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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships for giving me the time to go into some detail on the background of the various articles. I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate the need for that, given the lengthy nature of the order. I must say that I had hoped that the very detailed explanation that I had given would not only be useful but would answer most of the points that subsequently have been raised. I am conscious that there are some issues of detail and I shall now turn to those, and I am grateful to the House for its courtesy in this matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, kindly gave me notice of one of his questions before we came into the Chamber this evening and I am grateful to him for that. That question related to work levels for entry clearance officers, the complexity of the work and whether there might, as a necessity, therefore be an increase in the visa fee. That is a perfectly reasonable question.
As we see it, the basic consideration process for entry clearances will remain unchanged. My understanding is that entry clearance fees are always kept under regular review. I am sure that that would be accepted by all Members of your Lordships' House. As a part of that review, officials are looking at the implications for entry clearance fees in relation to the new arrangements. In particular, they are examining the effect on fees of the standard visit visa being valid in future for multiple entries.
One of the public service agreement targets for entry clearance work, however, is that there should be no increase in the real level of the visa fee over the June 1997 baseline. So any increase will be proportionate and likely to be in line with inflation. But it will not be as a consequence of any additional burdens of work. I hope that that clarifies that point.
The noble Lord asked also whether all visas can be effective from a later date. We take it that they will be effective from a later date so that the person applying for the visa can state that he wishes to travel only within a particular few weeks.
The noble Lord asked also whether there will be checks on someone's departure. There are no changes to the arrangements by which the Immigration Service deals with overstayers. That probably answers that particular point.
The noble Lord asked what the immigration officer may check on arrival. As I understand it, the immigration officer will be able to check the validity of the passport and entry clearance and that the person presenting it is the rightful holder. Plainly, that is sensible. Normally, visas, as leave to enter, will be stamped on first arrival only.
If the immigration officer is satisfied that the entry clearance, as leave, may have been obtained by false information or failure to disclose material facts or that there has been a change of circumstances which removes the basis of the entry clearance or leave, he is able to suspend the leave to enter and conduct a full examination which may ultimately result in cancellation of leave to enter. Leave may also be cancelled in some circumstances on medical or public good grounds. I believe that that probably answers the penultimate question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Cope.
I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for his comments. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his general welcome and appreciation of the simplification which the new procedures will bring about.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, asked about Part II powers of entry clearance officers. He asked how people could be expected to produce documents on arrival in the same way as is done for entry clearance officers. He made the point that he did not consider it right to ask for documents on arrival.
In our view, producing those documents is part of the requirements for entry. That must be right. Failure to produce documents will not in itself lead to refusal, but it may do so in certain circumstances.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I have some difficulty in relation to this matter. A person may travel, for example, from the Indian sub-continent, breaking his journey in Paris and then catching an Air France plane. He has a perfectly valid entry clearance granted on the basis of all the evidence that he has produced. When he comes to Paris, the immigration officer there will ask for certain documents. Under this provision, he must produce copies of such documents as an immigration officer would be entitled to obtain during the time of the entry clearance. He may not carry those documents. How can he produce them? That may affect his entry into the United Kingdom. That is the point I am trying to make. It is impossible for travellers to carry every document, not knowing what an immigration officer is going to ask for.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his further elucidation of his point. It is likely that advice and guidance will be offered when the original documentation is sought. I take the point that travellers may not always have the documentation with them. Clearly, there must be a reasonable process.
I am happy to write to the noble Lord spelling out more plainly how we see that process working. However, there must be a reasonable expectation that it is possible to produce documents, but there may well be some circumstances in which that is not the case.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, asked whether we are trying to tighten up on immigration control. I should prefer to describe this as a modernisation and improvement of process. We already have very firm immigration controls in the United Kingdom. As I am sure the noble Lord is well aware, the main thrust of the legislation was to tighten up, improve and make more rigorous and firmer the processes of the law in relation to asylum seekers while at the same time tidying up our immigration arrangements to ensure that they are effective. I believe that the legislation fairly achieves that. He may interpret it differently.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked a very fair question about our plans to introduce biometrics. We are trying to allow for a situation in which we are able to take full advantage of advances in technology. We are aware that systems have been developed in some countries for automated immigration clearance using biometric technology; that is, the electronic storage of a person's physical characteristics which can be encrypted into a card which will enable the holder to pass through an electronically-operated control system.
