services in to prevent them ending up like Alex. Let us just get on with it and do it.

4.13 pm

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I welcome the very thorough and wide-ranging review conducted by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. The Bishop to Prisons, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, regrets that he cannot be in his place today and contribute to this very welcome debate. The Harris inquiry took every opportunity to talk to young people and to the families who have tragically lost their children while they were in the care of the state in prisons and young offender institutions.

That terrible toll has of course been the subject of more than one inquiry. Fatally Flawed was a joint report by INQUEST and the Prison Reform Trust into deaths between 2003 and 2010. In 2014, the Youth Justice Board issued its report, Deaths of Children in Custody. In late 2013, the National Offender Management Service launched a consultation on integrating 18 to 21 year-olds into mainstream prisons. The main reasons were, first, that concentrating this relatively volatile age group into dedicated establishments increased the tensions and risks and, secondly, that integration would enable young adults to be placed in resettlement prisons relatively near to their home area and to receive better resettlement services. As far as I am aware, there has not yet been an outcome from this

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proposal, and the findings of the Harris review about the specific needs of the 18 to 24 age group must place some question marks against it.

The Harris review emphasises that young people continue to develop physically and neurologically into their mid-20s in ways that affect not only their behaviour but their ability to cope with custody and separation from their families. They have particular care and support needs, therefore, and the review proposes a new role of custody and rehabilitation officer: a person properly trained to work with young people, with awareness of mental health and risk issues, replacing the personal officer scheme, which is not working effectively in most establishments. The key may not be that that entire proposal should be embraced but that there should be staff trained sufficiently to manage this age group. The needs of care-leavers tend to be especially acute.

The Harris review rightly emphasises the impact of lack of purposeful activity in this age group. It draws attention to the persistent evidence of inspection reports that purposeful activity and time out of the cell are seriously inadequate. At the simplest level, the impact of a lack of time in the fresh air—just 30 minutes a day in many adult prisons—is significant for the health and well-being of younger people. The review notes a similar shortfall in rehabilitation and resettlement work. It also observes:

“NOMS management have no proper means of assessing whether sufficient care is being given to vulnerable young adults or, indeed, whether minimum standards are being met”.

Those convicted of crimes need to have as much access to rehabilitative work as possible, not least so as to prevent crime, and the impact and suffering caused to victims of crime.

Finally and importantly, I add a warm tribute to the hard and effective work of custodial prison staff. Many young people are given support at crucial moments by staff who have learnt to spot signs of anxiety or low mood. Many lives are saved by a timely word or action. The review mentions the valuable role of prison chaplains. They play an important part, not only in offering the resources of faith but as part of the team in the assessment, care in custody and teamwork processes which are used actively to support those at risk of suicide or self-harm.

The Harris review confirms the growing sense that, just as childhood continues to the age of 18, so the process of physical, neurological and psychological maturity to adulthood goes on from there into the 20s, and that the penal custody system should take account of that.

4.19 pm

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, first, I warmly thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for this challenging report. I found it extremely timely and urgent, and he was right. The way he spoke this afternoon reinforced that.

There are of course all the individual relationships and how they are handled, to which speakers in this debate already referred. However, we cannot overlook what comes to me from this report. It is an indictment of society as a whole and its leadership—that cuts

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across party lines; I am not making party points here—that we can have a situation of this kind in 2015, in a country that keeps talking about how successful it is, if perhaps not always, as an economic force and of all the material achievements of our society, while in the face of all that is this story which society chooses to push under the carpet and refuse to acknowledge as a grave challenge which cannot be tackled with enough urgency. I thank the noble Lord for giving us the opportunity to see this so clearly.

I had for a number of years the privilege of being the president of the YMCA in England. I got very fascinated by its work in detention centres, particularly for young people. I was interested in all its work, but I was very interested in its important social housing programme for the young and vulnerable. Let me give two examples of perturbing situations I came across. One was a retired chief constable with quite a reputation who worked as one of our volunteers in a detention centre. He had a story about talking to a young chap with whom he had been dealing in the centre. This chap began to cry and he said to him, “But why are you crying? You are about to be released”. The youngster said, “That is why I am crying—I am so frightened of the world outside. Whatever I might have encountered here, I am terrified of going back into society and all the immediate pressures and realities that will face me. I am just not equipped to handle them”.

In the context of this consideration, the issue of mental health comes out. Of course, it comes out throughout the whole penal system and in much else of society. Here I must declare an interest because one of my daughters led a team of counsellors for a number of years working with women with mental health problems in deprived communities. The thing that repeatedly infuriated her—she used to get really worked up—is that her work was officially recognised and appreciated, and she would be sent more and more people from border authorities, the health service, the police and all sorts of sources. They were asked to cope with the situation. However, the money did not come, too. She said, “If you look at mental health practically here, and the work I am trying to do with my team, we see ourselves as the forgotten factor in the health service and the rest”. That is a social responsibility that comes home very strongly.

