1 May 1996 : Column 1643

House of Lords

Wednesday, 1st May 1996.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Chester.

Japan: Sound Recordings Copyright

Viscount St. Davids asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will request a timetable from the Japanese Government for implementing the full 50-year retroactive copyright protection for foreign sound recordings in line with the new World Trade Organisation/TRIP (trade related intellectual property) obligations.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I am glad to say that the Japanese Government have assured us that they intend to modify their copyright legislation so as to provide the full 50-year copyright protection for sound recordings. The Government will continue to press for the early enactment of this legislation.

Viscount St. Davids: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that mildly encouraging reply. At least it shows that the Japanese Government recognise that there is a problem. Will she go a little further and tell the House when she expects the Japanese Government to find the legislative time to change their laws?

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, my noble friend is quite right: the change requires primary legislation. I do not think I gave a mildly encouraging reply. I thought that it was a rather nice reply. The timetable depends on when legislative time can be found. I understand that there is a possibility of a Bill being introduced this autumn if there is a special session of the Diet; otherwise it may have to wait until the next regular session of the Diet in early 1997. We shall continue to press the Japanese Government to introduce the legislation at the first possible opportunity.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, is the Minister aware that we need the money rather badly? On Monday, the Government reported that the trade gap for February was £1.5 billion, which was the largest monthly trade gap for six years. That payment from Japan to UK copyright holders would have made a very useful contribution to closing the gap. Does the noble Baroness agree that the Government should try yet harder?

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, that was a very interesting version from the noble Lord opposite. I was very interested to hear it. As I said, the British Government are pressing the matter in every way that they can and the Japanese have assured us that they will act as soon as humanly possible.

Viscount St. Davids: My Lords, the point raised by the noble Lord is very important. Is my noble friend aware

1 May 1996 : Column 1644

that music contributes about £500 million a year net to our balance of payments and so far the British recording companies have lost the greater part of 120 million US dollars to Japanese piracy? When the Japanese laws are changed, does she know whether there will be any provision for recompense to the British companies?

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, my noble friend is correct: there is a lot of money involved and certainly the music industry should be a large earner for us. So far as concerns backdating compensation, that backdating protection is difficult both legally and practically. But we shall look for adequate assurances about material that is already on the market when the change comes into force.

Young Offender Institution, Colchester

2.44 p.m.

The Earl of Longford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have consulted the Chief Inspector of Prisons about their plans to send a number of young offenders to the Royal Military Corrective Centre at Colchester.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, on 17th April my honourable friend the Minister of State announced our intention to establish a young offender institution at the military corrective training centre. Officials gave Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons a full briefing on that day and have offered further briefings, which we know he will find helpful.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I did not hear perfectly that reply, no doubt because of my advancing years. I am bound to say that it seemed to me to evade the Question totally. The Question I asked was whether the chief inspector had been consulted about the move. I do not believe that that was answered. Let me put another question to the noble Baroness. Having been hospitably entertained at the place, more lavishly, I understand, than is possible in civilian establishments, I am full of admiration for what it is trying to do for young offenders. However, is the noble Baroness aware that the chief inspector of prisons has expressed grave doubts about the wisdom of sending young civilian offenders to a military set-up?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I know that the noble Earl has spoken with the chief inspector. The chief inspector has said that he was not consulted before but did not expect to be. In fact, he has had very constructive meetings with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and is satisfied that the programme that we have put in place for the young offenders is a very good one.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I cannot accept that. He told me exactly the opposite.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I do not feel that it would be appropriate or even dignified to engage in an

1 May 1996 : Column 1645

argument about what the chief inspector said to the noble Earl or indeed what the chief inspector said to my right honourable friend. This morning I received a letter from the chief inspector in which he said:

    "If a successful campaign can be mounted to make [young people] face up to and tackle their offending behaviour, then they may be persuaded away from a life of crime. If not, then, sadly, statistics show that far too many of them embark on a life of crime, including longer and longer sentences for much of their adult lives".
He goes on to say that he is very pleased to see that the Outward Bound element of what happens at the military corrective training centre is to be included in the pilot scheme.

Lord Alport: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the proposal is causing considerable anxiety in Colchester itself? Does she agree that there is a great deal of difference between maintaining military discipline and punishing civil guilt? Will my noble friend confirm that the staff of the centre--the so-called "boot camp"--will be different from the military staff? Will she undertake that within a year an independent report on the efficacy of the experiment will be undertaken and presented to Parliament so that it can be considered?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is not a boot camp in the way my noble friend thinks. The young military people there are military offenders. The young people with whom the young offenders will mix for vocational training and education are those who will be leaving the services and who are being prepared for civilian life. We believe it important to put some discipline into the lives of the 32 young people who will be at the centre in order to build up their self-confidence, to improve their self-esteem and to teach them practical skills which will be of value in improving their employability in the community following sentence. It is a pilot scheme; it will be fully evaluated and the evaluation will be made public.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, will the civilian detainees have access to a board of visitors?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, yes, there will be a board of visitors.

Lord Glenamara: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that many of us view with horror the sending of young offenders to the terrible regime of the glasshouse? It is the wrong place for them. Have the Government learnt nothing at all from the failure of the short, sharp, shock experiment of the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, in the early 1980s?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, perhaps I can also place on record that it is not a repeat of the short, sharp, shock treatment. The aims of the military corrective training centre are to provide moral and social training and a purpose for life, and to re-instil pride in oneself through hard work, practical training and the acquisition of employment and life skills. There will be drill and physical exercise and the young people will be required to keep themselves and their accommodation areas clean

1 May 1996 : Column 1646

and tidy. The staff will work at building on strengths and tackling weaknesses. The training opportunities will include carpentry, painting and decorating, signwriting, bricklaying, car maintenance, glass cutting, farm work and work experience, including education in basic literacy and numeracy skills, if required, and more broader educational training.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the stringent rules against placing young people in custody are so great that only around 2 per cent. of young offenders are affected? Secondly, many of those young people have never received any form of discipline and never had regular meal times. The discipline they will receive will probably help to make them and is to be highly commended.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page