“The Secure College model has never previously been tested.”

It confirms that these plans are untried, untested and that the results would be unpredictable. There is no quantifiable evidence that the secure colleges would reduce reoffending rates. Such little detail has been provided that it is hard to see how the reduction will be achieved in practice. So what alternatives to secure colleges has the Minister’s Department considered? He will recall that I asked him in Committee what assessment his Department had made of how the £85 million budget for the secure college could be alternatively spent. For example, instead of building the secure college, that money could be invested in improving educational provision in the existing youth estate. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm whether that option has been considered, and if not, why not.

The second failure relates to education and welfare provision and goes to the heart of this debate. The Government’s objective is for secure colleges to transform the rehabilitation of young offenders through better education and training. That is a laudable ambition, but

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it needs to be placed in the context of the existing cohort of young people in custody. We know that the lives of the majority of those young people are characterised by multiple layers of complex disadvantages that include mental health issues, learning disabilities, self-harm issues, and problems with drugs, alcohol and family breakdown. That raises two fundamental points. First, those are not challenges that can be overcome through education alone—significant specialist health and welfare provision would also be required. Secondly, if secure colleges are to deliver educational outcomes over and above what has been achieved in the youth estate before, one of several things would need to happen: secure colleges would need to offer more hours of education and purposeful activity than existing institutions; they would need to have a higher calibre of teaching staff and a higher student-staff ratio; or they would need to offer some new model of transformative teaching that we have not seen before.

Secure colleges would also need to overcome a particular challenge identified by the Justice Committee in its youth justice report last year. It pointed out that the average time spent in custody is only 79 days.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): The Justice Committee did look at those issues, and one of the problems is that a plethora of agencies, organisations and contractors deals with individual young people in custody. Often, too many people are involved, and a closer focus from one or two clear directions is needed on how individuals will make progress in custody, especially in education.

Dan Jarvis: I will come to that point shortly. The average time a young person spends in custody is only 79 days, meaning that most young offenders are not in custody long enough to improve their basic skills, but beyond a few vague commitments, no meaningful detail has been provided on how education or welfare will be delivered.

The House does not need to take my word for that. The Secretary of State wrote to the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights a few weeks ago. Describing the secure college proposals, he said:

“The Bill establishes the secure college in law. Beyond the legal framework, the legislation does not specify details of the regime to be delivered within the secure college.”

So there we have it—there is no comprehensive plan in this Bill for how education or welfare will be provided. But we need to know how this will work. For instance, I have met one prospective bidder who has admitted that it would not be possible for it to deliver education and welfare itself and that it would need to bring in a range of other specialist providers. As my hon. Friend suggests, we could have a situation in which one provider operates the secure college, another delivers the teaching, and two or three others—or even more—deliver welfare services, all in the same institution. Will the Minister tell us what measures will be put in place to ensure that that does not lead to confusion and chaos on the ground? Where are the minimum standards in the Bill to ensure that corners are not cut when secure college contracts are put out for competition?

We have therefore tabled amendment 12, which would place a specific obligation on the Secretary of State on health and well-being provision, and amendment 10,

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which would require secure college staff in teaching, nursing or counselling roles to hold relevant qualifications. On education in particular, the Opposition believe that teachers should be properly qualified. That should be the case for any classroom, and it should certainly be the case when staff are working with challenging children who have complex needs, such as those who are found in a secure environment, but Ministers have given no guarantees yet that this will be the case in secure colleges.

That brings me to the third failure, which relates to the safeguarding of vulnerable young people who will be detained in the secure colleges. A number of concerns have been raised by groups across the sector, but Ministers have not been able to offer sufficient assurances on any of them. Let me run through three of them. First, there is the question of whether secure colleges should accommodate very young children or girls, which is highlighted by our amendments 14 and 15. These would prevent all girls and all 12 to 14-year-olds from being accommodated in secure colleges.

Both groups are in the extreme minority within the youth estate. In 2012-13, 96% of children in custody were boys, meaning that girls were outnumbered by more than 19 to one. According to the latest figures, there are only about 50 teenagers under the age of 14 in youth custody, and the majority are in secure children’s homes. The Government have signalled, however, that they intend secure colleges to accommodate both boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 17. That would come with huge safety risks. Even the noble Lord McNally, until recently a Minister and now chair of the Youth Justice Board, has warned against this approach. He recently told the Justice Committee:

“I would want to advise the Secretary of State to think very hard about whether young females should be there”—

that is, in secure colleges. He went on to say:

“Of course, co-education has its attractions, but I would not want the scheme to fail because of difficulties in trying to accommodate mixed groups”.

There is a further point here. The Minister told us in Committee that this issue would be addressed by the very architecture of the secure college, with different groups accommodated in separate units. He could not provide any further detail, however, because he said that not all the design decisions had been taken. This is just months before shovels are scheduled to be in the ground and construction of the secure college is due to begin early in 2015.

Secondly, the Government have thrown the future of secure children’s homes into doubt. Twenty-eight beds have already been cut and Ministers have signalled that many of the vulnerable young people currently accommodated in such homes will be moved into secure colleges. The kind of children for whom secure children’s homes cater would be all at sea in a 300-bed teenage Titan prison, and it goes against all the evidence showing that smaller establishments are by far the most effective for young people. It is easier to maintain control in such establishments, they are less violent, and staff are able to offer much greater hands-on support. They are also closer to home, enabling children to maintain links with their parents, which aids rehabilitation. That is why we have proposed amendment 13, which would require an adequate number of places in secure children’s homes to be maintained.

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Thirdly, there are the conditions regarding the use of restraint. Opposition Members fully accept that there will be the occasional need to use reasonable force in youth custody environments. The Minister will be well aware, however, of the chorus of concerns raised that the Bill could be interpreted as allowing the use of reasonable force for the maintenance of good order and discipline. If so, this may be unlawful in the light of a ruling by the Court of Appeal in 2008, which we debated at length in Committee.

The Secretary of State’s letter to the Joint Committee on Human Rights said that there should be

“limited and clearly defined circumstances”

where reasonable force could be used to enforce good order and discipline, so I invite the Minister to lay out what these circumstances might be. I suspect he will say that this will all be worked out in the secure college rules, which have yet to be finalised. We keep coming back to this problem. A problem or area of concern is raised, and the Minister assures the House that it will be dealt with in the secure college rules. We then ask to see the secure college rules, but the Government have said they will not be available for scrutiny until after the Bill has become law.

I am sure the Minister will understand that this is a far from acceptable state of affairs. That is why the Opposition have retabled amendment 11, which would revise the wording in schedule 4. This would make it much clearer, resolve the legality issue and put a lot of minds at rest, while still allowing reasonable force to be used.

