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Session 2007 - 08
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Public Bill Committee Debates

Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mrs. Janet Dean
Betts, Mr. Clive (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab)
Burrowes, Mr. David (Enfield, Southgate) (Con)
Butler, Ms Dawn (Brent, South) (Lab)
Hanson, Mr. David (Minister of State, Ministry of Justice)
Heath, Mr. David (Somerton and Frome) (LD)
Hesford, Stephen (Wirral, West) (Lab)
Howarth, David (Cambridge) (LD)
Hurd, Mr. Nick (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con)
Keen, Alan (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)
Khan, Mr. Sadiq (Tooting) (Lab)
Marsden, Mr. Gordon (Blackpool, South) (Lab)
Moran, Margaret (Luton, South) (Lab)
Rifkind, Sir Malcolm (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield, North) (Lab)
Scott, Mr. Lee (Ilford, North) (Con)
Whitehead, Dr. Alan (Southampton, Test) (Lab)
Wilson, Mr. Rob (Reading, East) (Con)
Celia Blacklock, Edward Waller, Committee Clerk s
† attended the Committee

Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 28 November 2007

[Mrs. Janet Dean in the Chair]

Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007

2.30 pm
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007 (S.I. 2007, no. 1709).
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs. Dean. I thank you for calling me first in the debate, which is because of all the hon. Members who originally prayed against the rules, I seem to be the only one who has made it to the Committee.
By way of background, the secure training centre rules currently confine the use of physical restraint in training centres to three particular situations: first, to prevent escapes; secondly, to prevent harm either to a young person who is detained or to any other person; and thirdly, to prevent damage to property. There is also a fourth example of inciting other trainees to escape or to harm another person. The rules would change the situation by adding a more general catch-all clause to allow the use of physical restraint for the good order and discipline of the institution.
The physical restraint under discussion is not exactly gentle. It includes pushing a trainee’s thumb into the palm of the hand, using knuckles on the lower rib of a trainee’s back by exerting pressure on the lower rib and using upward pressure on the lower part of the trainee’s nose. Those techniques are often described using euphemistic language such as “distraction techniques”, but that should not disguise the fact that such techniques are, in essence, physical violence.
It is also true that the techniques are not used infrequently. There are four secure training centres in the country, and during 2005-06, the most recent year for which I have figures following a parliamentary question from my noble Friend Lord Carlile of Berriew, the techniques were used on about 3,000 different occasions. That means that, given that there are about 250 trainees at any one time in those institutions, the techniques are used on average once per month per trainee. In reality, however, they are not used in that equal or average way—they are used on particular trainees a great number of times and on other trainees not at all.
There is also the problem of discrimination, because the techniques are used disproportionately on girls and on members of ethnic minorities. Lord Carlile carried out an investigation into the use of restraint for the Howard League for Penal Reform, which was published last January. He listed a number of findings and recommendations, but the most important was that despite the training that is undertaken and the fact that the great majority of staff act properly in the use of such techniques, some staff on some occasions use restraint improperly. For example, they use it simply to secure compliance with instructions or as a punishment when instructions are not obeyed. He was even told that handcuffs are used in at least two training centres.
Lord Carlile’s investigation was prompted by the death of 15-year-old Gareth Myatt on 19 April 2004 at the Rainsbrook secure training centre, where he had been for four days. He was a small boy of 4 ft 10 in, weighing less than 7 stone. From the inquest into his death, it appears that there was a dispute between him and staff about whether he should clean up after himself after he had made some toast. He was sent to his room and locked in. Two members of staff went to his room to discuss his behaviour with him. He became very agitated, and staff said that they would have to start taking property out of his room, and they began to do so. As they were taking a piece of paper on which he had written his mother’s new mobile telephone number, he became very angry and started to swear. The two members of staff then restrained him, and were holding him on the bed when a third member of staff arrived. Using a technique that was, at that point, approved, Gareth was put into a hold with his body pushed forward, his head held by one member of staff and his upper body held by the other two, but he was too small and weak to sustain that position, and said that he could not breathe. One of the officers said, “If you can shout at us, you can certainly breathe,” but he could not. He vomited, lost consciousness and never regained consciousness.
The inquest ruled that Gareth’s death was accidental, but the jury found that there had been inadequate assessment of the safety of physical restraints generally, including the technique used on Gareth. It found that the lack of assessment had contributed to Gareth’s death.
