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Lord Dholakia: My Lords, we support the amendment. This addresses precisely the point made in Committee by my noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie. Whenever a youngster has been ordered to appear before a youth panel, it is important that the effect of that panel is not lost on that youngster. Therefore, a time factor is important. The sooner the meeting is held--we are referring to the first meeting in this instance--the more importance will be attached by the youngster to the work it will do. We certainly support the amendment.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, after the hard words spoken as regards Amendment No. 1, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that I certainly agree with him on this amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Lord, Lord Cope, mentioned that we debated similar amendments. If my memory is right, I believe that the time limits discussed varied from three to 15 days.

I sympathise with the motive behind the amendment. We want youth justice delivered as quickly as possible. That is why, in a slightly different context, we are looking to halve the average time it currently takes to deal with persistent young offenders. I underline the fact that I have a good deal of sympathy with the motive behind the amendment and, indeed, the other amendments which varied as regards time.

Reducing unnecessary delay is not the only issue to consider. It is important that the panel meetings should be properly prepared in order to proceed successfully. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, rightly observed that such preparation may include contact with the victim. That needs to be done without delay but must also be approached sensitively as people differ in their reactions to crimes committed against them.

In Committee I stated that this is the sort of issue in which we want to use pilot schemes, and I repeat that. A number of different timescales have been proposed. I suggest to your Lordships that it is unwise to put a

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particular figure on the Bill. At present, we do not have the experience upon which to reach a soundly-based conclusion. This is exactly the kind of issue that we intend to discuss with those who have relevant professional experience.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that we shall issue guidance in the pilot areas. I suggest that it is best to evaluate the time limits as they appear in the guidance, and as translated into practice in the pilot areas. We will then see, on the basis of practical experience, what time limits are realistic. Once we have carried out that review, it is intended to have national standards to be approved by the youth justice board.

I hope that I have been able to reassure your Lordships. I sympathise with the point behind the amendment. However, at present we do not have the practical experience on which to reach a conclusion. I respectfully suggest that we will be much better informed having seen guidance and pilot schemes in practice.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, it is encouraging to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, and to have sympathy, at least in principle, from the Minister.

However, the Minister draws attention to the practical difficulties of writing it into the Bill as opposed to the guidance. I believe that point has validity. In the circumstances, I hope that I shall not offend those who spoke in support of the amendment, but I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 6, leave out line 2.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 18 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 19. There seems to be a little confusion or difficulty in the Bill as regards this matter. Subsection (2) states that the panel is to be constituted in accordance with guidance to be given. On the other hand, subsection (5) permits the Secretary of State to make certain regulations regarding who should serve on the panel. It seems to me that it would be better if all matters regarding constitution of the panel were to be found either in guidance or regulations. I would prefer them to be in regulations.

In Committee we discussed the kind of people who might serve on the panel, in particular, magistrates or policemen as suggested in the original White Paper upon which the Bill is based. Those are the type of matters which may appear in guidance or regulations. They may vary from time to time as experience is gained in the management of such panels and the effects are seen. We all believe that there should be a certain flexibility in this matter; that we should not attempt now to fix in stone, or at least in statute, the constitution of the panels. That is why the Secretary of State has the power to vary

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them. But I would prefer, as the amendment suggests, that the constitution of the panel should be put into regulations. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not believe that there is much difference in approach between the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the Government. We both want to make certain that the individual members of the panels can deal effectively with young offenders and that they are representative of the whole community. Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 seek to make the constitution of panels a matter of regulation rather than guidance.

The Bill already states that each panel shall contain at least three members, of whom one will be a youth offending team member. The constitution of each panel needs to respond to the specific circumstances of the young offender. The pool of panel members therefore needs to encompass a wide range of skills and experience. It will be important to use them flexibly-- I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope--and to the best effect.

We will have guidance on the constitution of the panels but it will be prohibitive because one needs the flexibility about which the noble Lord spoke. The Bill in its present form allows the Secretary of State to set regulations as to qualifications, experience and any other criteria that people will need to fulfil if they are to become panel members. That is the crucial tool to be used to ensure that panel members are of the right calibre.