The other example is simply that I went to visit a team working in quite a big young offenders’ institution in the Midlands. They were very worried because their contract—I am uneasy about this contract culture generally—was to get people into jobs. Working with youngsters, they very quickly recognised how complex the situation was, and they would say, “For some of these youngsters, the very last thing to do is to push them into a job—they are not equipped for it. They need help and support, and they need preparation to work outside”. That threshold between the institution and the outside world is terribly important, but they were told in firm terms that their contract was to get people into jobs, and they were not to start using the money on consultation work and discovering that people were not ready for jobs. That was not their job. They were told explicitly that if they did not concentrate on that, somebody else would get the contract who would. That kind of situation has to be faced.

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It is good to hear the noble Lord emphasise the fact that we need a total culture change in our penal system. The culture should not be dominated by considerations of custody, although of course that is important, or by considerations of punishment, although of course we need to make it clear that some activities and practices are not acceptable. It should be dominated by a culture of rehabilitation.

To go back to the YMCA for a moment, we had a chap that I liked immensely, a senior superintendent in the police in the north of the country, who was central to many activities of the YMCA, not only in the north but nationally. He once confided in me, saying, “I always think that the moment when a person is sent down is absolutely crucial—it is a very lonely moment indeed. People react in different ways, some with bravado, some with fear and apprehension, and some clearly totally broken at that point. In an ideal society, that is the very moment when somebody should take the elbow of the sentenced person and say, ‘Come on, this is a terrible mess, how are we going to sort it out?’”. The right reverend Prelate made the vital point that what are indispensable are friendship and support—to have an identifiable friend, walking with that person through the sentence and the threshold and back into the world, and back into a full and positive life. These people are so often victims themselves. When I talked to them, I thought that it would be amazing if with such a nightmare story they were not in trouble. So why are they in this situation, and how do we help to rebuild?

4.28 pm

Lord Fellowes (CB): My Lords, this timely debate, initiated by the review of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, invites discussion of a pretty broad spectrum of prison issues. I should like to narrow it down a little for a moment, and focus on two areas that I regard as worthy of more attention than they are sometimes given. The first is the question of whether prisoners of voting age should have the right to vote. Remand prisoners are allowed to vote as it is, of course, but the right to vote is withdrawn from all others. My second topic is the conditions under which we incarcerate many of our 85,000 prisoners, and I will come to that in a minute. First, I should declare two interests. The first is that I am an ex-chairman of the Prison Reform Trust, and the second is that a member of my family was, until recently, a probation officer in Wandsworth prison.

On voting rights, I have never understood the high passions that are aroused in some quarters at the very thought of giving prisoners the vote. It seems self-evident that the more a prisoner is treated as a responsible citizen while incarcerated, the more likely that prisoner is to behave as a responsible citizen on release. My preference is that the right to vote be given to all prisoners, other than those who will never be released, provided they are properly qualified to exercise it under the same rules as the rest of the voting public. But I realise that this may be asking too much of a Government who have set their face against such a move for so long, so as a start I suggest that all prisoners should be entitled to vote within a year of release, providing they are properly

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qualified to do so, and that those serving sentences of less than a year should not have the right to vote withheld at all.

I dare say that some prisoners would say that the right to vote is not very high on their worry list, but I believe that anything that can help prisoners, many of them with personality disorders, to adjust to the concept of life outside as a responsible citizen must be desirable. This would at least be a step to lessening the appalling rate of reoffending in this country, especially by prisoners of younger age, in the signal it gives to prisoners that the outside world has not given up on them.

The fact that we would in initiating this change be moving towards conforming with EU requirements is, in a way, neither here nor there, but if it takes some of the tension on the issue out of our relationship with Brussels, so much the better. Surely if we do it, we should make such a change voluntarily and not with ill grace. Anything we can do to reduce reoffending must, of its very nature, be encouraged. As a postscript, I add that Britain is almost alone in western Europe in imposing a complete ban on prisoner voting. While we still have one of the highest reoffending rates in Europe, not to mention one of the highest per capita prison populations, prison is not working.

As to the condition of our jails, I wonder if noble Lords saw the recent prison inspector’s report on Walton prison. It was described as dirty, overcrowded and unsafe. There were 10 deaths there in 14 months, three of them suicides. The routine for prisoners was described as “chaotic and unpredictable”, and prisoners’ accommodation was described as,

“dirty, overcrowded and poorly equipped”.

There were some positive findings, and I am not suggesting that the problems there are necessarily replicated everywhere else, but one things stands out to me when considering the life of a prisoner in our older jails, and that is the number of prisoners sharing cells built for one only.

