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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I welcome the intervention by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland. We are rightly concentrating on the provisions in this Bill and scrutinising how they will help us to better deliver the change that we seek. However, this must be seen in the context of all the other things we are doing.
We should start by examining the work that the Government have energetically pursued on Sure Start and then look at all the work that we have done together to bring all those who are involved in local delivery into the community legal service partnership, which, as I am sure the noble Baroness knows, brings together local authorities, central government agenciesthrough the Legal Services Commission charities, non-governmental organisations and all the advice givers and providers in a locality. They do two things: they make a needs-based assessment of what is necessary for that area and then an audit of the providers tasked with delivering those services. Between the two the organisations have been able to fashion a care plan for the area that directs the needs of advice and service provision. Instead of having a maze of service providers or a desert with no service provision, a joining-up is happening.
Those who have participated in this Bill note the work we did together on the Courts Bill, which is still in another place. It will bring together a unified system, which is the second part of the jigsaw puzzle. We are dealing with the criminal justice part because through this structure we are creating the effective tools that we will need for creative intervention so that we remove the greater majority of people who simply go in and out of the system, serving life imprisonment sometimes, but 30 days or so at a time. If one links that with the work we are doing with young people and we look at the provisions in the Bill relating to street bail, we have a creative response to what the Government seek to do.
This is part of the holistic response. As we go through the Bill, it is important to see how all the parts of the jigsaw fit together. Each little section has its place and if we work energetically and properly the people of this country will have a system of which they can to be proud.
Lord Northbourne: I intervene briefly, although I had not intended to, because I am disquieted by the idea that anyone will do to accompany the child. Of course, a variety of people could conceivably give the necessary support to the child but that idea seems to suggest that the family, or the care institution to which the child belongs, has no special responsibility. The Bill should make it clear that families matter, that the young person's drug behaviour matters, that care in the children's home matters, and that the people who run the children's home have a responsibility. Primarily, they should have to be there.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I hope that nothing that I have said detracts from what the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has just said. He is absolutely right. Families have a very powerful part to play. In the majority of cases, the close family member will be the appropriate adult to be called. However, the noble Lord will know from the extensive work that he has done with children's charities on these issues that regrettably, sometimes almost tragically, the family cannot provide an appropriate adult for the child.
Again, we are doing much to address the problem. I do not seek to suggest for a moment that the family will not usually provide the most appropriate adult, but we use the phrase "appropriate adult" so that we can encompass people who may not be part of the child's natural family. They may be the most appropriate adult to attend to give assistance to the child in that particular circumstance. It will enable us to have the right breadth.
Noble Lords will know that we seek to address the re-engagement of families with young people more directly with the work we are doing on parenting orders, both voluntarily and, if necessary, compulsorily, to enable adults to address the child's needs. The child or young person should be at the centre of what we are trying to do.
Lord Adebowale: I thank the Minister for her response to my questions and my speech. I thought her response was very useful and detailed. I shall return to some points. I was very ably helped by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, who gave me an opportunity to see how the Bill fits into the wider government perspective.
However, I remain concerned about the resourcing of this part of the Bill, especially the testing orders. Although the Minister referred to the youth offending teams having named individuals for young people, that is not the same as providing treatment. I note the Minister's reference to the provision of plans by the drug action teams with which I have wide experience. That is not the same as the provision of treatment. It is the provision of a plan.
I note that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs on which I sit has recently produced a report of which I am sure the Minister is aware, which indicates that between 250,000 and 300,000 young people of drug misusing parents are currently without recognised treatment. I do not wish to be mealy-mouthed about or to denigrate the efforts of the Government to provide an appropriate response to treatment and, indeed, to examine a holistic approach to treatment for young people. I fear, though, that on the ground the statements made in the House fail to have the desired effect. At this stage of the debate, we need to understand how precisely the Government will know that the plans have resulted in treatment provision. How will the Government know that young people will not find themselves in a police station being tested in wholly inappropriate circumstances, without the provision of appropriate treatment interventions, regardless of what the treatment test says?
Noble Lords will forgive me if I push the matter, but, although I appreciate the noble Baroness's response and her commitment, I still require further evidence that the jigsaw that was so eloquently describedthe plans, the moneys committed by youth offending teams, the connectionsis not missing a few pieces. We can all see what that jigsaw describes. From my experience, I can say that the descriptions of such jigsaws are often not recognised by the people whom they are meant to affect. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 48 would delete paragraph (c) of subsection (3). As noble Lords will recall, following the extensive debate we have just had, Clause 12 concerns drug testing for under-18sor should it be under-17s? Paragraph (c) enables the Secretary of State to substitute the specified ages14, 17, 18as he thinks appropriate. It is perhaps a guide to the Government's sensitivity on the issue that they have eschewed the use of the good, clear word "change" in favour of the more mealy-mouthed word "substitute".
The age barriers were discussed in connection with the previous amendment. The inclusion of subsection (3)(c) is indicative of the Government's underlying uncertainty in their decisions regarding ages. We appreciate that some flexibility is defensible. In Committee in the other place, the Minister replied to the point by arguing that, as it was a new proposal, the Government wished to have the power to change specified ages as a failsafe. I always find it inherently unsatisfactory when Ministers argue that powers will never be used but that the Government need them none the less. If the Bill remains unamended, it will allow for the minimum age of testing to be reduced by statutory instrument from 14 to 12, something that the noble Baroness eloquently argued against in connection with the previous set of amendments.
With an earlier group of amendmentsAmendments Nos. 37, 38 and 39we discussed the Government's policies on restricting consultation when revising the PACE codes. Even under the new government proposals for PACE code revision, there was still a procedure for public consultation before change to the codes was implemented. I see no such requirement for consultation here beyond the standard affirmative resolution procedure.
As we pointed out, maintaining public confidence in the criminal justice system must be our central concern. Consistency is an important part of that confidence. If numerous changes are to be made to the ages, the police may become confused, and the public may become distrustful. I hesitate to say it but if the minimum age is to be altered as often as, for example, the Government's policy on cannabis has been, people could be excused for not knowing where they stood with regard to their child's legal status.
As a minimum, there should be a requirement for a public consultation procedure along the lines of that for the PACE codes so that important interest groups can make their views known before any fundamental and far-reaching changes are made. I beg to move.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: In view of the fact that, under the Bill, children can be tested at the age of 14 and, under this subsection, at an age lower than 14, can the noble Baroness assure the Committee that the provisions are about testing with a view to treatment and have no implications for the age of criminal responsibility? It is important that we know that.
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