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Throughout this process, the Minister has mentioned her keenness for joint inspections. That has been very much at the heart of the work of the inspectors for a very long time, as I know myself. In 1999, we recommended having the secretariat that the Minister has just announced, and we asked for regular meetings with Ministers, neither of which were given. I am therefore particularly pleased that, in the statement released yesterday by the Home Secretary, he told all five inspectors that the Government will want to meet them regularly to ensure that satisfactory progress is being made and to provide them with clear direction about the Government’s priorities across the criminal justice

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system. That will be wholly helpful and positive. The inspectors have been hoping for that for a very long time, and I am delighted that it is there.

It would be churlish to question a great deal of what has been said, and I do not intend to do so. I welcome what has been done, because the Government have maintained the strength of the inspectorates unencumbered. Indeed, the strength of the inspection of different elements of the criminal justice system is the aggregation of the separate parts, not the merger of them. By being undiminished, they will be able to contribute far more strongly to the process that the Minister so clearly wants and this House so clearly endorses than if they had been weakened by the compromise that is inevitably part of a merger. I obviously accept and understand that the Government will want to keep the process under review and I am sure that the inspectors will want to do that, but I beg the Minister to accept what has been said on a number of occasions in this House. The burden on the people administering the services is not that imposed by the inspectorates, which in the case of the prisons inspectorate is once every five years, but that imposed by the plethora of regulators, auditors and other organisations which impose themselves far more regularly and in a far more demanding way than do the inspectorates. Inspection is a different process from regulation and audit and has a very particular purpose. It is hugely important that this should not be confused in the whole process of looking at the criminal justice system.

The Minister has said many times that it is no part of the Government’s intention to restrict, limit or water down the independence, rigour and vigour necessary to undertake robust and effective inspections but there are one or two elements that I should like to mention concerning the detail. Of course, in the hurry with which this was produced, it has not been refined. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that refinement can follow, particularly when the Bill moves to the other House. For example, I am concerned about one point that has not been made, particularly in respect of prisons inspection. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, made the point that prisons inspection certainly must have an independent head, not someone derived from the Prison Service or Home Office. I am interested that in an answer on a specific question on this, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said that when the post of chief inspector came up, there would be no bar to people from the Prison Service or Home Office applying. But I shall be interested to see what happens when Anne Owers retires in March 2008 and whether the principle until now of the person not coming fromthe Prison Service or the Home Office is observed in the selection of the new chief inspector.

I am interested in the proposed new Schedule A1(2)(2), which states:

a whole list of people, including some who I never would have thought of consulting over my prison

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programme inspection, such as the Chief Inspectors of Constabulary, of the Crown Prosecution Service, and of Court Administration and the Audit Commission or the Auditor General for Wales. I hope that this is something on which the Minister will consider refinement. The prisons inspector has to prepare the programme for the inspection of prisons and others can come around it. That programme would include consultation and liaison with all the other elements that need to take part. That is what happens now, but I am concerned that the proposal might go too far.

Under proposed new Schedule A1(2)(3), the content of inspections or the way in which inspections are to be conducted will be subject to ministerial direction, which is contrary to what has been said many times. Ministers have been at pains to protest that they will not specify either the content or the way in which inspections are conducted. I beg the Minister to realise that—I speak with the voice of experience—if you want an inspection conducted, you leave that to the chief inspector and do not try to micromanage it. By all means, say what the programme might be and limit it, but please do not try to micromanage.

I conclude from all this that the Government are now where the inspectors were in 1999, with dedicated inspectorates committing themselves to relevant joint working and consulting with each other as appropriate without reducing the potency of their single-service focus, which is so important for Ministers if they are going to deliver what is required. I fully accept that additional things have to happen now. For example, I see the inspector of constabulary consulting the inspector of prisons to see at what stage the inspector of prisons might conduct inspections of police cells, and I see the same thing for the courts administration in the inspection of court cells. That is absolutely right, but there is one thing missing which I would beg the Minister to consider—and it is something I have raised many times. I refer to the use of the word “regular”. At present, the inspection of prisons is carried out once every five years. That raises timing and resource implications because the inspector has got to deliver that inspection every five years. It would be helpful to everyone concerned if that regularity could be included at this stage. It is a point that was made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and it applies as much to places of detention as it does to prisons.

