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Of course, in a changing world we cannot remain static, but we have to question why after nearly 10 years in office the Government are still not clear about their long term goals and why legislation has become a statutory addiction. The fact remains that much criminal justice legislation smacks of short-term political initiatives which have failed to establish a clear vision and the sense of direction we are expected to take.
Let me put on record that the language and sound-bites emanating from the Home Office do little to build public confidence in our criminal justice system. Confidence is shaped by the quality of legislation, not the quantity that we have come to expect over the past decade. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the latest report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which states that,
The committee refers to the case of the Afghani hijackers, the deportation of foreign prisoners and the report on the Anthony Rice case, but I would argue that those comments also apply to other legislative measures contained in the gracious Speech.
Take the issue of foreign prisoners. The debacle of exposing civil servants to public ridicule for administrative incompetence is something that we have never seen before. No one seems to have questioned that successive Governments reduced the IND staff to a level where it was obvious that we were heading for backlogs and other disasters. The point I wish to stress is that the age-old distinction between ministerial and Civil Service accountability has changed. The Home Office needs to establish the confidence and trust of staff and of the public who deal with them.
There is another point that we need to look at. What are the values that guide the Home Office to produce legislation that questions rights and liberties we have cherished for so long? The argument often advanced is about rebalancing the criminal justice system. The focus is shifted from offenders to victims. Let us not forget that between those two extremes is the general public. People are not as punitive as the tabloids or the Government portray them.
I had hoped for legislative changes for the better. Instead, there is the same emphasis of greater and longer use of imprisonment and a singular lack of alternatives to custody, for which no adequate provision has been made. Do we know what works? Why are we obsessed with outputs instead of looking at how effective are the outcomes? Nowhere is that more important than in the effective management of offenders, but the ill-timed speech of the Home Secretary to prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs caused widespread consternation and resentment across the probation service.
There is no ideological debate about who decides or should decide services because staff and probation boards are committed to pluralist provision. The debate on the forthcoming NOMS Bill will not be about the need for many offenders to come together to combat re-offending because that is accepted. It is about how such contributions can best be hastened and organised so as to provide a cohesive service to offenders in ways which avoid confusion and fragmentation.
Those are not my words, they are the words of John Raine, chairman of the Probation Board. The past few years have seen utter confusion about the way the Government have handled prisons, the Probation Service and the National Offender Management Service.
In principle, we should not shy away from the establishment of NOMS as a way of bringing the prison and probation services together and improving their joint work with offenders in custody and in the community. One of the key aims of the legislation promised this Session is to enable regional offender managers to commission more services from voluntary and private sector organisations. Voluntary agencies have extensive experience and expertise in such areas as accommodation, education, employment, mentoring, mental health and addictionsall areas which are crucial to the reduction of reoffending.
As president of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, I am aware of their contribution in those fields. However, I stress the importance of ensuring that services are commissioned on a carefully planned basis which promotes genuine partnership between statutory
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I will express my detailed views on the various proposed pieces of legislation when they come before the House. Rather than itemising their defects now, I propose instead to set out measures which would have formed a preferable basis for a programme to improve law and order than the one set out in the Queen's Speech.
First, any sensible strategy to reduce reoffending must be built around the importance of resettling offenders. Ex-offenders who get and keep a job have their likelihood of reoffending cut by between one-third and one-half. Getting offenders into stable accommodation reduces their reoffending rate by at least one-fifth. One research study found that offenders who received basic skills education reoffended at only one-third the rate of similar offenders who did not receive such help. These effects are also inter-related. For example, it is harder to get and keep a job if you are homeless. The Government should now go further and set targets requiring that every prisoner and every offender supervised by the Probation Service receives appropriate help with accommodation, education and employment in the course of his or her sentence. NOMS should be required to report back to Ministers and Parliament annually against these targets.
Secondly, the Government should establish a specific resettlement service for short-term prisoners. Most of the offenders sent to prison each year receive sentences of less than 12 months. As half the sentence is normally served in custody, in practice most are released after a minimum of six months in prison. Prisoners serving short sentences do not receive supervision from the Probation Service, and their reconviction rates are higher than those of other prisoners. The Government have postponed indefinitely the introduction of custody plus, and it would be helpful if the Minister could say what plans they have to reintroduce this measure.
Thirdly, the Government should introduce legislation to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act along the lines of the recommendation of the Home Office review group on this Acta recommendation which the Government accepted in principle three years ago.
Fourthly, if the prison system is to stand a reasonable chance of rehabilitating prisoners, prisons must not be swamped by the pressure of numbers. The Government should revive their former commitment to setting a target to limit the size of our prison population and to introducing legislation
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Fifthly, if we want to see a more sparing use of prison and a greater use of well-structured community sentences, we will not be able to bring this about behind a smokescreen of tough political rhetoric, because the climate created by such rhetoric helps to bring about harsher sentences. Instead, the Home Secretary should adopt a sustained high-profile strategy to talk down the prison population.