9.15 pm

The fourth failure relates to costs. The initiative is clearly a cost-driven exercise. The Government’s impact assessment states:

“We need to reduce the cost of youth custody”—

one of the key reasons behind it—but only this Government and this Justice Secretary would propose to save public money by spending £85 million of it when there is currently no space for this in the Ministry of Justice’s budget. No new money has been made available for the pathfinder, so further cuts will have to be made to existing services to pay for it.

Ministers also claim that the cost of a place in a secure college will be “significantly lower” than the current average cost of a place in youth custody of £100,000. At the same time, they also say that secure colleges will offer transformative education and training over and above what is being provided in existing institutions at a much higher cost. That sounds simply too good to be true, and it brings us to the final issue.

The Government are essentially asking for a blank cheque to go ahead with secure colleges. It is a pattern we have seen throughout the Bill’s scrutiny. Where experts in the sector raise problems, the Minister says, “We’ll work those out in the pathfinder.” Where Members of the House expose a lack of detail and ask questions, the Government say, “We’ll come back to you on that after the pathfinder.” I must remind the Minister—as he well knows—that this is not a Bill for a pilot. The Bill will set out the secure college model in law, and allow it to become the preferred model for future youth custody, which is the Government’s stated ambition, but as they stand these proposals are half-baked, lacking in credibility, and severely lacking in supporting evidence. We need

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answers to these questions if Parliament is to have confidence that this is a good use of public money, especially at a time when the MOJ budget has been cut and youth offending teams and other services are being squeezed.

I genuinely look forward to the Minister’s response, and I hope he can address the concerns raised, but unless he is able to announce a radical change of direction, the Opposition will not be able to support these proposals and we will seek to divide the House on amendment 18 to strike secure colleges from the Bill.

Mr Buckland: I rise to speak to amendment 19, which is tabled in my name, relating to the issue of accountability for special educational needs in the proposed secure colleges. The amendment would make the principal of the college responsible, first for reviewing the SEN provision available in the college; secondly for identifying whether the work force are appropriately skilled to support young people with SEN; thirdly for working with that young person’s home local authority when they might benefit from a new education, health and care assessment, which was established by the welcome Children and Families Act 2014; and finally for undertaking those duties with advice from the secure college’s special educational needs co-ordinator.

It is worth reminding the House once again why special educational needs in secure colleges is such a fundamental issue. Research suggests that 60% of children in custody have communication difficulties; a quarter of children in the youth justice system have a learning disability; three quarters have serious difficulties with literacy; and 17% of young offenders have a statement of SEN, compared with 3% of the general population. Those difficulties are often not identified until the young person enters custody. Ensuring that a young person’s SEN needs are recognised and supported is essential to the success of the Government’s stated aim in introducing secure colleges: to put education at the heart of youth custody. I fully support that aim.

We had a short debate on these issues in Committee, and I listened carefully to the Minister’s response to the concerns raised about SEN provision. He said that he would expect potential education providers to demonstrate that they could provide the necessary support for detained young people with SEN, and I am sure that he would agree that training for staff in that discipline is crucial. However, I understand that the Government do not want to constrain innovation by putting into statute too many specifications on what providers must deliver and that the more detailed requirements on provision will be included in the contract.

That is why my amendment does not specify the detailed SEN provision or training that must be provided; rather, it seeks to place duties on the principal to keep that provision and training under review. That has several advantages. It is a means of ensuring that contractual commitments relating to SEN are delivered on the ground. It creates a strong statutory framework around which the provision of SEN support and training can be provided, but it does so without being restrictive or prescriptive in the way the Minister was concerned about.

One of the major challenges we face is linking up provision in custody and provision in the community. We do not want to see progress made by a young person

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while in a secure college to be lost after he or she is released, because for many detained young people—this is a sad reality, but it is true—custody might be the first time in many years that they have engaged in education. For far too many it is the first time their special educational needs are identified. It is therefore crucial that any information identified in a secure college is passed on to the home local authority so that there is continuity in ensuring that their needs are met. Upon release, those young people might be eligible for an education, health and care assessment from their home local authorities. That might need to begin before they are released so that a proper package can be put in place to prepare the ground for that transition. That is why my amendment would require the principal of a secure college to pass any information on a child’s special educational needs to their home local authority, building on the great strides that have been made in the 2014 Act.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on his eminently good speech, which, as always, draws upon his expert knowledge of SEN. Is he not describing an integrated form of education whereby what takes place inside one particular institution is transferred seamlessly to other institutions involved? Is that not what we should be aiming for in all education across the prison system?

Mr Buckland: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. Already in the debate we have heard, in speeches and interventions, about the relatively short period of time that young people spend in custody. That continuity is absolutely essential if we are to take meaningful strides not only in dealing with rehabilitation, but in reducing reoffending rates, which concern all of us and are a priority for the Government.

My amendment is a probing amendment, but I am keen for my hon. Friend the Minister to consider further these proposals in relation to SEN provision in secure colleges: that education providers in those colleges be required by contract to put SEN at the heart of their education provision; that those providers also be required by contract to ensure adequate and proper training for staff so that they can properly identify special education needs and meet that need when it is identified; and finally, that we give further thought to exactly who in a secure college should be responsible for working with home local education authorities when young people either have education, health and care plans, or might be eligible for them. I commend those points to the House.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I will be very brief, because other Members wish to speak. I find this whole secure college proposal abhorrent. It flies in the face of all the evidence that has been put before the Justice Committee and debated in the wider media. What do we know about trying to address the issues that confront young people once they get involved in this system? We know that the most successful units are the smaller ones. So what is the response? It is to create a mass-scale prison.

The other thing that we know works—this is absolutely critical—is for young people to be located close to their homes so that they can maintain family and community contact. The scale of this proposal in catering for about

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25% of young people in the prison system means that these colleges will be located in the centre of the country, nowhere near the vast proportion of homes where these young people live, so we will be breaking down family connections. We have warnings before us, right across the piece, that in a mixed-gender establishment those most at risk will be young women. Some of the statements and evidence provided about those risks were frightening.

All the evidence tells us that a system such as that proposed will not work, and I think the Government know that. This is Oakwood for children, and we know what happened in that privatised prison—riots, assaults, and a lack of control. I think the Government know that there is a danger that that will be replicated in this large institution. That is why the Bill is allowing for the use of physical force against young people, contrary to everything the courts have told us.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Given that the hon. Gentleman, who is a member of the Justice Committee, was unable in the circumstances to visit Oakwood when we did so recently, I hope he would not want to give the impression that the Committee had formed the view that his description fits Oakwood as it is now rather than as it was at the beginning.

John McDonnell: I was unable to go on that visit because I was in hospital at the time. However, I have had the reports from Oakwood and I have met the Prison Officers Association. We have seen time and again the level of assaults there and the riots that have taken place. Only recently, a whole wing was taken over by prisoners. That is a result of privatisation. That is the agenda; that is what this is about. It is not about the rehabilitation, education and care of young people; the main thrust is reducing the overall cost of the system. That is why privatisation has come on to the agenda. As a result of this Government’s drive to reduce costs within the system, we are putting the lives of young people at risk.