The Immigration Service has not yet received any formal proposals from carriers or port operators. But as I explained earlier, the order will allow us to work with business partners in taking forward initiatives in that area. I should have thought that there would be a general welcome for that as a progressive move towards making the lives of travellers, operators, carriers and so forth that much easier.
The noble Lord asked a number of other questions about the format for entry clearance documents. He asked whether they would be in the form of paper or other means. Conditions will be in the form of a printed vignette placed in a passport, so they will be in printed form.
The noble Lord asked also whether processes for appeal in relation to issue of entry clearance and refusal will be the same as now. The answer to that is that they will be. An entry clearance has effect only as leave on arrival in the UK. So appeals will be against refusal of entry clearance and not against leave.
I am grateful to the House for the courtesy that it has extended to me this evening in bringing forward this order. I trust that I have answered most of the detailed questions and points that have been raised. I commend the order to the House.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government are engaged in a major programme of reform of the youth justice system, introducing new powers for the police and the courts and new structures at local and national level. The draft order continues that reform programme by overhauling arrangements for the provision of juvenile secure accommodation. It establishes the Youth Justice Board as the commissioning and purchasing body for it and, as such, is responsible for overseeing placement within it.
The board was established in September 1998 under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to drive up standards and promote good practice within the youth justice system as a whole. The draft order now extends the board's role in the key area of youth custody to bring greater coherence to what has been a fragmented and--I believe that most noble Lords would agree--unco-ordinated part of the youth justice system.
I should like briefly to explain the context to the changes, set out the improvements which we believe they will bring and then refer to the provisions of the draft order. The Government have made reform of the youth justice system a key priority. New multi-agency
It is essential that the courts have the powers they need to protect the public in dealing with the most serious and persistent young offenders. That includes the option of remanding and sentencing young people to custody, which in turn requires a consistent and coherent range of secure accommodation for juveniles, with regimes which tackle offending behaviour and which meet the educational and other needs of those young people. That is why the Crime and Disorder Act also gave the courts new powers to remand and sentence young people to custody. New secure remand powers have been in operation since 1st June 1999. The Detention and Training Order--the DTO--which is the new main custodial sentence for juveniles, came into effect on 1st April this year. It is a more constructive and flexible sentence, with a much clearer focus on preventing further offending. Generally speaking, half the DTO will be served in custody and the other half under supervision in the community. The custodial part can be served in whichever form of available secure accommodation is appropriate to the age, maturity and needs of the individual young offender.
To complement those changes in the powers available to the courts, the Government undertook a thoroughgoing review of all forms of juvenile secure accommodation--Prison Service providers, local authority and private sector--and published the outcome in July 1998. The review found little positive to say about the present arrangements. It found that regime standards were inconsistent and often poor; that costs varied considerably; and that there was no effective oversight or long-term planning for juvenile secure accommodation as a whole. In practice, there was no definable juvenile secure estate. The review concluded that fundamental change was needed and felt that there was a strong case for a central co-ordinating body to commission, purchase and have oversight of all forms of secure accommodation for remanded and sentenced children and young people. The Government therefore decided after consultation that the Youth Justice Board should take on that function from April 2000.