We must also consider the death of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood, who was one of the youngest people ever to die in custody. He committed suicide in the Hassockfield secure training centre in 2004, but the inquest into his death was completed only in May. In the hours before his death, Adam was subjected to physical restraint by four members of staff using the so-called “nose distraction technique”, which caused his nose to bleed for an hour. None of the circumstances of his case met any of the rules or requirements for the use of restraint—the incident arose because he refused to go to his room. However, it was clear from the inquest that it was entirely commonplace to use that sort of restraint as a punishment to enforce compliance with staff requests, without any regard to the restrictions placed on staff by the rules.
The order will change the legal situation not by strengthening the safeguards as one would have hoped, by, for example, requiring greater supervision for restraint or a medical assessment of the risks, but by making physical restraint for disciplinary purposes legal—in reality, that means physical punishment. Other hon. Members who object to the rules and I feel that that should not be done, for reasons that were put with great clarity in the House of Lords in a debate on the subject in the last Session, especially by my noble Friends Lord Carlile and Lord Dholakia. The first and most important reason to object is that violence in circumstances in which there is no threat of escape or of harm to anyone, including staff and other trainees, and no threat to property, is inherently disproportionate.
Secondly, violence in those circumstances, when it is used for those purposes, sets a bad example. One way of predicting which youngsters will become violent and criminal in general is identifying those from violent homes. What lesson would the secure training centre—I emphasise the word “training”—be teaching? The lesson would be discipline through violence, which is precisely the same thing that causes the most appalling outcomes for youngsters in their families. Why should the state be allowed to act in a way that might lead a parent to become subject to a parenting order or care proceedings?
Thirdly, the rules legitimate the small minority of staff who are too ready to use violence and undermines the professional majority who look for other ways to defuse situations and to secure compliance.
Fourthly, the rules make violence against youngsters more likely. We know from the cases that I have described that even authorised violence can prove dangerous and sometimes fatal.
Hon. Members may have seen the Youth Justice Board briefing. It argues that there are circumstances in which a refusal to obey staff instructions might put staff at risk, but those are covered by the rules already—the use of physical restraint when there is a risk of harm to a person is permitted. The board also likens the situation to one in which a young person swears at a teacher in school. As Lord Dholakia said in the other place, that involves an extraordinary and astonishing proposition. Whatever teachers’ powers in those circumstances, they do not include the use of physical force of the type authorised in secure training centres.
The Minister will doubtless say that there is a code of practice in addition to the order. The code of practice lays out a number of rules and principles about how to conduct restraint. However, the code has no legal or statutory force and provides for no extra supervision of restraint.
Finally, there is a specific reason why the amendments to the rules should not go forward. In the Lords debate, the Government promised to set up an official independent review of the use of physical restraint in youth offender institutions under an independent chair. I understand that that has now been set up and that it has a timetable, but, obviously, it has not yet reported. The Government should hold off making changes until the results of the review have been received and properly digested.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): Does the hon. Gentleman think that I should ignore the coroner’s recommendation to change the rule before I await the outcome of the review that I have established?
David Howarth: I am coming to that. Changing the rule by itself in these circumstances gives entirely the wrong message to the service. It is no excuse that the private organisations that run the secure training centres are anxious to avoid breaching their contracts, which might be part of what the Minister is saying, unless this change is made. Those organisations should obey the law, and they should have obeyed the law all the way through. I believe that the Government should withdraw the rules and return to the subject when they are fully informed about what is going on in our youth offending institutions and when they have a comprehensive proposal for reform.
2.46 pm
Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship Mrs. Dean, which often seems to happen when we are dealing with particularly sensitive or controversial issues. This afternoon is no exception.
First, I welcome this debate which arose from the early day motion signed by the hon. Member for Cambridge and others. It is important that there is proper debate about the rules. Indeed, there was a welcome debate in the other place on 18 July.
Secondly, I should like to acknowledge the important background to the rules. Numbers have been mentioned by the hon. Member for Cambridge, and it is important to recognise the extent of the use of restraint in our secure training centres. There are 250 young offenders in those centres, and between February 2006 and March 2007 there were 2,574 recorded instances of restraint against them, which is a relatively large number. Of those recorded instances, 169 involved distraction techniques, to which the hon. Member for Cambridge has referred. They involve the inflicting of pain by bending the thumb forwards or down, hitting the nose from underneath and using the knuckles to hit young people in the ribs. Force must be used proportionately and reasonably. Concern has been raised about distraction techniques, but we should also acknowledge that care needs to be taken in relation to all instances of restraint.
