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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I apologise straightaway to the noble Baroness. When I saw the amendments, I was somewhat puzzled about why she had tabled them because I had understood that we had written to her. I caused inquiry to be made as to whether the letter, if sent, had been received, and that was the vehicle through which she eventuallythankfullyreceived it. Both she and I now understand why we are here at the moment.
It is not clear that Amendment No. 3 would achieve what the noble Baroness wants to achieve. A civilian in the "company" or "presence" of a constable amounts to the same thing. They both imply that the constable is on the premises with the civilian authorised by the warrant. I make it plain that we want to ensure that the constable is on the premises with the civilian to provide supervision and guidance, but it would defeat the object if he had to be looking over the civilian's shoulder throughout the process.
Amendment No. 4 would make it explicit that accompanying civilians could exercise search-and-seizure powers only when they had received appropriate training. I understand why the noble Baroness has phrased the amendment in that way. We recognise the importance of police supervisors providing adequate guidance to accompanying persons about the roles that they are asked to fulfil. Specific training will often be necessary, particularly where certain individuals are used in this capacity on a regular basis. With that in mind, we will emphasise the importance of relevant training in issuing guidance to the police about how to use the new provisions.
There may be circumstances where the straightforward nature of the task involved or the experience of the accompanying civilian means that formal training is not necessary and that clear guidance and instruction will suffice. Furthermore, it may be difficult to allow for training where people have to be brought in at short notice because they have a particular skill or knowledge required at the time. We would expect there to be a slightly tighter level of supervision in those circumstances to ensure that all was well. The constable would of course retain overall responsibility for the operation. Where that is the case, it will be crucial that the police officers involved explain the tasks and procedures clearly and supervise the accompanying persons carefully.
For those reasons, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment. I have ensured that a copy of the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, to the noble Baroness is placed in the Library for the interest of all those who wish to see it.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I accept her explanation and assurances, and shall not return to the amendment at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 5 relates to Clause 3(3), and seeks to avoid including all class C drugs in the same category as cannabis. The Government's defence of their proposal in Committee was weak and the logic of their reasoning not easy to follow. Although a great many research organisations, doctors and psychiatrists agree that the dangers of cannabis are yet to be fully assessed, the Government are proposing to reclassify
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I think that I can save the noble Lord some pain by saying that we intend to accept the amendment in principle. In due course, we will come forward with a government amendment.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, that is a generous offer. I have had my breath taken away in the nicest possible way, so I shall not move the amendment. I look forward to seeing what the Government have to offer.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 6, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 7. One reason why we have so much law in this country is that whenever an issue arises, instead of looking at the statutes to see what we have in our armoury and how it is working, the Government immediately bring in new legislation in an effort to be seen to be doing something. This issue is one such case.
The Government have said that the purpose of the drug-testing provisions is to ensure early detection and therefore early treatment, but I believe that the measures are unnecessary, given that any child charged will already be referred to a youth offending team officer for assessment of its needs. Part of that assessment is an analysis of any substance misuse, and
I appreciate that the Government's aim is to ensure that children receive the help that they need. Compulsory treatment by court order is a very serious prospect, given that a breach is a criminal offence. The breach rate for adult drug testing is horrendous: 5,419 of the 6,186 orders made in 2002 were breached. That means that many, many children are likely to be in breach of the orders, thereby escalating their interaction with the judicial system just at the time when our aim should be to reduce it. We are putting them in real danger of committing a further offence by suggesting the orders be compulsory.
Moreover, Schedule 20 does not include the necessary safeguards to ensure that the dangerous step of using court compulsion to treatment would be taken only where absolutely necessary and where voluntary options had already been tried and tested. Children should have access to treatment services when they need them. Voluntary treatment is the most effective way to ensure successful outcomes for them and does not carry with it the danger of escalating into a breach-of-order offence. I beg to move.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords amendments Nos. 8 and 9 would change the maximum age at which a juvenile requires an adult to be present during drug testing from 17 to 18. The reasons for that were given by my noble friend Lady Anelay in an earlier debate.
I explained in Committee that it appeared from the drafting of the Bill that the Government shared our belief that under-18s should be given special treatment for the intrusive process of drug testing. That is evidenced by the heading of the clause. However, the Government then shifted the goalposts for those aged 17 and 18. To be candid, we were not satisfied with the replies that we received.
I again emphasise that it is inconsistent for the Government to exclude 17 year-olds from special treatment when it comes to the need for an appropriate adult to accompany the child during testing. The Government appear to be overly concerned with PACE regulation provisions and resources, rather than with the practicalities and needs of a child's welfare.
That is an all-too-familiar response and it is an anomaly in PACE regulations that both the Children's Society and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have repeatedly tried to change. The more they are criticised on that point, the more the Government seem to fall back on the rather narrow defence that a change would not fit with the current PACE provisions.
Thirdly, the pressure would not be "undue", but entirely necessary, since it is designed to protect the safety and welfare of a childthat is, someone under the age of 18during the drug-testing process. Finally, the claim that it might have a disproportionate effect on resources, even if true, is a lame excuse. The Government have made a drug strategy a central plank of their policy to contain crime, so what better use of resources could there be?
The Children's Society has explained that the number of children held by the police in an average year increases exponentially with the age of the child, with the biggest jump in numbers seen among 16 and 17 year-olds. We can therefore assume that if 17 year-olds did not need to be accompanied by adults for drug tests, some police time would be saved, but I stress that that is at the expense of the child's welfare. To omit 17 year-olds from certain clauses that protect children for administrative convenience is indefensible. Amendment Nos. 8 and 9 would ensure that a clause which the Government have carefully entitled "Drug testing for under-eighteens" meant just that, and that the laws drafted under it would relate to all children under the age of 18.
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