|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I want to say a quick word about the default position contained in clause 32(2), which is that unless it is specifically exempted by the Bill, any publication could be in contempt of court. Surely that is the wrong way round. Surely it would be better to reverse that default judgment, so that there was a presumption in favour of all instances of such information being published, unless prohibited by the court. After all, that is exactly what will apply to the publication of orders. I see no logic in saying that the same should not apply to the publication of judgments. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that in his winding-up speech.
On the anonymity provisions, obviously it is essential that minors and certain other individuals should be subject to anonymity. However, my reading of the Bill is that it extends anonymity to all parties involved or referred to in proceedings, other than paid, professional expert witnesses. Surely automatic anonymity should be limited to the key parties, with the judge having the discretion to extend that more widely if need be. I very much hope that the Minister will look into that issue and that it might be picked up in Committee. Perhaps he could also talk to his colleagues in the Ministry of Justice about the pressure that the extra requirements of the anonymity framework are likely to put on Her Majesty's Courts Service. Will it require extra resources? What effect will that pressure have?
The Government originally said that they would not reverse Clayton v. Clayton. However, it is my understanding that the Bill will do just that. Could the Minister also comment on that in his winding-up speech?
It is vital that the concerns of the many organisations involved, such as Resolution and the Law Society, are considered and dealt with. It is important that we should get part 2 right, because it is hugely significant. We owe it to a vulnerable part of the community-the children who appear in the courts-to ensure that part 2 is well crafted and has the support of as many people as possible working in the courts.
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow my friend, the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham). He delivers his speeches like he plays his cricket, with a stout defence and the occasional flashing, brilliant shot, but also with the tendency to take his eye off the ball on occasions-a tendency that I shall avoid the temptation to take advantage of this evening, because we are discussing such a serious issue, particularly for my constituents.
I represent a constituency that sends the fewest number of kids to college and university, has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe, and has profound and severe problems of deprivation. That is why, for me, the most important thing in the Bill is what I would call the life skills part-the part dealing with teaching our babies, children, primary children and secondary young people the importance of some of the basics that most of us here learned at our mother and father's knees.
Many of those skills-the basic social and emotional capabilities-are not in place in constituencies such as mine. If they are not there, we have a choice: either we can spend billions of pounds on remedial action when things go wrong, complain about the problem, turn our teachers into crowd control experts, put money into our courts and magistrates courts, and pay for people to spend a lifetime on welfare benefits; or we can do something about the problem. The great thing that the Bill does is take another step towards having the capability to help young people when they need it.
PSHE, as it is called-we really have to do something about that; we should change the name to something that means something to people on the ground, such as "life skills"-is not, on its own, a magic bullet; it is part of a package of early-intervention measures. In Nottingham, we have been fortunate enough to put a number of those measures in place, but we need the rest of the jigsaw. Those children need to know that they can access the great world of learning because they have the skills and capabilities to do so-the skill to listen, the skill to pay attention, the skill to be self-disciplined, the ability to reconcile arguments without violence, the ability to aspire to learn, and the ability to want to get qualifications and go on and get a decent job. That is why the Bill is so important.
Mr. Allen: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why the first thing that we did in, effectively, our pilot-we are piloting the idea before the Government have introduced the legislation, through our 11-to-16 life skills programme, which I was fortunate enough to be instrumental in establishing, as chair of the local strategic partnership-was to dedicate some £400,000, from a very small budget, for basic training, so that the basic materials were in place. That was so that the teachers were not, as someone said earlier, teaching those basics after lessons in the gymnasium or running stuff off the photocopier, but understood the aim and were trained and passionate about ensuring that all young people had those basics in place.
In addition, leaving aside a bit of petty partisanship from all parts of the House, I would like to say a few words of thanks-not in the normal way, perhaps-to the Front Benchers for the serious way in which they have debated the issue and, except for a bit of fraying around the edges on sex and relationship education, for the basic consensus on the fact that we need all our kids to have those fundamental life skills in order to take advantage of education. I commend the way in which all Front Benchers have done that. I should also like to add a little historical footnote to the debate, by mentioning the debt that we all owe to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight) for his work on this brief. He worked very hard to ensure that it was going to be part of the Bill, and he deserves our commendation for that.
I say all this not because I am soft, non-partisan and not in favour of my own party's viewpoint on various issues, but because of one simple fact: if we ever break the intergenerational cycle of deprivation in this country, that achievement will not be the property of just one
party-the Labour party, the Conservative party, the Liberal party or any of the minority parties. All will have to be signed up to the consensus on giving every child the abilities that will enable that child to make the best of himself or herself. I think that we are quite close to achieving that.