I grew up on an estate where young people were sent into the prison system—that is, borstals. This proposal is bringing borstals back into the system. We thought we had got rid of them. They were like large-scale prisons where a regime of brutality could emerge because of packing so many young people in, and where costs were limited so there was not the intensive investment looking at children’s individual needs.

This is a dreadful proposal. If it is enacted, with £85 million spent on this large-scale Titan prison for young people, we will live to regret it, because it will damage young people’s lives and, rather than rehabilitate them, force them into a more brutal form of criminal practice in future.

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD): There is much to commend part 1 of the Bill, but, like other hon. Members, I cannot say the same for part 2.

The plans for secure colleges are a leap into the unknown that have the potential to deliver worse outcomes for the very vulnerable young people who are placed into custody across the secure youth estate. It is not just me or other hon. Members who are saying that; it is the Howard League for Penal Reform, the Prison Reform

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Trust, the deputy Children’s Commissioner, and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice. Like them, I worry that the introduction of secure colleges could drive up the number of young people being sent into custody—something that we are seeking to avoid. I fear that they will not meet the emotional and mental health needs of children who are placed into them, that they will not meet the excellent standards of educational attainment in some of our secure children’s homes, and that they will provide for worse outcomes for some of the youngest, and therefore most vulnerable, people we need to detain.

As the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) said, we are seeing a steady period of decline in youth imprisonment and youth crime, though one will not necessarily read about it in the newspapers. Overall, youth crime is down by 63% since 2002. Since 2009, there have been 55% fewer young people coming into the youth justice system and 36% fewer young people—that is, people under 18—in custody.

The introduction of detention and training orders under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 resulted in a large spike in the number of under-18s being sent into custody, because courts saw that as a new solution. I fear that secure colleges could create a similar spike, with children being sent into custody rather than accessing the restorative and rehabilitative options that are available to meet their complex needs.

It is clear, not least from what my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) has said, that the secure youth estate already faces considerable challenges taking account of the mental health needs, learning disabilities and difficulties, addictions, childhood abuse and neglect of the children in its care. We should not underestimate the background problems faced by those children who end up in custody.

The Prison Reform Trust study of 6,000 children in custody revealed that at least three quarters of the sample had absent fathers; a third had absent mothers; half lived in a deprived household; more than a quarter had witnessed domestic violence; another quarter had experience of local authority care; and one in five was known to have harmed themselves, and a shocking one in 10 to have attempted to take their own life. It is clear that if we are to address reoffending among that cohort, we have to first address those underlying issues.

9.30 pm

My fear is that the proposed size of 300-plus for the colleges is simply too large to meet the complex needs and challenges presented by these children and to deliver the individual care and attention they need to resolve effectively their underlying issues and therefore reduce reoffending, which is what we all want.

Evidence from the adult estate indicates that smaller prisons are more effective than larger ones. When the former chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, gave evidence to the Justice Committee’s inquiry into effective sentencing, she said that it is “very evident” that, on measures of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement, smaller prisons are more effective.

Smaller prisons are also safer. All 16 deaths of children in custody since 2000 have occurred in young offender institutions and secure training centres—the largest types of institutions in the secure estate for children. There have been no deaths in custody in secure children’s

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homes since 2000. Although overall the use of restraint techniques against children on the secure estate continues to increase, good practice in secure children’s homes has seen a significant decrease in the use of restraint, including a reduction of more than 90% in one example, thanks to the introduction of new management processes by a determined leadership. This Bill, however, makes explicit provision to move away from those approaches that reduce restraint and towards an approach that legitimises it. As we have heard, secure colleges are likely to be an expensive experiment at a time when youth justice budgets are already under pressure and being stretched across the board.

Finally, I am particularly concerned about children under 15. Children aged between 12 and 14 are, as other Members have said, a small minority among the population of under-18s in custody. Indeed, as of 3 January, there were just 53 children aged under 14 in custody. I think we all recognise that there is a world of difference between most 13-year-olds and most 17-year-olds. It would, in my view, be wrong to place the two groups together in a large institution where safety, bullying and other issues cannot be effectively dealt with.

I do not think we need to reinvent the wheel. There are already very good examples of good practice in secure children’s homes. We need to learn from those and roll them out across the secure estate for children. We all make mistakes—heaven knows that I know that as well as anybody—and when we do, we need to strike the right balance between rehabilitation and punishment. Surely that is especially the case for those very young people who end up on the wrong side of the law.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I share all the concerns about secure training centres that have been expressed this evening by Members of all parties. I want briefly to ask the Minister about the position of young women and girls in particular. Frankly, it is baffling that young women could be in the same secure training centre as young men when we have taken such steps to differentiate the needs of adult women in the custody system. It is also baffling that, when we have ruled out Titan prisons for adults, we think they are appropriate for young people. We seem to be going in an utterly perverse direction.

We know that girls’ needs in the penal system are different from those of boys and young men. We know that girls are more likely to self-harm and to be placed in restraint and in segregation. We also know that their emotional and well-being needs are different. They have often been victims of terrible trauma and abuse prior to their entry into the penal system. Therefore, if girls and young women are to be placed in these centres, I want the Minister to address some specific issues with clear and direct responses.

First, will the Minister tell us whether any young woman who might be pregnant or who might be a young mother will be placed in one of the secure training centres? In my view, it would be utterly unacceptable for such young women to be confined in the centres. Secondly, will any young women or girls who have themselves been a victim of sexual or domestic abuse or violence be placed in such institutions? Again, it would be utterly inappropriate to put such young women where they would see themselves close to the risk of bullying, aggression and potentially harm from young

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men. Thirdly, will dedicated staff working only with girls and young women be employed in the secure training centres, or will the whole staff team be shared across the centres, with no specialist and dedicated provision for girls and young women? Finally, what assessment, if any, has his Department made of the impact on reoffending rates among girls and young women of being placed in such institutions? I am not aware of any evidence that such a goal would in any way be effectively achieved, but perhaps he will share such evidence as he has.

Mike Kane: Ministers in the Government who abandoned the Building Schools for the Future programme are now effectively asking Parliament to write a blank cheque for the introduction of the secure college. During my first Public Bill Committee, I was mightily impressed by the contributions of Members and Front Benchers on both sides and by how they comported themselves. There was unanimity on many items in the Bill, but this was a particular area of division. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), I do not think that even Ministers believe in this proposal. Yet the Government’s objective is laudable. The Minister has said that 69% of young offenders go on to reoffend. We should all share the ambition to do better, because that figure is too high.