When I last asked a Question about this shared accommodation, the Answer was that no less than 20,000 prisoners are sharing single cells. This is a wretched state of affairs. I was, though, delighted to hear some distinctly encouraging intentions from the Ministry of Justice about the prison estate, and I sincerely hope that that promise is fulfilled. I hope that the Minister will be able to encourage some optimism. At present, such is the size of the prison population and such is the shortage of prison staff that many of these prisoners sharing cells will be locked up together pretty well all day and all night. What could possibly be worse for young men and women, many of them with mental health problems and personality disorders, as they prepare in cramped and squalid conditions to meet the world outside?

Surely, if we believe in the Churchill maxim that a country should be judged in term of fairness and decency by the way it treats its prisoners, we fail his test. More power to the elbow of those who have expressed their determination to improve the prison estate and to enable our prisoners to lead a less cramped and disfiguring life in preparation for release. Prisoners’ punishment is their loss of liberty, and every effort

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thereafter should be devoted to releasing them at the end of their sentence as responsible citizens of this country. I support the Motion.

4.35 pm

Lord Carlile of Berriew (LD): My Lords, there is a great deal of evidence in this debate of the need for action and change in the way in which young prisoners are treated. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, on his report and on instigating this debate, as well as on producing unanimity on all the main issues under discussion—so far, at least. I look forward to hearing from my noble friend Lord McNally, who is now chairman of the Youth Justice Board. The YJB has done a great deal of positive work, particularly in the area of reducing the numbers of young people held in custody and in improving the way in which they are treated. Shortly we shall also hear from the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, who some time ago now produced a seminal report on the issues arising from mental illness occurring when people are in custody.

In June 2014, sponsored by the Michael Sieff Foundation and the National Children’s Bureau, I had the privilege of chairing an all-party parliamentarians unofficial inquiry, which took evidence into the youth justice system and which contained Members of all political parties in both Houses, including, significantly, the current Solicitor-General, Robert Buckland QC, who had very clear views that are consistent with everything that has been said in this debate. We produced a report recommending numerous changes in the youth justice system, some of which I shall refer to in a moment.

The point of mentioning all those reports is to show how much learning there is, and how much advocacy there has been, for change in the youth justice system. I urge upon the Minister that the Government need no more evidence of what is needed by way of change. Indeed, in listening to this debate, if all the Minister did was to listen once again to the eight-minute speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, he would see a summary of the changes in policy that are required.

Of course, one of the main issues is overcrowding, not in the youth justice system but in the adult system. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillips, mentioned some numbers, as did the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, a few moments ago. As they gave those figures I recalled that when I first became a Member of another place in 1983, many MPs at that time were expressing outrage that the prison numbers had reached 35,000. I do not notice that our country is a much more lawful place now, with 84,000 people in custody, than it was in 1983, when there were 35,000. Perhaps there is something to be learned from that simple statistical comparison.

Very specifically on the youth justice system, I will start with a kind of metaphor. If a child is ill and needs a routine elective operation, inevitably it is sent to a paediatrician before a decision is made as to what treatment should be given. The paediatrician is not someone who simply has the label “Paediatrician” attached to him or her, but has to have learning, education, experience and qualifications, all specific and expert to the paediatric advice which they give.

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One of the conclusions that was reached by the parliamentarians’ inquiry to which I referred a few moments ago was that that sort of experience does not exist in the youth justice system. Yes, of course there are some very expert people, but it is pure chance whether a real expert is involved in a case. Somebody can be called a youth justice although they have no education, knowledge or training in youth justice—at least worth the name.

A solicitor or a barrister can prosecute or defend in a youth court without having any understanding of, or training in, the specific requirements of dealing with young people. Over my 45 years at the Bar, nothing has changed in that respect. My first ever contested case as a barrister was in the Camberwell Green juvenile court, as it was called, when I defended a young person charged with an offence of criminal damage. I had no idea what I was doing. Happily for the young person concerned, the result of the case was favourable, but I had absolutely no idea, and have none now, how that result was achieved, because I had no material training.

Today, young solicitors and barristers prosecute and defend in youth courts and they still have no such specific understanding or training. One of the recommendations of our inquiry was that no justice—whether a full-time district judge or a part-time justice—should sit in cases without such training. I greatly value the work of youth justices and am delighted to see a very distinguished one, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, in his place, but there is currently no requirement that they should have any real expertise in what they do. Indeed, there is no requirement that someone who is regarded as a youth justice should always sit on a case involving a young person.

Furthermore, we recommended that what I think in the trade is usually called “ticketing” should be applied to lawyers, whether they be solicitors or barristers, who appear in the youth court because it is a specialised area. Understanding what has happened in a young person’s life is much more difficult than most other things that advocates do. The Bar Standards Board, to its credit, has set up a review of this matter with an in-depth investigation into the ticketing issue. The Law Society has been much less compliant and shows real resistance to any form of expertise ticketing in this area because, of course, it would limit the number of solicitors who are able to appear in such cases. I hope that it will soon change its mind.

