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First—everybody will obviously share this objective—we wish to have legislation that reduces the reoffending rate and that is able to deal effectively with the problems that affect all our constituents. To that end, it is important that Ministers properly digest all the relevant reports, that we take stock of informed contributions to the debate, and that we try to make the Government and all their agencies work as effectively as possible to try to deal with this significant problem. Apart from the desire to avoid inconvenience, I cannot
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see why Ministers would deeply object to trying to allow and accommodate serious attempts to improve efforts to reduce reoffending rates.

The second, related, objective of this place is to try to make sure that the legislation that we pass is effective and meets its own objectives. The hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) touched on the subject a moment ago. We have had several consultation papers on the subject and a number of attempts to restructure probation services. In fact, we have had so many changes that, when the Bill had its Second Reading in this House in December, it was sponsored by a completely different Department from the Department that now seeks to conclude the deliberations. We can say with some confidence that this is not a settled area of Government policy.

Given that that is the case, it seems reasonable that proper reflection should take place to make sure that the legislation is effective, that reoffending rates are tackled in the best way possible, and that the Secretary of State himself is held fully accountable. For all those reasons, my party is minded to reject the Government’s position on this group of amendments and to support the hon. and learned Gentleman when he seeks to test the opinion of the House.

Mr. Hanson: With the leave of the House, I shall comment on the assertions made by the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) on the performance of the National Offender Management Service. He mentioned comments that I made when I visited Leicester race course in his constituency. On that occasion, NOMS gave me a warm welcome, and in the years in which the service has been operational, there has been significant improvement to performance. Let me give him a couple of figures to ponder while he reflects on the progress of the Bill.

In 2005-06, the target was for 40,000 offenders to take part in the basic skills programme, and 44,972 offenders started the programme. The target for key work skills awards was 120,000 people, and 186,000 people achieved those awards. The target for enhanced community punishment unpaid work completion was 50,000, and over 51,000 individuals completed unpaid work. I am proud of the fact that the offender management service is delivering services, both in prison and in the community, and that it is achieving some of the targets that we have set, but we are not complacent, as was shown in our debate on the previous group of amendments. We want improvements, and we want to make sure that there are drivers to help underperforming probation services to improve.

The hon. and learned Member for Harborough and the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Browne) seemed to suggest that the Government had been in a mad rush to get the legislation through the House, but that “mad rush” goes back to my noble Friend Lord Carter’s report in 2003, some four years ago. The amendments before us ask us to reconsider what Lord Carter said in 2003, and the issues considered in the consultation in 2005. Essentially, it asks us to revisit the Bill’s progress through this place and the other place over that period, and to revisit our debates to date, just in case the Government decide that what they have sought to do so far is wrong and not applicable.

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The hon. and learned Member for Harborough will be aware that the deadline for expressing interest in forming part of the initial wave of probation trusts has passed. Twenty-two of the 35 probation boards eligible—nearly two thirds of them—expressed an interest in becoming probation trusts in the first wave. The probation boards that have expressed an interest in becoming trusts, including in his area of Leicestershire, would not welcome a further delay to the consideration of that policy objective. They have expressed an interest, and they want to consider going on to the next stage, and we are now progressing with that stage in depth. We have had discussions and there has been progress; the Government have not rushed the proposals. The Lords amendments seek to delay still further the impact of the legislation.

Mr. Garnier: I agree that the gap between 2000 and 2007 cannot be described as a short period, but of course we are not talking about a continuum. There has been a number of reviews, and a number of proposals put forward, and we are now dealing with the third reorganisation of the probation service in that relatively short period. It is no good saying, “We’ve been thinking about the subject for some time, so the process can’t be described as a rush.” If we examine and analyse what has happened in those seven years, we can see that the thinking process behind the Government’s proposals has been, shall we say, a little disorganised. That is the complaint, and that is why it is so important that there be a delay period that allows the Government time to see how the measures will work in practice, before they bring the Bill into full effect.

