|Previous Section||Home Page|
(7A) It shall be the duty of every local authority, acting either individually or in association with other local authorities, (a) to secure that they are in a position to comply with any secure training order which may be imposed under this section and (b) to provide, or to make arrangements with such persons as seem to them to be appropriate, for the provision by those persons of residential and non-residential facilities designed
(i) to avoid the need for children and young persons to be placed in secure accommodation by providing for the supervision, support, education, treatment
Column 246and training of children and young persons who have been cautioned for or convicted of offences and
(ii) to ensure the successful rehabilitation into the community of children and young persons who have spent a period in secure accommodation.'.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse) : With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments : No. 262, in clause 7, page 6, line 25, leave out may enter into a contract with another person' and insert
shall enter into a contract with a social services department of a local authority'.
Government amendments Nos. 55 and 364. No. 268, in clause 8, page 7, leave out lines 5 and 6. Government amendments Nos. 365, 188, 366 and 367. No. 261, in clause 11, page 8, leave out from line 32 to line 5 on page 9. No. 267, in clause 13, page 9, line 21, leave out from
centre ;' to end of line 23.
No. 266, in clause 13, page 9, line 30, leave out from
centre ;' to end of line 32.
No. 265, in clause 14, page 10, leave out lines 1 and 2. Government amendment No. 368. No. 260, in clause 15, page 10, leave out lines 25 and 26. Government amendments Nos. 369, 370 and 297.
Mr. Michael : Our amendments provide that, instead of the Government's secure training order, under which young people would be sent to one of five privately managed secure training centres dotted around the country, many far from their homes, various other arrangements would be made.
First, the courts would be able to make a supervision order with the requirement that for a specified part of the order the young offender would be held in local authority secure accommodation. Secondly, local authorities would be under a statutory duty to provide secure accommodation to fulfil the requirements of that provision--that is an important part of the amendment.
Thirdly, local authorities would be under a further statutory duty to provide residential and non-residential facilities designed to deal effectively with young offenders in the community at an earlier stage, to prevent them from reaching the point at which they need to be held in secure accommodation.
It will be clear from the amendment that the Opposition seek to ensure not only secure accommodation and the ability to deal with young offenders in a firm and proper way when they fail to respond, but the continuity of care and control that is essential if we want to do something about juvenile and youth crime.
The Government's secure training order was drawn up to fulfil a conference speech commitment rather than because it would really tackle the problem of youth crime. The Association of Chief Police Officers warned of the dangers of sending youngsters many miles from their homes and breaking the links between offenders and the homes and communities to which they will eventually return--not even under the Government's recommendations will we simply lock youngsters up and throw away the key.
The Government propose that there will be five centres with 40 places. The people eligible for secure training orders will be young offenders who have committed three or more imprisonable offences and have reoffended during,
Column 247or been in breach of, a supervision order. In relation to secure training orders, magistrates and youth courts will have the same sentencing power as judges in Crown courts. For a single offence, they will be able to give a 12 to 14-year-old a secure training order of up to two years, which is four times the length of custodial sentence that magistrates can impose on offenders over 15, for whom they are limited to a maximum sentence of six months for a single offence.
Under the Bill, the new institutions could be managed by public, voluntary or private sector organisations, but clearly it is envisaged that in practice they will be built and operated by the private sector--the explanation of expenses to be incurred under the Bill depends on that interpretation. That is a retrograde and damaging step which will increase rather than reduce offending by juveniles, and will fragment the present system for dealing with young offenders.
Experience shows that all forms of institutional care or custody for young offenders have high reconviction rates. That is well known to be true of Prison Service custody. According to a parliamentary answer to Baroness Faithfull from Earl Ferrers, the Minister of State, Home Office, on 22 March, the latest available figures for 15 to 16-year-olds are for those who were discharged from Prison Service establishments in 1987 and then followed up for two years. The figures show that 83 per cent. of boys-- 2,270 out of 2,749--and 43 per cent. of girls--15 out of 35--were reconvicted within two years of discharge. That covers 2,285 or 82 per cent. of the 2,784 15 to 16-year-olds.