Sixthly, we use custody for young offenders more extensively than do other western European countries. Yet 84 per cent of juveniles leaving prison custody are reconvicted within two years of release. Over a year ago, the Government produced a draft youth justice Bill. Will the Minister say what has happened to that?
Seventhly, the Government should take steps to ensure that community orders supervised by the Probation Service are not used for low-level offenders with little likelihood of re-offending. It is particularly depressing that in many ways the position of minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system is now worse than it was when the Stephen Lawrence inquiry reported. The disproportionate use of stop and search has become even more extreme, and the proportion of the prison population from minority groups is now significantly higher than it was in the late 1990s. In the past decade, the courts have responded to the growing mood of toughness by adopting a more punitive stance towards women offenders. We had an interesting debate in this House about setting up a womens justice board, and I ask the Minister whether he has advanced his thinking on this.
We need a much greater emphasis on prevention than on punishment. Many of those engaged in crime and anti-social behaviour have a background of problems such as inadequate parental supervision, family conflict, parental neglect, abuse, school exclusion, unemployment, substance abuse and mental health problems. We need a strategy that would take into account political courage, particularly in educating the public on the need to reduce the use of imprisonment. In my view, such a strategy is far more likely to reduce crime and re-offending than crowd-pleasing measures designed to increase the harshness of penal policy.
Let me conclude. We do not simply need more legislation. We need analysis and evidence of why such legislation is necessary in formulating government strategies. This is what is lacking, and we shall question the assumptions at the appropriate time.
Lord Luce: My Lords, this is my second shot at a maiden speech in Parliament, but at least I have the consolation that I cannot do worse than I did on the last occasion, in the other place, in the spring of 1971. During my speech, my late mother fell fast asleep and, on being woken by my wife to be told that her son was making a maiden speech, she said, Oh, what a pity. I dreamt that I was in a railway carriage. At least, I suppose, there was something to be said for British Rail, but certainly not for me on that occasion.
It is a great privilege to be a Member of this Chamber and, like so many other noble Lords who have made maiden speeches, I am most impressed by the friendliness of noble Lords and by the strong support of the staff here. I am in a most unusual position compared with most people in that I was introduced to this Chamber in October 2000 when I was made the Lord Chamberlain. The convention, as the House knows, is that the Lord Chamberlain cannot speak or vote, although of course he delivers messages from Her Majesty.
It has been an enormous honour to have served Her Majesty and to have been head of her Household, but now comes a chance for me to participate in the Chamber, although for me it has been like waiting for Godot. We now have yet again a renewed debate on the future of this Chamber. The gracious Speech refers to Her Majestys Government introducing further proposals on reform, and today the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has outlined in a little more detail what he has in mind in the coming months.
I hope that it will not be thought presumptuous of me as a new boy to give first impressions, having served in another place for 21 years and having observed procedures and proceedings a little here more recently. I start from an assumptionlistening to this debate, I think that it may be a wrong one, but I hope that it is broadly rightthat there is to be no overall major change in the contemplated relationship between this Chamber and the other place. That is to say that the elected Chamber has primacy and that relations are governed by Parliament Acts, by the position on financial privilege and by the various conventions. On that basis, I am unashamedly in favour of retaining appointed Members under the Life Peerages Act 1958, although I accept that there is plenty of scope to improve things further. I say that because I think that there is clear evidence that the role played by appointed Members has been very effective in enabling the House of Lords to fulfil its current tasks.
I am struck by a conversation that took place rather a long time agoin fact, over 200 years agobetween Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Jefferson asked Washington why he thought it necessary to have a second chamber. Of course in the States, that was the Senate. Washington answered, Why do you tip your coffee from the cup into the saucer?. Jefferson replied, To cool it. Washington said, We pour legislation into the Senate for that same reason. Of course the United States Senate is an elected chamber, but I stress that, in our circumstances, 40 years of experience in the appointment of well over 1,000 appointed Members show how well that role can be fulfilled by this Chamber. It has been a typically British pragmatic evolution.
This age has something of a mania for change. Some is needed, but much is not justified. I do not, however, go as far as Lord Palmerston, who, when asked by Queen Victoria to consider some change, is supposed to have said, Change, maam, change? But arent things bad enough already?. We need to be
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I would like to think that there is sufficient common groundI hope that that is the caseto say that the role of this Chamber is to provide an independent counterbalance to the other place, with a revising, reflecting, deliberative task. It provides time for second thoughts in a Chamber that is freer from executive and partisan control, fortified by at least 20 per cent of its Members being totally independent. Against that background, what is most striking is to observe the astonishing range of expertise, experience and wisdom that emerges from this Chamber. One has only to observe the debate and discussion on the gracious Speech to see that. When discussing education we had former vice-chancellors, heads of college, academics and former Secretaries of State. In the debate last Monday on foreign affairs and defence, we had former Foreign and Defence Secretaries, service chiefs and ambassadors. Our debate on criminal justice today sees former Law Lords, Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, chief constables and Chief Inspectors of Prisons, as well as Bishops. Equally, I have observed in the revision of legislation how valuable the expertise of this Chamber is.
