House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Home Affairs COMMITTEE
Tuesday 13 March 2007
RT HON BARONESS SCOTLAND OF ASTHAL QC, MR VERNON COAKER MP, MS HELEN EDWARDS CBE, MS URSULA BRENNAN and MR SIMON KING
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 13 March 2007
Mr John Denham, in the Chair
Mr Richard Benyon
Mr Jeremy Browne
Ms Karen Buck
Mrs Ann Cryer
Mrs Janet Dean
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Rt Hon Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC, a Member of the House of Lords, Minister for Criminal Justice and Offender Management, Home Office, Mr Vernon Coaker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, Ms Helen Edwards CBE, Chief Executive, National Offender Management Service, Home Office, Ms Ursula Brennan, Chief Executive, Office of Criminal Justice Reform, Home Office, and Mr Simon King, Head of Violent Crime Unit, Home Office, gave evidence.
Q590 Chairman: Thank you for coming. This is the final session of the inquiry into Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System. Baroness Scotland, it is quite clear that the great majority of young black people are not involved in the criminal justice system. However, in our evidence, we have had Lee Jasper, who works for the Mayor of London, saying we have quite literally a crisis in the black community amongst our young people; Superintendent Leroy Logan of Hackney Police referred to the "self-destruction" of some communities of young people who "see their youth affiliations as more important than the norms and values of society". Those are two quite different witnesses saying that there is a real concern about where we are with some young black people at the moment. Do you accept that what these witnesses are describing is a reality?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I accept that there is a real issue in relation to violence and indeed criminality amongst young people as a whole. I also accept that in certain areas, particularly in the most deprived areas in our country, there are features which reflect that dysfunction and that black and minority ethnic young people are particularly affected by that. I am not sure whether implicit in the suggestion is that this is an issue which affects black young people and not young people generally in the deprived areas of our country.
Q591 Chairman: The witnesses need to speak for themselves but the evidence we have heard from quite a number of witnesses to this inquiry, whilst they have said that similar things happen, similar levels of crime take place amongst groups of young white people, is that nonetheless there are some quite specific features of the way in which crime is developing, the way the response to crime is developing, amongst young black people which are quite distinct and the fact they are not just the same requires different responses. Are you saying you do not think that is the case, that identifying young black people is a problem in the way in which we approach this issue?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am saying that what we have seen with all types of offenders is that you have to look at the socio, cultural and economic factors which influence their offending. For instance, if one were to look at women's offending, it takes a different pattern, in the main, to male offending. There are different parts of the country where you will see different trends, which are influenced by the culture in which those individuals sit. I think it is important to identify whether there are significant cultural differences and other socioeconomic differences which create criminogenic factors, which draw you to a different conclusion. I am saying that I am a little wary of the suggestion that those factors are dependent solely on the colour of the individual's skin and not the position in which they find themselves.
Q592 Chairman: Perhaps I could draw you out. What would you say the cultural factors are we might be looking at?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: If you look at the questions of displacement, the length of time that people have been in the country, the nature of the areas in which they live, I know this committee is only too familiar with the fact that in 88% of the most deprived areas 7% of the black and minority ethnic community live. If you then look at the criminogenic factors which are indicative of those who end up in our prisons, we see that failure to get a job, failure to get accommodation, failure to kept appropriate education, low attainment, all of these features impact negatively on those who end up in the criminal justice system. There is a disproportionality in the representation there.
Q593 Chairman: Would you say that those factors are sufficient to explain why young black people are so overrepresented in the criminal justice system and indeed that overrepresentation appears to be getting worse?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have to analyse those factors. You know that we have been analysing those for quite some time. What I am resisting, I suppose, is the suggestion that there are separate distinct cultural factors which are simply predicated on black and minority ethnic individuals' culture which predisposes them to behave in a way which is criminal. I do not know, Chairman, whether that is what you are suggesting to me because, if you are, then I would be resisting it.
Q594 Chairman: Let me just look at some of the work the Home Office has done. The Criminal Justice System Race Unit was set up five years ago. One of the ministers responsible for that, Paul Goggins, said that the aim was to get behind the surface of statistics and understand the process through which discrimination may be occurring. That was set up five years ago. The Home Office submission to us today states that it is "unable to say with confidence...why disproportionality occurs". It does not look, on the face of it, as though the Home Office has made very much progress in understanding why disproportionality happens, let alone any progress in reducing it.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: If I may respectfully say so, that would be unfair. One of the things we have all had to try and do is to look at the datasets. We have not always had the data as to how things actually occur. One of the things that we have done is to look at the whole over the criminal justice system, to look at every stage, because we know, from the figures that we now have, that there is inexplicable disproportionality at every stage of the process. We have disproportionality on arrest, disproportionality in terms of charge, disproportionality in terms of result in court, disproportionality in terms of sentence and disproportionality in sentence length. What we have tried to do is to unpack those systems to better understand where the change occurs. We look at the work we have done on stop and search action teams and at practical policies that we can implement to see whether we can make a difference on disproportionality. As we roll those out, we have seen that disproportionality has changed. In one area where there was disproportionality of 6 to 1, as a result of operating the stop and search action plan protocol, it is now 2 to 1, so it is coming down. I think it would be unfair to say that we are not (a) addressing this issue aggressively, but (b) starting - and I think there is a level of acute frustration that we have not been able to get to the kernel of this more quickly - to find the things that will make the difference and starting to employ those tools to change the picture.
Q595 Chairman: The difficulty that the committee has is that disproportionality would be very familiar to anybody who was looking at these issues five years. You mention stop and search. I wonder if you can mention any other areas where you say in the last five years the Home Office has actually made real progress in reducing disproportionality.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have made progress in reducing disproportionality in staffing levels across the criminal justice system, and I think the Committee has seen the figures where we have a much more representative workforce; the work that we are doing through the CPS in terms of the charging of offences has made a difference. If you then look at the ability that we now have to address issues of race and disproportionality in the police force and the approach that we are taking there, all of these have an advantage, but I think we need to look more broadly. We know that those who come into the criminal justice system are affected by factors which are outwith the criminal justice system. If you then look at what we are doing across the Government and at disproportionality in terms of outcome and performance there, it would be fair to say that we have made a significant step change.
Q596 Chairman: It would be fair to say, would it not, that in terms of the actual outcomes of these processes, there are relatively few places you can point to where we have made significant improvements across the board?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: One of the most important, surely, is in relation to confidence. One of the things we have been grappling with for a long time is the confidence of black and minority people have in the criminal justice system.
Q597 Chairman: We are talking about young black people in the criminal justice system and reducing disproportionality there. As far as we can see, there has not been any significant reduction in the overrepresentation of young black people in the criminal justice system five years after the specialist unit in the Home Office was set up to address this issue. I am trying to get an accurate picture of where we are. The Committee will acknowledge the changes in the composition of the police force, staffing and so on. How much positive progress we have made?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: That is why I say that one of the issues of real frustration is that we have identified a whole series of things which needed to be changed, which we are changing. Notwithstanding the fact that we have changed the systems, we are getting better datasets, better analyses, the changes that we would like to see are not happening as quickly as we would like. We now have the beginning of that change. I gave you an example of the work that the stop and search action team is doing and the implementation of that, I think we should acknowledge, over the last 12 months, is already starting to show real differences and real changes. It is our approach towards neighbourhood policing, the involvement of communities, the Safer Schools Partnership which involves the community and the aftercare, the common quality of service standards, the police performance assessment framework, all of those are contributing to changing the template.
Q598 Chairman: You are, quite rightly, keen to make it clear that people do not offend because of the colour of their skin, which the Committee would entirely accept. However, the Committee has had a lot of evidence as to what is happening within certain sections of the black community: black school exclusions, parenting, all those sorts of issues, the things which take a particular form in those communities. You seem to be reluctant to get into that area of debate. I wonder whether this is not leading the Home Office not to look at some important issues. We know, for example, that between 1997 and 2003 the number of black male prisoners of British nationality increased by 21.5% and there was a 5% rise in the number of white male prisoners with British nationality. We have been told by your officials that the Home Office has not conducted any detailed research, which looks specifically at the causes behind that growth in the minority and ethic population. Do you worry that in your understandable desire not to say there is a particular problem with the black community, we are failing to examine what is gong on to see if there are particular causes, particular trends and particular factors that need to be tackled?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I do not think so, for this reason. If we look at what we need to do to change patterns of criminality, we have to better engage communities. One of the things that we have failed to do in the past is properly to include communities in some of the problem solving. If you look at the things that have been successful, the operations which have been successful to curtail criminality in all communities, if you look particularly in relation to black and minority ethnic communities, where we have really engaged local communities, we have made dramatic changes. That involves understanding the culture, understanding the intelligence in terms of how crime operates in that area, and engaging people in a way that makes sense. Many of the people who have spoken to you will have talked about the fact that many communities have withdrawn from this. If you look at what happens in many Caribbean communities, historically there was an unwillingness to engage or combat authority. That is changing. Lots of the quite exciting things that are happening are happening as a result of community engagement with the services. So the local criminal justice board as part of their confidence agenda have a specific target to better engage all our communities, which includes BME communities.