The important background to the rules was outlined by the hon. Member for Cambridge—the tragic deaths of Gareth Myatt following restraint and the suicide of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood. We should recognise those individual tragedies, the work undertaken by hon. Members on a cross-party basis and by the hon. Members who represent the constituencies where Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood lived, and the work of the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) to bring this issue to the attention of the House.
The background is important and it has undoubtedly led to responses from the Government, the most welcome of which is the joint review, which I understand will report on 4 April. The remit of that review is also significant: it will deal with the operational efficiency, safety—including medical safety—and ethical validity of restraint methods used in juvenile secure settings, including physical control in care, which is the system of restraint used in secure training centres; and the circumstances in which they may be used. The review will also look at the system of training provided to staff using restraint in juvenile secure settings, including how such training is monitored, reviewed and accredited. It is important to examine both the use of restraint and the training of staff.
The other aspect we should consider is the legislative background to the statutory instrument, which implements the provisions of section 9 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The list of custodial duties therein includes a duty
“to ensure good order and discipline”,
and subsection (4) gives the
“power to use reasonable force when necessary.”
That legislation led to the 1998 rules, but they did not include reference to order and discipline. I invite the Minister to outline the rationale that exclusion, despite the duty contained within the 1994 Act, and to explain why, since that time, it has not been felt that there is a need to extend the rules to cover order and discipline.
It appears that the rules we are debating are a direct response to the tragic deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood. In some ways, it is a perverse response to those tragedies. The question that needs to be asked is about the timing of the review: why has it come at this stage and as a result of the inquests into those deaths in custody? Before and around the time of the deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood, there were calls to respond to such tragedies by ensuring that there were adequate guidance, training and inquiries, rather than by extending the powers to restrain young offenders. We should consider whether an early response should have been to look carefully at how to ensure that there is proper consideration of non-physical methods for dealing with discipline and restraint.
I emphasise that the dedicated staff who have to deal with incidents involving young offenders in secure training centres do an excellent job in very difficult circumstances. They often have to deal with young people who have a background of violence, abuse, drug and alcohol problems and mental health problems. The staff have a difficult task and we should pay tribute to those who go about their duties in an honourable fashion.
However, we also need to acknowledge that there are rogue members of staff. They are not exclusive to secure training centres; there may be rogue staff in police custody suites, secure accommodation, or young offender institutions, as there are in all areas of life. We must ensure that staff are properly trained and receive appropriate guidance. I understand that staff receive initial training in the use of restraint and an annual refresher course thereafter. I invite the Minister to provide details of the training available now to deal with circumstances in which restraint needs to be used. I appreciate that that will form part of the review, but it is important to have details and reassurance now that the power in the rules will be used properly.
We must acknowledge that in certain instances young people themselves may want to provoke the use of restraint to get attention or to vent their anger. We should ensure that the necessary time and resources are provided for purposeful physical activity in secure training centres, to draw young offenders away from an environment that encourages violence and a response of violence and towards an environment that encourages purposeful activity and rehabilitation and diverts those offenders who may be of a violent disposition into non-violent activities.
The extension of the 1998 rules puts greater responsibility on staff in the secure training centres. The Howard League for Penal Reform says that the widening of conditions under which restraint can be used puts even greater responsibility on the forthcoming Government review to identify improvements. It says:
“Rather than deal with this, the Youth Justice Board changed the rules. The original rules around restraint were very clear, but then the YJB added that it could also be used to maintain ‘good order and discipline’. The YJB argued that it clarified things, but what it actually means is more vagueness.”
I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to concerns that the new rules lack the necessary clarity.
The explanatory note states that the purpose of the extension is to provide certainty where there is now uncertainty. I ask the Minister to say what uncertainty has arisen as a result of the 1998 rules and to provide evidence of the assertion in paragraph 7.4 of the explanatory notes that:
“Physical restraint of young people in custody should be used only as the last resort, but there can be occasions where lack of a clear power to secure compliance with instructions may put the safety of the establishment as a whole at risk or at least make its running extremely difficult.”
Is there evidence of cases in which the lack of a clear power has had those effects, beyond those tragic cases of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood? Is there evidence to justify the extension of the rules?