If we had experts dealing with these cases, surely we would be able to ensure that better, more constructive non-custodial disposals were achieved. We advise that youth scrutiny panels should be established by the Youth Justice Board and local authorities to focus on diversion measures so that these trials can be avoided if possible. However, when they come to court, we advise that there should be comprehensive case assessments and family group conferences, where the real problems that affect the young person’s life can be assessed. As has been said repeatedly, the young people who find themselves in court have almost always had chaotic lives. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, emphasised, for many of these young people custody is the most comfortable place they have ever been, and we do not want that to be perpetuated.

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My final point is about the rehabilitation of offenders. Young people who have been in trouble as teenagers are sometimes unable to obtain jobs because their records follow them. I urge upon the Minister that the Government should examine that carefully and try to ensure that, when young people who have been in trouble become adults, after a reasonable time they are no longer saddled with a criminal record.

4.43 pm

Lord Bradley (Lab): My Lords, at the start I declare my health and related interests—in particular, that I am a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust and the Centre for Mental Health.

I add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Harris on securing this very important debate about his fine report on 18 to 24 year-olds who have died in tragic circumstances in prison. I commend his crucial recommendations, which must, I believe, be implemented.

In this short debate, I shall, not surprisingly, concentrate on the development of liaison and diversion services related to the recommendations of my own report—I am grateful for the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about that—and other reports that are complementary to it. I believe that my recommendations dovetail very clearly with the findings of my noble friend Lord Harris. Taken together, they can make a real contribution to tackling this appalling situation.

Crucially, as noble Lords have already stated, the need for early identification and assessment of mental health, learning disabilities and difficulties, and other complex needs, and where appropriate to divert those people out of or away from the criminal justice system, is absolutely essential. They need to be passported at that point to appropriate specialist services, whether that be in-patient services or community-based services.

The report of my noble friend Lord Harris looks specifically at 18 to 24 year-olds. But we must ask ourselves what could be done earlier with children to undertake crucial identification and assessment before they find themselves in the criminal justice system, or at least hitting against it. An example of this is what we do in our schools. I am not suggesting that everyone who works in a school should be a specialist in mental health problems or learning disabilities. However, what basic awareness training could be implemented for our teachers, canteen staff and caretakers so that they are aware of the issues that they see in children and can help to passport them quickly into other appropriate services? We should not have to wait—if I can caricature it as such—for a child to go from the front of the class to the back of the class, out of the classroom, out of the school, into the park and into trouble. Why can we not identify that problem earlier in the system so that they perhaps do not end up in the youth justice system?

As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, rightly pointed out, excellent work has been undertaken by the Youth Justice Board and the youth justice services to reduce the number of children in custody. Even so, look at some basic facts from the youth justice system: young people with a mental health condition are three times more likely to be in the youth justice system; they are six times more likely than other young people to have

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a diagnosable conduct disorder; they are more likely to have a moderate learning disability; and they are more likely to have a speech and communication need or traumatic brain injury. Data from the previous youth point of arrest screening indicate that children on a current care order were significantly overrepresented in the youth justice system.

As we have a national rollout of liaison and diversion services, we have to look at the essential specific needs of children and young adults in that programme. It is clear that the success of such schemes is highly dependent on the existence of effective diversionary infrastructure of services. Although the extra investment over the next five years in children and adolescent mental health services is welcome, there is still a huge shortfall of services across the country, whether that be in-patient beds or services in the community. There is a shortage of therapy programmes and timely referral to them, and there is poor provision for learning disability and speech and language services across the country. With limited resources, thresholds for access to such services are raised and, therefore, become a barrier to effective diversion and liaison schemes.

As we heard from noble Lords, such schemes must take into account maturity. When children move from children’s services to adult services, the age barrier can be a real deterrent to effective continuity of care. The Centre for Mental Health set up the Bradley Commission and we looked at the issue of maturity. Our first recommendation was that:

“National government should foster a whole systems approach to ensure all young people aged 15-24 years who require specialist intervention should experience continuity of care”.

I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on such a proposal.

The rollout of the liaison diversion service is interlinked with other important initiatives about assessment and identification—for example, street triage and the consequent reduction in the use of police cells for children. It is welcome that the Government intend to ban the use of these cells by July of next year, but we need further investment in places of safety away from the criminal justice system to ensure that people in mental health or other crises have the appropriate environment in which an assessment can be carried out effectively.

The key issue around liaison diversion is that it should start at the earliest opportunity—often when young people come into contact with the criminal justice system at the police station. The information that is gathered about their complex needs must then be shared along the criminal justice pathway from the police station to the court and to prison, if that is the appropriate next step, or, more effectively into the community. There has to be continuity of care. If they end up in the prison system, they can link very effectively to the new officer that is recommended in the report by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. That information must be shared in the system and dealt with in the system. Services must then be in the system so that when the individual comes back into the community they have the effective services that they need for effective rehabilitation to ensure that they do not reoffend.