I have many objections to the secure college. My first objection is to its size and cost, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) pointed out. With 320 beds and at a cost of £85 million, it can only be described—as it has been—as a Titan. The up-front cost for each place is more than £250,000, which is more than places in secure homes, secure training centres or young offenders institutions. What position will they find themselves in once this college has been built? How will it distort the market for our other provision up and down the nation?

Liberty has stated that the proposal will work against the Government’s objective of reducing young offending. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) said so eloquently, the position of young female offenders within the provision is completely unclear at the moment. The Youth Justice Board has advised against any accommodation for girls in such a secure college.

My second objection to the secure college is that the Government are not clear about its objectives. Is it supposed to be educational, or to have a custodial function? They have not worked that out. If the purpose is educational, my worry is how any educator in such an establishment can create the necessary relationships between themselves and those they educate. As a school teacher, I had 190 days—based on the old agrarian timetable—to teach a child, to build a relationship with them and their parents, and to pass that on through a sophisticated mechanism for the handover that involved reports and strategy. When he spoke so eloquently about SEN measures, the hon. Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) was exactly right to ask how such a process will happen. The average custodial sentence for a young person is less than 80 days, so how can an educator begin to establish such relationships in an educational environment that will bring the young person on? I do not think that there is any chance whatsoever of building such a relationship between educators and the young person. Young people with special educational needs also have complex social and emotional needs.

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In conclusion, I could not agree more that large institutions are wrong for children, and they are particularly damaging for the most vulnerable children. Without clear objectives, the leaders we hope to employ in any such institution will find it an almost impossible task to navigate the mission that the Government have failed to clarify in Committee and in the House tonight. The Government should think again.

Jeremy Corbyn: I will be brief so that other colleagues can speak in this important debate. I was pleased that the Front-Bench spokesman gave way to me earlier because, having visited a number of young offenders institutions through my membership of the Justice Committee, I am alarmed by the background of many of the young people in those institutions. They are often the victims of abuse, neglect or simply an uncaring society and a lack of care throughout their lives. They often end up brutalised by the system, then come out and commit further offences. Life gets worse and worse for them.

The endless answer appears to be a bigger and bigger plethora of agencies, contractors and others who are supposed to assist these young people who are going through serious traumas in their lives. One problem is that too many agencies, too many people and too many organisations are intervening, often on a profit-centred basis rather than a care-centred basis. The people who lose out are the young people. The rest of society also loses out because the skills and abilities of those young people are lost to us as they set off on a life of crime and further imprisonment.

The Government now propose these very large secure training colleges. I am appalled by the whole idea. I agree with what has been said from the Opposition Front Bench and by the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert) and others. We do not need big institutions, where people get lost, where self-harm takes place and suicides occur, and where bullying and harassment become a daily fact of life. That culture can become a form of control over those within the centres. We need something that is far more caring and far more focused on educational achievement and building social skills for the future.

I will make one last point so that others can contribute to the debate. During the investigation into youth justice, a number of us on the Justice Committee had the good fortune to visit young offenders institutions in Denmark and Norway. That was very instructive. They spend a great deal more money than us on dealing with young offenders. They have much smaller units in which to deal with them. They focus heavily on education and social skill development, and heavily encourage family visits and, where possible, education in a normal college outside the institution. The person who goes through the process of rehabilitation while in custody maintains a high degree of contact with the rest of society, rather than being totally locked away and coming out after some years having lost lots of social skills, if not lots of contacts. The results in Denmark and Norway are very low levels of reoffending compared with what we have, much lower levels of self-harm and attempted suicide, and, in the long run, a much lower level of crime in society.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) pointed to the obsession with the contract culture. That seems to be driving the Ministry of Justice at every turn. There are teams of people in the Ministry of Justice working out how to hive off, sell off, privatise and get rid of services, rather than focusing on the core function, which is the administration of a service and reducing the rate of reoffending—not creating profit centres for companies such as G4S and many others. Please can we not go down that road? I hope that the Minister understands that many of us feel passionately about this. We want to see young people being valued, not having their lives destroyed in these kinds of institutions.

Julie Hilling: Nobody except the Minister thinks that secure colleges are a good idea—no educationist, no one who works in young offenders institutions, no one who works in the criminal justice system and no one who campaigns for improvements in the way that we treat children and young people in the justice system.

We do know that the vast majority of young people who end up in the criminal justice system have very poor literacy, numeracy and linguistic skills. The statistics show that 86% of offenders in young offenders institutions have been excluded from school. I maintain that the majority of those young people will have special educational needs because of physical or mental disabilities or emotional difficulties, whether or not those needs have been previously identified. Such children need to be educated in small groups and to do a wide range of activities. Simply sitting them at a desk and expecting them to learn does not work, and it has never worked for them.

9.45 pm

I used to be the governor of a secondary school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, a number of whom were already in and out of the criminal justice system or at risk of being in it. There was a maximum of eight children per class, with a teacher and at least one or more teaching assistant. They tried never to have more than 40 children in the school at any one time, with the others undertaking practical work, outdoor education or other specialist activities. It was recognised that simply trying to push knowledge into them did not work, and that many of them learned better by doing.

Why does the Minister think that trying to educate 320 young people together, often hundreds of miles away from home, will work? As others have said, the average length of time in custody is 79 days. Therefore, after 79 days those young people will be returned to their homes, and either return to their schools or have to find a new placement, facing the terrible difficulty of transition to a new school, and with the difficulty of having come from custody compounding their problems. The Minister expects them to be miles away from their families and other support services. How on earth will they have successful integration back to their home environment? How will they receive the support they need to ensure they stay out of custody?

In many other places we have seen that success happens in small units where young people can be treated as individuals and educated on how they should be able to take their rightful place in the world. Please will the Minister look at other systems where young people are treated in custody, and please will he not go ahead with

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this bizarre notion of a secure college? It is not going to work; please do not carry out this experiment at the cost of our young people in the criminal justice system.

Jeremy Wright: I think that we had a constructive debate in Committee, and it is disappointing that the Opposition have set their face against secure colleges. I will not be able to pick up on all the points made during the debate, but let me do my best.

Amendments 16, 17, 18 and 21 would effectively remove from the Bill all reference to a secure college, and it is worth starting with the context of our proposed reform of the youth secure estate. At present we pay around £100,000 a year on average for a place in youth custody, and yet almost 70% of young people go on to reoffend within 12 months of release. For secure children’s homes the cost rises beyond £200,000 a place, yet reoffending outcomes are little different.

To give the House the facts, the proportion of offenders who reoffended in the 12 months to March 2012 is as follows: 69.9% in young offenders institutions; 70.1% in secure training centres; and 67.6% in secure children’s homes. That is why we need to do something different, and why we are pursuing the idea of secure colleges. I have heard the arguments tonight and, indeed previously, that there are better ways to improve the youth custodial estate, and in particular that smaller establishments such as secure children’s homes are more effective. The figures for reoffending that I have given do not demonstrate that, but I understand that plenty of good work is done across the estate.

The hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) asked whether we considered spending the money on the existing estate, and the answer is yes. However, if we continue to do the same things in the same ways, we can expect the same results. He seems to have said this evening that he accepts that the status quo is not acceptable but he does not think that secure colleges are the right way to go. He clearly favours a much more small-unit approach, such as secure children’s homes, but I wonder whether he has considered the cost of that. Our rough guess is that putting all young people currently detained in custody into a secure children’s home would cost in excess of £100 million more a year than we currently spend. I would be interested to hear—as, I am sure, would the House—how exactly that would be paid for by the Labour party if that is its intent. I suspect it does not know.

The truth is that no current model of youth custody is delivering the types of outcomes that we all want to see, or providing sufficient value for money for the taxpayer. That is why we want to consider secure colleges. I am conscious that there is an appetite to hear more detail on how secure colleges will operate than primary legislation can provide. It is therefore worth pointing out to the House that during the Bill’s passage we intend to publish and consult on our plans for secure college rules, including, where appropriate, setting out some indicative draft provisions. This will provide both Houses with more information on how we expect secure colleges to operate.

John McDonnell: During the passage of the Bill? We are on Report! This is the end of the Bill’s consideration in this House. We have one more day. We will not return to this issue unless the other place amends the proposed legislation.

12 May 2014 : Column 536

Jeremy Wright: If the hon. Gentleman takes the time to look at the programme motion he will see that there are two days allowed on Report. This is the first day, not the second. [Interruption.] I have made the position clear.

John McDonnell: Will the Minister give way?

Jeremy Wright: No, I am afraid I will not. I have 10 minutes left and a good deal of ground to cover. There will be a second day on Report and the other House will get to consider this matter. The hon. Gentleman was not present in Committee. Had he—

John McDonnell: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure the Minister does not wish to mislead the House about the processes of this House. I would like absolute clarity. I am a Back-Bench Member dealing with this part of the Bill on day one, which is considering this part the Bill. On the basis of the programme motion, this part of the Bill will not come back for consideration on day two, so this is my last opportunity to consider the matter unless the other place amends the Bill on this point. I will not have the opportunity to take part in a debate informed by the publication of these rules. Is that accurate, Mr Speaker?

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has described the procedure accurately. What he has said is not something from which I wish to dissent. I cannot rule on it, but what he has said is procedurally correct.

Jeremy Wright: I make two points to the hon. Gentleman. First, if he looks carefully at the programme motion—I am sure he understands this very well—he will see that there will be a Third Reading debate at the end of the second day on Report. He will have the opportunity to raise something then. Secondly, it really would not matter what the secure college rules say, would it? The hon. Gentleman has made his position crystal clear. He thinks this is a capitalist conspiracy to privatise youth justice. He is not interested in the details of secure colleges at all; he is interested only in what he perceives to be the political animus here. If he will allow me to do so, I will come on to the detail that he says he wants to discuss. Let us discuss it.

Amendments 13, 14 and 15 relate to secure children’s homes and the placement of under-15s and girls in secure colleges, an issue of perfectly legitimate concern that was raised in Committee. Let me set out the Government’s position. There was much debate in Committee, and again here on amendment 13, on secure children’s homes. We accept that secure colleges will not be appropriate for 10 and 11-year-olds remanded or sentenced to custody. We have also made it clear, in our response to the “Transforming Youth Justice” consultation, that there are likely to be some detained young people who will continue to require specialist separate accommodation on the grounds of their acute needs or vulnerability.

The Bill provides for secure colleges. It does not seek to make any changes to the existing legislative provision relating to secure children’s homes. Local authorities, rather than the Secretary of State, provide secure children’s homes. We think it is right that they retain that responsibility. The nine new Youth Justice Board contracts and the

12 May 2014 : Column 537

increased use of welfare places demonstrate that there is currently high demand for secure children’s home provision. Quite properly, the Secretary of State and the YJB exercise their various powers to provide and commission secure accommodation for young people remanded or sentenced to custody in such a way that suitable accommodation is available for those young people. That includes commissioning places in secure children’s homes as appropriate. I have made it clear before that that will continue.

There was also detailed discussion in Committee of whether girls and under-15s will be accommodated in secure colleges. Amendments 14 and 15 would prevent the placement of any young person under 15, and any girl, in secure colleges. Let me point out again that I recognise concerns that accommodating a large number of boys and only a small number of girls could, if the risks are not properly managed, place those girls at risk. That was very much the point made by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green). I also recognise that girls in custody often have a range of complex needs and that it will be important that the secure colleges meet those needs. I am afraid that I do not have time to go into the detail she raised, but I will write to her if I can. The one question I can answer immediately relates to care for young mothers. There is currently a mother and baby unit at the Rainsbrook secure training centre. If that is not to continue, we must make provision elsewhere.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert) and others suggested that it might be daunting for children as young as 12 to be in the same secure establishments as 17-year-olds, although such age groups rub shoulders in mainstream secondary education and, indeed, in some of the other establishments that we have discussed. I am confident that those risks can be managed in secure colleges, and I want young girls and younger children to have access to the facilities and opportunities that will be provided in them. Having said that, I should make it clear that no final decisions have been made on who will be accommodated in the pathfinder secure college. Such decisions will be taken later in the development of the pathfinder, and in the light of careful analysis of the needs of the youth custodial population and the implications for the different groups who may be accommodated.

Amendment 11 makes an important point about the use of force. I recognise that the issues of good order and discipline and how they are maintained are at the heart of the amendment. There was considerable debate about those issues in Committee. I sought to reassure Members then, and I am happy to try to do so again now.

The duties of custody officers include maintaining good order and discipline, but the provisions in the Bill will not by themselves allow them to use force for that purpose. That will not be possible unless specific provision is made in the secure college rules, in which the boundaries on the use of force should be set out. I repeat that we intend to consult on our approach to secure college rules.

I entirely understand that the term “good order and discipline” could be considered too broad in this context. Let me try to explain exactly what we have in mind. This

12 May 2014 : Column 538

is not about using force for the purpose of discipline as a form of punishment, or simply to make a young person follow an instruction. We have always made it clear that force must not be used merely to secure compliance with an order. We believe that, as a last resort, in the limited circumstances in which all attempts to resolve the situation without resorting to force have failed, and in which a young person’s behaviour is having an impact on his or her own safety and welfare or that of others, some force—subject to strict conditions and safeguards—may be necessary. Force may be used as part of securing good order and discipline only when there are clear risks to the maintaining of a safe and stable environment for young people, and when its use is a necessary and proportionate response in order to protect the welfare of the individual or that of others. I hope that that explanation is helpful. As I have said, further debate will doubtless take place when Members have seen the secure college rules.