In respect of the application of the use of force to good order and discipline, the other place sought reassurances from the Minister that the provision on the use of force was not a catch-all provision and that, as the 1998 rules stated, force should be used only where necessary. I draw the Minister’s attention to rule 38 of the 1998 rules—the important provision that the restraint should be used
“only where no alternative method of preventing the available.”
It is important that we have an assurance that the use of force to provide for good order and discipline will be a last resort, used only after alternative, non-physical methods have been tried. It would be helpful if the Minister provided the same reassurance as Lord Hunt of Kings Heath gave when he said:
“A threat to good order and discipline is more than a simple refusal to follow an instruction from a member of staff. It must involve behaviour which puts the safe running of the wider establishment at risk.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18 July 2007; Vol. 694, c. 305.]
That is a high threshold to reach before force is used and it is important that it is clarified, to reassure the Committee.
It would be helpful, too, to have an assurance about the use of force that causes most concern—the distraction techniques, which involve a high level of force. There is concern that such techniques are often used disproportionately and unreasonably. It is important that we receive some assurance that there is guidance on the use of distraction techniques. Is there additional training beyond the initial course and the annual refresher course on the use of those techniques?
Has any progress been made following the debate on 18 July 2007? Then, Lord Hunt referred to the
“trial and evaluation of a modified version of a control and restraint system used by the Prison Service, which emphasises de-escalation techniques”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18 July 2007; Vol. 694, c. 306.]
What progress has been made in relation to that version and a new assessment of compliance with a code of practice? What progress has been made in researching literature on behaviour management approaches used in different parts of the world? Although it is conceded that much of this will form part of the review, which is to report in April, it is important that we learn what progress has been made so far in improving the standard of training in the use of force and its application.
Reference has been made in previous debates to other ways to provide a more appropriate level of training. One area involves restorative justice approaches to manage difficult behaviour, and reference has been made to the piloting and evaluation of those methods. It would be interesting to hear whether we will see any evaluation of those approaches before the review reports in April.
It is important that a full review is being undertaken. It is welcome that the review is independent and that its two chairmen have experience in public service, in the social service field and in dealing with children. It is also welcome that it is a joint review, which emphasises our concern to ensure not only proper security and safety, but the welfare of children. We await the outcome in April. The review will provide a better context in which to consider the extension of the rules and to ensure that we have that necessary assurance that the use of force can be dealt with appropriately. For the sake of the lost lives of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood, and for the sake of the safety and security of staff and all our young offenders, it is important that the Government act on the coroner’s recommendations and that action is not delayed unduly by the reporting from the review. We need an assurance that everything possible is being done now to ensure that force is only used appropriately and as the last resort, and that staff are sufficiently trained, so that we have secure training centres that are secure and safe.
3.2 pm
Mr. Hanson: May I welcome you to the Chair of this Committee, Mrs. Dean? You and I, as I am sure that you know, share the unique distinction of being the only two pupils from the Verdin school in Winsford ever to be elected to the House of Commons. It is great for the history of that school to have you chairing and me as the Minister on this occasion.
Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): What a creep.
Mr. Hanson: My hon. Friend’s comment is on the record.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have this debate. I am pleased about the way in which the hon. Members for Cambridge and for Enfield, Southgate have introduced the debate. As both hon. Gentlemen will know, we have had considerable debate on this topic, both in another place and in the an ongoing review by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, to which I recently gave evidence on behalf of the Government. There is an opportunity today for a discussion of the reasons why the Government have brought forward the recommendations on the amendment to the secure training rules.
Let me say at the outset that the safety of young people in secure training centres is key and paramount for the Government. I will not shirk from ensuring that individuals are safe in those establishments. As both hon. Gentlemen will know, the tragic deaths in 2004 of Adam Rickwood and Gareth Myatt have caused concern. On behalf of the Government, I regret that those deaths occurred, and I regret that we have to examine the rules today in the light of them.
Following those deaths, as both hon. Gentlemen have mentioned, the coroner’s report examined the issues in detail and made recommendations to the Government on how we can make improvements in the organisation of secure training centres to ensure that we prevent further deaths and secure the safety of staff and the safety of young people from both their peers and self-harm.
Following the coroner’s report, we received a number of recommendations. I inherited the responsibility for the Youth Justice Board on 26 June 2007. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice) tabled the secure training centre amendment rules, but I supported her tabling those rules and will explain the reasons why. In the light of the coroner’s report, the coroner specifically asked that we clarify the issue relating to the use of the secure training centre rules. The amendment has been brought forward in the light of that coroner’s recommendation.