High reconviction rates are not restricted to Prison Service establishments. They are also common to other forms of institution. That is why it is extremely important that any secure places are not merely produced ad lib, and that we do not repeat the mistake of the short sharp shock. Secure places must be provided where they are needed, and must be integrated into a system of care and control at local level.
The Government have still not done much to redeem their reputation on secure places. It is only this year that the Government have come some way towards meeting the promise, given during the Committee stage of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, to provide secure places for the older age group to end the scandal of young people of 15 and 16 being held in adult prison accommodation. That promise was given as a result of a campaign, including pressure from Labour Members, yet, three years later, not one additional secure place has been provided to meet the commitment given by the then Home Secretary and the then Minister of State, the present Secretary of State for Education. I do not want to delay the House today by going in depth into issues with which we have dealt in Committee. We have made it clear that there is a need for secure places. There are youngsters, even in the 11 to 15 age group, who need to be held securely and examples cited in the press illustrate the need for those places. That is not what is at issue. What is at issue is where and how the places should be provided. Should they simply be exercises in isolation, as the Government have proposed--flying in the face of the advice from the Association of Chief Police Officers, to which I referred a few moments ago--or should they be provided as part of an integrated programme of provision at local level ?
We have emphasised successful rehabilitation into the community of children and young persons who have spent
Column 248a period in secure accommodation. That is not easy. We have quoted the reconviction rates, which show the likelihood of youngsters reoffending on returning to the community. From my experience of working with youngsters, including young offenders, in local communities, I know that there is often bravado, and encouragement and glorification of a young person who has been away for a time. The prevention of reoffending requires a great deal of hard, integrated work, involving the authorities of the establishment in which the young offender is held and those who will work with him and his family in the community and in the home environment. Creating fresh victims and simply encouraging youngsters to go further up the tariff is a fruitless pursuit and a waste of massive sums.
I plead with the Minister and with the Government to provide the secure places that are needed--there is no difference between us on that--in a way that will enable them to be effective and will enable close work with the young person, his family, his school and his community to ensure that when he returns he is less likely, rather than more likely, to offend. Despite the efforts of probation officers, youth workers and others in the local community, one of the failings of our present system is that re-entry into the local community seems destined to be a self-fulfilling prophecy--that those who have been away in custody will return to reoffend. I do not believe that that is inevitable, but I believe that we do not do the things in our system that are requisite for preventing that from happening.
The way in which the Government intend to set up the secure training units means that those units are likely to be re-visited in a short number of years by further criminal justice legislation which will aim to change them into something more effective. The Government could avoid that by accepting our proposition, which provides a system that would work. It would provide the secure places, the training and the education as part of an integrated system at local level.
Our amendment makes clear the requirements on local authorities. Local authorities should ensure that they can comply with any secure training order that may be imposed under the clause. They should prepare for the successful rehabilitation into the community of those who have spent a period in secure accommodation. That is a balanced approach and an option greatly to be preferred to the Government's proposal. It is, perhaps, the option that the Government might have proposed if they had not rushed so quickly from the Conservative party conference to decide on their drafting of this important clause. I hope that the Minister, even at this late stage, will be persuaded that we are offering a better option and a more effective way in which to approach young offenders.
It is a sad fact that the Bill was introduced with a fanfare of trumpets as something that would demonstrate the Government's commitment to tackling crime, but from all the reports it is clear that it has failed to do that and that it has failed to rescue the Government's reputation. They remain a Government who make noise, but who do not act effectively to deal with the problem of crime and with the problem of offending by young people.
Our amendment seeks to address those problems in a proper and constructive way, in a way that would work and in a way that would integrate the requirement for punishment with the requirement for reform to avoid the creation of future victims. I commend it to the House on those grounds.
"The Home Secretary's plans to send children to jails has been exposed for the risky sham it is. Siting the new jails inside old prisons will mix staff, facilities and ethos. Young frightened children will be locked away, isolated from families, and all in the name of bleak political ambition."
Conservative Members may say that it is an entirely predictable quotation, but I believe that it has elements of truth in it. It is important to analyse the choice before the House--that between the Government's proposals for secure training centres and the Opposition's proposals, as explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), which represent a constructive approach to tackling the issue.