Q599 Chairman: If I may, that does not necessarily say that it would not be worthwhile asking the question as a Home Office: why is the proportion of minority ethnic prisoners increasing at a much more rapid rate than those of male prisoners? Many of the witnesses we have had to this inquiry have welcomed the inquiry because they regard it as an opportunity to air issues that are going on in their community that they feel have been neglected for too long. Your position seems to be one of defending a position of saying, "We do not really want to assert these issues for fear of alienating the communities and not getting them on our side"?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: If I am giving that impression, that is the antithesis of what we are actually doing because what we have looked at, and we have looked at very boldly, is to say, "This disproportionality is unacceptable". We cannot understand why this is happening. There is no justification for it when you strip away these issues. The issue of why the black community is so concerned is absolutely right. If you look at the victims, why are there more black victims than white? That is not an acceptable position for us. Why are the numbers in our prisons of black and minority ethnic people going up? Why do we have sentencing which seems to impinge more trenchantly on black young people than others? Why is there this difference on the ground? These are very hard-edged questions that we are asking again and again and again at every stage because we do not accept that the disproportionality we currently see is explicable and therefore acceptable. If it was disproportionality based on a sound series of reasons, then we would be much more comfortable but we are not comfortable. If this Committee has gained the impression that that is not at the forefront of the work we are doing, then I very much regret that and would apologise if I, in anything I have said, have added to it because that is the antithesis of what we are trying to do. We are absolutely determined that we will change this because it is not acceptable.
Q600 Martin Salter: Just to give you a break, Patricia, my first question is to Vernon. We are all aware, and the Home Office is particularly aware, of the link between drugs and crime. We are also aware of problems with the rehabilitation programmes that are rolled out. I want to quote to you some evidence that we were given from Camila Batmanghelidjh, with whom I know you are familiar. "Drugs play a very major part. We cannot access rehabs for young people; and there are a lot of young people who want to give up drugs but it takes about nine weeks before a drugs worker is allocated; and most of the rehabs that are out there cannot cope with this aggressive client. The rehab model is based on a middle class talking-shop model, and these kids cannot control themselves very well so when they have an outburst in withdrawal in rehab they get chucked out." I raised this issue personally with the Prime Minister, and your predecessor I remember was sent delegations on the issue. Is not one of the causes behind some of the explosion in drugs crime we have that there is still a consistent failure to make a seamless transition from the court to the rehab unit without these unacceptable delays?
Mr Coaker: This is a very important point that you make about the evil role that drugs play in many communities across the country. Could I explain that there is a number of elements to the whole purpose of the Government's drugs strategy. It does answer your question, if I can broadly draw the strategy. First of all, any part of a drugs strategy from the Government's point of view has to involve tough law enforcement. There has to be a clear set of rules which the police rigorously enforce, and that is one aspect of it. The second aspect of it is obviously education and ensuring that our young people and others are educated about drugs and the harm that drugs cause. The third element of course is the element to do with treatment. We would say, and quite rightly, that we can point to figures which show an explosion in the numbers of people that we have now entering treatment as a result of the drugs strategy. Many of those people access it, as you know, through the drugs intervention programme and tests either on arrest or charge. We get those people into treatment. We are also, alongside that, working with our colleagues in health to try to ensure that the criminal justice route is not the only route by which people can access treatment. Obviously we want that. We are looking at what we can do to increase the number of people accessing treatment through health, and also making sure that people have the information with respect to self-referral. Of course, once people are in treatment, by whichever route they have got into that treatment, the key then and the task for the drugs strategy now is to ensure that we keep those people in treatment when they come out, whether they are in treatment or in detox or in rehab. That requires a step change in what we are doing and what we are looking to do in terms of what that means not only for treatment in terms of heath but in terms of housing, benefits, self-esteem, employment and family relationships, all of those sorts of things. If we get that right, then of course we break that cycle of desperation and hopelessness. What we need to work on is this situation. I meet people across the country, say in Liverpool or Burton (Mrs Dean's constituency), and what they are concerned about when they are in rehab is what will happen to them when they leave. We have to ensure that when we have people in treatment we develop all those processes and programmes to break the link between offending and drug addiction for somebody who is not able to lead a full and proper life in their addiction.
Q601 Martin Salter: When will we see that step change and how will this benefit policy?
Mr Coaker: We would say that there has been a significant step change already: a huge increase in investment in the drugs programme, massive increases in the numbers of people going into treatment, and, alongside that, the development of services with respect to rehabilitation and other things. We need to ensure that whether you are in Newcastle, Cardiff, Plymouth, Reading or London, or wherever you are across the country, that access to those services is available to everyone and is not post-coded. Looking at it, we find there is some variation, and that is part of the work we are doing at the present time to refresh and to look at our drugs strategy again because we know, having got these people into treatment, that the next step is about ensuring that that treatment is even more effective.
Q602 Martin Salter: To follow up, and this may be more appropriate for Patricia, the Home Office submission to us states that young black people make up 3% of the youth population but 10% of those arrested for drugs offences. You have also done some of your own research regarding the disproportionate number of young black people represented in figures amongst those arrested for robbery. Having got these figures, having done this research, what conclusions have you come to and what are you proposing to do about it?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: One of the things that we are really looking at is how we can stop these incidents continuing to occur. For instance, if you look at the programmes that we put in on offender management, the fact that we are looking at the seven pathways, we are working to identify, particularly in relation to young people with the young offender teams, the sorts of programmes that really work, the intensive supervision programmes, but we are also trying better to understand what other things are fed into that type of behaviour. It has been very interesting to see how, in various parts of the country, we have been able to put forward programmes which actually do appear to make a difference. What we are trying to do is to pull all that intelligence together because in many of these programmes, if you are able to put in a programme which has a number of core criteria, you can interdict that. That is what is starting to happen now. It really needs us to do this in a more comprehensive way. One of our aspirations for having offender management which is end-to-end is being able target these issues in a much more creative and effective way than we have been able to do in the past.
Q603 Chairman: Could I push you slightly? One of the things that has perplexed me and the committee, and I am not sure we have had a coherent explanation, is that the patterns of offending amongst young black people are different to the patterns of offending of young white people. Young black people are much more likely to be involved in public disorder and burglaries, disproportionately so. Young black people who have drugs are more likely to commit robbery offences. Has the Home Office come up with a convincing explanation for why you get those differences of pattern of offending?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Firstly, I do not think anyone has come up with a satisfactory explanation as to why we get those patterns of behaviour. One of the things that we know is that we are only going to come up with what works by working fairly aggressively and very differently with the different agencies and with the community so that we can get to grips with this. If there was, for instance, from this Committee an understanding as to what the silver bullet is, I can honestly tell you we would grasp that with huge acclaim, but we know that the thing that seems to be working is the joint working across the agencies, including the young people, working together with the community to make that difference. That is what we are trying to do, to try and understand better why the communities are functioning in slightly different ways. I said earlier in response to your question that we even have regional variations. There are ways of offending that happen in the north and in the Midlands which are significantly different from the patterns of behaviour that are happening in London. We have to look at those regional and cultural variations and try to better understand those if we are to make the difference.
Q604 Mrs Dean: The Home Secretary has said he is considering gang membership an aggravating factor in sentencing but witnesses to this Committee have suggested that whilst gangs are a serious issue, this is often exaggerated and often groups referred to as gangs are nothing more than a group of friends. Is it really practical or appropriate to legislate against so-called gang membership, given the acute difficulties in defining these groups?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: In some ways you can. I need to emphasise that this is an issue that we are looking at. It is really important for us to understand what contribution gangs make and is it going to be an effective thing to do to identify it as an aggravating factor. There is no decision at the moment as to whether you should legislate on it. You know that we have the Sentencing Guidelines Council. We have a whole set of tools. What is important, and I think this Committee is emphasising this, is that we should not shy away from looking at that as an issue and looking at it as a reality of what is happening in the lives of a number of young people now. It is the looking at it which is important for us to better understand it and then to respond to see what we should do about it.
Mr Coaker: This is very much part of what the Chairman was saying about the need not to shy away from difficult issues. There clearly is an issue, increasingly it seems anecdotally from when you go to communities and talk to the police, about gangs becoming more organised and people having more concern about what the gang thinks than society's values and the community's values. We need to try to find out what is going on in respect to that and what we mean. We have seen the various definitions, from a group of friends to street gangs to organised criminals, and all those sorts of differences in terminology. We need better to try to understand how that impacts on crime and disportionality. It is something we are looking at. Whether it is a good thing to do or not is something for the future. We should not shy away from it. The real concern that I am sure communities have told the Committee and have certainly us is the worry about the increasing loyalty that people feel to a gang, based on territory, based on other things. We need better to understand that and see how we can support not only the police but communities in trying to address that problem and reasserting society's values and the common values. Could I add one aside that I think is important. From reading the evidence, people have spoken about role models. The positive role models are absolutely right. That may be the focus of a question later. May I also say that part of tackling gangs and tackling this problem in communities - I know my fellow Minister believes this as well - is about needing to do something about the negative role models, the people in their communities who are clearly living beyond their means. People are asking why something is not being done about that. We can take away assets from the proceeds of crime. The police and the courts are working hard on that. We are trying to redouble our efforts on that. We need to do more on that issue so that these people do not get kudos, do not get a sense of people looking up to them from making money illegally and living beyond their legitimate means. We need to do more on that.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: If you listen to what parents in all communities are telling us, and I think you have heard a number of adults from the black community, they are particularly concerned about how they feel their young people are almost being seduced away from their way of living into this alternative culture. It is as if it is a cult and they want to get them back out. We have to listen to that, address it and work with it. If we do not listen to what people are telling us, we are not really going to find a way out of some of the difficulties that we are all facing now.
Q605 Mr Benyon: Minister, have you attempted to try to find a form of words that might work in the legislation that would define a gang as opposed to the evidence that we have heard that it is very difficult, because there are large numbers of groups of people that hang around street corners that many people consider to be gangs, but they are just simply groups of friends hanging around on street corners?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Vernon has been doing a lot of work on the whole issue of gangs and how we take that forward. A definition is going to be of real importance. There is a Serious Organised Crime Bill going through now. We are looking at what serous crime is. There is a whole raft of things that we are now looking at in terms of the Hallsworth and Young definition which identifies three levels of groups. There is a way forward on this.
