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The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I shall attempt to be brief. I welcome the many positive measures on home affairs presented in Her Majesty's gracious Speech, particularly the youth justice Bill, which will make it clear that the aim of work in the youth justice system is rehabilitation. That is a welcome step forward. I also commend to your Lordships the speech made by my noble friend Lady Stern, who made a remarkably robust and authoritative evaluation of the treatment of juveniles in custody. I shall concentrate on the offender management Bill and look at the training of prison officers, as compared to that of probation officers, and at the way in which the identity of prison officers is distinct from that of probation officers.
Before doing so, I also draw to your Lordships' attention the forthcoming youth Green Paper. It is essential to the debate on anti-social behaviour and preventing crime that we address the issue of the decline in youth services over many years. It is welcome that, since 1997, the Government have
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invested significant additional resources in that area. However, Tom Wylie of the National Youth Agency said recently that there were problems about the implementation of services. It is a local government responsibility, and the funding is not necessarily going where it was intended to go.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, emphasised the concern that we must have about what might happen in the merging of the two services, some of which we already know. I was very disturbed to see the reports on television of how the probation service first received news of the proposed merger and how it was handled. It was reminiscent of your Lordships' experience, when we learnt of the Lord Chancellor's sudden disappearance from our constitution.
I was reminded of a visit that I made to a meeting of guardians ad litem during the implementation of CAFCASS, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, which merged two different professional groups. That meeting was just before the guardians successfully took CAFCASS to judicial review. Many of them were talking about leaving the service and moving to different work. Because so many left, as the noble Baroness will know from her previous employment, vulnerable children must now wait many weeks before a guardian can be their advocate in those important cases.
There are parallels between the training of prison officers and the training of those who work in residential childcare, those working in children's homes. I recently visited the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Carewe do not have an equivalent in this countrywhich provides free training and consultancy to Scottish children's homes. We discussed the prevalent philosophy on the Continentsocial pedagogywhich has been in place for many years. In children's homes on the Continent, staff receive two to three years' training, based heavily on child development. The other side of the training is in means of engaging with young people, including, for instance, music or crafts. My noble friend Lady Stern referred to the admirable work of Camila Batmanghelidjh with Kids Company. Her astounding work with young people is based on that approach of combining a good understanding of child development with a means of engaging young people.
The point to take from that is that social work is very different from residential childcare work. Residential childcare workers live day by day with the children for whom they care. They can be very troubled children with whom some sort of working relationship must be formed if the childcare workers wish to make good the deficits that these children have when they come into care. Historically, in this country, we have not recognised the importance of that caring role.
In residential childcare, 68 per cent of children have mental disorders and 63 per cent have conduct disorders. Yet, in the past, there has been a situation where 80 per cent of the staff have no relevant qualification for such work. Now we are beginning to
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move towards a better situation with a National Vocational Qualification Level 3, but that is still a very long way from what happens on the Continent.
There is a parallel here with what happens in the Prison Service. A year ago, at a YoungMinds conferenceYoungMinds is a charity for children's mental healthI spoke with a clinician who had visited many prisons in her work. She said that it was so regrettable that many sex offender programmes were not, in her view, effective because the prison officers administering them were simply not skilled enough to do the job well. I hope that she is wrong.
I visited Wandsworth Prison with a number of Cross-Bench colleagues. We were very impressed at the enthusiasm of the prison officers working in the sex offenders' wing. But when one considers the level of training of prison officers, there must be a question of how well they can deliver such complex services.
The Secretary-General of the Prison Officers' Association spoke to Members of your Lordships' House recently. He reminded us that prison officer training has decreased from 11 weeks to eight weeks. He spoke about the people with whom he and his colleagues dealt. Some of them were career criminals but many were the most inadequate, poor and impoverished people in the land. He was asked what support his officers received for working in such an environment, in having close relationships day by day, week by week with such people who were troubled and who we know have very high levels of mental and personality disorders. His response was that they received "none".
That is so reminiscent of what happens in residential childcare where there is the inability to form partnerships that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, spoke about earlier and the need to form partnerships with different agencies. But if the front-line staff working with the most troubled and damaged people have such a poor level of training, it is very hard for them to co-operate and to trust outsiders who come in with graduate level qualifications.
I hope that in looking at the national offender management Bill, we will keep very much in mind the identity of prison officers and take this perhaps historic occasion to review the training that they receive. Perhaps the noble Baroness can say whether there will be a review of the training of prison officers. When Martin Narey spoke to parliamentarians, he acknowledged that the difference between eight weeks' training for prison officers and three years' training for probation officers is very large for two groups of professionals who are supposed to work with each other.
