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I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. We have not explicitly said crime prevention and crime reduction, but we still have the 15 per cent target for crime reduction, and we are committed to fulfilling it. Part of the reason why we have 44 action areas is that we have identified those areas that are likely to contribute most to our reducing crime agenda. We are working with them on the causes in their area. Local area agreements, local strategic partnerships, crime and disorder reduction partnerships and all the other issues that we have talked about are all going towards crime reduction and crime prevention. That is what the work with youth offending teams, schools, safer school partnerships and all the other matters is about. We touched on those issues when we had the longtwo hoursdebate at the beginning of the Committee. Many of these issues were taken up in that debate.
to the probation aims but, as I mentioned on a number of occasions during our debate last week, the wording of the probation aims is derived from the precedents already enshrined in legislation in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, which currently governs the Probation Service, and in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which sets out the purposes of sentencing. Both the aims and purposes of sentencing already refer to the reduction of reoffendingan aim that can hardly be achieved without considering the causes of reoffending.
Although I am sympathetic to the motivation behind the amendment, I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that it is unnecessary. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. We have already done work on that basis which, we can demonstrate, has properly identified those causes as issues that we must address effectively.
In the light of those points, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment, confident that what he said powerfully about crime reduction, crime prevention and the causes of crime has been heard and is totally understood. Indeed, it is already embedded in our plans to reduce the level of crime in our country.
Lord Northbourne: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. On a technicality of the conduct of this House, I have a paper headed Wednesday 16 May, Offender Management Bill, in which Amendment No. 26 is grouped with Amendments Nos. 25 and 11. Clearly, some Front-Benchers received a different grouping, but no one had the courtesy to send it to me. I am sorry about that, but I guess that some are more equal than others. We will live with that, but I wanted to make it clear that it is not my fault that I did not address the amendment at the time.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No one in the Committee would suggest that it was the fault of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. There were a number of changes in groupings. Noble Lords will know that any noble Lord can ask for their amendment to be degrouped. A number of different models may have been going around and the last model may have been the one to which everyone spoke. That may not have been the right one and we are all relieved that the noble Lord has now had his opportunity to speak to his amendment, as he is entitled to do. We have all had the benefit of that.
Lord Northbourne: I am most grateful for that. Of course I am not being grumpy about it; I just wanted to make my point. Does the Minister acceptI think that she hasthat the reduction of reoffending includes the causes of the reduction of reoffending? Does she further accept that the reduction of reoffending includes the reduction of offending? That is not such a small question as it sounds, because we are talking about what the Probation Service is being asked to do. My question is: is the Probation Service entitledempoweredas a means of reducing reoffending to tackle issues about initial offending?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I certainly agree with the noble Lord that reducing reoffending is part of reducing offending. In order to reduce reoffending, the Probation Service must address the issues to which I have already referred. Those relate to the seven pathways. Addressing the seven pathways could also be used as crime prevention and reduction. Therefore, what we are doing with health, schools, in the DCMS in finding alternative activities for those currently involved in criminal activity, our work with safer school partnerships and other initiatives, go to reduce offending in a crime prevention strategy. The two are intertwined.
I should tell the Committee that consideration is being given about whether we should rebadge the reducing reoffending inter-ministerial group and the reducing reoffending alliances as reducing offending. The two departments are working closely with all the other departments to ensure that it is understood that reducing crime is everyones business. It is not an issue for the criminal justice system alone. We share that responsibility across government. It was for that reason that I was very pleased that all departments that I invited to join the reducing reoffending inter-ministerial group did so with alacrity.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The Minister has alluded to the fact that every Member of this House has a right to speak to their amendment whenever it appears in the list; so whatever happened to the groupings last week, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, had the right to speak to his amendment today. I am very glad that he did, because his last intervention has drawn from the Minister an extremely interesting answer that I will want to read very carefully. My immediate response to his amendment and to the way in which he spoke to it was that of course part of the work of reoffending is to prevent offending, but that reducing offending is a completely different issue in that it deals with different types of people. The whole community must be assisted not to reoffend, not least by ensuring that families have responsibilities and that, as one is brought up, one does not learn to offend. The Ministers answer, however, has made me far more confused than I was before about what tasks the probation services are to be given in the future. If probation providers are to be involved in the reduction of offending, that is very different. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has done the Committee a great service today.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: May I make it absolutely clear that there are two different areas: crime prevention and crime reduction? As the noble Baroness says, there is work that deals with a different category of persons before they offend. Then there is work to reduce reoffending by those who have offended. This is not semantics: I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, says. Inasmuch as one prevents those who have offended in the past from offending again, one is reducing the level of offending overall because one is stopping the people who have already been at it from continuing it. Of course that makes sense.
So there is the role of the National Offender Management Service, which is there to deal with those who have offended and to prevent them reoffending. The other role has been retained by the Home Office and is being undertaken in partnership with the prevention role of the Youth Justice Board, the DfES, the DCMS, the DTI, and the DWP, which gets people into jobs early and ensures skills acquisition. That is all prevention. However, there is an opportunity for both to work together and with wider government, because each contributes part of the continuum. There is no confusion. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that this is part of that continuum. We should not see this as a series of guttural stops, because they are interrelated.