Mr Coaker: We use the definition of Hallsworth and Young, which defines these three levels that I was talking about before. There is the peer group, which is just people who congregate together, of mixed ethnicity, with shared leisure choices, the sort of thing that we all recognise, the group of friends like that of my son or daughter or your children or grandchildren. That is clearly not a gang but it is a group. They define that. Then there is what we often call a street gang where you start getting into territory and identity. These people may carry and use weapons, including firearms and knifes. The issue about the street gang element of this three level definition that Hallsworth and Young use and the police use as well is that it is becoming more associated with criminality. Frankly, it is becoming more violent, more distant from the values of the community in which they live, with almost a separate entity, as Patricia was saying. Then there is the organised criminal network. It may be wrong, but I think the area where people are particularly concerned is the street gang and what is happening with respect to street gangs. On Mrs Dean's question about whether membership of a gang should be an aggravating factor, we know that street gangs are becoming more organised and more violent. Can we come up with a definition that's workable, commands a consensus and will help us? The answer is that that is work to be done. I do not think we should rule it out. We cannot say: yes, this will happen. The Hallsworth and Young definition at the moment is a generally accepted definition that is being used.
Chairman: That is very helpful. They have submitted their work in evidence to us drawing on similar sources.
Q606 Mr Winnick: On gun crime, to some extent leading on from some of the earlier questions put to you by the Chair, do you accept that there is a particular problem affecting the black community? Let me be more specific: young black people, the subject of our inquiry, but particularly young males as opposed to females. There does not seem to be a particular problem with young black females. Does the Home Office accept that there is a particular problem involving gun crime amongst young black males?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We accept that there is a terrible, regrettable and increasing problem on the issue of the use of guns. It is something that we are radically trying to address. What we have not had any evidence of to date is that this issue is either solely, mainly or disproportionately an issue for black young men. We know that there are more black victims of gun crime than white, but there is no current data to indicate that this issue of guns is specifically a black as opposed to a generally criminal issue.
Q607 Mr Winnick: Lady Scott, I wonder if I could just give you a few quotes from Lee Jasper, the adviser on race matters to the Mayor of London. I quote what he told us in this inquiry. "We have, quite literally, a crisis in the black community amongst our young, black people." A black pastor who gave evidence to us said as follows about our inquiry: "My gut feeling was 'about time' and the feeling that it has been overlooked, undermined, underplayed and has not been given the effective attention it needs. I suppose in local communities it is more obvious. The dream had been that the centre would pick it up and do something." Finally, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police said: "...there is a huge overrepresentation of young black people, both as suspects accused, and, indeed, as victims", as you have just said. Surely that demonstrates, does it not, that there is a crisis from the quotes that I have given and that perhaps there is a certain amount of complacency on the part of the Home Office?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There is absolutely no complacency on the part of the Home Office. If you look at the actions that we have taken to address this issue, both from the police and the community, I am sure Lee Jasper and the members of his committee will have told you about the community response and the action the Metropolitan Police are taking to address this issue together with the Home Office, so there is certainly no complacency. The other issue that I would invite the Committee's attention to is that of course those who have given evidence have done so about the situation in relation to London. The areas in which this activity is occurring have a number of features which are similar to other areas where similar activity is occurring, but the complexion or composition of the communities differs. If one were to look at the situation across the country as opposed to those conurbations that may have an overrepresentation of black young men who are within the age range and in the sorts of communities where this is featuring, one would see that there is a correlation between those two. Therefore, I am not for a moment moving away from the point that this is a real issue certainly amongst those and a real issue for London. Then to do the quantum leap, which I must say to the Committee I think is quite dangerous, and to say that this is solely or predominantly a black issue as opposed to a general issue in relation to guns would be a profound mistake.
Q608 Mr Winnick: Lady Scotland, what concerns many of us is the phrase used by the police and I am not criticising the police, black-on-black. I am not suggesting the police are doing this but there is a sort of feeling that it only really involves the black community; the victims are mainly black as a result of the gun crimes against them and so on. Therefore, and I am not suggesting the police are saying what I am now going to say, there is a general feeling that it does not involve the wider community and the victims are black. There is no doubt that in nearly all cases, the large majority of cases, would you agree, where violence has been used by blacks, the victims have been black?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think there have been a number. Can I say that I agree with you that to talk about black-on-black violence is wholly unacceptable, not least because the majority of offences are of course committed generally - and I am not talking about gun crime - by white people on white people and nobody calls it white-on-white violence. So I think it is very regrettable, verging on the offensive, to talk about it in those terms. Also, it has to be absolutely understood that if an offence peculiarly affects the black and minority ethnic community, that does not mean that it should deserve a lesser degree of attention. The Home Office would not give it so. We want a criminal justice system which is equal and fair to all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or faith. If we do not have a system which delivers that, then it is not a system which can truly be called fair. If the Committee has an anxiety about that issue, can I say very profoundly that we share it. This is not a black issue. It is a general issue of concern which needs to be addressed wherever it arises.
Q609 Mr Winnick: I certainly agree with you of course on the phrase black-on-black, a phrase which I would never use. I am quoting here. One would hope the police would not because obviously it minimises the suffering and terrible hurt it causes to those who are the victims of crime, regardless of the colour of their skin. Can I put to you bluntly, Lady Scotland. You said there is a danger of pursuing the inquiry in certain ways, or words to that effect. Do you think, and I am going to put the question as bluntly as possible, that it is racist to look into the possibility that a lot of the gun crime involves young blacks, not older blacks or female blacks, under the age of 21 than otherwise. Do you think there is a sort of racist possibility or rather that it can be seen in that light by probing the amount of gun crime involving young black offenders?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think that it is really important not to conflate the two issues. There are issues in relation to proportionality and how black and minority ethnic people are participating within the criminal justice system. It is important for us to understand why that is and for that exploration to be rigorous. Therefore, I really welcome the highlight which this Committee has given to that issue. It is unfortunate to conflate the two issues in relation to gun crime and disproportionality. The reason I say that is because, just as with knives and with gangs, those are issues which tragically impinge on all of the communities. I would certainly be very anxious that the work that this Committee is doing should not be misunderstood and used in a way which I think nobody on this committee would like. Certainly the issue in relation to gun crime and all its manifestations and how it affects all communities should be looked and looked at rigorously.
Q610 Mr Winnick: The witnesses who appeared before us who happen to be black do not seem in any way to have misunderstood our inquiry, and indeed have welcomed it. I hope that is the reaction at the Home Office. Can I ask you this regarding the question of gun crime and sentencing. The Home Secretary has very recently announced his intention to lay a parliamentary audit to ensure that 18 to 20 year olds are subject to a minimum of five-year sentences for possession of a prohibited firearm. At the moment, and obviously you are the Minister and you know, it only applies to 21 and over. Why did the Government not lay such an order earlier when Parliament voted for a five-year sentence in 2003, it voted for it being applicable to those aged 18 and over? Why the delay?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think there was a lacuna. In the way in which the law worked, it was believed that those individuals would be covered. As a result of a recent court decision in Campbell, it identified that the court took the view that those individuals within that age group were not covered. As a result, it has been necessary to lay an order but, before Campbell, the way in which the provisions had been interpreted was that individuals who fell into that age group would be caught. We have identified, as a result of Campbell, that they are not caught. Obviously we are seeking to remedy it. You are absolutely right that Parliament clearly intended that they should be covered. This simply seems to have been an issue which was not addressed in a way that enabled that to occur. By virtue of laying the order, we are seeking to fill that gap.
Q611 Mr Winnick: Had many convictions actually taken place for those 21 and over who had been found guilty of possession of a prohibited firearm?
Mr Coaker: I understand there have been but we do not know the number. If it would be helpful, we could write to the committee with that information.
Q612 Chairman: When was the Campbell case?
Mr Coaker: It was about a year ago.
Q613 Chairman: Can I ask why it was not until the recent shootings took place that the Government decided to announce that it was going to reinstate the position that Parliament thought it had voted for? Why did it take a year?
Mr King: We were considering what the best response would be. It was considered that it might be appropriate to appeal against a different judgment in a different case. I think what has happened recently is that we have made a decision that the quickest way to ensure that 18 to 20 years olds are not caught is to lay an order. It has just been a process of considering what the best response would be.
Q614 Mr Winnick: Has the order been laid?
Mr Coaker: No, it has not.
Q615 Mr Winnick: When is it going to be laid?
Mr Coaker: We anticipate it will be done by June.
Q616 Chairman: In hindsight, it might have been better to have moved more quickly after the Campbell case.
Mr King: Yes.
Q617 Mr Winnick: It will be done before the summer recess?
Mr King: Yes, it will be in force by the summer, so it will be laid shortly.
Q618 Mr Browne: Baroness Scotland, may I start by saying that I did not hear a single member of the Committee say that the increase in gun crime was solely attributable to black people. You were the only person who made that claim, as far as I can recall. I would not wish anybody to infer that that was the view of either myself or of any other Member of the Committee that I am aware of. You also said that there was no evidence at all in the Home Office either to support or refute the assertion that black people are disproportionately responsible for gun crime. Is it your intention to undertake that research and when might we know? At the moment there seems to be a lot of listening and understanding but there does not appear to be very much concrete action.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: One of the things that you know we have done is to better engage in terms of getting the datasets. We did not have the sort of data that would enable us to make critical and informed choices. If you look at how we changed the way we collate data, the investment you have seen here and through the changes, and we have spent about £2 billion on that, we are hoping to get real time data which we would be able to use as a management tool for the criminal justice system generally.
Q619 Mr Browne: The ethnicity of people who are convicted of firearm offences is not recorded by the Home Office. Is that what you are saying?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think the ethnicity of those who offend is increasingly recorded to enable us to better understand the shifts in population and the nature of offending.