My reason for raising this is that, unless that is an absolute requirement on the Chief Inspector of Prisons, there is a danger that the requirement to carry out the additional tasks such as the inspection of police cells, court cells and escorts, will eat into the frequency of prison inspection unless extra resources are provided. A balance has to be struck here. The Minister has assured us that resources are going to be maintained at their current level, and that is fine for the current level of operation, but additional operations will need either extra resources or they will have to be conducted at the expense of something else. I am sure that that is not something that the Minister or anyone in the House would resist.

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Finally, I am really pleased that, in talking to the chief inspectors, the Government have said:

Each time we debated this issue, the whole House spoke, not just one part of it, and I recognise particularly the courage of Members on the government Benches who spoke and voted as they did the other night. In thanking the Minister, I have to say that I am enormously encouraged by where this Bill has now got to.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, as I have tabled amendments in this group I shall speak at this point rather than wait until the end as I would otherwise have done. I support the government amendments, but with the reservations that have been so clearly set out by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. We hope that they might form part of the refinements to which the Minister referred, and we understand that these matters had to be rushed because the Government were pressed for time in producing a different approach to the way the inspectorates are going to run themselves. I am also aware that there are significant rules about what amendments may or may not be part of the process when the Bill reaches another place, but we have shown goodwill over the past 24 hours and I know that we will do our best within the rules to continue to show that goodwill.

However, it is right that I put on the record a comment about the difficulties that the Opposition and other Members around the House have faced as a result of the nature of the process we have all been going through. We were unable to signal our disquiet on the matters referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, because the 20 pages of government amendments were made available to noble Lords just minutes before the 5 o’clock deadline for tabling Third Reading amendments. We therefore could not see them before the deadline for tabling our amendments expired. Noble Lords will be aware that manuscript amendments are not permitted at Third Reading, and therefore noble Lords were prevented from tabling any amendments to the government amendments today, and that has actually prevented some of the refinements being brought forward today, which could have been a very practical way of progressing. It is clearly not a satisfactory process—I am talking about the process, not the government amendments—and perhaps the Procedure Committee might take note of the problem for future discussion. This could well be an example of where our Third Reading rules are too restrictive rather than not restrictive enough, as some have argued in the past.

5.45 pm

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was right to set out in detail the three issues on which he has some difficulty within the government amendments, and I support him on all of them. The main point today is that it is clear that the Government have abandoned their plans to create the mega-inspectorate that we

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believe would have threatened the independence and authority of the prisons inspectorate. That is most welcome. It has been a rocky road to this destination but the Government have listened to the arguments put to them in this House at Second Reading, in Committee and on Report. Not one Member of the House spoke in support of the Minister on any of those occasions. Passionate and informed opposition came from around the House, including from the Minister’s own Benches. It came from those who are very loyal to Her Majesty’s Government and for whom it must have been very hard indeed to express their dissent. I suspect that their contribution was very influential.

I spoke at some length both at Second Reading and in Committee, but I recognised at Report stage, at the end of a long debate, that others had expressed views that covered the whole gamut of the subject so forcefully and persuasively that it was not the time for me to go on at length—so I did not. That meant that I did not speak to the amendments that were in my name at that stage. I said that I would bring them back, and here they are. In fact, they have been tabled by both the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and myself. Again, however, I do not need to speak to them because the Minister, in her wisdom, in her amendments today has adopted the approach that I had hoped for. My amendments are there to probethe wisdom of going ahead with the whole of the organisational structure, and I homed in on the questions about the constabulary—but that all now goes by the board.