As both hon. Gentlemen have mentioned, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which was the primary legislation governing the establishment and running of secure training centres, provided for the centres to be run by either the public or private sector, and it made special provision for any centres that are contracted out. All four centres that have so far been established are contracted out.
Section 9 of the 1994 Act is headed:
“Powers and duties of custody officers employed at contracted out secure training centres”.
Subsections (1) and (2) deal with officers’ powers to search offenders or other persons at the centre. Subsection (3) lists the duties of officers in respect of offenders detained in the centre. The hon. Member for Cambridge outlined the powers and duties in detail, but for ease of the Committee, they are:
“(a) to prevent their escape from lawful custody;
(b) to prevent, or detect and report on, the commission or attempted commission by them of other unlawful acts;
(c) to ensure good order and discipline on their part; and
(d) to attend to their wellbeing.”
As my hon. Friends will recall, the 1994 Act was passed by the previous Conservative Government. Section 9 also states that the powers arising out of those duties shall include the power to use reasonable force where necessary. That might seem fairly straightforward. However, when we turn to Secure Training Centre Rules 1998, which are the responsibility of the current Government, we find that rule 38, which deals with the use of physical restraint, does not include
“ensuring good order and discipline”
as one of the purposes for which physical restraint may be used. The purposes under those rules are to prevent a trainee from escaping from custody, injuring himself or others, damaging property or inciting another trainee to injure himself or others or to damage property.
Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to the my hon. Friend for his question. The original phrase, as it appeared in the 1994 Act, was “good order and discipline”. It was not defined in that Act and it has not been defined in the secure training centre rules to be amended in Committee today. To emphasise the point, I shall refer to what my noble Friend Lord Hunt said in another place. Good order and discipline does not simply involve an incident where an individual does not go to bed, does not remove themselves from a room, does not eat their lunch or dinner or gives cheek to an officer in charge. The good order and discipline power is a last resort, to be used in a breakdown of discipline and good order in the centre. I can share with my hon. Friend, either in Committee or outside, some instances in which good order and discipline have been close to breaking down.
In the light of that broad definition, officers can take action to secure their own safety and that of other staff or individuals in the centre, or to prevent individuals from self-harming. We have deliberately not defined it further—this goes to the heart of future debate on the issue—for the reasons that both hon. Members have mentioned. On assuming responsibility for the Youth Justice Board, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Children, Young People and Families and I supported the order, because the coroner asked us in his judgment to clarify the rules for secure training centres against the 1994 Act.
Due to our concern about considering the issues relating to secure training centres, we established the need for a general review of the secure training centre rules. The Committee will be pleased to know that we have established that review—I announced it on the last day of the parliamentary term in July. The review will report to the Minister for Children, Young People and Families and me by 4 April next year—or, I hope, sooner—and will encompass operational efficacy, medical safety, the ethical validity of restraint methods, staff training, arrangements for cross-departmental knowledge, the respective responsibilities of my Department and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Youth Justice Board and the Prison Service, the responsibility of local safeguarding boards, and a range of issues mentioned by the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate, including how to ensure that all forms of restraint become a last resort rather than a first resort.
Mr. Burrowes: I do not want to go back too far into history, but the Minister has outlined the position in 1998 and the present extension of powers. Does he know why the decision was made in 1998 to exclude good order and discipline, which was in the 1994 duties, and why the Government now feel that it merits inclusion? Is it a result only of the coroner’s recommendations and the two tragic deaths, or is there a wider policy change?
Mr. Hanson: That is a good point—the hon. Gentleman’s question is one that I myself have asked. I was not the Minister responsible in 1998. I was in the House, but I was not involved in discussions of the Bill. To be honest, I am not clear on why it was not included then. Good order and discipline were included in section 9 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the parent legislation, but when the order was passed for new secure training centre rules in 1998, it was left out. I have asked officials, but none of the officials who are dealing with the matter now dealt with it then. We do not know why it happened, but for whatever reason, good order and discipline were not included at the time. I suspect that it was an oversight rather than deliberate policy.
In examining why Adam Rickwood and Gareth Myatt died, the coroner determined that the parent legislation contained good order and discipline, but the secure training centre rules, which were subservient to it, did not. That caused confusion in establishing whether good order and discipline powers could be used. We introduced the order as soon as the coroner recommended that we clarify the matter by ensuring that the secure training centre rules reflected the original legislation, and the rules before the Committee will do so.