Q620 Mr Browne: So you can actually measure whether there is a disproportionately large or disproportionately small amount of gun crime perpetrated by black people or white people, or neither?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We will be able in the future to know that with a greater degree of precision through (CNOMIN?) Ursula Brennan has been dealing with some of that.
Q621 Mr Browne: To be clear, you said that at the moment you have no way of knowing that at all. In your earlier comments you said you have no way of knowing. In fact, it might be solely attributable to one ethnicity.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No, that is certainly not what I said. I said that the data we currently have that we have collected does not indicate a bias towards one ethnic group or another. At the moment, there is not information which would say that this is more of an issue for the black and minority ethnic community than in relation to white. That information is going to continue to be collated. We will be reviewing it. I think what was being put to me by the Chairman was that this was a significant issue in the black community with black young men. What I was responding to is: I understand that may have been said, I understand that it may have been said in relation to London. I understand that that was information the Committee had been given. But if you look across the country, the figures across the country that we are getting, we have no data which would verify that this is more an issue for the BME community than it is for any other community. That is what I am saying.
Q622 Chairman: Minister, if I could follow up Mr Browne's questions and it is really quite central to some parts, what further data are you able to share with us at this stage? We have found in this inquiry that often the Home Office says, "We have no data" and we have had data from the Metropolitan Police or other major police forces which have tended to show something different from what the Home Office is saying. I am not sure whether the position is that the Home Office has data that counters that information or just because the Home Office has no data, it is saying you have nothing to go on.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have data, as I have told you, which indicates that there are a large number of victims who are black. The data that we do have does not indicate that a great number of the perpetrators are black. For instance, we have crimes recorded by the police in which weapons, including air weapons - so it is not just bullets - were reported to have been fired and caused fatal or serious or slight injury in England and Wales, and that is 2004-2005. We have fatal injury, British, 25, and black British that clearly indicates in 2005-2006, 19. So we can tell you about the victims, that there are more black victims, but we have no indication across the country data which tells us that the perpetrators are more likely to be black than white.
Q623 Chairman: I am grateful for that. The Committee would welcome receiving whatever information you can give us. I have a further question which is simply this. Would you be confident, Minister, that bringing together gun crime involving guns that fire bullets with air pistols in one category is a satisfactory category of crime for analysing this problem?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think we have to look at all gun crime. Unfortunately, they are coming now in different species. We are looking at how to do that.
Q624 Chairman: That is to separate them?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is to better understand them. You have air weapons of course, which are used in one way, quite often used by young people inappropriately, and you have other guns, which tend to be used in more serious forms of criminal activity.
Q625 Mr Browne: I was going to ask about the five-year minimum mandatory sentence for firearms. As I understand it, and correct me if I am wrong, recorded firearm offences have approximately doubled in the last decade and this is one of the responses that the Government is attaching particular significance to. Does the Home Office believe that the five-year minimum mandatory sentence is having a big impact, what impact does the Home Office anticipate it will have in terms of reducing firearms offences, and particularly whether it will have the effect of encouraging children below the minimum age for the minimum mandatory sentence to apply to carry firearms rather than young adults?
Mr Coaker: It is fair to say that we all recognise that there has been, as you say, a more than doubling of firearms offences in the last eight or nine years. This is relevant in answering Mr Browne's question. If you look at the most recent figures, there was a levelling off between 2004 to 2005 and 2005 to 2006 where there was only an increase of 0.1%. The latest figure that we have is that there is a 14% fall in total firearms offences in the 12 months to September 2006. The relevance of me quoting the latest statistics, the levelling off in the rise and then the reduction in firearms offences, is that of course they come after the introduction of the minimum five-year sentence. I am being frank with the Committee because exchanges need to be frank just to move forward, which is what we all want. I do not have the evidence for that. All I am saying is that in 2004 the minimum legislation came in and then we have started to see a reduction in firearms offences. Clearly, that is not the only reason. There has been a lot of other policing activity and community activity, et cetera. That is one perhaps possible point that could be made. With respect to the other points Mr Browne made, it might be helpful to the Committee, because people read this, to say that the current sentencing position as we know is that if we talk about younger children, we are clarifying the position with respect to 18 to 21 year olds, in answer to Mr Winnick's question. The order will be laid to clarify that situation. For 16 and 17 year olds, the current legislation is a minimum of three years' detention with a maximum of 10 years. For 10 to 15 year olds, the current sentencing position is that there is no minimum sentence but there is a maximum sentence of 10 years. Young people below the age of 15 can currently, should the court choose to do so, taking into account all the circumstances, impose quite a serous sentence on those young people for a possession offence. The point was made about whether the reduction of the minimum age, clarification of that to 18 and consideration of it being younger, will drive younger offenders down. I think Cressida Dick, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner, made the point that the Metropolitan Police, as well as other police forces, are worried about younger people becoming involved. Again, it is something we have to do in terms of reviewing the legislation as to whether more needs to be done with respect to that. I would also point out that there will be a new law which comes into effect in April, next month, from the Violent Crime Reduction Act, which will make it an offence to mind a weapon for somebody. So we think that may help as well with respect to the younger age group, who, again anecdotally, we understand are being used more as minders and carriers of weapons, which my barrister friend will tell you, there is clearly a difference between possession and minding. But we are already taking action, and in order to address the problem that you raised, Mr Browne, it may be that the minding offence will help because obviously that is applicable to younger people and it is already something that will become law next month.
Q626 Mr Browne: As you have just mentioned, Mr Coaker, we had Cressida Dick, from the Metropolitan Police, in front of the Committee a couple of weeks ago and she said - and I quote - "The introduction of the five-year mandatory sentence has led to fewer five-year mandatory sentences being applied than we had expected." It is a bit like life sentences, mandatory has a different meaning from the dictionary as it applies in the Home Office. Mandatory does not, as one might expect, mean that it applies in every case. As I understand it, five-year minimum mandatory sentences for the possession of an illegal firearm have been applied in 40% of cases; the majority of people appear not to have received the mandatory sentence. Can you confirm that that is the case and is the Prime Minister's gun summit at Number 10 going to increase this figure or is it completely irrelevant and a one-day wonder?
Mr Coaker: I read the evidence that the Deputy Assistant Commissioner gave and I have no reason to believe that that is not accurate. I think the legislation does say that there is a minimum mandatory sentence, but there are exceptional circumstances which the court can take into account. We announced, as a result of the Prime Minister's summit, and indeed the round-table that we have had subsequent to that where we have involved large numbers of community groups, the police and others working in this area, that we are looking at all of the legislation with respect to gun crime, to see whether there are changes that need to be made, and part of that review will obviously be looking at all of this.
Q627 Mr Browne: But Minister is there not a slight fraud being perpetrated on the public, that they see on the news and on the television all of these people going into Number 10 Downing Street, specially invited to have a summit on cutting gun crime, and there are big headlines in the newspapers saying that there will be a five-year mandatory sentence. I think most people, if you stopped them, would assume that that meant if you were caught walking down the street with a firearm concealed on you, and you were caught by the police, you would go to prison for five years. Yet what we find is that the exceptional circumstances are not the exception, they are the norm; the exception is the mandatory sentence actually applies. We can have an argument about whether that is good policy or just bi-captured initiative, but at the moment people are being told that one thing is happening and actually the reality is quite the opposite.
Mr Coaker: Obviously the court will make judgments on that and that is why we are reviewing the legislation as well, to see whether more needs to be done. I have to say, however, that I do not think following the terrible events of the last few weeks that people would see the summit as a fraud; I think people would want to see the Government looking at what is happening and doing, as this Committee is doing, trying to understand how the legislation impacts on all of this; what more needs to be done with respect to communities; how we involve communities more in what is happening; what is effective and what is not effective, and that is what was done at the summit. A series of actions came out from that and I think that is what the public would expect. What they would also expect is to see, as you rightly say, that that is not just something that occurred then and that is why we have a round-table at the Home Office, which the Home Secretary chairs, which draws in all of those people, and that is why we have set up an action plan to take all of this forward, to ensure that not only have we been doing good work, which we have been, but that we carry that on and we look at what we are doing to see if it is as effective as it can be.
Q628 Chairman: Can I just say, Ministers, that I am more responsible than anybody else for the fact that we have made relatively slow process this morning, but I am going to be a bit more disciplined and I am going to ask Members of the Committee and Ministers as well if we can give shorter answers and questions. It is my fault that we have only got to where we have. Bob Russell.
Q629 Bob Russell: Lady Scotland, our inquiry has shown today, as confirmed, that the Home Office has a lot of statistics and data but in the jigsaw of life not all the pieces are available. Is it correct that the Home Office currently does not collect data on the ages of suspects involved in firearms offences?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think we are able to collect ages now in terms of the new system we have put in place. One of the problems that you will understand, Mr Russell, is that in order to make those statistics stack up we have had to go back and look at all the data. So it is very difficult at the moment to say that we would be able to give an age profile of those who currently offend. We also have, of course, a different system in the adult estate than we have in the juvenile estate; the juvenile estate collates their data differently. So what we are trying to do now in building the data and the NOMS - NOMS is the adult asset - is the approach used by the juvenile estate and we are trying to put those two together so that in the future we will be able to have those figures accurately and more precisely understood.
Q630 Bob Russell: So the age data is now being collected. When did that commence?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is collected in terms of the information that is being put in is the name, age, offence with which the individual is charged. So in the future I would hope that that information would be capable of being disaggregated in a way that we would be able to use it as a management tool. One of the things we have had in the past is that we have collated data but that data has not been very easy to disaggregate so that you can use it to help you understand what is happening in the criminal justice system. The new system should enable us to do that.
