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Lord Judd: My Lords, I join those who have congratulated the noble Baroness on her firmness and resolve in staying with this amendment. I am sorry that it has not been possible for me to be present for more of the deliberations today because the issues raised in the Bill profoundly interest me. I should explain to the House that, paradoxically, I have today been participating, in the context of my work outside the House, in an international seminar in Stockholm on ethics in governments and issues of human rights. I cannot stress how much the world is looking, with hope, to the regeneration of enlightenment under the new Government in this country.
What saddens me about the need for this amendment is that, knowing of my noble friend's deep personal commitment, I believe that this is precisely the kind of measure that the Government themselves should have advocated. Of course, I understand the difficulties and the expense. But it is not just a matter of rights for the girls, although I do not in any way dissent from what my noble friend Lady Mallalieu and others have said about that. What is so sad about the inability of the Government to respond on this point is the future cost to society of not implementing this measure. We all know that, in the environment that surrounds a prison, with all its inevitable connotations, the chances of successful rehabilitation are diminished, and we shall therefore face future costs as young people who could have had a chance to be rehabilitated and play a positive part in society have less chance to do so.
Like my noble friend Lady Mallalieu and others, I appreciate the difficulties in which my noble friend the Minister must find himself on this matter. I hope that he will be able to say something to reassure the House on the issue of education, and so on, for these girls. Whatever he is able to say about that will be no substitute for the Government's recognising that, whatever the cost, to have responded positively to this amendment by default--in the sense they did not put the proposition forward themselves--will be a negative step not only at present for the girls who are there but for the future consequences for society. I hope that, even at the 11th hour, the Minister will be able to find it in his heart, on behalf of the Government, to accept the very strong case repeatedly argued by the noble Baroness.
Lord Hooson: My Lords, I should like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, of the Answer he gave to a Parliamentary Question of mine on this subject in January of this year when he indicated his view that the present position was unacceptable. I have known the noble Lord long enough to know that he meant every word he said then. I believe that what the House is looking for this evening is some indication of progress from the Government, who have inherited a difficult situation. It may be impossible to solve this problem in an acceptable way in the immediate future, but surely, at the very least, those at the lower end of the scale, the 15 and 16 year-olds, should not be subjected to this treatment in the future.
Lord Henley: My Lords, from these Benches I offer our support for the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. Noble Lords opposite will be aware that at Report stage, both from these Benches and the Government Back Benches, in particular by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, considerable concern was
I believe that it would be right for this House to send the appropriate messages to the other place and that the best way of doing that is by offering support to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, for her amendment. I believe she is quite right in saying that it is inappropriate that young girls can be sent to prison because of the lack of suitable local authority secure accommodation and that the Government should make it clear that such girls should be detained in separate institutions. For those reasons, we on these Benches offer our support to the noble Baroness.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I have great sympathy with the overall aim of the amendment and have never pretended differently. I believe that we all share a common goal. The question is what I can offer to your Lordships this evening, bearing in mind the legitimate and courteous pressure that has come from all sides. I should mention, not least, a very well argued letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, which I received this afternoon.
What we want to get to with the placement of the youngsters spoken about is to meet their needs, to address offending and to make the most effective use of the juvenile secure estate. That is where we want to go. We are not there yet. It seems to me that, rather than for me to recite what I have already cited on a number of earlier occasions either in debate or in answer to questions or in private conversation and letters, your Lordships want to know about two things: where we are getting to on separation and where we are getting to on educational provision.
We have now agreed plans for a further two physically separate units. One is at Holloway, with 40 places, and another is at New Hall near Wakefield, with 96 places. Those two establishments at the moment hold about 25 of the 90 or so sentenced juveniles--girls under the age of 18. So that will be 40 physically separate places at Holloway and 96 at New Hall. The unit at New Hall is scheduled to open in April. In Holloway there are difficulties because of the nature of the prison itself. We hope that the separate unit at Holloway will be open by the autumn.
Both of those establishments set up multi-disciplinary working groups to consider in detail the sort of regime to which a number of your Lordships have referred; that is, what can best meet the needs of the young offenders in these units. That includes staffing, the selection and training of staff, education and training, offending behaviour programmes, and what level, not least, of psychological support these young women need while being detained. New Hall already runs a modular young offender course. Eight of the 10 modules have been accredited to national standards. The remaining modules are to be submitted as soon as is practicable.
There are fewer than 20 girls detained under Section 53 powers. All of those under 15 are in local authority secure accommodation and most of the rest are. There are very few in Prison Service accommodation: some are in mother and baby units, which have their own difficulties in a small unit, or because they were severely disruptive, having already been placed in local authority secure accommodation. It is a fact that not all local authority secure accommodation can deal with all young girls of this age group.
From 1st April £3 million will be available to develop the kind of regimes that the Prison Service aspires to deliver: addressing offending behaviour and providing a full constructive day for inmates. I take the noble Baroness's point that one needs a full, demanding and stretching day. We are developing a framework within the Prison Service that provides the care and supervision that these juveniles need. We want to try to keep them close to home, with access to probation and other services in their home areas. Governors have been asked to submit plans on how they intend to spread the money which is available from tomorrow. It is likely that the plans will include better staff training and deployment as well as improved education and training facilities for young offenders. I know that the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy, Lady Mallalieu and Lady Gould, have all contacted me to express their concern about the need for improved education.
Juveniles under 17 have a minimum of 15 hours academic education per week, including English, mathematics, life skills relevant to their age and information technology. They have five hours a week physical education. The Prison Service is working at adapting the curriculum to the needs of juveniles to take into account that their academic achievement is generally of a low level, that they have a generally short attention span and that frequently, as the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, has said on earlier occasions, they have very poor self-esteem. We are planning for an individual plan for each juvenile based on a thorough assessment of individual need. Education departments in establishments liaise with schools or training establishments to facilitate continuing education and prisoners eligible to take examinations are enabled to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked whether there is a perfect physical separation in these institutions. I cannot say that that is true on every occasion. Indeed, I recognise the deficiencies to which he referred.
I hope that I have been able to provide more detail. It will not be sufficient detail to satisfy the concerns that your Lordships have expressed. This is not my concern alone. It is a government concern. The Home Secretary is particularly engaged in this matter. I have been able to give your Lordships rather more full detail than I was able to give on the last occasion. I repeat my earlier commitment, which I recognise is intended to be a discipline upon us in government, that I am happy to report back to your Lordships, bearing in mind the
I do not claim to have satisfied all your Lordships' concerns. I have not satisfied the concerns that I or my colleagues in government have had. I have set out in as much detail as I could obtain the present circumstances and the way in which we hope to progress. For my own part, I am most grateful for the tone in which everyone has directed their criticisms and complaints because I do not believe that they are unreasonably based.
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