I am conscious that in a maiden speech one should be uncontroversial and I had hoped that my training in diplomacy as a former Foreign Office Minister would have helped, but I am not sure whether I am going to succeed, save simply to say that I remain to be convinced that the elected element, if it were to come about in this Chamber, would not radically alter the relationship between the two Houses. At the moment I am not clear how it will improve the current role of the House of Lords. Moreover, this is at a time when much work needs to be done to strengthen trust in the existing democratic elected bodies with their very many layers, which range from the other place, the European Parliament, Wales and Scotland, to the tiers of local government. The Lords can surely reinforce the democratic system by providing a highly effective and efficient scrutiny of the Government while accepting the primacy of the elected Chamber.
I certainly retain a very open mind on the many proposals that have been put forward, not least from the commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham. They range from putting an appointments commission on a statutory basis, thus making it more accountable and transparent and in this way perhaps
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Baroness Thornton: My Lords, it is an honour and a pleasure to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Luce, to your Lordships House. However, I can hardly say welcome him, given our familiarity with him already and considering his distinguished service to Her Majesty as Lord Chamberlain of the Queens Household for the past six years. However, I can say what a delight it is to hear his own voice in the House and to welcome his maiden speech. I am sure that I am reflecting the view of noble Lords when I say how much we look forward to the contributions that he will now be able to make and how much the House will benefit from his wisdom and views from the Cross Benches. The noble Lord served in another place for many years and, as he remarked, was a Minister of State. He brings to us his huge experience of international affairs and the world of business, while his maiden speech today has also revealed that he is poised, in the next stage of his career, to distinguish himself on the Benches of your Lordships House.
Over the past six years, the noble Lord has fulfilled with grace and great effectiveness his duties as Lord Chamberlain. I have to say that when I realised the order in which I had drawn this debate, my first thought was, Oh crumbs! This is the guy who has been writing to me for the past few years! However, I found his letters to be a tribute to plain English and his office unfailingly helpful. I am sure that noble Lords will join me in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Luce. We look forward to the powerful contribution that he will make to your Lordships House.
It is always an enormous pleasure to welcome the contribution of erudition and learning from the Bishops Bench. That was more than amply demonstrated by the contribution of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. If I may be so bold, partly in response to the question raised by the most reverend Primate at the beginning of his speech about the position of Bishops in your Lordships House, I feel bound to say that notwithstanding their invaluable contributionI have worked with many of them over the years and I think that they would all be here on their own meritI believe that our discussions on reform have to include the position of the church being represented as of right in the second Chamber. However, right reverend Prelates might take some comfort from the fact that, when I raised the issue at my own party meeting, I received a somewhat dusty
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I want to talk about the need to address reoffending. I will tell the story of a young man who was sent to prison for robbery. He received a four-year sentence, but today he is in the first year of a psychology degree course at Bristol University. While in prison, he was recruited by National Grid and completed his training in 2003. He was then employed by AMEC until March 2005. Subsequently, he did a years access course before applying to and being accepted at Bristol to take a degree. He intends to go into occupational therapy and has asked that his thanks should be recorded here and recognition given to National Grid and AMEC. He said that,
I welcome the Governments intention to bring forward proposals for offender management and hope that the opportunity afforded by the discussions will add to the effectiveness of NOMS. However, it is my belief that a great deal can be achieved without legislation, but rather with imagination and good will, and with the Government embracing and fulfilling their enabling role and fighting the temptation in some parts of the Home Office towards command and control. I am hopeful that the leadership at NOMS of Helen Edwards, with her experience of the voluntary sector, heralds a new era, in which there will be some recognition that the work of the private sector and voluntary organisations can provide help and significantly support the reduction of reoffending.
Many noble Lords know about the successful and pioneering offender programme run by National Grid that started in HM Young Offender Institution and Remand Centre Reading in 1999. From modest beginnings and with diligent evaluation at every stage, the programme is now operating in adult prisons and, at the last count, involved over 500 offenders in more than 20 prisons for category C and D prisoners and young offenders. Over 80 different companies have provided jobs and training. The reoffending rate on the programme is remarkably low, at 7 per cent when last calculated, compared with a national reoffending rate for young offenders of over 80 per cent and 64 per cent for adult offenders. I am grateful to Dr Mary Harris, the director of the National Grid offender programme, and her team for providing me with a briefing and facts and figures about this programme, and I should like to place on the record my huge admiration for Sir John Parker and his company for their leadership of this programme across British industry.
I want to look closely at the programme because it points to opportunities and offers lessons on where the Government could improve their own practices in the more general context of reducing reoffending. At least 70 per cent of the offenders in the programme are in the jobs to which they were appointed two years ago. The programme costs £10,000 per offender, all of which has been met by industry without any funding or support from government. I estimate that this programme has saved the Government many millions of pounds in the reduction of reoffending.
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