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To achieve all this, we need to build up those services, not just for people who find themselves in the criminal justice system, but for the community in general. We need better mental health services, better alcohol treatment services and better drug treatment services because offenders are only a subset of the community while they have offended. They need to return to the community and still need those effective services. Some 53% of rollout of the liaison diversion services has been achieved so far. I believe that 100% rollout can be achieved by 2017-18 with the Government’s commitment to that investment through the comprehensive spending review.

4.52 pm

Baroness Young of Hornsey (CB): My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to raise some of the important issues covered by the excellent review of the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I am grateful to Jessica Mullen from Clinks which is an organisation working in partnership with the Young review, and Katharine Sacks-Jones, who is director of AGENDA, the alliance for girls and women at risk. I am grateful to them for their comments and contributions. I am currently chair of the steering group for AGENDA and I have chaired the Young review since October 2013.

Supported by the Black Training and Enterprise Group and Clinks, the Young review set out to examine how existing knowledge and experience could be harnessed to improve outcomes for young black and/or Muslim men in the criminal justice system. Our report was published last year. I hope the Minister and indeed other noble Lords have had the opportunity to read at least the executive summary of the report, and I would be happy to brief anyone who would like to know more about our current programme of work.

The Young review is now into a second, three-year phase funded by charitable trusts and is embarking on the challenging task of implementation. The initial review was born out of a sense of frustration about a lack of progress and the low priority given to disproportionality, race and ethnicity in the criminal justice system. We were also mindful of the changes that were about to take place through the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. For too long, many of us have been aware that young black men are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and at every stage, young black and minority ethnic men report the least positive perceptions of that process and of prison life compared with all other groups. Contrary to popular belief, only approximately 1% of Muslim offenders are in prison for terrorism-related offences, but it is of concern that the percentage of young Muslim men in the criminal justice system has almost doubled since 2002.

The Young review was pleased to be able to submit evidence in writing and in person to the Harris review into self-inflicted deaths in custody. We support the noble Lord’s position that all young people in custody are vulnerable in one way or another. We would also describe black and/or young Muslim men in prison as vulnerable, particularly because of the impact of racism and discrimination on their experiences of ethnicity, faith and culture.

It can be difficult for the public to identify young offenders as vulnerable, but front-line professionals

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know all too well that the same person can be both victim and perpetrator. We often find with these young men that they have very poor experiences, which many noble Lords have pointed out in the debate. They have been picked up by the police over and again, they have been preyed on by adults, or they have been in the care system. The noble Baroness, Lady Healy, and my noble friend Lord Adebowale reminded us that care leavers are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and it is an issue which has been examined by my noble friend Lord Laming and the Prison Reform Trust. This is not intended to be an excuse for such behaviour, but if we are serious about reducing the number of young people going to prison, we need to develop a much more informed understanding of their experiences and the ways in which they shape their perceptions and world view. Only then can we challenge offending behaviour and give them the support they need, helping them to build resilience and to desist from criminal activity.

At the same time, we have to demonstrate seriousness about tackling the systems which produce racism, stereotyping, discrimination and stigmatisation, as well as the lack of opportunities that so many in these communities face. I will cite one striking example. A young man I spoke to during the course of the review, one of whose parents had died when he was a small child and the other with serious mental health issues, had been sent away to a state boarding school from where he would run away as he was desperate to see his one remaining parent and his younger brother, for whom he felt responsible. He got involved in criminal activity and was in and out of prison for several years. A local community-based organisation that works with offenders and their families helped him to sort his life out, and he left prison with some hope of turning it around. He applied for approximately 50 jobs and could not get an interview, not even for basic manual labour. He decided to become a self-employed builder and decorator. He bought a car and called to fix insurance for the vehicle. When he admitted to having a criminal record, he was quoted a cost of £12,000 a year. Of course that was completely out of his reach, and indeed it would be even for some of us. Sadly, that young man returned to prison. Aspiration needs hope, and without that, it is hard to see how we can change people’s outlook.

It is difficult for all former offenders to find work, and it is an issue that the Government urgently need to address, but research demonstrates that those applicants whose names appear to indicate a candidate of black or minority ethnic origin will have to submit more than twice as many applications for a job even to get shortlisted. The levels of prejudice and stigmatisation faced by Muslims are bad and getting worse. How can it be that we have reached a position where lawyers feel it necessary to advise their male Muslim clients to cut off their beards so that they do not look too much like extremists when they are facing trial? While for many of the Muslim offenders and former offenders that we met their faith was a source of strength, they were acutely aware of the stereotypes and stigma attached to being an offender and being a Muslim in prison. The current view of Islam perpetuated in sections of the media and elsewhere can shape the ways in which

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adherents are regarded and consequently treated. Training and professional development for those who engage with Muslim offenders is urgently needed, and this is an area where former service users can make a useful contribution to better understanding.