I am grateful to those who tabled amendments relating to health and education. I shall not have time to discuss them in detail, but Members may wish to read the Hansard report of the Committee stage, when we debated precisely these matters. NHS England will have a duty to assess the needs of young people in a secure college to determine which services should be provided. NHS England applies the Intercollegiate Healthcare Standards for Children and Young People in Secure Settings, which were developed by the royal medical colleges and published last year.

The qualifications of teachers have been mentioned. It is, of course, important for properly qualified individuals to provide many services in secure colleges, but in some cases engaging and effective education may be delivered by individuals without a teaching qualification. I believe that the experience and aptitude of staff who work with this challenging cohort are more important than the qualifications that they may have. I should also remind Members that secure colleges will be inspected by Ofsted.

A key point has been made about special educational needs. I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) for the fact that I shall not have a chance to discuss it with him in detail, but it was raised in Committee, and I assure him that a great deal of further thought will be given to how those needs can be met.

Amendments 5 and 6 are required as a consequence of the agreement in Committee to extend the secure college provisions of the Bill to Wales. We have liaised closely with the Welsh Government on our plans for secure colleges, and they have confirmed to us that they are content for the amendments to be made.

Amendments 3 and 4 to clause 63 are technical amendments to correct the territorial extent of the provisions on contracting out. I hope they will cause the House no difficulty.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House divided:

Ayes 196, Noes 295.

Division No. 273]


9.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gilbert, Stephen

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Miller, Andrew

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Timms, rh Stephen

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Susan Elan Jones


Tom Blenkinsop


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burstow, rh Paul

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Sir Edward

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Gray, Mr James

Green, rh Damian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hermon, Lady

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, rh Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Anne Milton


Mr Sam Gyimah

Question accordingly negatived.

12 May 2014 : Column 539

12 May 2014 : Column 540

12 May 2014 : Column 541

12 May 2014 : Column 542

10.11 pm

Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

Mr Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

Schedule 3

Secure colleges etc: further amendments

Amendments made: 5,  page 73, line 15, at end insert—

16A In section 25(4A) (co-operation to improve well-being: Wales)—

(a) for “Crown or” substitute “Crown,” and

(b) after “director)” insert “or the principal of a secure college”.’.

Amendment 6, page 74, line 33, at end insert—

‘Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (anaw 4)

31 (1) The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 134(8) (Safeguarding Children Boards and Safeguarding Adults Boards)—

(a) for “Crown or” substitute “Crown,” and

(b) after “director)” insert “or the principal of a secure college”.

(3) In section 188(1) (interpretation of sections 185 to 187), in the definition of “youth detention accommodation”, after paragraph (b) insert—

“(ba) a secure college;”.’.—(Jeremy Wright.)

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Claire Perry.)

Bill to be further considered tomorrow.

12 May 2014 : Column 543

Business without Debate

Notices of Questions: northern ireland


That, in respect of Questions to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for oral answer on Wednesday 11 June in the next Session of Parliament, paragraph (5)(a) of Standing Order No. 22 (Notices of Questions, Motions and Amendments) shall apply with the substitution of three days for four days. —(Claire Perry.)

Question agreed to.

public accounts


That Nicky Morgan be discharged from the Committee of Public Accounts and Andrea Leadsom be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

public administration


That Alun Cairns and Robert Halfon be discharged from the Committee of Public Administration and Mrs Cheryl Gillan and Mr Adam Holloway be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)



That Andrea Leadsom be discharged from the Committee of Public Accounts and Steve Baker be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)


Female genital mutilation

10.13 pm

Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con): I am pleased—

Mr Speaker: Order. Will Members leave the Chamber in a seemly manner? Ministers and Whips will not conduct noisy conversations with each other, because they will want to show the same respect to the hon. Gentleman as they would wish to be extended to them in comparable circumstances. I take that as a contrite smile from the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes).

12 May 2014 : Column 544

Simon Hart: I am pleased to be able to present this petition from the Tenby and district branch of Soroptimist International, urging the Government to do all that they can to stop female genital mutilation.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that not enough is being done to stop the illegal practice of female genital mutilation, and further that a Petition on this subject has received over 2,600 signatures.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to do more to stop female genital mutilation and to encourage other countries to stop this practice.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Local planning in Hampshire

10.15 pm

Mr James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire) (Con): My constituents have the good fortune to live in a part of the country that is extremely attractive, so attractive that others want to live there, and that creates intense planning pressure. In the district of Hart, there is no up-to-date local plan for reasons my local residents consider to be unfair. As a result, I present this petition today on behalf of Michael Morris, Jonathan Glen, Brian Burchfield, Kenneth Crookes, Stephen Parker and 291 of my constituents. The petition states that

the current planning system is preventing our District Council from properly controlling development in our area.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House strengthens the position of District Councils by enabling them to refuse planning permission on the grounds of prematurity, while a local plan is being devised.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Humble Petition of Michael Morris, Jonathan Glen and Brian Burchfield on behalf of the residents of Hook and Rotherwick,


That the current planning system is preventing our District Council from properly controlling development in our area.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House strengthens the position of District Councils by enabling them to refuse planning permission on the grounds of prematurity, while a local plan is being devised.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.]


12 May 2014 : Column 545

Flooding (Staines-upon-Thames)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Claire Perry.)

10.16 pm

Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) (Con): I am delighted to have the opportunity to discuss on the Floor of the House the matter of flooding and the River Ash in Staines-upon-Thames. The incident, which took place this February, was a significant development that caused a great deal of discomfort and inconvenience to my constituents.

I want to discuss why parts of Spelthorne were flooded during the winter and to examine why particular events happened in the way that they did. I also want to consider a question relating to the local statutory water undertaker, Thames Water. I must forcefully express that it is not my intention to apportion blame. I simply want to air the concern for the public record and to attempt to get more public scrutiny of a very important issue. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for making time to respond to the debate and I hope that he will help to elucidate the Government’s position about the situation and the regulation of our water companies more generally.

The River Thames, as many people know, runs the entire length of my constituency and is fed by a number of tributaries that dissect the area. It is a great blessing and a matter of great pride, and it affords recreation and enjoyment, but unfortunately when flooding occurs it can be very inconvenient. Such inconvenience does not happen every year or even every five years. It is rare, but when it does happen it is particularly frustrating and often dangerous.

The Thames burst its banks in places this year as water levels reached heights not seen since the great floods of 1947. Although record rainfall contributed to those events, as we all know, there are certain more specific questions about why some places were more affected by flooding than others. Residents express a variety of opinions about the nature of the flooding, but there are suspicions in particular about the maintenance of the infrastructure and whether the failure to close a particular sluice gate, for whatever reason—I am not blaming anyone—might have exacerbated the flooding of the River Ash over the weekend of 8 February through to Wednesday of the next week, when the sluice gate was shut.