To put the matter in context, we must realise that juvenile crime is of enormous importance and concern to us. Home Office statistics suggest that there has been a 37 per cent. decline in the number of known juvenile offenders since 1985. That is partly due to demographic changes : the juvenile population has fallen by 25 per cent. However, the number of known juvenile offenders per 100,000 of the population also fell, from 3,130 in 1980 to 2,616 in 1990--a drop of 16 per cent. Juveniles commit a high proportion of detected offences, although that proportion also appeared to be declining. In 1980, juvenile crime represented 32 per cent. of all crime. In 1991, that figure had dropped to 20 per cent.
I give those figures as background and not to suggest that we should not take juvenile crime extremely seriously or that I disagree in any way with the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth that there are children as young as 12 to 14 who need to be in secure accommodation. The contention that more secure accommodation is needed is not in dispute.
My experience in Leeds, where the National Bed Bureau is located, shows that more secure accommodation is needed. However, we believe that integrated provision at local authority level is a constructive way forward and that the Government's proposals owe a lot to the fact that a party conference pledge was made and put into action far too soon, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said. The Government's proposals are wrong-headed.
It is sad that the House faces legislation that it may well accept as drafted, but which can only do harm and can only lead to an increase in juvenile crime. It can only be a mechanism that will be repealed, whoever is in power, because it will be found to be entirely ineffective and to increase the rate of crime.
Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North) : The hon. Gentleman will remember that, when we were debating that matter in Committee, one of the criticisms of the Labour proposals was that hardened, persistent young offenders would be put into accommodation with other children who were not in that category. Has he, or his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), found some way round that problem so that those persistent, hardened criminals will not enter situations where there are other innocent children whom they would corrupt ?
Column 2506 pm
Mr. Gunnell : I do not find that question at all difficult to address because I am very familiar with the secure unit at Leeds, which houses 27 young people of ages. For the most part, they are older than those in the 12 to 14 bracket, although there are some children there who are younger than 12 years and who have committed especially serious offences. The Minister has been to the same unit and knows that the locking -up arrangements and the placing of children in that unit is such that no child is placed in a position where he could influence other children. Children are divided into groups. Age is one of the factors considered, but there is no reason why the nature of the crime that they have committed should not also be a factor. Therefore, that matter can be taken care of by design. We should consider the possible criteria for judging and comparing the Government's proposal and the Opposition's alternative. The criteria, which in a sense I have learnt as a result of being appointed by Conservative Members to the Audit Commission for seven years, are the three Es--economy, efficiency and effectiveness. They are good criteria by which to consider what is on offer and to compare the two systems.
Let us begin with effectiveness--how would we judge the effectiveness of the proposed accommodation ? In considering accommodation for 12 to 14-year -olds, we must bear in mind that we are dealing with children. They are especially difficult children who, in some cases, have committed dreadful offences or a long series of offences--nevertheless, we are still talking about children. Although the detention and the placing of that person in secure accommodation which removes his freedom is, in itself, punishment, we must recognise that we are dealing with children aged between 12 and 14, so a great portion of their lives is still in front of them. If what we do to them is effective, they are less likely to reoffend when they leave that accommodation than when they enter it. Thus, the major criteria by which we judge the effectiveness of what is on offer are the results.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth says, the results from prison-type accommodation show that it is ineffective. The West Yorkshire probation service told me that, in the past year in West Yorkshire, 85 per cent. of supervision orders were successfully completed without further conviction. However, studies in Nottingham and Newcastle suggested that 70 to 80 per cent. of juveniles who received custodial sentences were re-convicted within two years of being released from custody, compared with 45 to 55 per cent. in the same period after supervision.
Let us consider what has happened in Surrey, a county which is not under the political control of the Labour party. I am commenting on an authority which has been under Conservative control for a long time. The people in Surrey tell me that between 1982 and 1992, the court throughput and the number of supervision orders were halved and the number of custodial sentences, because of the way in which the people in the courts there dealt with what was occurring, were reduced from 16 per cent. of those who went through the courts to 4 per cent. In the case of young people below the age of 17, the number was reduced to 0.3 per cent.