I understand the noble Lord's desire to require the Secretary of State to be governed by the word "shall" rather than "may". Perhaps I can indicate, and thus reassure the noble Lord, that we have no intention of allowing panel members to be recruited without setting down clear qualification criteria in the regulations. Thereafter we will have the proper balance between qualification criteria in the regulations--there will not be any recruitment before those are made--and the flexibility on which the noble Lord and I agree in relation to selecting individuals for a specific panel for a specific offender.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, with the leave of the House; I may be forgetting what I heard in Committee and have not had time to look at the Official Report. Can the Minister remind me, and perhaps the House, whether there will be a pool of people known to be available in each area from whom members of the panel can be selected, or whether there will be a fresh search each time the need arises? I am trying to picture how this will work from a pragmatic point of view. Will there be a pool of people suitably qualified according to the definition set out?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, yes. There will be a pool of panel members who will have different skills, different experiences and different expertise.

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Each panel also has to have at least three members drawn from that wider pool, so the noble Baroness is quite right.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the Minister set out clearly his view on the matter and stressed to us that regulations will be made before any panels are appointed. That relates to the wording of Amendment No. 19, which seeks to replace "shall" by "may". With the Minister's reassurance I do not intend to press that amendment.

However, I feel that it is better if the maximum concerning the constitution of the panels, including qualifications, is set out in the regulations rather than in guidance. I am not relying wholly on the fact that a parliamentary procedure is necessary in the case of regulations but not in the case of guidance; it is only the negative procedure, in any case, which is the least control that Parliament can be given over the matter.

That is one aspect, but it is better also if the constitution of the panels is a more formal matter than something tucked away in guidance which can be altered at any point by the Secretary of State. It should be a formal matter; it is a formal arrangement which is part of the regime for young offenders. It should therefore be set out in statutory regulations as much as possible. However, the Minister has gone some way towards reassuring me and those who agree with me, including my noble friend. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

5.45 p.m.

Clause 8 [First meeting: agreement of contract with offender]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 7, line 45, leave out ("or otherwise").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 20 is another modest amendment. It concerns the question of how the panel will ensure that the offender carries out some of the things he is obliged to do. Some of those are set out in Clause 8(2) of the Bill and include making financial reparation. It will be fairly clear whether or not he has done that. But many of the other requirements involve the offender going to a specific place at a specific time--for example, to attend mediation sessions; to carry out work or service; to be at home at times specified in the contract (a sort of curfew); to attend school or another educational establishment, or to attend a place of work.

All those requirements may be part of the contract and at a later stage the panel will have to say, ultimately to the court, whether or not the offender complied with the conditions. However, later on--this is where the amendment comes in--the programme may not provide for the monitoring of the offender's whereabouts,

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whether electronically or otherwise. I have some sympathy with electronic tagging as a means of monitoring an offender's movements in these circumstances. But if we rule out "or otherwise", the panel will not be able to monitor whether or not the offender has carried out any of the requirements. Indeed, taken to the extreme, nobody will be able to monitor whether or not he has carried out his obligations; for example, whether or not he turned up for school. If the teacher were to call the roll it seems to me that the offender would be entitled to say, "You are not entitled to ask me whether or not I am here and, what is more, you are not entitled to write down whether or not I am here". To do so would be to monitor his whereabouts otherwise than by electronic tagging; in other words, by another means.

It seems to me therefore that if we rule out all other means as well as electronic tagging, we are preventing the proper monitoring of whether or not the offender has complied with his obligations. We should therefore delete the words "or otherwise" so that we are only ruling out, by Clause 8(3)(a), the electronic means of monitoring his whereabouts and leaving the others in. I am not sure what "the others" are, apart from calling the roll in school and the equivalent procedures in the other places where he might have to turn up, but the panels need to be able to monitor the whereabouts of the young offender. I beg to move.

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