Q631 Bob Russell: So to a certain extent you are making decisions without the historic data - you are now collecting it but you do not have the historic data?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have incomplete data; that is one of the problems. So the juvenile estate will tell us, of course, the figures in relation to what is happening there. Some of the juveniles, of course, will be in the adult estate and some will be in the juvenile estate. Ursula might want to comment further on that, as to how we are trying to merge these two together.
Ms Brennan: Could I just comment on the data. Data in the criminal justice system is collected by all the different agencies using five bar gate systems, bits of paper, IT systems, collected for their own purposes. When the Chairman said that sometimes the Committee has had information from the Met, and so on, which maybe seemed to contradict the data that the Home Office had, or maybe the Home Office had said it did not have data, one of the things that the Home Office has been doing in the past 12 months is to be much more rigorous about its data. One of the things we have done previously is to collect a lot of data and then realise afterwards that the quality control on the collection of it was not always as accurate as it should be. In relation to ethnicity data we were not collecting consistently the same standard of information about ethnicity to enable us to be able to look at issues around race and the criminal justice system. We did a written branch review of the data and the statistics and we have set out a minimum data set now. All the agencies across the whole of the criminal justice system will collect that data and we will be able to get consistent data, but at the moment sometimes there is a bit of a sense of, if you want sentencing data, for example, the courts have probably picked up ethnicity data from what the police might have recorded and that is not always picked up thoroughly and if it is picked up in the courts it is not always entered on to the courts' systems. So there is a case that data is collected in some cases but we have not had the ability to track it through the system and that is what we are now trying to put in place.
Q632 Bob Russell: Thank you for that. If I could move on to another area that concerns me, and that is killing by sharp instruments - I used to call them knives - which accounted for three times as many deaths overall as killing by shooting, although I acknowledge that within our inquiry the numbers are more equal. Nevertheless, knife crime is responsible for three times as many deaths as gun crime, so what is the government doing to tackle knife crime amongst young people?
Mr Coaker: If I could answer that. We have taken a number of steps with respect to that. If you look at the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, and this obviously ---
Q633 Chairman: Minister, I am also going to say to the Committee that we are going to have a full session with the Minister on knife crime, so if you could summarise it.
Mr Coaker: Again, the three approaches that we take, as I mentioned to Mr Salter, with respect to drugs. Tough enforcement of the law; through the Violent Crime Reduction Act we have raised the age that somebody can buy from 16 to 18; increased the maximum sentence for possession from two to four years - so tougher enforcement with the law. Alongside that, education and alongside that community engagement, so those three issues, which perhaps, Chairman, we can explore that fully when we return.
Bob Russell: We will return to that in two weeks' time, but I wanted to put on the record today that there is more to deaths than just gun crime. Can I just leave my final point with a plea to Lady Scotland, please do not demonise the word "gang" when the legislation is being framed. It used to be a word of endearment, and I certainly would not want the Scouts' Gang Show to be abolished!
Chairman: Just to explain to the press and the public, the Committee is having a one-off hearing on knife crime with the Minister in a couple of weeks' time, which is why we are moving rather rapidly over that important issue. Changing tack now, Karen Buck.
Q634 Ms Buck: Thank you. Can I bring you back to the discussion about the more constructional causes of criminality, and ask you particularly some questions about education because there has been a very strong theme in the evidence that there is an issue about young black children's educational under-achievement and a strong impression given by witnesses that that problem in schools, from whatever cause it stems, is itself a driver of disaffection and can lead, in some cases, to young people's failure and therefore being on the street, whether that is because of not being able to look forward to employment prospects or simply an alienation from the system. Firstly, do you accept that evidence?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We do accept that educational attainment is a real criminogenic indicator for people committing offences later. We also accept that there has been for quite some time an issue in relation to the number of black young people who are excluded from school, and the correlation between those two seems to us to be important and something that must be addressed. The Committee may know that in July of last year I set up an inter-ministerial group on reducing re-offending. The reason we did that is because the levers to change some of the criminal behaviour in our streets does not just rest with the criminal justice system; it rests with the issues that we are seeking to engage in education. It also rests with the parenting issue and the way in which we are seeking to support parents to deal with some quite difficult and entrenched problems that they have with young people. So Phil Hope and I are working really hard - you will see in the Education Green Paper on how we are trying to move this agenda forward. We are working too on the Safer Schools Partnerships. So, for instance, Vernon and I had a meeting last week with Lord Adonis and Tony McNulty to talk about how we could better promote Safer Schools Partnerships. How do we weave this issue into the plans that we have because getting an opportunity for children to complete their education, understanding what may oblige teachers to think that they have to exclude young people is going to, we believe, have a dramatic effect. And if you look at those schools which do have the benefit of a Safer Schools Partnership their ability to keep children safely in school has been enhanced; their ability to keep children safe has been enhanced. There is a lot of work for us to do and we are doing it.
Q635 Ms Buck: Can you explain to the Committee exactly what constitutes a Safer Schools Partnership and what is its measure of success?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: One of the things that the Safer Schools Partnerships bring together is schools, together with the police, together with the Crime Reduction Partnerships to look at the sort of factors which are causing criminal behaviour or dysfunctional behaviour. Some of it is a group of kids getting out of control when they leave. What that means is they come together, they have a plan and some of those plans will involve having a designated police officer in the school or a community support officer to work with the school and the children, to build relationships, to garner intelligence and therefore to interdict this sort of behaviour early because we really do understand that early intervention works, and in those schools where they have had that plan they have worked very well. We all know that two or three years ago, when we started to talk about Safer School Partnerships, many head teachers were antipathetic to it; they did not like the idea of a police officer coming in. That has radically changed. If you talk to head teachers now they are not talking about the fact that they do not want them but many schools are saying, "Why do I not have them because I think this would make a dramatic difference?" So what Lord Adonis and we are trying to do together is to see how we can better support the initiatives that are happening in local areas, but you will know that this initiative has to come from the Chief Constables; it is within their budget. We cannot oblige them to do it, but what we can do is to share with them what works and demonstrate to them that in fact where we have these Safer Schools Partnerships we have had a reduction in crime, we have had a reduction in anti-social behaviour and we have had an improvement for the schools in the number of people who remain at school and a drop in the number of children who are excluded because of poor behaviour. That has a material impact because the kids are not on the street, they are not getting into trouble and they are keeping safe.
Q636 Ms Buck: Does it worry you that there appears to be evidence of increasing polarisation in schools, not least on grounds of ethnicity?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Of course if that is happening that would be extremely worrying, but you will know too what the Department of Education is trying to do to address that - almost a twinning is happening with schools to bring schools together, to share facilities, to get to know each other better. These issues, of course, have been done by education. But of course we are worried if this polarisation is happening because polarisation brings conflict.
Q637 Ms Buck: On this issue of the inter-ministerial working group that you have talked about, what are the success measures and what is the timescale?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: In terms of outcome we want to see a reduction in re-offending. It is to support the seven pathways out of offending, and each department you will see working together with the Department of Work and Pensions because there is the whole issue as to how we get people into work; working together with DCLG and that is about accommodation, which we know has had a significant impact; working with Health in relation to mental health and drugs strategy.
Q638 Ms Buck: But this is not specifically geared at school age children.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is geared at all offending, so the Youth Justice Board will sit with us on the inter-ministerial group.
Q639 Ms Buck: So there is not a specific process by which you liaise with the Department of Education on ---
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There is because we have the regular meetings through the inter-ministerial group, and the reason I set up this inter-ministerial group in July is that we had an officials inter-departmental group driving this safer communities programme forward and reducing re-offending, and if you look at the London Reducing Re-offending programme that is really the sort of model; but we thought that we needed the departments, the Ministers to better support that so that we could drive it in each of our departments.
Q640 Ms Buck: Is there a target or should there be a target for reducing exclusions and for closing the gap between black exclusion and non-black exclusion?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think - and I have to be very careful here - that we are across government talking about what our new PSAs should be, and one of the things that we are very interested in, and certainly education is very interested in, is to look at prevention, to see whether we cannot prevent young people from entering into the criminal justice system, and there is debate as to whether that should not be a target. And there is the target, you will know, in terms of disproportionality, because we want to see a proportionate response to how we are dealing with all our different groups.
Q641 Ms Buck: So at the moment there is not an explicit commitment to reduce the differential between black and general levels of school exclusion?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There is a commitment certainly, and there is part of the Home Office PSA, to reduce disproportionality. We are working and discussing with other departments as to how that should be better shared and indeed we are discussing with the Department of Education what we can do together in relation to this issue.
Q642 Ms Buck: One last question. The DfES report released earlier this month found that racial discrimination was a factor in determining the disproportionality in black exclusion; is that something that you accept?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am sorry; I missed what was a factor?
Q643 Ms Buck: That racial discrimination was a factor in the disproportionate level of exclusions of young black pupils. Is that something that you accept and, if so, what do you think the Home Office's role should be in tackling it?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We believe that the level of disproportionality cannot currently be explained and we want an explanation, for if it is fair, what is it? I think we are all committed to finding that. We do have at the moment a commitment to reduce but we do not have a target. As I have said to you, we are looking at the moment - and you will know that PSAs will very soon be confirmed - as to what our cross-departmental PSAs should be.
Q644 Chairman: I will bring Mr Coaker in, and if you come in, Minister, perhaps you could address this question. Have you actually discussed the DfES report on school exclusions with DfES Ministers?
Mr Coaker: I know Baroness Scotland can say something.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have discussed those. As I have said to you, I am discussing how we reduce re-offending, I am discussing disproportionality with Phil Hope, and I am also going to discuss this issue further with Lord Adonis.