That reduction is in part because of the success of the Surrey youth justice centre, which provided tight supervision for young people. Among other things, they
Column 251were made to work and were brought face to face with the victims of their crimes, thereby seeing at first hand the damage that they had caused. A study of young people who were referred to that centre showed that, over the first three years of its operation between 1983 and 1986, 40 to 50 per cent. were not re-convicted. That is obviously a different picture from the 70 to 80 per cent. re-offending figure, which I mentioned earlier, for those given custodial sentences. That shows that custodial sentences, especially in national, Home Office institutions, which is where the studies were carried out, are ineffective. Work, both in local authority secure accommodation and certainly with supervision in the community, has proved to be far more effective in preventing re-offending.
The maintenance of the child's personal and educational development is also important. One of the criticisms that we must level at the plan for five national centres is its inability to deal with the educational and personal development of trainees, and, especially the integration of those trainees back into the community. It is clear, as the Home Office has already said, that it will not be possible to provide a standard of education that offers children the national curriculum in the secure training centres. Those children will immediately become out of step with children who are not in training centres, which is bound to cause them a certain amount of difficulty when they return to school. That is already one big disadvantage of the centres.
The other factor was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. If there are five centres, all on the eastern side of the country as those that have been mentioned are, great tracts of the country, such as the whole of Wales and the entire south-west region, will be without a centre. Children from those areas will have to travel well over 100 miles and, in some cases, more than 200 miles to be admitted to a centre. Under those circumstances, how will there be any chance of an active reintegration of those children into the community ?
Specifications have gone out to the private sector about the regime that will exist in the centres and what after-care--described as supervision-- will be provided. The specifications say--I thank the Minister for releasing them to us :
"On release from the Centre the trainee will undertake a period of statutory supervision."
It is clearly wise to conduct some supervision to try to provide after- care. The specifications continue :
"The duration and format of the supervision and which agency will provide it is unresolved. Contractors are invited to say whether they would wish to provide this service themselves as a continuation of the regime."
The contractors are also asked to suggest whether they will make individual arrangements, perhaps on a sub-contractual basis, with other potential providers. Under those circumstances, it is envisaged that they would go to the probation service, to the social services or to voluntary organisations. Notably, voluntary organisations to date have been unprepared to play any part in that process. Voluntary agencies as a whole see the secure training centres as a political move that does not have any merit in terms of dealing with crime or young people, and they have stayed out of the bidding process.
Column 252House ? Recently, young children were taken to the continent and to Africa and on sailing holidays in Scotland. They have come back and kicked doors down, burgled homes, driven cars away, stolen car radios and so on. That has not worked. The children who will be placed in the secure units proposed by the Government are evil. In such units, they will be educated, taught right from wrong and given some discipline. We have tried everything else with them. We have tried the methods proposed by the hon. Gentleman for too long. As the party of law and order, we are taking action yet again.
Mr. Gunnell : I am sorry but the hon. Gentleman is not right in what he says. He quoted a few isolated examples--I am sure that the Minister could comment on them. The position is that the local authority secure accommodation that we are talking about can be extremely secure. I assure the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) that not one person has got away from the secure unit in Leeds over the past 10 years. The hon. Gentleman is welcome to come with me and have a look around the unit. He will find that it is totally secure. The people who run the unit certainly do not organise jaunts of any sort. The hon. Gentleman cannot extrapolate from the experiences of some local authorities the theory that that is the norm. We are talking about the need to have some secure accommodation--that means, accommodation from which people do not get out.
Two points must be made about that : first, it is what happens to people when they are in such units that matters and, secondly, whatever we plan, at some stage those people will get out because they will be let out. What matters then is what they have experienced inside and the arrangements that are made for them when they come out. It is important for them to be reintegrated into the community. Therefore, the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth--that all local authorities should have a statutory duty so that everyone is dealt with and accommodated near their community--would mean that they can maintain contact with their families to the extent that that is desirable. It would also mean that when they come out of the accommodation, there will be someone who has known them and worked with them inside the accommodation who will be able to assist them with reintegration in the community. People who come out of such units must be reintegrated into schools. The difficulty is that when people come out of an institution and go to school, they go in with a reputation and the teachers soon know about it. It is hard under any circumstances for those people to be reintegrated into a school on an equal basis and to be treated the same as others. It is certainly much easier to reintegrate people if someone can work with them inside the accommodation and then work with them in the community.