There was a period when the debate revolved around one side saying that the other side wanted to hug hoodies, and the other side retorting that their opponents wanted to put antisocial behaviour orders on embryos. However, the level of maturity in the debate over the past two or three years has been to the great credit of Members in the House and to the spokespeople here who have taken this issue much further than we thought we might have done. What is it that we have taken further? It is the process of early intervention, and the laying down of the bedrock that will enable all kids to do well, as part of a complete raft of measures, rather than just as a one-off.
Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend realise that one of the biggest factors among parents is low expectations, bridled with the celebrity culture in our society, which allows young people to think that they can get on in life by becoming a celebrity rather than by determined hard work?
Mr. Allen: There are many things that flow from having effective social and emotional capabilities. That will impact on teenage pregnancy, and it will impact massively on aspiration. A young person who is rounded, self-confident and aware of their ability to interact with others will make much more of themselves than a child who is not, often through no fault of their own but perhaps through ineffective parenting in the early years. A child who has those capabilities will aspire, seek employment, and have the desire to attain educational qualifications, and will not get into trouble with the bad lads or get involved in vandalism and antisocial behaviour. We must give those children that most precious, lifelong gift, to enable them to do the best for themselves. That is the absolute antithesis of the nanny state. The proposals represent an important step towards achieving that, and the Government are to be commended for introducing them.
I want briefly to respond to a point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint). She described the desperation of reaching the end of the line with some parents, and the necessity of imposing a parenting order. I hope that I am not putting words into her mouth, but is it not a kind of failure to have reached that point? I do not want to suggest that I am waving a magic wand, but we need to get to those kids and their parents earlier than that point of failure, because penalising them is not the way to make progress. If we can get to them much earlier, they will be able to make their own way.
Caroline Flint: I totally agree with my hon. Friend. I was very proud to be involved in one of the trailblazer Sure Start projects, but the fact is that we do not start with a level playing field. Some parents are out of control in their approach to parenting, compared with what we accept as the norm, and something has to be done about that small minority who are working against the school and the wider community.
Mr. Allen: That is why this issue is intergenerational, and why we must look at the new-born of today as the parents of tomorrow, and help them to become the great parents of tomorrow who will, in turn, raise good kids. That is something that we all have to share.
My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws)-I will call him my hon. Friend-talked about one-to-one tuition and when that approach should be taken. I am not privy to the nuances of Government policy, but I know that if we are going to do one-to-one tuition, we should do it early, not late. We should not give one-to-one tuition to the 16-year-old who is banged up in a secure unit; we should give it to the 16-month-old who could otherwise become that child later on. We should get to work early on one to one, if there is a choice. I think that the Government have got that right, although I wish that we could extend the provision across the whole age range. If a choice has to be made, however, it must be that one.
I was talking to the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) about life skills before we came into the Chamber-[Hon. Members: "Surely not!"] I have no secrets to tell. I hope that he will not mind my repeating that we are not just talking about sex and relationship education, or about financial capability, or about the things that are in the current PHSE curriculum. I am talking about something much more fundamental-namely, the basic ability to interact, to have empathy with other people, and to sit and listen and learn. That is what I mean by social and emotional skills. I hope that I went halfway towards convincing him that those things make a much richer, more fundamental contribution to what we can all become. That, in turn, can make English, maths and all the other academic subjects much more accessible.
I hope that I can blow the trumpet for my own city of Nottingham. We started teaching life skills for 11 to 16-year-olds a year before this legislation was introduced. We started in six of the 14 secondary schools, and it is proving to be a great success. We did the training first, as my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) pointed out, and there are many lessons that I hope we can learn from Nottingham. Perhaps my Front-Bench colleagues will come up and see how we are training, consulting the students, and allowing local variations so that we can hand-make the local curriculum. Yes, it is compulsory, but we must ensure that the curriculum for a special school is different from one for a pupil referral unit or for a conventional secondary school. All abilities need to be involved. All our agencies are involved, we are piloting this effectively and we have effective evaluation in place. We think that the Government could learn from Nottingham, and we wish them well with these proposals.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), who made a thoughtful, thought-provoking and excellent speech. We can all agree with him, and I know that he has the best interests of children and young people at heart.
I should like to echo the remarks made earlier, and to send my condolences to the family of the late Member for North-West Leicestershire. He was an independent
and fearless parliamentarian, and he will be genuinely thought of with great affection across the House for many years to come.
A number of hon. Members have already mentioned the Badman review, so I shall talk about it only briefly. It strikes a slightly discordant note, in that some of it has the taste of the nanny state about it. I was asked recently what plans the Welsh Assembly might have to use the new powers granted in the Bill. They will relate to England only, and could be introduced by Measure in Wales if the National Assembly believe that to be appropriate. My understanding is that there will be an early debate on this issue in the Assembly, but I believe that it will take a rather distinctive approach, in line with Welsh education policy. One of the first things that the Assembly did was to abolish standard assessment tests-SATs-and it was quite right to do so. I believe that there will be an in-depth consultation and that Badman will not be put into effect, at least in that manner, in Wales.