Drawing conclusions from the data around self-inflicted harm and death is challenging and complex. For one thing, information on faith is not uniformly collected across the criminal justice system, which makes comparisons difficult. We would also want to draw attention to the challenges of using the data on self-harm as proxy measures for vulnerability in the group on which we focused. The data appear to show that overall, black and minority ethnic prisoners—incidentally, they are not disaggregated in the data available—are less likely to take their own lives than their white counterparts. However, the data also show that those in the 18-24 age group are more likely to take their own lives than older prisoners in the same group, so we cannot say with confidence whether young BAME men are less or more likely to commit suicide than young white men of a similar age.

The disproportionately negative outcomes that BAME offenders experience in a range of areas will almost inevitably affect their well-being. The other point to note is that BAME covers an extremely diverse group and it is possible, although it is not able to be proven, that young men in some of these sub-categories, as it were, may be disguising outcomes for others. We simply do not know, and therefore we need the data to be broken down and cross-referenced within the system in order for us to fully understand who is vulnerable and what the risk factors are within this broad group.

During a constructive meeting with Andrew Selous, the Minister responsible for prisons, he expressed his desire to support the aims of our review and made several useful suggestions. Will the Minister take back to the MoJ this issue of data as it continues to cause unnecessary complications in our analysis? Another point is that it has been suggested that boys and men find different ways to self-harm than girls and women. Again, that is something that people are exploring through various pieces of research.

I want to say something about women and girls by referring to AGENDA, which is an alliance for women and girls at risk. It is concerned with the most vulnerable women in society—particularly but not exclusively, those who have survived domestic abuse, child sexual abuse and the mental health issues arising from such experiences. Many of these women are ending up in our prisons. Female prisoners account for a disproportionate amount of self-harm on the prison estate. In 2014, 26% of all self-harm incidents in prisons in England and Wales were attributed to women, despite them representing only 5% of the prison population. It is true that rates of self-harm have been falling among women prisoners, but as the previous levels were so high, this is not really a cause for celebration. The figures remain shocking and unacceptable.

Many of us would agree that an awful lot of women in prison should not be there. Sometimes they are arrested, or put in prison when other people have committed crimes against them, and they seem to be taking the blame. This was made clear to me by a number of women who shared their experience of

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domestic abuse. When they called the police because they were being attacked by their partners, the women got arrested while their partners were not necessarily arrested. This is not good enough. Some very vulnerable women are ending up in prison when it is obviously not the right place.

With regard to the voluntary sector, it is true that it has played an enormous and substantial role in developing and driving forward local intervention strategies and solutions to some of these issues. But, as noble Lords will be aware, the voluntary sector is in quite a perilous state. As it anticipates more cuts to services, and not quite reaping the rewards that it thought it might through the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, we are in for quite a difficult time. There needs to be a sense that the Government are on top of this and have a strategy for dealing with it. If we do not support the voluntary sector we will be in a whole heap of trouble. As noble Lords have said, many women and young adults could be diverted from prison in the first place, thus saving the justice system significant costs and preventing so many lives being blighted.

5.02 pm

Lord Eames (CB): My Lords, I pay tribute, as other noble Lords have already done, to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and his team. Added to the large library of reports and books on the whole criminal justice system, his report has brought into focus what for many of us is the real, focal issue that he is trying to address, for beyond the question of self-harm, attempted suicide and, tragically, suicide in our detention centres and prisons, he has raised fundamental issues. What is the purpose of imprisonment? What is the purpose of the criminal justice system? What is the purpose of the way in which the courts deal with young offenders?

At this stage in a long debate, I have two points simply that I want to put to the House. First, I want to raise again this issue of the purpose and our dealing with those who are offenders and are imprisoned.

David was 18 years of age, convicted of a very serious offence and put in prison. Within six months of his incarceration, he attempted suicide and, but for the fact that it was discovered in time, he would definitely have become one of the statistics of death. To cut a long story short, he served the remainder of his sentence under certain conditions. On his release, he returned to society but was a scarred and mentally tortured man. Time passed and, because of his experience at the hands of those responsible for him, those scars remained. However, unknown to us, another experience in prison had affected him: the care and attention given to his particular needs by a member of the prison staff who, in a voluntary capacity and in his extra time, saw something in David’s life that was worth helping. Three weeks ago, I visited a community organisation in a certain estate in the City of Belfast, which helps children likely to be in contact with the criminal justice system. At its head and leading it is David. The response of the community to that organisation has been phenomenal.

Now, I know that you can take individual cases and use them to prove a wide range of conclusions. I am simply trying to illustrate, from my own pastoral

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experience, what can happen when someone takes care to show an individual interest in the possibility of another human life. That took place in David’s case. He is not looking for praise, plaudits or honours; he is doing something that was conjured into his life by someone within the system who was prepared to take that extra bit of interest.