Mr Coaker: Chairman, thank you very much. Very briefly, two additional things which may be of use to the Committee with respect to education. Firstly, is the fact that DfES officials are on the Home Secretary's round-table on guns, knives and gangs as well; so that is the first thing. The second thing is that following the summit at Number Ten Downing Street, Beverley Hughes did write to me from the DfES because we did raise the issue of gun culture and gun crime and the role of extended schools and we wanted to identify more clearly where there were issues with respect to that in particular areas. And our officials, DfES officials and Home Office officials are now working together to look to see how we can make sure that we get a proper geographical spread of extended schools.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I really do want to emphasise that the reason we set up the inter-ministerial group is that we want to make a difference and we are going to judge our performance by outcomes; not by the number of policies and procedures we have put in place but what difference we make to reducing re-offending. This inter-ministerial group has only been up and running for a period since July - the first meeting was July.
Chairman: Thank you Minister. We need to move on. Richard Benyon.
Q645 Mr Benyon: Moving on to family and parenting issues, we have had statistics of the number of black and ethnic minority families with dependent children who have just one resident parent, and we have also had evidence to this Committee of the strong feeling that family breakdown and the absence of strong male role models is a major contributory factor to offending. Do you agree with that statement and what action do you believe should take place to encourage more male role models to have influence amongst young black men in particular?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Firstly we think, as I indicated earlier, that parenting has a huge and can have a huge impact; that the role model, both of male and female role models are very important. So the Young Offending Teams, as you will know, have engaged quite trenchantly in promoting, through the Respect Agenda, the parenting, and they are also looking at the cultural differences of families, so with the Young Offending Teams providing the interventions to parents of all backgrounds and based on risk and need, and ethnicity is one of the factors that have been taken into account, and we have a recent evaluation of the parenting interventions by the Youth Justice Board and it did not highlight there any race disproportionality in the level or types of intervention. But I think it is absolutely critical that we do provide better support for families and positive role models is something that we know can have a very beneficial effect. As Vernon Coaker said earlier, negative role models equally can have a very damaging effect. So we are seeking to better support parents to provide that concrete nurture for children that we know makes a material difference, but also we are trying to address the negative, stereotypical role models that are coming out which have a deleterious effect on young people. So it is doing both.
Mr Coaker: To help our understanding of that - and I know that you have had Decima Francis here as well - I went to the Boyhood to Manhood Foundation a couple of weeks ago to talk to Decima with a group of young people and some of the people who work there, to try and get a better understanding of the important work that they were doing and what we could learn from that as we try and develop the policies that Lady Scotland has spoken of.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: To put it in context, we have about 11,000 final warnings, and the Committee will know that final warnings are actually very successful, and they are being supported by Parenting Orders, and where we have parents engaged in this activity we have noticed that there has been a difference between the likelihood of them then going on to need more trenchant interventions. So it is something that positively works.
Q646 Mr Benyon: You can coerce or support fathers to have more influence in the upbringing of their children and you have spoken of some of those areas, but one of the most impressive bits of evidence we have had before this Committee was Shaun Bailey, and he said to us that he was saved by the cadets; it was the first time that a man had shouted at him and told him to do something and he just did it. He said that that one organisation pulled him out of a pathway which would have led him, he is quite convinced, in the wrong direction. Is it not time to really unleash the power of the voluntary sector into some of these communities to provide just those sorts of positive role models you are talking about?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: You will know that everything that we are doing in terms of the Offender Management Bill was to enable the voluntary sector to be full partners in reducing re-offending, and the voluntary sector has a huge contribution to make, not just in this area but also in a whole series of areas. The Committee will know that I launched in 2005 the Reducing Re-offending Alliances - that is the corporate alliance, the faith-based alliance and the civic alliance, to garner the energy of the community and volunteering, to help us to address some of these issues, and it is about creating really exciting and positive role models in local communities and we want to harness that. I think it would be simplistic to think that only one sector can deliver this; it will take everybody working together to deliver the change we seek. It will need the public sector doing its part, it will need the non-governmental agencies doing their part and it will need volunteers to do their part too.
Mr Coaker: It is never an either/or with these; it is all of it. As Ms Buck was saying, in terms of schools that is a crucial role; the voluntary sector is very crucial. We have spoken about the Boyhood to Manhood Foundation; we meet with Mothers Against Guns, the role that they play; but also we talk to Street Pastors. I know that Reverend Isaacs has spoken to you and again it is fantastic work they were doing. I have to say I was astonished because when I went to speak to them about what work they were doing they told me that three-quarters of their pastors are actually women. We all stereotype, and I did not think that that would be the case. So that is positive models, and three-quarters of the people going out and doing the valuable work that they were doing were women, and I think what they are doing is fantastic - both the Street Pastors, Boyhood to Manhood and Mothers Against Guns, all of those. But it is everything, and this is something that will only be solved by every part of the system, state, voluntary, individuals, all of those things working together.
Chairman: Gwyn Prosser.
Q647 Gwyn Prosser: Minister, several witnesses have told us that some of the more extreme forms of rap music and films, which glorify violence and crime, even talking about killing being "cool" can have an influence on the young people and draw them into crime. To what extent do you think that that sort of material is an influence?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think that that sort of material can have a deleterious influence, but I think it is very difficult to draw a line between legitimate expression of artistic licence and that which is pernicious, and I do think that we have to look very carefully to see whether some of this music is not incitement. You will know that the police and others are looking at it because if it is glorification or incitement to commit a crime then there is an issue that we already have legislation that can deal with it. We have to be a bit cautious though because we know, for instance, that there is a lot of very exciting rap music at the moment, which is done by the pastors to engage young people into positive role models. The YOT teams are doing a lot of rap music with a positive and lifting effect on young people. So I think it is very difficult to target a whole genre of music and say that this sort of music should be eradicated - it is the content which is obviously something of real importance. But it can be inspirational and it can also motivate in the wrong direction too.
Q648 Gwyn Prosser: You do not see any policy issues arising out of it in terms of the content, other than the legislation you already have in place?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think it is an issue that we have to look at, but it is one of the things that is so sensitive. Most of the people around this table may remember the mods and rockers.
Q649 Chairman: That is not the way to endear yourself to the Committee!
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Or the punk rockers!
Q650 Chairman: That is more like it!
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: So for every generation there has been the generation before who thought that the music enjoyed by young people is reprehensible, excites their passions in a way that is inappropriate and leads them into error. That is about different generations. I think we just need to be a little sensitive about where the line should be drawn because I think that people - and this is before anyone's time - thought that Elvis Presley was a detrimental impact on sexual morality. I have heard about him in the past!
Mr Coaker: It is very difficult. Again, as the Committee itself raised, I think Mr Winnick raised about Lady Chatterley's Lover and Tom Jones and Delilah, it is a very difficult issue but that is not to understate the fact that we do have to keep it under review and we do have to look at it to see whether we need to do anything, but it is a very difficult area to move into, where you are moving to censorship rather than things that are impacting on people's behaviour.
Gwyn Prosser: We certainly do not want to ban rap.
Mr Winnick: Or Lady Chatterley's Lover!
Q651 Gwyn Prosser: I want to move to the issue of disproportionality with regards to stop and search, and it has been mentioned briefly already. Minister, in 2004 the Home Office stated that by 2008 black people would have more confidence that the criminal justice system treated them fairly, and then it went on to say that the disparity in stop and search would be reduced. We are in 2007 and we are told that you are still six times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black than if you are white. So have we failed in that target?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think we certainly are not achieving it and I cannot tell you how frustrating that has been. We have now developed, as I told the Committee, an effective action plan which we developed together with the action teams in terms of trying to better understand what would work, because so many things we have tried in the past do not appear to have worked. This new protocol does appear, in the forces that are operating it, to have reduced the level of disproportionality. So, if you like, we are on our way. Am I disappointed that we have not been able to move faster? Absolutely. It has not been because of lack of energy, it has not been because we have not spoken to as many people as we can. We have brought expertise in from the community and we have asked the community - and young people actually - "What do you think would make the difference? How do you think you would need to be approached so that you would think it was fairer?" And we have put all that into the new protocols that have been rolled out. The only light I can tell you that we certainly have at the end of the tunnel is that in those areas where we have rolled out that approach it does appear to be reducing disproportionality. I am personally very, very disappointed that we have not been able to move more quickly on it, but I think we have to look at every single level of the criminal justice system to try and address this issue. It is getting there but I do not think it is getting there quickly enough.
Mr Coaker: I went to Choice FM a few weeks ago to talk about this issue with some black people and it started off about the disproportionality, and in the end we had a good discussion because what I said was that stop and search is actually an important tool for the police to have in order to prevent crime, but that disproportionality is an issue. The work that we were doing that Lady Scotland has just alluded to is about trying to do something about that. We have a stop and search community panel, which is chaired by Lord Adebowale, with Doreen Lawrence, and there is a delivery board of stakeholders. So we are trying to do something about that. It goes to the heart of many of the discussions that we are having here today and the discussions that you have had over the last few months of your inquiry, that despite many of these attempts and many of these real efforts to make a difference there is a stubbornness, almost, for it to change. So what is it that will bring about that effective change? Again, to reiterate what Lady Scotland said, in the end the judgment is the change in the statistics and that is what we are searching for, and obviously what your inquiry is trying to help with as well, because clearly a lot of work has been done. If you talk to senior police officers about stop and search they go and talk to young black people, they talk to their officers, there is a lot of training and yet it stubbornly stays at a level at which we would all not wish to see it.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There are two things that make me more hopeful. One is the practice-orientated package, because we wanted to give officers something that they could implement in a way that made sense, on the ground. Staffordshire, which is an example, have applied it. They used to have disproportionality at the rate of 4 to 1, and since they have been using this new approach it is 2 to 1; so that is a halving. So we know that these practical things can and do make a difference and we are trying to roll it out right the way across the country, and we hope then to see a reduction. The other thing that will make, I think, a big difference, is that as we get a bigger data set we will be able to compare like with like. I hope that we will be able to move, even if it takes five, ten years, into real-time data, so that real-time data will be able to be used by practitioners on the ground, by the Chief Constable, by the Head of the Unit, to then disaggregate where disproportionality lies within their own workers. So you will have issues where individual A has a disproportionality rate at 9 to 1, at the stage of individual B having no disproportionality at all of 1 to 1. You are able then as a manager to ask a question: "Why are you 9 to 1 when your fellow worker" - officer, whoever it is - "does not have any disproportionality at all?" That gives us a level of acuity that we have never had before, and it will give us a level of acuity in real-time, so that we can target where are the causes of that disproportionality, and hopefully we will then be able to say who will need to be trained, because we are training everyone at the moment, and we have to assess what is the impact of having done that, who do we have to train and also who do we have to take out?