As hon. Members know, there has been a groundswell of concern about the Badman report. On 8 December, I presented to Parliament a petition on behalf of my constituents, and on that very day no fewer than 16 other petitions were presented. At the moment, I believe that there are 43 petitions about the Badman report. This is a live issue of great concern to many of our constituents.
Mr. Graham Stuart: I heartily congratulate the hon. Gentleman on what he said about Wales not following the Government's draconian measures after the Badman report. On one day alone, more than 120 petitions from 120 different constituencies were presented in addition to those presented on other days from all around the country.
Mr. Llwyd: That rather diminishes my 46, but it does underline the great concern about the issue. I am sure that changes will be made to the current proposals in Committee-I sincerely hope so, as there is no grave concern about the standard of home education: quite the reverse. I went to university with people who had been home educated and they were probably the brightest people I ever met. They are high flyers today and they are probably home educating their own children in turn. I see no need to wield a big stick in that area.
Welsh people, of course, have a great regard for the liberation that education provides. I went to a university, Aberystwyth university college. It was built on public subscription; the one in Bangor was built from the odd pennies and ha'pennies from the rather poor quarrymen in the local area. We know how important education is and how liberating it can be.
I really believe that there are some good parts to the Bill, but there are also some rather strange parts. On the youth justice provisions, I would advocate the transfer of the relevant powers to Wales. The inclusion of youth justice within the education and young people's portfolio at the Welsh Assembly seems to make sense. In the jigsaw of society, there are a great number of interlocking pieces, where decisions made in one field influence outcomes in another. It does not make sense for a Welsh education system to introduce one set of values, evidenced by the play-based foundation phase for young children
and the 14-to-19 Welsh baccalaureate schemes for teenagers, and then have to make do with a criminal justice system that does not adhere to the values we would like to see reflected in it.
"The current Whitehall-led option of imprisoning such a high proportion of vulnerable children in unsafe circumstances cannot be acceptable...Despite the limited effectiveness of the criminal justice system as a lever to tackle youth crime, it seems somewhat perverse that the Assembly has access to the social welfare lever but not the criminal justice lever. If the Assembly had control of both levers then it would have the ability to move finances between the two accordingly. Money currently spent on ineffective prisons could be transferred to bolster prevention and social welfare strategies",
many of which we have heard about already. The league also drew attention to the fact that because of lack of provision, most Welsh children who find themselves in custody are held in England, far from their families. This is not simply a matter of logistics, but of culture, language and other difficulties that come along with them.
It is the responsibility of Governments to determine the exact policy, but Plaid Cymru would like an urgent debate on the devolution of youth justice to Wales. A think-piece entitled "Safer Communities", which we published in 2008, argued that in the provision of youth justice in Wales, we could learn from the example of Finland. That country has a very small number of children in custody. Instead, there is a wide variety of psychiatric and care provision to deal with behavioural problems at an early stage, which as we heard is crucial.
A comparative analysis of young people in trouble in Wales and in Finland found that Finland had smaller numbers of young offenders locked up. It accommodates very large numbers of children and young people in non-custodial residential centres of one type or another. Those include youth homes, children's homes, and interestingly, family-group homes. By far the largest number-almost 4,000-are also assisted with psychiatric problems and so forth. If England and Wales had the same number of psychiatric beds per head of population as Finland, there would be approximately 40,000. In Wales, there would be 2,220, but there are currently, in fact, only 28.
It appears that concern about child and adolescent mental health in Finland has eclipsed concerns about youth crime, and it would follow from this that behaviour that might be viewed as criminal in England and Wales might well be dealt with in Finland first and foremost as a form of disorder, or at least as something that should be addressed outside the criminal justice system.
We would like to see greater use of reparation orders-in other words, orders made in the civil courts that require the perpetrator to repair the damage that their behaviour has caused-of child safety orders for children under 10 years of age who have shown behavioural problems, of acceptable behaviour contracts and so forth. Provision for those orders is made in the Children Act 2001, but little use is made of them because, I understand, social services departments are understaffed and often underfunded.
Those tools should be expanded to include both mentoring of young people by older role models in the community and conferencing to bring youths, their
families and relevant agencies together to discuss the young person's problem behaviour in order to find the causes and try to fix them. The most important issue is that the system should be child-centred and work for the benefit of the community. It is very clear from the high reoffending rate and the number of people who go from youth custody of one form or another to adult custody that we must look at alternative means of dealing with the problem.
To conclude, in discussing the devolution of youth justice to the Welsh Assembly, I have welcomed the acceptance that youth justice is included as part of society's contract with young people rather than part of the adult criminal justice system. I have also offered suggestions about the route that might be taken by a Welsh youth justice system if were we given the powers-and, of course, the funding-to implement them. There is a growing chorus of voices in Wales to devolve those powers, which could be achieved. I hope that the Minister will pay some attention to this particular plea when he responds to the debate.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|