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Lord Acton: My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say whether the new position of assistant director for women prisoners has been filled? Further, will not an improved regime for such young girls who stay in the prison system be an urgent priority for that person?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord's second question is yes. In answer to the first specific question I can tell the House that the director general has accepted the recommendation of the Prison Service review. He has set up a directorate of regimes. An assistant director for young offenders has
Lord Elton: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that his truly remarkable answer to the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, forms the agenda for a great deal of work? The noble Lord mentioned the Crime and Disorder Bill as providing an answer to one of the numerous items that he listed. However, can he encourage noble Lords to expect the results of work on the other issues, all of which are urgent?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Yes, my Lords; some of them will be immediate answers to long-standing questions, while others will take a good deal longer. It is important to note that young girls under the age of 18, who are rightly called children under the Children Act, have got into these lamentable situations because of extremely difficult circumstances which they encountered when they were much closer to conventional childhood. That, of course, is a particular underpinning of the Crime and Disorder Bill. I am happy to be candid; these matters are so important that the more openness and honesty there are free of party political partisanship, the better it is for all.
Lord Judd: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that for many dealing with young offenders his emphasis on the importance of rehabilitation will be reassuring? Does he agree that among those working with young offenders there is a widely held view that for girls to be in prison is totally counter-productive? Can he assure the House that the 90 girls to whom he referred will not have to wait until the outcome of the total review before action is taken to provide more appropriate treatment?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, not all of these problems are susceptible to easy answers. One of the difficulties is that some girls under 18 have small babies of their own. They wish, perfectly understandably, to be with their small infants. There is no provision for mother and baby units in any secure local authority accommodation. The only provision available is within the prison estate. Most offenders in the category described by the noble Lord are serving quite short sentences. I cannot tell my noble friend Lord Judd that the problems will be solved within the three-and-a-half months or so which is the average time served. I say once more that this Government recognise these problems and are determined to grapple with them.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): My Lords, the Forestry
Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, I welcome the assurance that the moratorium, which was promised in the party manifesto, is still in place. However, will the Minister confirm that it is the intention of the Government to continue to observe the moratorium on future sales of Forestry Commission land? Does he recall that forestry is a devolved subject and that it would be quite inappropriate to make any change in forestry policy until the new parliament in Edinburgh makes its judgment?
Lord Sewel: My Lords, I welcome the support that my noble friend gives this time round to forestry being a devolved matter. I look forward to his support in the weeks and months to come. On the particular business of the moratorium, it is in place and it has been in place since May. But clearly all the activities and policies relating to the Forestry Commission are caught up in the comprehensive spending review.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government make representation to the European Commission on the subject of the agri-environment regulation on wild fauna, which suggests that programmes designed to develop shooting areas should not be eligible for support? Does he accept that in my experience in the south of Scotland the sensible management of wildlife and the development of woodlands, private or public, go hand in hand, make sense economically, and are good for rural employment?
Lord Sewel: My Lords, I certainly note and recognise the experience of the noble Lord in this area. However, on the specific points he makes, I shall have to reflect further before making any commitment.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, the national forest, as I believe it is called, to which the noble Earl referred, is being created in the English Midlands. It encompasses about 200 square miles. The national forest tender scheme invites people to tender for the establishment of woodlands in the forest and they are supported by the Forestry Commission.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, is the Minister aware that some of us regret that he will be the last United Kingdom forestry Minister and that the responsibilities will be split up? Rather than wait for the establishment of a Scottish parliament, what will the Minister do to increase the amount of conifer plantation in this country, which is absolutely necessary if employment is to be maintained in the countryside and if the "downstream" industries that have been so successfully established are to be maintained?
Lord Sewel: My Lords, it is a case of change of day, change of tune. Last night the noble Lord was telling me to wait before I did anything; now he is telling me that I must hurry up. I should point out that more than 30,000 hectares of trees were planted last year. Therefore there is an active planting and replanting programme in place. Both new planting and restocking were about 8 per cent. higher that year than in the previous year. Therefore the industry is healthy. The single most important event to encourage higher levels of forestry planting would be reform of the common agricultural policy. I am sure that that is something my noble friend Lord Donoughue will wish to mention later today.
Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, in view of the Minister's welcome endorsement of the continuation of the moratorium, can we seek an assurance that the budgets of Forest Enterprise will be reviewed to consider how the £20 million hole in this year's budget and the £40 million hole in next year's budget will be filled without intensifying the use of Forest Enterprise land in a way which would damage the environment or without raiding the conservation budget of Forest Enterprise, which ought to be ring fenced?
Lord Sewel: My Lords, I am very aware of those two holes. It is worth pointing out that the £40 million hole is, I believe, twice the value of the highest level of forestry disposals ever achieved by the previous administration. Therefore this is very much a challenge. As I said, all the activities and all the budget areas of the Forestry Commission are subject to review as part of the comprehensive spending review.
It might be for the convenience of your Lordships, as well as a considerable relief perhaps, if, with permission, I were to move en bloc the remaining four Motions standing in my name after your Lordships have considered this one.