Mr. Hanson: I accept what the hon. and learned Gentleman says, but I am not convinced that further delay to the process and further consideration would be valuable. My colleagues in NOMS and I will obviously take a keen interest in the roll-out of the waves of trust applications. We will take a keen interest in the development of NOMS at probation trust/board level, and we will monitor it carefully as a matter of course. I do not believe that the further delay proposed in the amendment would be of great assistance to the process, or that the super-affirmative procedure would add anything to parliamentary scrutiny that the affirmative procedure proposed in the Bill will not add. For those reasons, I regret that I must disappoint the hon. and learned Gentleman, much as I enjoyed visiting his constituency to discuss matters with his constituents. I urge the House to reject the amendment.

Question put, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 159.
Division No. 194]
[6.45 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Janet
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, rh Hazel
Blunkett, rh Mr. David

Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David

Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Claire Ward and
Mr. Bob Blizzard

Afriyie, Adam
Amess, Mr. David
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul

Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Herbert, Nick
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Howarth, David
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Ottaway, Richard
Paisley, rh Rev. Ian
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Alan
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thurso, John
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann

Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Evennett and
Mr. Richard Benyon
Question accordingly agreed to.
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Lords amendment disagreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 11.

Mr. Hanson: I beg to move Government amendment (a) in lieu of Lords amendment No. 11.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The Minister must move the motion to disagree.

Mr. Hanson: I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment. However, I also beg to move Government amendment (a)—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We are considering Lords amendment No. 11 and the motion to disagree thereto. With this, we may discuss Government amendment (a) in lieu thereof. However, we do not move it at this stage.

7 pm

Mr. Hanson: I believe that I have fulfilled the requirements.

Members of another place expressed genuine anxiety about the risk of conflicts of interest if one organisation proposed and provided outcomes for offenders. They feared that advice might be skewed towards the outcomes that the organisation provided. Another place amended the Bill to require individual providers of probation services and their officers to ensure that their advice to courts and the Parole Board did not give rise to any conflict of interest.

I have carefully considered the points that were raised in another place together with concerns that were expressed here earlier. I now believe that it would be helpful to deal with the matter on the face of the Bill. I have a small quibble with the Lords amendment because it places a duty on individual providers and officers, whereas we believe that it would be appropriate to give the duty to the Secretary of State, who is better placed to take the appropriate steps to ensure that the conflict of interest does not arise.

I am grateful for the assistance of the other place in making the improvement and I hope that Government amendment (a) will help. I believe that we have tackled the spirit of the other place’s concerns. I commend amendment (a) to hon. Members.

Mr. Garnier: The debate is less contentious that those that we have held so far. I am grateful to the Minister for accepting the thrust of the arguments in the other place and those that were drawn to his predecessor’s attention in Committee. As a Member of Parliament and having declared my interest as a recorder, I raised our concerns about the conflict of interest that might arise if a provider of a probation service had an interest in the recommendation that he
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or his organisation made to the sentencing court—be it the Crown court or a magistrates court. Clearly, some progress has been made, thanks to discussions in another place on conflict of interest.

I should like the Minister to explain in greater detail the difference between Government amendment (a) and the Lords amendment. They are similar in intention but there are significant differences of detail. The Lords amendment states:

Let us leave aside for the moment the argument about whether the Secretary of State or the provider of probation services is the appropriate person to fulfil the requirement. If I got into that, I would repeat the arguments about the top-down delivery of probation services and so on, and I do not want to do that. However, there is a difference between whoever keeps an eye on the risk of conflict “ensuring” that it does not occur and his—as is suggested in Government amendment (a)—having

conflict. That is a very long-winded way of saying, “we’ll do our best.” I prefer the Secretary of State to be placed under an obligation that he should ensure that there is, so far as practicable, no risk of a conflict. The issue might have to go back to the other place. If so, between now and then, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman consider the difference between “ensure” and

If he can persuade himself that it would be better to insert “ensure” rather than the alternative, we would be completely ad idem, as opposed to just wishing to travel down the same path.

The issue is not a matter of semantics; there is a real difference between the two proposals as drafted. I urge the Minister to do something about that if he can. The Government amendment in lieu refers to the necessity to

That is a welcome paragraph. The amendment then refers to the risk that

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