"Young adult prisoners aged 18-20 present particular challenges for the correctional services and we have yet to respond to their specific needs and difficulties . . . Currently, there is no specific provision for 18-20s and the recent concentration on regimes for under-18s has put the relative lack of provision for young adult offenders in stark contrast".
To conclude, if prison officers are to treat offenders with humanity, they need the skills to work in the prison environment and to develop close relationships with what are often damaged people. That I believe is an end in itself, just as having highly skilled and well qualified staff in children's homes is similarly an end in itself. We want that for children because we recognise the deficiencies and abuse they have endured before they go into homes and we think that they should have the best, most qualified, thoughtful and reflective professionals to work with them. To a degree we must think the same of prison officers.
It is also a means to an end. If we are serious about having good rehabilitative programmes, we need a seamless service that puts offenders back out in the community, settling them down and getting them into work. Skilled prison officers are necessary to deliver it. Any educationist will say that children learn through modelling and that that is the best way to teach any subject. A good example is the best lesson. If we can show prisoners, perhaps for the first time in their lives, a model of humanity in the form of adults who treat them with respect, who respond consistently and who will not be vindictive, when they go back out on to the streets there is the hope that they will begin to treat others with more respect and dignity than they have experienced in their own pasts.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, as is usual in debates on the gracious Speech, the debate has been both interesting and wide-ranging. We have heard two distinguished maiden speeches from speakers whom we very much hope to hear again, although I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, will not mind if I make one small correction to her speech. The first MP of Indian descent was not, as she suggested, Mr Saklatvala, but Mr Dadabhai Naoroji, who was elected as a Liberal MP for Finsbury Central in 1894, some 30 years earlier.
I am in absolute agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, about the protection of universities and their staff from harassment by animal rights movements, and about the dangers to and damage caused by visa charges on students.
I was very much encouraged by the number of speakers this evening, starting with my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford and including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who have expressed their concern about the threat of the Government's legislative programme to human rights and civil liberties. I refer in particular to the typically passionate speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, which I believe should be compulsory reading for the Prime Minister and all Ministers in the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
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The debate covered the problems of all the constituent parts of the United Kingdomnot only England, but also Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Battersea. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, was particularly thought-provoking. He said that he was a devolutionist because he is a unionist, and that he felt that that has been a success. It certainly appears so to all of us south of the Border, perhaps because the Scots now get so annoyed with Holyrood that they do not have the same time and incentive to get annoyed with Westminster.
I was struck by the concerns expressed about the problems of children and young people who get involved with the criminal justice system in the speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.
My noble friend Lord Dholakia dealt with most of the Home Office Bills and I will indicate our response to the Bills from the Department for Constitutional Affairs which were referred to in the gracious Speech.
First, the criminal defence service Bill will govern legal aid in criminal cases. We of course support the principle of controlling costs and it is wholly unacceptable that 1 per cent of criminal cases account for 40 per cent of criminal legal aid. It is right in principle that defendants who can afford to pay should do soif they are acquitted, of course, normally they recover their costs from public fundsbut we are concerned that the savings may turn out to be small and that the need to assess ability to pay before legal aid can be granted may lead to significant delays. We need to be sure that the system for deciding whether legal aid should be granted is fair and speedy before we can give it our full support.
The Inquiries Bill will receive its Second Reading next week in your Lordships' House. This has not been exactly a good year for inquiries. The Bloody Sunday inquiry has taken an intolerable amount of time, it has cost an intolerable amount of money and it looks all too likely that it will leave us no clearer about the events of that day. The Hutton report can best be described as quick but naive and, of the high profile inquiries, only Butler comes out with a reasonable amount of creditand then only from those who can translate the Mandarin into English.
The question is whether the Bill will improve the inquiry system. Inquiries should be independent, open, targeted and effective in their use of time. The Bill will help this and we give it a general welcome. We have some doubts about aspects of the Billfor example, when we reach the Committee and Report stages of the Bill we shall want to look at the extent of the Government's powers to prevent publication of reports.
The judicial pensions Bill was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, but we shall see it shortly. Here I find myselfa little to my surprisein agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Patten, although I do not find myself in anything like total agreement with the rest of what he said. The purpose of the Bill is to give judges an exemption from the proposed general rule that relief on pension contributions will not be given if the
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pension pot exceeds £1.5 million. It is not clear why judges need a special exemption from this tax law. They are not normally immune from changes in tax law; if the rate of income tax goes up, the amount of income tax that judges pay goes up.