In order to try to get to the bottom of this, we need to look back at what happened in 2003, because, as people will appreciate, a protocol was established by the Environment Agency to prevent the River Ash from flooding; when there is a threat that water in the Thames Water aqueduct will overflow into it there has to be a plan, and a protocol has been put in place to deal with that eventuality. When the River Thames reaches a certain level, water backs up in the River Colne and then spills over into the Staines aqueduct at locations some distance from Staines. The water is then channelled by the aqueduct towards the town. If the aqueduct is full, water can spill over into the River Ash. The 2003 protocol says clearly that Thames Water—the regulated company—should pump water out of the aqueduct at the Crooked Billet pumping station when that threat exists and if that does not work, sluice gate 8 at Moor

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lane should be shut. That arrangement has been expressly put in place to prevent water from spilling over and putting between 50 and 500 homes at risk of flooding. The protocol was clear but in February, for whatever reason, it was not adhered to. As I understand it, Thames Water had legitimate concerns about shutting the sluice gate—so it says—and that should be investigated. I am keen to stress that I am not here to apportion any blame; I simply want to raise the matter so that the Minister can respond to legitimate concerns expressed to me by my constituents.

On Saturday 8 February, the pumping of water out of the Staines aqueduct was operating at full capacity but that failed to stop water overflowing into the River Ash. The flood incident duty officer’s log, which was released as a result of a freedom of information request, shows clearly that the Environment Agency invoked the 2003 protocol at 6.25 pm that day. On Sunday 9 February, the Environment Agency repeatedly asked Thames Water to lower sluice gate 8 to prevent water from flowing from the Staines aqueduct into the River Ash. This information has all been obtained through an FOI request by residents who are rightly concerned and have come together to form an action group to find out more about what happened. That request on the Sunday to lower the sluice gate was not adhered to; Thames Water had its own reasons for not complying with it. After 5 pm on Sunday, residents in Leacroft in Staines noticed that their street was starting to flood, and Environment Agency telemetry data show that water levels rapidly rose after 11 pm that day.

Early on Monday morning, at 1 am, the Environment Agency learned that sluice gate 8 was not operating. We are led to believe that a bit later—at 7.35 am—the Environment Agency raised the prospect of calling in the Army to shut the gate. At 10 pm, Surrey police informed residents in Greenlands road and Leacroft to evacuate their homes. The idea that in this day and age the police should be telling residents of Staines, a highly residential area, that they should evacuate their homes does not do us proud as a nation—people should not have to experience this. Clearly, by 10 pm on Monday, the situation was very serious. On Tuesday, Thames Water sent contractors with heavy equipment to the sluice gate, which, as I understand it, was not working. In the early hours of Wednesday, Thames Water finally closed the gate by 1 metre—it did not close it entirely. As soon as that happened, residents observed that water levels began to recede rapidly. On the morning of Thursday 13 February, the floodwater had disappeared.

Over the course of four days, from Sunday through to Wednesday, the floodwaters had entered approximately 50 homes, and damaged hundreds more properties. At the time, workmen complained about the growth of vegetation on the machinery of the sluice gate. Residents are rightly infuriated by events, and it is their concern and anger that has led me to raise the matter in this public way on the Floor of the House. It is quite right that residents should feel aggrieved. They have been forced to leave their homes for six months to allow repair work to be done. It is difficult now, even three months afterwards, to work out where responsibility lies. Clearly, quite difficult and traumatic events took place, but the reasons for why they happened and how blame should be apportioned remain obscure, which is why it was incumbent on me to raise them as a matter of public concern.

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We understand that flooding is being deemed a natural event by the insurance companies, which are already putting up people’s home insurance premiums. A direct financial penalty is being put on people as a consequence of this flooding. The reasons why the sluice gate was not shut remain unclear. As I have said, I have no wish to apportion blame, but we must investigate the matter and understand why the sluice gate did not operate in the way that it should have done so that we can answer the question about whether or not the flooding was a natural event. If it could be found that there was some human error, or that something or someone prevented the sluice gate from being shut, then the flooding was not a natural act, but a human one.

Other parts of my constituency were badly affected not just by water flooding but by sewage flooding, which is related to flooding infrastructure and the roles of the regulator, Ofwat, and the water supplier, Thames Water, and those are other issues that we need to look into. As I have said, I am not trying to apportion blame; I am just saying that this is something that we, as parliamentary representatives, should be seriously investigating.

Areas of my constituency that were affected include Wheatsheaf lane, Garrick close and Laleham road in Staines, and Old Charlton road and Charlton road in Shepperton. Sewage flooding can happen for lots of reasons. It happens when the sewerage systems are very old or poorly maintained. As soon as we have any flooding, the water gets into the sewerage system and pumps are not able to remove foul water from people’s houses. There is no reason why people should have to put up with that in 2014. Our drainage and sewerage systems should be able to cope under immense strain and really adverse weather conditions. No one in this country should have to endure the difficulties and health risks that people in my constituency endured in the early months of this year.

We have to look at the investment that Thames Water and other companies have put in to maintain the infrastructure. Our ability to hold these private bodies to account is at the centre of the issues that I am raising. People know that I believe—probably more passionately than any other Member—that privatisation can be a very good thing. The privatisation of the water companies was broadly successful, but even those of us who supported the privatisation of utility companies have to recognise the crucial role for regulation, because of the monopoly that such companies have—people have little choice about who supplies their water. I have always supported and argued passionately for free enterprise, but I have always believed that if we are to have regulated industries, they should be regulated properly. Ofwat and other such bodies should be given sufficient teeth to regulate and discipline those companies.

I am sure that the nature of Ofwat’s relationship with the water companies will be the subject of many debates, but in September 2013 Thames Water submitted an application to Ofwat to hike its prices by 8% in 2014-15. That application was blocked in November last year because the regulator felt that the company had made substantial savings and should be able to use those savings for reinvestment. In the event, in a compromise, Thames Water put up its prices by 4.1%. The average household water bill was £357 in 2013-14. This year, 2014-15, it will be £370. That is the broader question about the regulation of monopoly industries that I wanted to raise briefly.

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I have my own view of what happened in Spelthorne earlier this year. I am firmly of the view that the impact of the floods—even though they were a natural event—was exacerbated by a degree of underinvestment in key infrastructure. I am open to evidence, advice and discussion, but I share my constituents’ opinion. The water companies have a duty to local residents and it is vital that they deliver a good service. Most importantly, it is vital that they earn the trust of their customers, and the only way to do that is to look more closely at the role of the regulators and perhaps give them more enforcement powers to regulate the industries that they have so far capably regulated.

10.34 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Dan Rogerson): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) on securing this debate. Sadly, it is an issue that we have had to discuss in relation to several areas, given the severity of the recent floods. I shall begin by setting some of these events in context and then turn to the more local impacts in his constituency.