The contributions to this debate have already illustrated that there are things wrong with the system, which need to be fixed. However, I say earnestly to the Minister that it is not that we do not know that something is wrong; it is the fact that we have been told so often that something is wrong. The report by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has focused us once again on some of the major issues, but surely the case of David shows that, even within a failing system, success stories are possible.

I come to the second point, which I shall put briefly to your Lordships’ House. We have listened to noble Lords who, in their professional career, have sent people to prison. I was greatly touched by the speech by my noble and learned friend Lord Phillips. One of the points he brought to our attention was that information that people in the system should have received was not passed on when it was needed most. That is where the system has fallen down—and for many of us it has fallen down once too often. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who was recently in a position to tell us about the situation in my own part of the United Kingdom, knows very well that the Davids of this world, living at such a troubled period in our history, came into a system which at times was almost unable to cope with the problems we faced.

Nevertheless, I venture to suggest that David’s case shows the system is not beyond redemption; something can be done. What we are trying to suggest today—and I hope the Minister will say something about it—is that, despite the problems in the system, it is the attitude that we need to look at more than anything else.

5.09 pm

Lord McNally (LD): My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, as he gives us a glimpse of optimism and of redemption. All of us who work in the criminal justice system can think of personal examples of individuals whose lives have been changed by the intervention of others, which is one reason why I am a great supporter of mentoring.

Like others, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for both securing the debate and producing a report that could, if listened to, be a genuine landmark in advancing the case for prison reform and effective rehabilitation. Although the report is an independent review into self-inflicted deaths among 18 to 24 year-olds in custody, the noble Lord has, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, pointed out, taken on the broader challenge set out in the report’s title: “changing prisons, saving lives”.

The Motion before us sets out the core messages of the report: to address the problems before young people enter prison via an effective programme of treatment and diversion; to reduce the prison population;

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to improve conditions in prisons; to work upstream on diversion, and on rehabilitation in custody and post-custody so that prisoners have an option of a meaningful and law-abiding life.

I declare my interest as chair of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales. I thank my noble friends Lord Dholakia and Lord Carlile for their kind comments. As I listened to this I thought about what a source of advice this House is to the Minister. There is my noble friend Lord Carlile’s report on youth courts and the report by the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, on mental illness. There is the report by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, on BAME. I am very pleased to be working closely with her on that. There is the report before us today from the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, pointed out, coming down the track is the report on looked-after children from the noble Lord, Lord Laming, and the committee on which I have the pleasure to serve.

As noble Lords will know, the YJB has responsibility for young offenders aged over 10—our age of criminal responsibility—until they reach the age of 18: adulthood in the eyes of the law. The Harris report’s remit did not cover the under-18 secure estate, but the noble Lord did examine the four deaths in the youth estate between 2000 and the last self-inflicted death in 2012. In addition, the YJB willingly gave both oral and written evidence to his committee. We made available to it our study of all 16 such deaths that have occurred in the last 15 years in the youth estate, which was published in March 2014 and entitled, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth said, Deaths of Children in Custody: Action Taken, Lessons Learnt.

The responsibility to keep young people in our care safe is paramount in the Youth Justice Board’s duties. But I am also aware—this is why I was eager to take part in this debate—that there is not some magic transformation at the age of 18. I recently attended a presentation based on work being done at University College London on brain development, which showed a wide variation in timings of maturity, between the early teens and the age of 25, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, said. That is why I so welcome the Harris report. The YJB recognises that young adults, much like children in our youth estate, have specific needs, entitlements and potential. These must be addressed and supported on an individual basis to mitigate their risk of self-harm and suicide, and to support their time in custody and rehabilitation.

The Harris review endorses the benefits of a multiagency and holistic approach to address the needs of those in the criminal justice system for which the YJB has been the pathfinder these last 15 years. I am proud that we now have barely 1,000 young people in custody in the secure estate, fewer than 50 of whom are girls. That compares with nearly 4,000 10 years ago. As the Harris report advocates, that has been achieved by going upstream to tackle the causes of offending. As a result, the number of people in custody and first-time entrants is now at an all-time low.

I pay tribute to the way in which police forces and police and crime commissioners have bought into early intervention and diversion. Our other partners—children’s and social services departments, probation

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services and health and education—have all embraced this holistic approach to diversion. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that his approach will greatly influence the approach and policies of the YJB in the months and years ahead. I agree with him that the troubled families programme often overlaps with ours with regard to the challenges posed by young offenders. However, this is a report for all ages—under 18s, under 25s, over 25s. Its recommendations make sense far beyond its narrow remit.

There is much in the report to approve of but I shall touch briefly on just one or two matters. First, I will not try to go further than the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, on mental health services and, particularly, liaison and diversion services. However, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, the noble Baroness, Lady Healy, and others, that I think there is a little glimpse of optimism. The Minister, Alistair Burt, is building on the record of my colleague Norman Lamb in putting mental health care high on the agenda. The Youth Justice Board is working closely with NHS England to bring forward a programme of early intervention.

