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4.45 pm

Second and subsequent remands can be for a period of up to 28 days, but a Home Office circular issued last year informed practitioners of changes made to the Magistrates Courts Act by the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996. It reminded them of their obligation to ensure that they take proper account of the welfare of the juvenile. This involves, in particular, the need to keep cases involving juveniles remanded in custody under constant review. That is what the right hon. Gentleman is seeking, and he is right to encourage that approach. I share his view.

The circular also made it clear that the changes did not affect the general right of defendants to make bail applications before the end of the remand period, or the fact that courts were free to set shorter remand periods if, in the circumstances of the case, they judged that desirable. I am happy to reinforce that message. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am happy to work with him and others to try to ensure that we get the best possible disposal consistent with the protection of the public.

Mr. Dawson: Does my hon. Friend agree that, while Home Office circulars are important documents, it would surely be more effective to have what I think is generally

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accepted as a worthy aim enshrined in law? Would my hon. Friend also accept that continuing to remand 15 and 16-year-olds in custody is in contravention of the Utting report, and will give the Government considerable difficulties when faced with making a report on the implementation of the United Nations convention on children's rights? It is generally accepted as wrong. Should we not be trying to make every possible endeavour to ease the situation, to deal with it and to improve it?

Mr. Michael: My hon. Friend makes a number of points, and has asked a series of questions, most of which I have already answered. They are generally answered by the Bill. Ideally, 15 and 16-year-olds should not be remanded in prison accommodation. The fact that they are reflects the lack of other secure accommodation to take them on remand. I campaigned before and after entering Parliament for that system of remanding 15 and 16-year-olds to be ended. However, the Criminal Justice Act 1991, by providing for that to end, did not provide for the means of so doing. It allowed only an all-or-nothing end to the remand of 15 and 16-year-olds.

In the Bill, we allow for the progressive ending of such remands. First, we take out vulnerable 15 and 16-year-old boys. Similarly, we take out girls. We then proceed to 15-year-olds. Progressively, we move to the objective which I wanted to see for eight years, and which my hon. Friend commends to the House. That is the objective, but asking for it is not the same as meeting it. As the previous Government proved, requiring it and putting it in law is not the same as meeting the objective.

I make the same point with the Home Office circular. Working with prison authorities and voluntary organisations, encouraging the work of voluntary organisations to reduce the non-custodial remand of youngsters and encouraging bail support are the way to implement the circular practically. Putting something on the face of the Bill does not necessarily do anything. I think that my hon. Friend would accept that doing it is more important than talking about it.

Mr. Allan: I thank the Minister for giving way. I hesitate to provoke him further in debates that we are trying to keep concise. I was interested to hear him say that he sees the Bill as part of a progression towards getting rid of 15 and 16-year-olds in prison. Can the hon. Gentleman say that the Government are committed to building the 300-odd places to which the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) referred?

Mr. Michael: The hon. Gentleman misses my point, which is that it is necessary to examine the requirements and to ascertain why they exist. The right hon. Member for Fareham has made the point about the way in which youngsters can be remanded in non-custodial ways that address the evil of reoffending while on bail. I have referred to the prison work being done by the Children's Society to try to demonstrate ways in which that can work, which is proving quite successful. There are some custodial disposals that we should be able to avoid without increasing the amount of reoffending. There is more than one way of dealing with some of the problems.

The progressive ending of the remand of 15 and 16-year-olds in prison is one of the Government's objectives. That is one reason why, right at the beginning,

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we stated our intention of reviewing the secure estate. On the advice of the youth justice task force, and looking forward to the establishment of the Youth Justice Board, we are examining the best use of that estate in a more flexible way. That is allowed for in the Bill.

I hope that Opposition Members will recognise that we have before us proposed legislation that should not be seen in isolation, but which fits into a pattern of positive activity both to reduce offending by young people, which is the aim of the youth justice system as a whole, and to ensure that custodial and non-custodial disposals are used for that purpose. I am trying to be brief, because hon. Members want to move quickly on to other debates, but I must give way if the right hon. Member for Fareham wants me to do so.