Judges get generous pensions. As I understand it, they receive a two-thirds pension after 20 years' service andthis is importantmost of them will have built up substantial private pension pots during their time in practice. Most judges take a substantial cut in earnings when they go onto the Benchno doubt a good judicial pension is part of the incentive for them to do sobut it is not clear whether this special exemption is justified. If the present incentives are inadequate it would be better to be open and to increase judicial salaries, rather than to hide any increase by fiddling with the tax arrangements. We are therefore very likely to oppose the Bill.
We are likely to support the draft civil claims and tribunals Bill and we agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Newton of Braintree, in that regard. The Constitutional Reform Bill has been carried overI shall speak to that Bill shortlyand there are a number of other Bills which involve the Department for Constitutional Affairs and other departments.
We shall support the Mental Capacity Bill, which has been carried over. It clarifies and strengthens the rights of a vulnerable section of the community and we certainly do not see it, as some have claimed, as a Bill to authorise euthanasia. The Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, which had its Second Reading today, is, of course, just that. I support the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, but that is an entirely different matter.
An equality Bill will establish a single commission for equality and human rights. That is a principle which we have strongly supported, although we are not satisfied that the commission will have adequate powers.
With regard to the charities Bill, again, we welcome the modernisation of an archaic field of law. There can be few others where so much attention is still paid to a statute passed in 1603. We support the Bill in principle.
The draft corporate manslaughter Bill is, in fact, a DTI Bill, but it is dealt with here as a Home Office Bill. There are undoubtedly problems with the existing law. In frequent cases, no individual in a company is so negligent as to be personally guilty of manslaughter, but the cumulative effect of the failures of several different people is to leave the company with a wholly inadequate system to ensure health and safety. It is plainly right that in those circumstances, the corporation should be convicted of manslaughter and therefore subject to a heavy fine and damage to its reputation.
However, it does not follow, as some people have suggested, that when a company is convicted of corporate manslaughter, the directors of that company should therefore be liable to prison. That should happen only when a director is charged with manslaughter under the existing law on the grounds of his own gross negligence. However, I suggest that we
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investigate the possibility of extending civil penalties under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 to cases where failures of the directors have collectively contributed to a corporate manslaughter case.
Let me turn to the wider question of the constitution. Since 1997, the Government have made many changes to the constitution. We have supported almost all of themindeed, we advocated many of them long before the Government did. But there is unfinished business. I should like to mention three outstanding issues. One is party funding, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Shutt of Greetland. He rather understated the amount of money that has been spent in the past because he referred to the money spent in the 2001 election and not to the much larger sums spent in the 1997 election, when the Conservatives spent £26 million and the Labour Party £28 million.
I think that the time has comeand I hope that the Electoral Commission will say so in its reportfor a cap on the amount that can be given to a political party by any individual or corporation. At the other end, there should be tax relief, perhaps similar to Gift Aid, on small donations to political parties.
Secondly, in its manifesto for the last election, the Labour Party committed itself to a review of voting systems. That review plainly cannot be completed before the election is called, but it could at least be announced and commenced. There has been no action so far, and I hope that that will come before the dissolution of the present Parliament.
Thirdly, and most importantly, is the further reform of your Lordships' House. There has been no movement whatever for five years. The present position is simply not sustainable. Nothing is proposed in the gracious Speech. To some extent, I can understand that, because any proposals will be controversial and not suitable for what is likely to be a short Session of Parliament. But we have made our views clear to the Government.
We believe that three principles must be applied to reform. First, your Lordships' House must contain elected Members. Secondly, those elected Members must, at least by the end of the transitional period, amount to a clear majority of Members of your Lordships' House. Thirdly, those Members must be elected by a democratic and proportional system and not by some half-baked secondary system such as that proposed by Billy Bragg. We greatly welcome the initiative of five senior Members of ParliamentRobin Cook, Tony Wright, Ken Clarke, George Young and my honourable friend Paul Tylerin publishing their proposals for the reform of your Lordships' House and their intention to produce a draft Bill in the new year. I believe that there is wide recognition in all parties, not only in mine, of the need for democratic reform of your Lordship's House.
Today's debate has covered issues that are central to the Government's legislative programme. We need to look and we will look at the items in that programme on their merits. To some, I have indicated that we will give full support. In some cases, we will have to wait to
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see the details before we can make a decision. Others, we will oppose. We recognise that the security of the public from terrorism and from more mundane forms of crime is of enormous importance, but so too are the liberty and freedom of the individual. Terrible evils have been done in the past in the name of security. It is ironic that in revolutionary France the committee of public safety was the vehicle for the terror.
Of course, some restrictions on liberty may have to be imposed for the sake of security, but those restrictions must be imposed only if they are necessary, proportionate to the threat and are measures that are likely to be effective. It is against those benchmarks that we will test the proposals in the Government's programme.
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