Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her reply. When the present age limit on detention was decided, was it assumed that young teenagers would not become habitual burglars and thieves? Has the experience of Nottinghamshire police and others changed that kind of assumption? Is there not a risk that young people going from court convictions straight back to offending will form the unfortunate impression that crime does pay?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is almost precisely because of what my noble friend has just said that the courts and the police have been given a range of powers to deal with young offenders. Therefore, it is important that they are fully used and to good effect.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, is it not the case that not a single place has in fact been provided at secure training centres since the passage of the Act which made that possible? Is it not also the case that extra places in local authority secure accommodation, which were promised in 1991 but which were apparently superseded by the proposed secure training centres, have also not materialised? Therefore, is it not the case that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, is completely right in criticising the lack of availability of secure places for young people?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the Department of Health and the Home Office are jointly funding 170 new secure accommodation places, which will be delivered by local authorities. There will be joint funding by the two departments. As regards the secure training units, negotiations are coming to fruition, both in Kent and in Nottinghamshire, for those extra places. There is a third

21 Nov 1995 : Column 229

institution in Northamptonshire where outline planning permission has been secured. Therefore, progress is being made.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords--

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, perhaps I may follow on the same point. I am grateful to the Minister for confirming that there are no secure training places. Is it not the case that the 170 places in local authority secure accommodation to which she has just referred were promised in 1991 and that they are still not available?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is not true that there are no secure accommodation places. We have said that we are making provision for additional places. The 170 places to which I referred are expected to come on stream next year, in 1996. In terms of the secure training units which were the subject of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, I advise the noble Lord that progress is being made on the negotiations for the first two tenders and that outline planning permission has been obtained for a third institution.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that it is a matter of considerable regret that the amount of secure accommodation provided by local authorities has declined during the period of office of the present Government--a decline led by the London Borough of Wandsworth? Does the Minister agree that the lack of such accommodation has been a major contributory factor in terms of allowing young people who have committed a substantial number of criminal offences to go on doing just that?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is true that there is tension about the availability of secure accommodation but, as I have already said, additional places are in the pipeline and will be made available. I must also remind all noble Lords opposite that they did not support the Government when they proposed that there should be secure training units for persistent young offenders. Therefore, it is to the Government's credit that they have put that provision in place. There is another aspect to putting people into secure training units. First and foremost, the behaviour of young offenders is a matter primarily for their parents. If parents were doing their job by their children, it is just possible that we would not need so many secure training places.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, can the Minister tell us how many secure training places there are now?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, no; I cannot give a precise number now, but I shall write to the noble Lord and make sure that he has that information.

Earl Alexander of Tunis: My Lords, can the Minister say where the parents of those children stand? Can the victims of crimes committed by children claim against those children's parents?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that is an important point. I have said that the primary responsibility for the behaviour of children must lie with their parents. When a child or a young person is prosecuted for a criminal

21 Nov 1995 : Column 230

offence, under the additional powers brought in by the Government the court may require the parents to attend. It may require the parents to pay fines and compensation orders, and it may require the parents to be bound over to take proper care of their children.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can explain her reference to the fact that parents are responsible. My understanding was that we were talking about young people who effectively had to be locked up in secure accommodation. Is the Minister saying that young people in that category should be locked up by their parents?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, no; I am not saying that. I am saying that parents should be responsible for their children. Their duty is to see that their children do not find themselves in a situation where they have to be locked up.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, what percentage of young offenders have no parents or no effective parents?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, if the noble Baroness is asking how many young offenders have no effective parents, I suspect that the number is very high. All children have a guardian, a parent and/or parents. The noble Baroness raises an important point about the level of adequacy among parents. The only thing that we can do is to take the long-term view and ensure that today's children make more responsible parents tomorrow.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I welcome my noble friend's response on this difficult matter. I referred to Nottinghamshire. Is my noble friend aware that the Nottinghamshire report showed that six children had been responsible for 425 crimes in 200 days and that they had been passing through the courts by what was described as a "revolving door"?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am aware of that case. There are two depressing facts about it. The first is that 460 crimes were committed within a six-month period by those young people. However, powers are available to deal more effectively with them and my understanding is that at least four of the children are now in secure accommodation. The other depressing fact is that no charges have yet been brought against those young people. That delay in bringing charges is a serious matter.

The Treasury Building

2.54 p.m.

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans for the Treasury building.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): My Lords, Property Holdings is seeking a private sector partner for the redevelopment of the Treasury building. Two consortia have been short-listed to bid for the project. On completion of the scheme, Her Majesty's Treasury will

21 Nov 1995 : Column 231

reoccupy approximately 22,000 square metres of the building. The balance will be marketed by the private sector partner.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that information. Does he agree that it is about time that something was done about that building as it is reported to be in an advanced stage of decrepitude due to lack of maintenance over the years--for example, the electric wiring has not been renewed since 1917 when it was first installed and the cellars are frequently flooded? Is that an example of what goes on in public buildings under government control or has the Treasury been singled out for special treatment?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord asks an astonishing first supplementary question when he asks whether it is time that something was done. Something is being done. It is time. The noble Lord is perfectly right that the electric wiring needs rehabilitation. It is also a fact that some of the concrete is not in the state that it should be. The concrete is about 10 feet thick over the war cabinet rooms and is reinforced by tramlines. That has caused stress on the building and, as the architects would put it, ingress of water has been noted. We agree with the noble Lord that it is time that something was done--and something is being done.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, perhaps I may declare an interest as a past tenant for more than five years. Can the Minister tell us the maximum rate of yield that the Government would be prepared to accept?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, that is another extraordinary question, coming as it does from a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The noble Lord was in the building for a long time--for five years--and I have no doubt that, as the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, would suggest, the noble Lord was responsible for some of the damage that has been done. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, really cannot expect me to give him an answer to his question. It all depends on the bids. If I were to give the noble Lord the indication that he would like, that would give those bidding an indication of the sort of price that they might bid.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page