I can therefore be very brief today and add just a couple of points. The result of the Division last week indicated the strength of feeling in the House onthis issue. It showed that this House believes that the Government’s choice of structural change for the prisons inspectorate was simply wrong. The Minister referred in her speech to her feeling that perhaps some questioned the principled stand that the Government were taking and the motives behind it. We were not questioning motives; we were questioning the outcome of what the Government were trying to achieve. I do not know what the Government’s intentions were—that is entirely for them—but the noble Baroness has steadfastly presented them as being to improve the management structures. Whatever the intentions behind the original proposal, there was agreement that it would have damaged the authority and independence of the inspectorate.

I argued in Committee that there are alternative, preferable options for improving its operation within the criminal justice family without damage to the inspectorate itself. In particular, like the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, I record the work done by the chief inspectors back in 1999 to have a joint secretariat. Like him, I am very pleased that today the Government have accepted that it is right to go down the alternative, more appropriate route of reform, which should focus on strengthening and improving joint working but will not involve organisational merger.

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Finally, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, on his eloquent and determined leadership throughout this long process. All the inspectorates will have a stronger future as a result.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I add my thanks to the Minister. The only criticism I had about the Bill was that the issue of inspection did not have adequate time for discussion in the other place. Those of us who often refer to the intention of the other place were rather short in trying to obtain the views of Members of Parliament. There has been a long series of debates on this matter. As far as I can remember, year in, year out, we have discussed this issue ever since the idea of an inspectorate was floated by the Government. There was a very informative debate in which noble Lords participated on Report, whenthe Minister gave a very robust defence of the Government’s position.

However powerful the case made by the House of Lords, it ultimately remained for the Minister to convince her colleagues about what was appropriate for this House. She has been able to do that, for which I am most grateful. I am glad that there is now a clear statement on the Government’s intentions as well as from the inspectors on how they intend to proceed.

I put on record the thanks of most, if not all, of my colleagues on these Benches for the work that the Minister has done in convincing her colleagues. Let us hope that we will have future opportunities to iron out issues that reflect what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has identified to see how we can put them right. My noble friend Lady Harris will comment on some of the amendments, but in the mean time I thank the Minister.

Lord Acton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, suggested several important refinements, but in general I offer my thanks and congratulations to the Government on arriving at such a satisfactory conclusion, particularly with regard to the Chief Inspector of Prisons. I especially thank my noble friend Lady Scotland for the partshe has played in this happy result. I never like disagreeing with her, and I am more than happy to be at one with her again.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I have tabled a number of amendments in this large group. I added my name to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 which, happily, have been overtaken by events. However, I wanted to draw your Lordships’ attention to the necessity of all HMICs retaining their royal warrant. I would be most grateful for an assurance.

I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 66 to 69 which are, once again, about the Audit Commission. Before I do so, I have a few questions for the Minister which refer to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, with regard to Schedule 4A(2), looking at the issue from a police authority perspective. It is worth asking the questions to allow the Minister time to get an answer while I am speaking to Amendments Nos. 66 and 69.

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Does subsection (2)(2) of Amendment No. 17 also mean that HMIC will consult the bodies to be inspected? It was in the latest version of the Bill in Schedule 9(9)(3) on page 110, but it does not appear in this legislation, and I would like an explanation. With regard to subsection (3)(4) of AmendmentNo. 17, can the Minister say how the Secretary of State would envisage using such an order-making power and for what purpose? Does it allow him to mandate joint inspections or just to say who the lead inspectorate will be and then leave it to the discretion of the chief inspector to decide? Specifically, will it allow the Secretary of State to specify that police authorities will be inspected by HMIC?

I agree with the points made about the great range of the new amendments. It has been extremely difficult to find the detail in them, and I could not find anywhere a reference to inspection of police authorities. The old wording in the Bill on Report included reference to that. At page 24, Clause 29(3), they are one of the organisations listed as sitting within the criminal justice system, which would have fallen within the remit of the single inspectorate.At page 112, paragraph 12, which one of my amendments addresses, police authorities are listed as one of the bodies—CDRPs being the other—that would have been subject to joint inspection between the CJS inspectorate and the Audit Commission. But the new wording does not include reference to them. Although the wording itself is not new, the context is, which alters the way in which the wording might be read and needs to be examined afresh in light of the Government’s amendments.