There are four key objectives behind the draft order: first, to enable a strategic overview to be taken of the juvenile secure estate in the context of the youth justice system as a whole and to ensure there is a clear focus on preventing further offending by children and young people sentenced to custody; secondly, to ensure juvenile custodial facilities deliver high standards of accommodation and regimes and better value for money. More than 80 per cent of all under-18s in custody are currently held in Prison Service accommodation and £51 million is already being
The board's staff will monitor closely the performance of all custodial facilities against the requirements negotiated with providers. Within its overall commissioning and purchasing budget of more than £190 million the board will be looking to raise standards and drive down costs. It that vein, it has already negotiated savings on 1999-2000 costs. Those will partly be used to fund better management of the available places through a secure accommodation clearing house run by the board which will oversee placement across the secure estate. The board will be able to plough further savings back into improving facilities and regimes.
The third objective is to ensure that those remanded or sentenced to custody are placed in appropriate accommodation. In a Written Answer of 29th March the Government set out their approach to the placement of young people in custody in the light of the introduction of the DTO and the proposed new role for the Youth Justice Board. A copy of the placement strategy drawn up by the board is in the Library. Consistent with that, the Government and the board believe steps should be taken to provide more appropriately for the most vulnerable under-18s in custody by accommodating them outside the Prison Service. Through its secure accommodation clearing house the board will push that process as far as it can during 2000-01, particularly in respect of the around 100 girls under 18 currently serving custodial sentences. Their small number and wide geographical origins mean they cannot be accommodated satisfactorily within the current prison system. The board will therefore look to place them as far as possible in either local authority secure units or secure training centres.
The fourth objective is that the board's commissioning and purchasing function is expected to ensure the appropriate type, volume and geographical spread of juvenile secure places. Initially, there will be 3,200 places, of which 2,800 will be provided by the Prison Service in the 13 establishments making up its new distinct juvenile estate; 120 will be in the three secure training centres now operating; and the board expects to purchase between 200 and 300 places from local authority secure units. A copy of the commissioning strategy drawn up by the board has been placed in the Library. We have previously announced plans for two more secure training centres to be developed under the public-private partnership providing around 80 places. It is proposed that the board will take over development work on those under its new role. We will be considering in the spending review what further provision should be made for new establishments to be commissioned by the board.
I turn now to the provisions of the draft order. They are in two main parts. Article 3 confers several new functions on the Youth Justice Board. Those will enable it to enter into agreements for the provision of
Article 4 enables the Youth Justice Board to exercise a number of Secretary of State functions related to its commissioning and purchasing role. Providing for the Board to exercise those functions concurrently with the Secretary of State will enable it to play the leading role in overseeing the provision and operation of secure accommodation while maintaining the Secretary of State's ultimate responsibility for contracts, standards and welfare.
The Youth Justice Board will also take over responsibility from the Home Office for the day-to-day management, monitoring and enforcement of the contracts for secure training centres and related escort contracts. The board will take the lead on future procurement under the public-private partnership of any new centres. The Secretary of State will, of course, remain responsible for matters concerned with safeguarding the treatment of trainees.
Through its placement clearing house, the board will authorise the placement of those sentenced to a DTO and deal with the placement of those subject to prison remands and, transitionally, secure training orders and detention in a young offender institution for juveniles imposed before 1st April. The Prison Service will continue to place on behalf of the Secretary of State those detained for grave crimes under Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. The Prison Service will use the board's clearing house to help it make appropriate placements.
Finally, the Government announced in a Written Answer of 27th January this year that the Youth Justice Board would take over from the Home Office responsibility for overseeing the provision and operation of junior attendance centres under Section 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982. These usually operate in local schools on Saturday afternoons, with the young offenders required to attend and undertake constructive activities. In our view, the board will be better placed to ensure that the work of the junior attendance centres is properly integrated with the wider youth justice reforms, particularly the new local youth offending teams.
The changes contained in the draft order reflect the Government's intention that time spent in custody should, as with community sentences, be directed towards preventing further offending in the long term. That is the principal aim of the youth justice system. The new role for the Youth Justice Board will help ensure that, in respect of the secure accommodation within that system, that principal aim is achieved. I commend the draft order to the House.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 3rd April be approved [15th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)
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