Gwyn Prosser: That analysis might give you an unhappy answer. Thank you, Minister.
Chairman: Moving on, Martin Salter.
Q652 Martin Salter: I will wrap my questions together - I will not "rap", others on the Committee do that! There is a report by the Youth Justice Board in 2004, which showed that a much higher proportion of black males, 92%, as opposed to 62% of white males, received custodial sentences of 12 months or more - another example of disproportionality. Have you done anything to address this disproportionality and is there anything that you can do at the Home Office to address this disproportionality? And could it be something to do with the fact that - and there is an explanation in the report here - black males are more likely to plead not guilty and therefore not necessarily benefit from the discount, and could that be a factor?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: This is an issue that we are looking at across the criminal justice system, at the National Criminal Justice Board, and it is being dealt with with the Office of Criminal Justice reform, which is trilateral, because some of the issues about how people get sentenced is that we have an issue about who gets arrested, who gets charged and if charged who gets prosecuted, if prosecuted who gets convicted, if convicted who gets sentenced and why are we seeing a difference in the length of sentences applied to black and minority ethnic offenders compared to others? These are questions which we are asking systemically. So it is not an issue just for the Home Office, it is an issue for us all. You will remember that we have had two Hood Reports; there was the original Hood Report, back in the late 1970s and we have had a more recent Hood Report looking at those issues too. But it is an issue that we want to look at right the way across the criminal justice system and one of the things we are looking at is should there be a target or a PSA to reduce the level of re-offending across the board, because if we do that it will reduce, I hope, the disproportionality as well. There are a number of things we are trying to do with the DCA, with the CPS and ourselves to attack this issue. But at the end, of course, sentencing, as you know, is an independent activity carried out by judges on an independent basis, and we cannot, of course, control the decisions that judges come to, but I think there is an issue about helping to share better information, to help people to come to better informed decisions.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. Bob Russell.
Q653 Bob Russell: Lady Scotland, it has been reported in Parliament that 32% of all black males are on the DNA database in comparison with 8% of white males, and it has been reported more recently that perhaps as many as 77% of young black males will soon be on the DNA database. Are those figures correct?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The figures in relation to 77% I think are correct, and we have to look at why that is. The database, of course, simply collates information properly retained from the criminal justice process. We changed the rules, as you remember, to enable us to retain DNA data on a greater number of occasions than we have had hitherto. At one stage we could only retain data if someone was convicted; then we could retain data if someone was charged, tried and convicted or acquitted. Then we have moved it back to be able to retain data on arrest, and as we have done that we have been able to collate more and more data to the successful extent that we are able to better identify those who have committed crime, but also better identify those who have not committed crime. So it is a sword and a shield.
Q654 Bob Russell: It is not the same for the white population though, is it?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No, and that I can say to you is a matter of concern to us because the disproportionality that may be reflected in the criminal justice process is being reflected in the DNA database. Overall, of course, from the statistics available the difference is not so great, so, for instance, we have 84% arrests are white, 9% are black, 5% are Asian, 1% are classified as other and 1% are unknown, and the figures in relation to arrest are reflected in the data sets that were kept.
Bob Russell: I want to keep to the DNA database because that is where I am putting the questioning. So if three out of every four young black men are on the DNA database.
Chairman: This is one out of every three at the moment.
Q655 Bob Russell: 77%, three out of four. Trevor Phillips made the observation - and I am quoting him - "This is tantamount to criminalizing a generation of young black men." Do you agree with him?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I do not think that it is tantamount to criminalizing a generation of black men, but I think the way in which the criminal justice system is operating is something that this Committee is looking at because of the level of disproportionality. The disproportionality in the criminal justice system is being reflected in the figures that we are collecting on the database. So the data that we have affects the arrest rate, more or less. So it is whether someone is arrested, because at the point of arrest if your DNA is taken and put on the database it does not mean that you are subsequently charged, it does not mean that you are subsequently convicted; but it does mean that your data will be retained.
Q656 Bob Russell: I think those percentages in that last comment speaks volumes.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As I have said, if you look at the arrest rates of 84% white, 9% black, 5% Asian and 2% either other/unknown, the database reflects that arrest proportionally.
Q657 Bob Russell: I will leave it there and move on now. As the Home Office has a statutory duty to promote race equality why does not the government collect figures on the ethnicity of ASBO recipients and recipients of fixed penalty notices?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Of course, as we have tried to make clear, we are improving the data set of information that we are collecting. Our main focus, of course, has been to improve the data which we get from those who are arrested, charged and put through the criminal justice system and the full panoply. That is our first and, if I may respectfully suggest, the most important thing we need to do to get a data set which is actually worthy of being used as a management tool.
Q658 Bob Russell: It is difficult to monitor it though, is it not, if you do not have the information?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are collating that information more and more, and I do not think we have a complete set, as I have made clear.
Q659 Bob Russell: My last question is, is there any anecdotal evidence that ASBOs are being applied disproportionality to some ethnic groups?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I have no indication that that is so.
Mr Coaker: Can I just add to that?
Q660 Bob Russell: Yes, I asked the question.
Mr Coaker: Nobody has ever said that to me anecdotally at all.
Chairman: Thank you. David Winnick.
Q661 Mr Winnick: Minister, regarding the report by the criminal justice system Race Unit at the Home Office, entitled The experience of young black men as victims of crime, it said - and I quote - "... found that young black men 'lacked confidence in the police's ability to deal with victims of crime'" and therefore, in effect, took justice in their own hands. How far do you believe that has contributed?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am not sure how far it has contributed. I certainly would accept that there was a very important issue about the level of confidence that black people had in the criminal justice system, and that is why we have concentrated quite hard on improving the system so that all people can have confidence, and what we have seen, which is quite pleasing, is an increase in the confidence that the black and minority ethnic community have in the criminal justice system since we have been doing this work. So if you look at the figures from 2003 to now you will see that there has been a significant rise in the confidence of black people in the way in which the criminal justice system operates. I think there is still a lot more to do; it is an issue, which you will know, is part of the local Criminal Justice Board agenda - it is certainly on the National Criminal Justice Board, which meets every month. We are scrutinising it in terms of the returns from local areas to disaggregate what is happening on the ground, and particularly to try and address this whole issue of disproportionality. We believe that unless we do we just will not have a criminal justice system that is not only fair but is seen to be fair. So all the work that we have done on this is very important, and I think we need to do more; but the warming thing, I suppose, is that we are seeing a shift in perceptions and a gaining in confidence and I think we have to push harder and harder. I very much welcome the fact that we are able to look at this every single month and the National Criminal Justice Board and local criminal justice boards are being obliged to look at it too, and give us the returns as to how well they are doing or not doing.
Q662 Mr Winnick: Obviously if there is progress, as there appears to be, Minister, that is very hopeful. A senior police officer, who obviously you are aware of, Leroy Logan, who gave evidence to us very recently indeed, said - and I quote - "Unfortunately on the extreme view there are certain youth affiliations who have a lack of trust in the criminal justice system and so they rely on their street justice, which is faster." Much has been made about the Macpherson Report and the lack of confidence at the time in the black community, arising from the horrifying murder of Stephen Lawrence. Are you satisfied that the progress has been substantial since the Macpherson Inquiry reported?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think it has been substantial but I would go back to what Vernon Coaker said. One of the things I think which has alarmed us all is how stubborn some of these issues have been. You think that you have your hands around it and you may have the solution and it comes out the other end so you do the other end and it continues like that. That is why we need to look at the things that are working. We know that some of the practical toolkits that we are doing on the ground are working; the way in which we have approached confidence is working; the need to engage the communities in successful operations is working. If you look at anything that we have done that has been successful - Operation Trident, Operation Trafalgar - all of those operations have had within them an essential element, and that is real community engagement. So we know that if we continue along that line we are more likely to get success, but success for us does mean changing outcomes. I think sometimes there has been a lot of activity and I find myself constantly saying to all of us, to my partners, "And what difference are we making?" because we really have to make a difference. And we are starting to see the things that can and do make a difference and we are starting to put them in place. If I can give you an example of an issue that affects all women but also disproportionality affects women who are disadvantaged, and that is the issue of domestic violence. People said there is nothing you can do about domestic violence, you cannot change it; we have changed it, we have introduced specialist domestic violence courts, we have introduced independent domestic violence advisers, we have introduced the MARACs, which is the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferencing, and by taking this more holistic, inclusive approach we have been able to change things. And I think that is the same with disproportionality here; we have to be practical, we have to be inclusive and we have to engage the communities themselves to build confidence.