As I have explained, my right hon. Friend and I determined jointly when assuming this office that we would review the question of restraint, which is why we announced the joint restraint review. I hope that that will look at not only training, efficacy and medical safety, but the whole question of how to reduce the use of restraint and better training to ensure that that is reduced.
The hon. Member for Cambridge mentioned the figure of 3,000, which Lord Carlile also mentioned. I hope that it helps the hon. Gentleman to know that the figures are reducing, the latest being for January to June 2007, when restraint was used 1,249 times in centres, of which 30 were distraction techniques, which are difficult techniques used in difficult circumstances. The level is reducing, and I want to encourage that. I emphasise that that restraint was used not because officers wanted to do so, but because of issues concerning staff safety, peer group safety and self-harm.
In addition to the review and the coroner’s recommendation to bring forward secure training centre rules, I have established a physical care and control committee, which I chair. It will meet quarterly, and it met for the first time early in November. It will look at the whole training issue, and it consists of not politicians, except for me as the Minister chairing it, but officials who deal with secure training centres, prisons and local authority children’s homes. We will consider training issues, and whether we should make any modifications in the meantime while awaiting the review. That committee receives evidence from a medical advisory panel on the use of holds. It constantly monitors the use of secure training centre holds, and it will advise me, as the Minister, on the security and safety of those issues. If issues are brought to my attention, I will not wait for the review, but take immediate action to examine any necessary changes in policy.
I hope that I have assured the Committee that there is a reason for the order. It has been brought before the House, because the coroner wants clarity, and I hope that we are providing it in the order. I have established a review to consider the whole question of restraint—its use, its efficacy and how to ensure that there is proper training to reduce the amount of restraint. I have also established a committee to oversee the matter in the meantime, and I have established support from a medical committee to give advice to the Government. We have acted positively following the two tragedies of Gareth’s and Adam’s deaths, and we have an opportunity to review once and for all how and whether restraint should be used.
I understand the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Cambridge, but I believe that I satisfied Lord Carlile in discussions with him, and I hope that my assurances and the outline of our proposals have reassured him.
3.17 pm
David Howarth: I thank the Minister for the way in which he replied. I also thank the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate for his contribution and the hon. Member for Blackpool, South for his helpful intervention. I fully acknowledge the Government’s regret about what happened and their intentions to put things right. I greatly welcome the measures that Minister outlined towards the end of his comments, especially the instigation of a medical committee, which is vital. I certainly welcome the reduction in the use of such techniques.
The question before us is not whether the Government are doing good things and have good intentions, but whether we should approve the order.
Mr. Hanson: Does the hon. Gentleman think that I should ignore the coroner’s recommendation to clarify the rules based on the legislation, which is what the order is about, pending the review in April?
David Howarth: That was the point that I was coming to. The coroner’s recommendation to clarify could take us in one of two directions. It could take us in the direction of legitimising what is happening, or of saying that what is going on should not be allowed to continue—either of those would be a clarification. The question of which direction to go in must await the outcome of the review. If the Minister wanted clarity, he could have put forward a different order that would have provided clarity in the opposite direction.
The Minister talked about the duty to maintain good order and discipline. There is a legal duty to do that, but it does not authorise the use of particular techniques. We are talking about particular techniques of maintaining good order and discipline, not the general duty. Furthermore, the issue is not about “reasonable force”; it is about specific techniques that we know to be dangerous in some cases and painful in many. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England doubt whether distraction techniques should be used at all. It is not enough to say that the duty to maintain good order and discipline should be read through all the powers granted by legislation; there must be a specific justification as to why those techniques should be used on those children for that purpose, but that has not happened.
I return to the point about good order and discipline. The existing legislation allows the use of physical restraint to prevent harm to any person, damage to property or escape. If the law adds good order and discipline to that, it must be about situations in which there is no danger to people, no danger of damage to property and no threat of escape. That is where the line should be drawn. Whether it was drawn there deliberately or accidentally in 1998 makes no difference; that is where it should be drawn. Beyond those circumstances, it is not justifiable to use violence against children. On that basis, I still intend to divide the Committee.
Question put:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 1.
Division No. 1 ]
Betts, Mr. Clive
Butler, Ms Dawn
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Hesford, Stephen
Keen, Alan
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Moran, Margaret
Ryan, rh Joan
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Howarth, David
Question accordingly agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007 (S.I. 2007, no. 1709).
Committee rose at twenty-four minutes past Three o’clock.

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