Contractors will be running the institutions ; indeed, a major weakness is that it is prescribed that they will get them. Therefore, there will be no continuity of experience in the way that even the studies suggest is desirable. Amendment No. 3 would introduce efficiency. Without it, we cannot have efficient arrangements of the sort described as necessary by the studies.
In terms of economy, we must examine the large capital sums that will be expended in setting up the capital schemes and the five centres, and what will happen when someone tries to fulfil a contract. If a company is to make a profit from running a secure training centre, it can do so
Column 253only by being careful about staff costs. There is a direct conflict between the level of care provided, which depends on staff levels, the profit that may be required by the private sector for running the unit and the size of the fee that is charged. That commonly means that one goes for the local authority model.
I urge the House to abandon the Government's scheme. It cannot work ; it will only worsen the situation. Above all the other things in the Bill, it will be seen as a political expedient to fulfil some of the 27 points that the Home Secretary outlined at the Conservative party conference. After there has been some experience of the scheme, it will be shown to be a failure. The alternatives have a much greater chance of success. I urge a rethink of the issue not simply on a party-political basis but because we must have the most effective way to deal with juvenile offenders. The Government's scheme is a mechanism that will ensure that 12 to 14-year-olds are given the basis for a continued life of crime.
Amendment No. 3 would place a duty on local authorities to ensure that they comply with secure training orders made by the courts. There is no power in the Bill for courts to require local authorities to comply with secure training orders. Even amendment No. 262, which would require the Home Secretary to contract with local authorities for the provision of secure training centres, would not be the same as placing a duty on local authorities to comply with secure training orders.
On the substance of the amendment, the Government do not believe that local authorities should have the overall responsibility for juveniles detained under secure training orders for two reasons. The first is that local authority secure accommodation accommodates a wide variety of children and young people, not all of whom have problems connected with offending, as my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) pointed out in his intervention. Given the wide range of young people, it would not be reasonable to expect the regime to be focused on tackling offending behaviour in the manner that we envisage for the secure training centres.
Secondly, local authority secure accommodation is mostly in small units of up to eight or 16 places. We envisage that, in contrast, the secure training centres will be larger regional centres taking about 40 youngsters in each. Such a size will allow the development of a good range of education and other activities.
The amendment would also place a duty on local authorities to provide a range of other facilities both to prevent children from needing to be placed in secure accommodation and to rehabilitate those who are. Local authorities are already under a duty, as a result of the Children Act 1989, to take reasonable steps to prevent children from committing crime and from needing to be placed in secure accommodation.
Amendment No. 262 would restrict the Secretary of State to making contracts for the provision and running of secure training centres, or parts of those centres, with the social services departments of local authorities. The remaining amendments in the group would remove the
Column 254provision in the Bill for the Secretary of State to provide directly managed centres but to contract out certain functions in them.
The Government are committed to a process of competitive tendering for the centres, which will help to achieve value for money by driving down costs and encouraging the development of imaginative and innovative ideas both in design and operation.
Mr. Gunnell rose
Mr. Maclean : If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall conclude my remarks. At the root of the debate is a difference in philosophy about who should run the centres. We see a valuable role for local authorities in their areas. We see a valuable role for private enterprise in the centres. For those reasons, I ask the House not to support Labour's amendments.
Mr. Michael : Regrettably, it is clear that the Minister is determined to go down the path that will do little to solve the problem of offending by young people and to save future victims from being created. It is essential that we make that distinction clear and, therefore, we shall press amendment No. 3 to a vote.
Question put , That the amendment be made :
The Committee divided : Ayes 247, Noes 292.
Division No. 201] [6.19 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F.
Berry, Dr. Roger
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Corston, Ms Jean
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Donohoe, Brian H.
Eagle, Ms Angela
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Godman, Dr Norman A.