One example is employment. We are trying to encourage a whole spectrum of employers to join us in preventing offending, reducing reoffending and employing those who have reoffended. A bank would be unlikely to employ bank robbers because of the FSA. Obviously it would not be a terribly healthy thing to do, even if they had been rehabilitated, but they may be very good at working with us in schools to try to get skills acquisition and in prevention roles. We may be able to bring those roles together. This is part of a continuum; it is not confusing the two. This is about understanding that if we are to intervene appropriately in crime, we must have the three levels. We must try to prevent those who we feel may be vulnerable to crime from becoming involved. We must reduce the opportunities for offending by working with business, because sometimes we can design crime out, for example by making cars harder to steal and by making mobile phones that are non-transferable. All that helps us to reduce crime. Then there is reducing the level of reoffending. Those three things on occasion have to be conjoined. They may be dealt with by different people, but they are dealt with none the less. That is what I was responding to in respect of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. We are not confusing the two, but we have to see it as a bit of a relay where a baton has to be passed on and we have to work together in order to make the difference that we seek to make. That is what I was saying, and I would not like to mislead the noble Baroness.
Lord Judd: Does my noble friend agree that the importance of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is that yet again it reminds us that, while we must effectively tackle the containment and the protection tasks, it must never be at the expense in presentation, public perception and the national psychology of the greatest challenge, which isI make my point yet againrehabilitation and, through rehabilitation, the avoidance of reoffending.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Of course I agree with my noble friend. But it also demonstrates what a number of Members of the Committee have said: we need to do it all. When we look at a Bill it is important not to stray into extraneous issues. Particularly in Committee we should be looking at the detail of an amendment and deciding whether every dot and tittle is in the right place, so we will be concerned with commas, ands and buts, and so forth. But a general polemic is perhaps not the best thing for us to do. Since we have all enjoyed this debate greatly, I am sure that we will not have to repeat it.
Lord Northbourne: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for what has been, for me, a great clarification of what the Bill was meant to mean. I sincerely saw a difficulty in that there is an overlap between the prevention of crime before the offence and the prevention of reoffending. The noble Baroness has covered that extraordinarily well and I shall look forward to reading what she has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: I try not to bring back amendments that have been tabled by my honourable friends in another place. I do so with this because the core questionat col. 30 on 11 Januaryasked by my honourable friend, Mr James Brokenshire, in Committee in another place was not answered by the Minister. I hope that that will be put right today by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, who I believe will respond.
However, Clause 2(5) provides an exception to that in relation to his duty, which this amendment tries to address. Subsection (5) states that the Secretary of State will not be required to take action or make provisions under subsections (1) and (2),
My honourable friend in another place pointed out that a number of issues arise from that, but one was not addressed. Let us imagine that there is a gap in the provision, as it seems to be envisaged could happen under the subsection. Is it right for the Secretary of State to be able to say merely that he is happy that provision will be made? So, the Secretary of State identifies a gap and just says Okay, there is a gap, but I think that provision will be made, and we will leave it at that.
We have heard clearly from the Government that their intention is to cut reoffending and to protect the publicwe have run over that ground several times. What appears to happen here is that the Secretary of State can sit back and say, Well, I am satisfied that something will be done at some time, so I do not need to step in now. It appears to be that we will be left with a gap in provision that could arise. It may be that the Secretary of State has a good reason for thinking that the gap can exist for some time or that perhaps it is unnecessary to fill the gap at any stage. We need to know for how long the Secretary of State will allow a gap in provision to continue. But, more importantly, how will he make a judgment on whether that gap should be filled and, if it is to be filled, when should that be done? It is a matter of asking how the Secretary of State will judge the importance of a gap in provision in terms of whether it should be filled or not.
I hope that by extrapolating rather more from my honourable friends original words that I have indicated to the Minister what I am trying to reach for here. I am perfectly well aware that no Home Secretary is going to sit back lethargically and say, Well, theres a gap in provision but it will be met somehow or other. Of course they will think, How do I design services to fill that gap and when do I step in?. But we heard earlier from the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that there is a worry that no one will have an overarching view of the quality and amount of provision available, and therefore the Secretary of State may not have the appropriate advice. I beg to move.
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: Taking out the words or will be from Clause 2(5) will tighten up what the Secretary of State is required to do in relation to the provision of probation services. To say that he does not need to take action because probation service provision will be made seems at best to be very vague. Surely it is a requirement that the Secretary of State should be certain that provision is being made, not simply that he has an expectation that it will be. Many a slip can take place in situations where things are not pinned down, and may open the door to lack of rigour particularly, as is likely with the current wording, the Secretary of State is inevitably at some considerable remove from delivery on the ground. Wishful thinking is just not enough and the Bill should be quite clear on the point. This is an example of where a small amendment can make a big difference to delivery on the ground.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I commence with a word of congratulation to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. She always exercises her imagination in bringing forward fresh amendments that reflect thinking different from that of her colleagues in another place, and our debates are enlivened as a consequence. This is an important area for debate. It needs to be examined and I thank the noble Baroness for bringing the amendment forward.