First, I should like to place on record once again my thanks to the many people who worked tirelessly in response to the recent flooding events, including the staff of the fire, ambulance, police and other rescue services, local authorities, the Environment Agency, the voluntary sector, and local communities who helped friends, neighbours and families in difficult circumstances.

Unprecedented weather events caused the flooding that we witnessed across the UK. We experienced an extraordinary period of very unsettled weather from early December, with flooding on the east coast and around to Wales, and then many weather fronts coming in from the west and causing flooding across the country in various river systems and in groundwater. It was the wettest January since 1766 for England and Wales. Central and south-east England received over 250% of average rainfall. Met Office statistics suggest that for south England this was one of the most exceptional periods for winter rainfall in at least 248 years.

In addition, tidal surges caused by low pressure, strong winds and high tides led to record sea levels along many parts of the east coast. High spring tides brought coastal flooding to parts of the south and west coasts. River, surface water and groundwater flooding occurred in many areas. Towards March, flooding was mostly confined to the Thames valley, Wiltshire and the Somerset levels, the latter in particular seeing unprecedented water levels, while groundwater levels remained high across many southern counties.

Recent events impacted on the homes, businesses and farms of people across the country. Latest estimates suggest that over 7,000 properties have been flooded in England since the beginning of December 2013. This includes 2,316 properties since the most recent flood event began in early February. In addition, more than 48,000 hectares of farmland is thought to have been affected. There was significant damage to sea and flood defences and transport infrastructure in some areas. Urgent work is under way to repair the damage to rail links, with many lines back to full operation by 3 March. The House is aware that the extreme weather also affected power supplies to homes. It is estimated that power supplies to more than a million customers were

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restored over the course of the disruption. I am pleased to note that power supplies disrupted as a result of the high winds were also restored to all customers.

The Environment Agency is aware that the river system in the Staines-upon-Thames area is complex and consists of various connected channels which drain into the Thames, as my hon. Friend set out. All these rivers, at some point, cross the Thames Water aqueduct. As levels on the River Thames were so high, these rivers were not able to discharge into it as they normally would, causing them to back up and spill into the aqueduct at various points. Following months of persistent rain, there were also high groundwater levels so water could not drain away. Initial reviews indicate that it was a combination of saturated ground, high rainfall and high levels on the River Thames causing its tributaries to back up that caused the flooding experienced in the Staines-upon-Thames area.

The response was a magnificent effort. In the face of such unprecedented weather, countless people and organisations worked together round the clock to help those affected. The level of response, and the spirit of it, was staggering. I appreciate how hard everyone has worked and just how hard it is for those people whose homes and businesses have been affected. All levels of Government and the emergency services were fully engaged in dealing with the floods and extreme weather. The Government’s response was led by the Cobra emergencies committee. Through these meetings, we were able to ensure that all relevant agencies, organisations and local authorities were fully prepared and were doing everything possible to support households that had been affected. We ensured that local emergency plans and out-of-hours help were in place to give immediate assistance, wherever necessary.

The Environment Agency was at the forefront of the local response. In Somerset, for example, this included one of the biggest pumping operations the country has ever seen. Military personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force provided flood relief in affected parts of the UK. More than 5,000 personnel were committed to help with flood relief operations. Thousands more troops remained available if required. At a local level, tactical co-ordinating briefs took place for the local responders in areas at risk.

My hon. Friend raised a number of issues in relation to the water infrastructure in his constituency. I pay tribute to him for the way that he set out his position, not seeking to apportion blame, but in the spirit of seeking to learn from what happened to ensure that similar events are not repeated if, heaven forbid, similar extreme weather events occur in the near future or in the medium term.

As my hon. Friend pointed out, the residents’ relationship with the river is usually harmonious. It is part of the culture of the area and what makes it special, but when things change, impacts can be great and severe. He referred in particular to the operation of the sluice gate on the aqueduct. During discussions with those involved prior to the debate I sought to cover a range of options that I thought my hon. Friend might raise, such as the future safety of the area through the lower Thames flood relief scheme, which is being brought forward and developed, which I welcome. We touched briefly on the

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operation of the sluice gate. It is important to point out that the aqueduct operates as a mechanism for the supply of water into reservoirs, which then feed into the wider water system, so it is not meant to operate as a flood defence. However, it can be used to divert river water, and as my hon. Friend said, pumping enables that to happen, keeping water away from communities that are under threat.

Clearly, the operation of the sluice is an important part of the response when river levels and the level of water in the aqueduct are high, so we need to look at what happened in this instance. If local lessons can be drawn from it, I am keen to hear more about that. Having heard my hon. Friend’s contentions and the concerns that he has raised on behalf of his constituents, I am happy to raise some of those specific points with the agencies involved. I know that my hon. Friend will be doing that locally, but I am happy to support him in seeking the answers that his constituents understandably want in response to their queries.

My hon. Friend mentioned the issue of evacuation, and it is important to point out that it is a proposal of last resort. If people are at risk, people come first. We seek to protect property, but if people are at threat of injury, we need to remove them safely from the situation. That was repeated around the coast, for example, during the extreme weather conditions. Sometimes it is difficult to convince people that the threat is immediate, so it is a tough call for people to make locally, but it is important that we have that as a last resort. However, before that, as my hon. Friend pointed out, it is far preferable to ensure that the infrastructure is working as effectively as possible to make sure that that is unnecessary.

My hon. Friend also referred to the situation with regard to sewage, and a number of other hon. Members have raised that in recent debates since the flooding events. Flood water contaminated with sewage is incredibly unpleasant. Systems should be in place to cope with the normal flow of sewage, and they are. We have a resilient system, but the sewerage system is not designed to cope with extreme events and large amounts of water. It would be possible, in theory, to design sewers that were able to cope with much higher volumes of water, but as my hon. Friend pointed out, a large cost would be attached to that. In all these matters we need a balanced approach between what is deliverable and what is achievable. Ultimately, the investment cost has to be funded through the privatised water industry, as my hon. Friend set out, where bill-payers foot the cost. With regard to problems of sewage contamination, as with the operation of the sluice gate, if there are specific local instances where infrastructure was not up to the task, we can learn from that, and I can raise those issues with the water company.

We have recently seen the passage of the Water Bill, which has yet to receive Royal Assent, in which the Government set out their desire to see resilience at the heart of the industry—that is, resilience in terms of water supply, making sure that we have enough water to deliver the growth that we want, and resilience to climate change and to ensure that we have that great environmental quality in our water bodies around the country. Resilience could also be considered in terms of response to extreme events, so the regulator will now have to take that into account far more, as it has a primary duty of resilience.

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I thank my hon. Friend for raising these issues. I would be happy to take forward the points on the local circumstances that he raised, perhaps by correspondence, to make sure that he and his constituents get the answers that they seek.

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Question put and agreed to.

10.44 pm

House adjourned.