I am sure that if the Minister is unable to answer these questions today, she will be able to do so at a later point, having read carefully what I have said in Hansard. But is she able to tell me how the new amendment will allow for inspection of police authorities?

With my Amendments Nos. 64 and 65, I turn to the matter of enabling police authority expertise to be used in inspecting police authorities. It seems that I must continue to disagree with the Minister about whether current wording adequately allows for that. For instance, “sufficient expertise” implies quantity rather than quality, so does not necessarily mean that the chief inspector has access to the right sort of expertise. My amendment tries to address this issue. However, it also explicitly allows for the inclusion of police authority expertise in police authority inspections.

I have explained before why I think that that is important, so I will not rehearse those arguments again. But I point out that it does not imply a cosy relationship, which the Minister seemed to suggest in our previous debate. I am suggesting that police authority expertise should contribute to police authority inspections, but certainly not be wholly responsible for them. It is certainly no more questionable than the idea that police officers should inspect police forces, which, indeed, they do. I do not

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believe that the Minister would question the professionalism and independence of HMIC.

In an effort to come up with a compromise that might be more acceptable to the Government, I suggest that the Association of Police Authorities should be consulted by the chief inspector about ensuring that he has appropriate expertise available to him. This is a change to the previous suggestion that the APA should be able to nominate suitable people. It is just slightly different.

With Amendments Nos. 66 to 69, I have been very busy checking the legislation. For the avoidance of confusion, my previous amendment was about the Audit Commission’s role in best value. Best value appears in Section 24 of the Local Government Act 1999, where it says that HMIC will inspect police authorities for their compliance with best value. The Audit Commission has no role mentioned in that Act whatever.

Amendments Nos. 66 to 69 address the involvement of the Audit Commission in police authority inspections. Nothing that the Minister has said has convinced me that it has the requisite knowledge or expertise to undertake this role. I know that the Minister is a great fan of its work with local authorities, and I acknowledge, as I have throughout, that it has a wealth of experience in this field, although I do not share the views about its total effectiveness. That aside, local authorities are not the same as police authorities. They have different functions and structures, and it is a mistake to think that techniques and frameworks used in inspecting local authorities can be applied to police authorities; they cannot.

My second amendment would ensure that the Audit Commission sticks to what it knows about: auditing police authorities, not inspecting them. That is the very point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for which I was very grateful. In addition, however, I was rather taken aback to hear the noble Lord speaking at Second Reading on this section of the Bill. He said the amendment he was then proposing, which is now part of the Bill, gave the Audit Commission a power to act jointly with the chief inspector, where the commissioner had no power to inspect. I am sorry, but if the Audit Commission has no legal remit to inspect, it has no business conducting inspections, joint or otherwise. My amendment seeks to make that plain.

I have also made sure with this amendment that it is the chief inspector, not the Audit Commission, who decides that the involvement of the commission might be helpful, although in practice, because of my other amendments, that will be restricted to inspections of crime and disorder reduction partnerships.

6 pm

Lord Lyell of Markyate: My Lords, I, too, am very grateful for the Government’s clear change of heart in answer to the strong feelings expressed by this House. I admired the Minister’s necessary performance asSt Sebastian, as arrow after arrow was fired in with, unfortunately, no support from anywhere.

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The question of motive was raised. I believe that the Minister sincerely and profoundly believed in what she was putting before the House and in what she was saying and that she sincerely and profoundly believes in what is now being put in substitution. If I make some criticisms or probe the matter, it is in no sense an attack on her motive or sincerity and I hope that she will therefore forgive me more readily than she might otherwise have been prepared to.

I tend to conceive of things visually, as my St Sebastian image might have indicated. If one thought of the Times cartoonist Peter Brookes, one might see two cartoons. The first shows what the Home Secretary and the Home Office originally designed for the Bill: complete control from on high, with all the chief inspectors subordinated in the manner against which this House rebelled. The second cartoon, I am afraid, now shows the Home Secretary as a spider—but not the Minister, I am sure, unless she is a smaller spider—who, having been frustrated in the original objectives, has now been determined to tie up the inspectorates in red tape.

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