As the noble Baroness has said, under the current legislation the statutory function for ensuring that sufficient provision is made for probation services rests with the local probation board. As she also said, the purpose of Clause 2 is to transfer this function to the Secretary of State to enable a greater range of providers to deliver services in a more flexible and responsive way which we argue will better meet the needs of offenders and, more importantly, those of the communities they affect. That is the key point: it is about providing a better service, so Clause 2(5) does not require the Secretary of State to make provision if it appears to himafter consultation, which is the important pointthat appropriate provision will be made through other means.
The point of subsection (5) is that the Secretary of State is not required to take action in circumstances where it is unnecessary for him to do so. Just as we do not want him to take action where appropriate alternative arrangements are already in place, so we do not want him to have to take action in circumstances where such arrangements will be made, such as where services are to be provided by another department, agency or a part of the voluntary sector. It is also possible that arrangements will be put in place in one year for services to be delivered the next. Our argument is that this would be a waste of resources, create possible duplication of effort and deter alternative provision from being made. We think that the amendment would restrict flexibility and, reflecting an argument that has been aired on many occasions in this Chamber today, it would deflect away from the importance of local autonomy by forcing the Secretary of State into an unnecessary and unwarranted intervention.
If the noble Baroness is concerned about a service failure, that is a different issue from the one being addressed in her amendment. I pose that as a question on which the noble Baroness may wish to reflect before we get to another stage. We believe we have got the wording right and that the way we have structured it means it should ensure that a service is provided whatever happens. We would not want to see any failures in provisionthat is not what we are trying to do here. We are trying to achieve an improved and better quality of provision and service. We are talking not about gaps in provision but about situations where arrangements are in the process of being made and we do not want to go through an unnecessary hoop of duplication. Having heard that explanation, the noble Baroness may feel happy to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: That is a more helpful explanation than the one given in another place and I am grateful to the Minister. At one point in his explanation he referred to the fact that the Secretary of State will be making these judgments after consultation. One of the difficulties that will face those reading this legislation in the future is that if, as I suspect, the Committee agree to government Amendment No. 29, which seeks to take out subsection (6) from the clause and imposes annual plans and consultation elsewhere in the Bill under an annual plans new clause, Clause 2 will read rather differently and ones eyes will not be directed immediately to the issue of consultation.
I accept what the Minister has said and I shall not return to this at the Report stage. I am concerned that, in trying to meet commitments by bringing forward Amendment No. 29, the Government may have slightly skewed Clause 2 and I may need to consider that. I do not think in any sense it will change the meaning of Clause 2, but it does have a different feel to it.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I can assure the noble Baroness that we will look at that point because, if the noble Baroness is right, of course, it would be quite a serious issue. We need to ensure that the wording is consistent and that we have not skewed the issue. I am grateful to her for making the point.
The noble Baroness said: The amendments tabled in my name give effect to two commitments I made at Second Reading. The first is to include in the general duty to consult a specific requirement to consult Welsh Ministers on probation provisions in Wales. The second is to require providers to publish plans.
For the avoidance of doubt and confusion, perhaps I may begin by explaining the technical nature of the three amendments before going on to discuss the substance. In the current version of the Bill, the duty on the Secretary of State to consult on the provision of probation services is set out in Clause 2(6). But it makes sense for the consultation duty to sit alongside the duty to publish plans, for which a new clause was needed. So Amendments Nos. 29 and 33 are simply consequential amendments which remove the references to consultation from the existing Clause 2, so allowing them to be moved to the new clause. It is therefore Amendment No. 70 on which we need to focus.
As to the substance, let me begin with the duty to consult. This is a new development; no such duty exists under the current arrangements. But we see consultation as a crucial part of the process of ensuring that offender and community needs are correctly identified and that the right services are commissioned to meet them. This is not a task for commissioners or probation acting in isolation; we need and we shall seek input from a wide range of stakeholders.
The question of whether it was desirable to list those stakeholders on the face of the Bill was debated in the other place, where no consensus emerged. Some thought a list would be helpful to highlight the key interests, which seems to be the approach favoured by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, but others feared that such a list might result, however unintentionally, in stakeholders not on the list being marginalised. Although there was general agreement that consultation should be wide, different Members highlighted different stakeholders as being important to the process. Clearly we want to consult the judiciary, trusts and other providers of probation services, and the local authority. We also expect providers of custodial services to be included, as well as other criminal justice agencies and bodies involved in the provision of services that contribute to the reduction of reoffending. I could go on and onand, probably, on.
That lack of consensus reflects our own experience in this House last week, when we debated the principles and purposes at some length. In the light of that, we concluded that a list of consultees would not be an especially helpful way to proceed, and that it would be preferable to retain the formulation,
However, we take on board the point made in the other place by the honourable Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, Mr Elfyn Llwyd, that the position of Wales warranted special consideration, especially in view of the close relationship between probation and other services that are devolved to the Welsh Assembly. I am therefore tabling an amendment that includes subsection (1), a specific requirement on the Secretary of State to include Welsh Ministers in his consultation about probation provision for the following year.
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