Secondly, on education, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have made major commitments to make life in prison meaningful through better education and training. The big problem here is the gap between those high ideals and the harsh reality of delivering a safe environment in which to carry out those education and training programmes.

I also draw attention to a matter that has been raised by a number of other speakers—namely, if there is one thing which really gives me concern since I became chairman of the YJB, it is the disjoint in information as a young person passes through the criminal justice system. We have a fear—particularly, I suspect, on my Benches—of the big brother state that knows all too much about us. The reality is that people too often have to make fundamental decisions about the welfare, vulnerability and needs of a young person with incomplete knowledge about what has happened previously and who has dealt with that young person previously. A major priority should be to ensure that the journey of the child into young adulthood is accompanied by as full a record as possible of their vulnerabilities and needs, what has happened to them and what should be done for them.

On staff skills, I associate myself with what has been said by one or two speakers, most recently the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames. I sometimes leave the secure estate in absolute awe of what the staff do. It is not an easy environment and the young people they are dealing with are not all lovable, yet staff do tremendous work. It is important that we take responsibility for saying that nobody should have to go out to work thinking, “Is this the day I am going to be seriously injured doing my job of trying to keep order in a YOI or prison?”. We have to address that issue.

This is a landmark report and an opportunity for reform. These times of austerity are not the easiest times. However, it behoves us all to reflect that, during the timescale covered by this report, all three parties have been in government at one time or another. Like

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the noble Lords, Lord Fellowes and Lord Harris, who also quoted Churchill—when he was a Liberal—I believe that,

“the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country”.

That is doubly true when it comes to the treatment of the young. As I said in opening, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and his colleagues for their work. It is now incumbent on all of us with responsibility in these areas to heed their wise advice.

5.20 pm

Lord Beecham (Lab): My Lords, 400 years ago John Donne proclaimed:

“No man is an island … any man’s death diminishes me”.

How much more are we and our justice system diminished by the deaths in custody of the four children and 83 young adults for whom the bell tolled between April 2007 and December 2013?

We are indebted to my noble friend Lord Harris and his team for their careful investigation into the circumstances which led to these untimely deaths; the way they have identified the failings of the policies and institutions within which they occurred; and the recommendations they propose to improve upon an unacceptable toll of young lives. It would be churlish not to pay tribute to Ministers for establishing the review and for reaching across the political divide and appointing my noble friend to chair it.

I regret I must qualify that tribute somewhat in the light of the Government’s reaction to the recent Supreme Court judgment which outlawed the segregation of prisoners—that is, placing them in solitary confinement for more than 72 hours—including young offenders. The Government have laid an order to amend the prison rules to extend this to 42 days and have embarked upon a consultation process as part of a review of the policy, which will conclude in the new year. That will be a matter of concern for Members of your Lordships’ House.

The background to the problems identified by the report lies in the way our criminal justice system involves a low level of the age of criminal responsibility and a high level of incarceration, with the prison population virtually doubling in the past 20 years, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, pointed out. We have, or are close to having, the highest prison population relative to population of any advanced country, with commensurately high costs, both direct and indirect. It is clear that conditions in too many of our prisons and young offender institutions are unsatisfactory, with overcrowding and staff shortages, and that in turn these systemic failings are reflected in unacceptably high and costly levels of reoffending.

I must again pay tribute to the Government for recognising that rehabilitation is the key to improvement in this area, with the additional bonus of reducing costs, although arguably the policies of the previous Lord Chancellor conflicted with the aspirations he voiced. There are welcome signs that Mr Gove may take a more rounded view.

An important strand running through the report and the submissions of bodies such as the Howard League and the Prison Reform Trust is the need to

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recognise that sentencing policy and custodial practice should reflect the reality that 18 to 21 year-olds are not all of a piece in terms of their developmental maturity, a point made by several Members of your Lordships’ House in this debate. To adopt an old-fashioned phrase, sentencing needs to be tailor-made, not merely handed down from the judicial shelf, and the same approach is required in respect of what is provided by way of healthcare, education and all that is needed to promote rehabilitation. Particular attention is needed in respect of issues such as literacy and numeracy, and facilitating and encouraging family contact, physically and remotely by telephone or Skype, where this is appropriate. That was one of the main issues which persuaded many of us—and perhaps, in the event, Mr Gove—that the secure college concept for young offenders aged between 12 and 17 was ill advised.

It is clear that the system is struggling, with poor outcomes whether young adults are housed in separate establishments or mixed with adult offenders. The inspectorate found that local mixed prisons are finding it difficult to cope, although paradoxically it also found that young adults felt less safe in prisons without adults. Nevertheless, the Prison Reform Trust supports separate provision. There is clearly a debate to be had on this difficult issue and perhaps the Minister could indicate how the matter might be carried forward and eventually resolved.