Sir Peter Lloyd: The Minister is seeking to answer my points, but I do not quite follow his answers. I think that he said that there is a duty on local authorities to continue to seek appropriate local authority accommodation for young offenders in their areas who had been remanded to prison, but I am not certain.

The Minister also said, "The process is almost as I would like. They have to go back to the court when they have found a place." Does the juvenile himself have to go to court, and does the court have to sit? My amendment would avoid such pressure on the courts; indeed, it would free them up, and enable the system to work more speedily. I would be unhappy if the paraphernalia of the court had to be called into action, even though the result would be the same.

Setting a date is hugely important. I wish that the previous Government had set a date for ending juvenile remands to prison in the same way that they set a date for the ending of slopping out. They set that date even though everyone who knew anything about it said, "You can't be certain when it will be ready, there are all sorts of expenditures, you won't know how many prisoners there will be, and you will have to release cells so that they can be converted." It was only because a date was set that it happened.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The right hon. Gentleman is going on far too long for an intervention.

Mr. Michael: I may have to speak for another hour and a half to respond to the right hon. Gentleman's questions. I shall content myself with promising to write to him, but we take no lessons from members of the previous Government on those issues. He wants dates to be set, but we consulted on legislation last autumn, within a couple of months of coming into government; set in train the establishment of the Youth Justice Board, which will oversee the secure estate and the way in which orders are used; and are bringing coherence to the way in which young offenders are dealt with in every part of the youth justice system. We are setting ourselves clear targets, and meeting them.

The right hon. Member for Fareham should reflect on the experience of the previous Government and his period in office before suggesting that we simply set dates by pulling them out of thin air. We are establishing a board which will have responsibility for oversight of the coherence of the secure estate, the way in which youth offending teams operate, and making sure that we achieve the aim of the youth justice system set out in the Bill--reducing offending.

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I have tried to be brief, but that has been difficult because I have been provoked by Conservative Members, who occasionally made partisan points and moved on without receiving a response. I hope that I have responded adequately to the debate, and that the Government amendments will be supported, because they will improve the Bill. I also hope that the Opposition amendments will be resisted, because, although some are well intentioned, they would not improve the law.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New clause 12

Football spectators: failure to comply with reporting duty

'.--(1) In section 16(5) of the Football Spectators Act 1989 (penalties for failure to comply with reporting duty imposed by restriction order)--
(a) for the words "one month" there shall be substituted the words "six months"; and
(b) for the words "level 3" there shall be substituted the words "level 5".
(2) In section 24(2) (arrestable offences) of the 1984 Act, after paragraph (p) there shall be inserted--
"(q) an offence under section 16(4) of the Football Spectators Act 1989 (failure to comply with reporting duty imposed by restriction order).".'.--[Mr. Michael.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New clause 2

Drug treatment sentence

'(1) This section applies where a person aged 15 or over is convicted of an offence which carries a custodial sentence.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this section, the court by or before which the offender is convicted may sentence the offender to a period of custody in a prison or other institution ("a drug treatment sentence").
(3) A court shall not pass a drug treatment sentence unless it is satisfied that--
(a) the offender is dependent on or has a propensity to misuse drugs, and
(b) that his dependence or propensity is such as requires and may be susceptible to treatment.
(4) A drug treatment sentence shall include a requirement ("the treatment requirement") that the offender shall submit, during the whole of the drug treatment sentence, to treatment by or under the direction of a specified person having the necessary qualifications or experience ("the treatment provider") with a view to the reduction or elimination of the offender's dependency on or propensity to misuse drugs.
(5) A drug treatment sentence shall only be passed where the offender signifies his consent to such a sentence.
(6) If the offender fails to signify consent or during the period of the drug treatment sentence expressly or impliedly withdraws his consent, then
(a) if the drug treatment sentence has been passed the Court shall revoke it;
(b) the court shall sentence the offender to a term of imprisonment or detention of not less than three times the length of the drug treatment sentence intended or passed.'.--[Mr. Malins.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

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Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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