Q663 Mr Winnick: All that you have just said is very reassuring, but on domestic violence it could be argued that, to some extent at least, it has been changed - apart from political intervention, which is always welcome - by the number of women who are involved in the police force. We know of course that the number of black people in the police force is very small indeed - there is no doubt about that - but how confident would you be about black people joining the police force and not being subjected, in any way going about their daily duties, in the canteen, to banter which many would describe as outright racist. How confident would you really be that the situation has changed so significantly in the last 40 years?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think we are much more confident of changing that culture than we ever have been, because if you look at the recruitment policies that we have changed, the scrutiny that now goes on in relation to who gets into the police force, the training that is going on, and the fact that we are including the community in neighbourhood policing is a critical part of the service delivery model that we have. How do we do business? We are doing business in a much more interactive community sensitive way and we are making people accountable for that change. We are looking at outcomes and saying that if we are not reducing crime - and I think we need to bear in mind that we have reduced violent crime and we have made these issues better and we need to do more. So are we where we want to be? I do not think we are.
Q664 Mr Winnick: We are nowhere near where we want to be, surely - nowhere near.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Exactly, but are we further on than we were? Absolutely. Do we now know some of the tools that we can use to drill down on this and make the change? Yes, we do. Did we know those before? No, we did not. In terms of joining up, why did I create the inter-ministerial group on reducing offending? Because that is exactly what I did to change domestic violence, and when I became Chair in 2003 we were told by a lot of people that we cannot change this. What did we know? If we did it cross-departmentally, if all the departments worked together we could change it, and we have. What do we know about reducing re-offending? Exactly the same thing; it cannot be done by the criminal justice system alone, it has to be done by all the other departments working with us in a very conjoined way, and what I have been really impressed by is the work that we, across the departments, have been able to do since July. We have total commitment from the 11 departments involved; we have work going on not only in England and Wales but also in Northern Ireland. It has made a massive difference. So we may not have got as far as we would like to be, but we are a lot further on than we were and we at least know exactly where we are going and how to get there. That, I think, is a big improvement.
Q665 Chairman: Thank you, Minister. I am going to move us on because the Ministers have been here for a long time, and we are very grateful to you. Lady Scotland, can I pick up one particular issue which you raised earlier, where you talked about a very vigorous approach by Youth Offending Teams to tackle these issues of disproportionality? It is for the Committee to judge, but we have had witnesses from the YJB in the recent past. I am not entirely sure that they left us with a sense that the centre of the YJB has much influence over how much the Youth Offending Teams are doing locally, in terms of even collecting the basic data that is required to deal with disproportionality. We were told by one member, who said, "I would say that it is patchy and I think it is only fair to say that the willingness of the Youth Offending Teams to embrace this initiative" - that is both collecting data and dealing with disproportionality - "is patchy across the country." This is such a vital part of the system, and you said this yourself.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is, absolutely.
Q666 Chairman: I know the YJB are arm's length independent, but is it not time for the centre to get a bit more of a grip on Youth Offending Teams and to make it clear that this is not an optional part of the work of Youth Offending Teams and that it has to be central to every one of them?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are having some fairly robust discussions with all partners engaged in this area and I think it is very important for us to understand the huge difference that the YJB has been able to make.
Q667 Chairman: I think the Committee recognised overall the achievements of the YJB, but in this particular area.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: And it is an area which we have to address and we have to highlight with them. So if you look at what is happening with the data that the YJB is going to collect now and the way we will integrate that with the data that we have in the adult estate, so we have it end to end, is why I thought it was very important for the YJB to be on the reducing re-offending inter-ministerial group, because there are three separate strands: there is a strand in relation to what affects women, what affects men but also what affects young people. Disproportionality affects all across the board, so it is a vehicle where we can try to deliver clear messages, shape a joint vision but also craft the way in which we will together deliver it, and that is the way we will have end to end management and also have really well targeted things that we can do to reduce re-offending.
Q668 Chairman: Thank you. Talking about reducing re-offending, it has been put to us by a number of witnesses that with some young black people becoming involved sometimes in quite serious crimes at a relatively young age we are having - and you said this yourself - to deal with how we reintegrate and rehabilitate people after they have been through the system. It has been suggested to us by a number of witnesses that the cut-off of the Youth Justice Board at age 18 is particularly inappropriate to handling this group of young offenders who may be sentenced to below 18 ending a sentence in the adult prison estate at 18 or 19, and the resettlement needs continue into their early 20s. Has any thought been given as part of the development of NOMS to enabling the YJB or something similar to carry through that support?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I think it has because, Chairman, you are expressing a view that has been expressed by a number of people about the transition from juvenile to adult, and what we are looking at at the moment is young adults - is there something that we should have a set of programmes which would specifically deal with young adults who are in that transition? So it is an issue that I think needs to be addressed and we are looking at how we address it better.
Q669 Chairman: Is there a sense of timescale for the announcement?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is imminent.
Chairman: Good, we will look forward to it. Richard Benyon.
Q670 Mr Benyon: Minister, you understand the frustration of community and voluntary organisations with short-term funding and we have had evidence from people who have said that they are announced with a fanfare of publicity, that they are tremendously well received locally but by the time you have them up and running the funding finishes. Can you assure us that there is a more long-term approach being taken to this?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Absolutely. One of the things that we have been working really hard with a number of departments upon is how do we get joined-up delivery, how do we have a common baseline for the Third Sector, so that they know how to apply, and we are doing it collectively in a way that makes sense. We are also looking through the local area agreements as to how we will bring together a bit of synergy across the piece, so that the local area agreement gives us a springboard to look at what that area needs as opposed to sectorial needs, and a bit more long-term. We are doing it too in relation to how we will structure the national offender management process. So that we will identify these in an area, identify who can supply and identify how we can brigade those smaller groups in a way that makes sense. The Offender Management Bill gives us an opportunity to commission, and commissioning will enable us to look at what the voluntary sector can best offer and make sense of that.
Q671 Mr Benyon: Can you understand that a lot of people operating in some of these communities are expending a lot of emotional capacity ---
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Absolutely.
Q672 Mr Benyon: They are not skilled fundraisers and a lot of the language that you have just used will be alien as to how they approach it.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Absolutely.
Q673 Mr Benyon: It has to be put in words that they clearly understand that makes it easy for them to apply for the money and then they can achieve things on the ground.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I absolutely agree with you because some of the needs that we have in the young people, and indeed some of those who offend, are very specific. Many of the voluntary sector groups have developed an expertise in a niche which the individual may need, and one of the challenges for us is how do we make sure that the energy of the Third Sector is harnessed, that we do not lose the small groups who are doing very valuable work; how do we make sure that consortia of volunteers are still able to deliver what they wish to deliver in a way that is meaningful and has good outcomes and changes the life chances of the people with whom they deal. So we absolutely understand that. What we are doing with the voluntary and community sector engagement programme that we are doing across government is trying to bring that understanding to all of those who fund, so that the Third Sector will have a common approach, a common template with which they can be familiar. It is quite interesting to see how health has changed its funding pattern to fit with local authorities, so actually the funding will happen at the same time, which I know lots of small voluntary organisations will find a real boon. So we are looking at issues like that - very practical, just to make it easier for those who want to volunteer for help to do that, and we think we have a better way forward than we have had.
Q674 Mr Benyon: The Home Office recently announced that half a million pounds would be made available to community groups in tackling gun crime and gangs as part of the connected fund. How do you anticipate local community groups might spend this money and how will you measure its success?
Mr Coaker: The connected fund is something that we think is extremely important. I take the point about the sustainability, and that is something that has come up at the round-table; but specifically with respect to the connected fund, what we do see is small bits of money, a few thousand pounds, because what the voluntary sector has said to us often is that it is small amounts of money that make a huge amount of difference at a very local level, and what we are trying to do is to fund very local groups in local communities, whether it be with respect to guns or knives or gangs so that they can make a difference in their own areas. One good example that has been funded is Mothers Against Guns. They have received money, they work locally, they produce leaflets, it pays for some travelling expenses - all of those sorts of things. Those women I know, Chairman, from my own experience in Nottingham, where I meet the Mothers Against Guns in Nottingham, for obvious reasons, they are a fantastic group of people. If you think of Janice Collins or Chris Bradshaw or others, whose sons have been murdered on the streets, through their grief they have worked hard with a small amount of money to say, "We cannot turn the clock back, we will campaign for changes that we think are important, but we will also try and make a difference in our communities," and those are exactly the sorts of groups that we are trying to support and help, replicated across the country as far as we possibly can.
Q675 Chairman: One last question, if I may. Minister, you have told us about the reducing re-offending inter-ministerial group, which is reducing all types of offending. Is there any structure that is enabling ministers to focus specifically on this question of overrepresentation of young black people?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is the CRE Scrutiny Panel doing that with us. We are doing it in probation and police, but can I just say, Chairman, that I really think we cannot just have it in one area. One of the things that is clear is that this issue of disproportionality is systemic and we have to follow it through, right the way through the whole system, if we are going to make the difference that we want to see.
Q676 Chairman: I understand that, Minister, but you yourself put education, exclusions and so on in the context of reducing re-offending, so we are at one in saying you have to look at the whole system. But I wondered if there was any place at which you and your fellow ministers from the DfES and so on got together to look specifically at all the factors leading to overrepresentation of young black people, whether it be education, parenting, the operation of the police or whatever?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I have used and I will use the inter-ministerial group. The reason I say that, as you will appreciate, Chairman, getting 11 ministers together at any one time is always an interesting challenge, and if you are able to use that vehicle to address the issues that cause re-offending, it is the most useful forum. To take up Mr Benyon's point, I have been speaking to Ed Miliband about Third Sector and the work that we do there; with Phil Willis about DCLGs accommodation because accommodation is an issue, and with others in DWP in relation to how we change that. So it is across the piece because we do see disproportionality in the various areas - in health, and I know that the Committee will have looked at those issues too. So it is all of us really.
Chairman: We may not have had 11 ministers in one Select Committee, we have had two, and for an extremely long time, so we are very grateful to both of you, and indeed to your officials, for spending so much time with us and for answering the questions so forcefully. Thank you very much indeed; thank you for coming.