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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, can the Minister say whether, in the formulation of this policy, the needs of business and private investment were looked at, considering that they form such an important part of poverty eradication?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government clearly acknowledge in the White Paper, published by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development at the end of last year, the need and indeed the vital part that business and the private sector can play in poverty eradication. Those proposals were put forward and will be borne in mind in our negotiations.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, are the Government sufficiently advocating the concerns of traditional friends? For example, is the Minister aware that the Caribbean statistically has a relatively high level of per capita income, yet significant pockets of poverty exist with governments unable to allocate sufficient resources as a safety net?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I said, poverty eradication lies at the heart of what we are doing. Having said that, the Government are particularly sensitive to the needs of our "traditional

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friends", as the noble Viscount described them. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs clearly made that point in the Caribbean forum held in Nassau in the second week of February this year. He made it clear to our friends from the Caribbean that their interests will be very much at the heart of our negotiations.

Lord Judd: My Lords, will my noble friend accept that, while we all applaud and endorse the Government's commitment to fight the battle for the eradication of poverty, it is not just a matter of programmes and development assistance? It is also a matter of relevant trade policies. There is real anxiety that some of the proposals put forward, not by our own Government but by the Commission, may be counter-productive in this context, not least for the Caribbean and southern Africa. Can the Minister assure us that that will be rigorously looked at?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Lome Convention covers aid, trade and political relations. All those will have to be looked at. At the moment we are in the middle of negotiations with our European colleagues. Thereafter we will be in negotiation with the ACP countries. I do not believe that in any negotiation, having stated the Government's policy, it is sensible or wise to try to negotiate through a loudhailer. Our best position is to stick to the principles that I outlined to the House and do our best to pursue those with our colleagues in the European Union and thereafter with the ACP countries.

Medway Secure Training Centre: Costs

2.59 p.m.

The Earl of Longford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the cost per head of trainees at the new Medway Secure Training Centre for young people aged 12-14 compares with the average cost in local authority secure units.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it is difficult to make a direct comparison between the cost for the Medway Secure Training Centre and the average charge for local authority secure units because local authority charges for secure units reflect only the operating costs and not the build costs, which are met directly from central government capital grants. In addition, there is a wide range of charges across different local authority units. There is no one standard regime. Some units charge extra for specialist facilities. However, if we exclude capital costs, the average cost of a place at Medway would be £2,400 compared with the average in local authority secure accommodation of £2,570.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, while expressing complete scepticism about that Answer, which is one of the phoniest I can recall in 52 years in the House, everyone being perfectly well aware that these places are enormously expensive and the Answer says the

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opposite, may I put these questions to the noble Lord? Will he allow me to pay a tribute to the staff of this place under the inspiration of its director? I think I am one of the few noble Lords who has had the chance to visit it. The House may be aware that there are 100 people on the paid staff and two inmates. However, I want to pay my tribute to the evident inspiration of the staff and director. Does the noble Lord realise that there is tremendous disquiet about this place if only because it treats young people as criminals, as everyone knows who reads the press, where they are described as children's gaols? Does he understand the disquiet at the idea of treating children aged 12 to 14 as criminals so that for the rest of their lives they will bear a criminal taint?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I know that your Lordships do not like asperity of language and therefore I would not want to say anything about the particular comment that the noble Earl made. I was aware, surprisingly, of his visit to Medway on 20th April, as I was helpfully provided with a note about that visit. The noble Earl paid tribute, which I believe to be justified, to people who are carrying out extremely difficult work. What is the work that they carry out? It is attempted rehabilitation of young children who have, unfortunately, fallen into criminal ways. They are there essentially to be given the best possible opportunity-- I accept at considerable public cost--to make their lives decent and fruitful when they come out.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I welcome the Government's establishment of this centre. It is another successful policy of the previous government which was opposed tooth and nail by the noble Lord himself and by his colleagues on these Benches when they were in opposition. Will the noble Lord clear up one point for me? The original intention was that such centres should ostensibly be for young very persistent offenders. It was set down in law how persistently they had to offend in order to qualify for a place. There was to be a programme of intensive education and training and rehabilitative programmes which included counselling and developing very close links, if that were possible, with the family and/or mentors in the community. I understand that these establishments are to be an improvement on what the previous government had originally intended. Will the noble Lord explain what is different from the programme that was originally intended for these establishments?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it is true, as the noble Baroness says, that the Home Secretary announced in July 1997 that he would continue with the preparations for the centre to avoid the waste of public money that would be involved in withdrawing from the previous commitment. I believe that to be a perfectly justifiable approach. If all the places are taken up, there will be 100 staff providing 24-hour cover for 40 trainees--education, care, security and support services. We believe--I am not sure that there is an enormous difference between us in our objective--that

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this will give a decent opportunity for rehabilitation for young children whose circumstances and background have been very unfortunate.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale: My Lords, as the catchment area for the centre seems to be the whole of England and Wales, does the estimate of expenditure include the cost of assisting parents from, say, Northumberland or North Wales to travel to Kent to visit their offspring at the centre?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the intention is that there should be assistance, where appropriate, for family visits to be made easy, or at least relatively easy, for those who simply cannot afford to travel to see their children.

Lord Acton: My Lords, as the number of girls at Medway is likely to be tiny, and as they are to be kept in separate accommodation from the boys, does my noble friend agree that the cost per girl is likely to be very much higher than £2,400; and am I right in thinking that that is £2,400 per week?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it is £2,400 a week. I do not accept the proposition put by the noble Lord that that necessarily means that a girl will be more expensive in terms of charges than a boy. I should have thought that the same proposition would obtain if he made it about local authority secure accommodation, where girls and boys are accommodated. I repeat, for the benefit of those who wish enlightenment, that the cost in local authority secure accommodation is £2,570. That is more than the Medway cost on a like-for-like basis.

Lord Acton: My Lords, am I right in thinking that at Medway there are to be five trainees in each of eight sub-units? If there are only two girls in a sub-unit, and if there are no boys in a sub-unit, are not the girls going to cost considerably more than the boys?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, many years ago my father warned me, "If you ever go to the House of Lords, avoid two things: loose women and hypothetical questions."

Public Interest Disclosure Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Registered Establishments (Scotland) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

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