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4.23 pm

Lord Fowler: My Lords, I pay tribute to the substantial progress now being attempted in HIV/AIDS, but I seek further clarity on what the noble Baroness said and what has been agreed. The pledge at Gleneagles was that the G8 nations would come,

But, in the communiqué issued at the end of the summit, paragraph 58 stated that G8 countries will,

Does that not mean in practice that the pledge has been watered down, and that by 2010 several people will be left without treatment?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, that is not my understanding. I understand that the commitment is that, by 2010, no one will lack access to treatment because of lack of funding. The G8 Governments have said that they will meet any shortfall in funding, such as that to the global fund on HIV/AIDS, to ensure that that commitment is met. There has been a tenfold increase in the number of people on anti-retrovirals in sub-Saharan Africa. The total number is now more than 1 million; that is, 23 per cent of those who need treatment. We have also invested in trying to find an AIDS vaccine. There are a number of different parts to the commitment; the commitment to universal access has not been watered down.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, following on from the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, surely the commitment has been halved. Examination of the details shows that universal access by 2010 would have included 10 million to 16 million people. The communiqué talks about 5 million. Even then, it has no concrete timetables, proposals or commitments to get to that point. Surely, therefore, the noble Lord is right that there has been a serious falling-away from what was promised at Gleneagles, rather than a further commitment to it.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, there is confusion about WHO figures and UNAIDS figures. The WHO says that 7 million people will need treatment by 2010. Based on that assessment, the G8’s share of the funding would be given to ensuring that 5 million people had access to that treatment. That is how it works. Other countries make commitments that are not part of the G8. Just before the G8 summit, UNAIDS announced that the number may increase because of changes to the protocols used for HIV/AIDS, but that has not yet been firmed up. The commitments were made on the basis of the WHO figures in all good faith. If those figures change, the G8 commitment will need to change.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, am I right that the German Chancellor said that the conference between the African Union and the European Union will go ahead as planned in December even if Mugabe attends? That would be entirely opposed to the policy stated by Portugal, which will chair that conference. The German Chancellor also said:

That seems to be a misunderstanding. The European Union is not working against Africa; it is doing an extremely commendable job in helping Africa. So far, the European Union has unanimously opposed Mugabe’s murderous elite. Chancellor Merkel’s policy, if it is her policy, is entirely contrary to what we have said in the past. Has it been agreed with the European Union? Has it been agreed with Her Majesty’s Government?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am not aware that EU policy on this issue has changed. UK policy on this issue has certainly not changed.

Lord Jay of Ewelme: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to commend Chancellor Merkel on the outcome of the summit, and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is right to commend the Prime Minister on his efforts over the past two years in helping to bring about the outcome at Gleneagles and Heiligendamm. I particularly welcome the progress on climate change, due partly to a move by the United States but also by the presence at Heiligendamm of the representatives of China and India. Can the Minister say whether, even if there is not to be a G13 in the future, it is inconceivable now that there could be a G8 summit dealing with the big global issues that does not include at least China and India?

I also welcome the progress on aid to Africa, but it is only a small step along a long road. Could the noble Baroness also confirm that the Government will continue to put strong pressure on other Governments to fulfil the aid commitments agreed at the Gleneagles summit?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, given what has happened at the last few G8 summits—initially the African leaders who had formed the NePAD initiative were included, and when the Prime Minister put climate change at the top of the Gleneagles agenda, China, India and others were invited, particularly in respect of climate change but also on trade—it is inconceivable that countries such as China and India will not have a role in future G8 summits.

Clearly we have a long way to go on aid to Africa, but we also have to recognise that aid is only a part of this. The key issue is to ensure that there is greater investment in African countries so that they can develop their economies and, through that process, put money into basic services such as health and education. I am pleased that the Japanese have already said that they will maintain the pressure to keep Africa on the agenda because this has to be a long-term commitment.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I apologise to the Minister for not being here at the beginning of her Statement, but I have read it and hope that she will give me leave to ask a question. At the summit did the G8 Ministers have the chance to discuss whether China could be brought more into the question of Darfur, particularly in persuading the Sudanese Government that they must make greater effort to make peace in that troubled region? Does the Minister agree that, in order to demonstrate to the rebel groups in Darfur that peace is a serious option, it is incredibly important that we get on with the development in southern Sudan, which has recently made peace with the Government in Khartoum and where very slow progress is being made, so that people can see that peace works and military action does not?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Baroness may be aware that there are ongoing discussions with China on Darfur, partly under the UN Security Council umbrella, but also in other fora, including the G8. She is right; it is clear that we have to demonstrate that there is a peace dividend, which we are limping towards in southern Sudan. It has been much slower than I think we would all have wished, but we are beginning to see some little green shoots as a result of the deal a couple of years ago.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, the Minister referred to the intention now to proceed to strong sanctions on Darfur. Was any effort made by the Prime Minister and others to secure the support of President Putin for that, since we can be sure that so far China, Russia and, I am afraid, South Africa frequently have resisted any effort to do anything about the Sudan? Was any serious effort made this time to secure support before it goes to the United Nations again?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I think that, given her background, the noble Baroness understands that there is always serious effort to secure support before issues are taken on the floor at the UN, particularly the Security Council. In answer to an earlier question, I made it absolutely clear that, around the UN table, the permanent members of the Security Council do not all necessarily share the same view on the use of sanctions, not just in relation to Sudan over Darfur but in other instances as well. This is a continuing issue that we need to discuss in all the fora available to us. We will continue to do that.

Offender Management Bill

4.35 pm

House again in Committee.

Clause 14 [Power of detention in contracted out prisons and secure training centres]:

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 100:

The noble Viscount said: I apologise for being slightly late for the resumption of the Committee. I shall speak also to Amendment No. 102. Clause 14 gives prison custody officers in contracted-out prisons and secure training centres powers to detain visitors where it seems that the visitor has committed an offence under Sections 39 to 40D of the Prison Act 1952. Both amendments seek to ensure that the new provisions in Part 2 meet adequately the intentions of Clause 14 as a whole. They are probing in nature because, if implemented, they would prevent the detention of any visitor to a prison, which I should like to make clear is not our intention. Rather, they seek to tease out exactlywho will fall under the ambit of Clause 14.

If accepted, the amendments would ensure that only those entering the prison as visitors to those held in custody or those working as employees of the prison would be subject to the new detainment laws. Currently, the Bill is so widely drawn that it would apply to representatives of the voluntary sector as well. The Minister in another place made it clear that the provisions of Clause 13, which was then Clause 11, were targeted at “criminality via visits”. I hope that the Minister will be able to provide further insight into this definition. Can he also confirm whether he expects representatives of the voluntary sector to be included among those who may be stopped, searched and detained for up to two hours? We are keen to ensure that, while the most appropriate security measures are in place, this specific function of the Bill is clarified. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The differences between public sector and private prisons that both this clause and related Clause 13 regarding search powers are intended to resolve relate to practices that are both unnecessary and inefficient. They create different operating practices between the two sectors, which in our view are detrimental to operations and security. Clause 13 gives police custody officers equivalent searching powers to those of prison officers in the public sector because, as the noble Viscount will know, the trafficking of drugs and other contraband is an operational problem that simply does not recognise the difference between public and private prisons. If we are to give PCO staff equivalent powers to detect smuggling activity, we must also give them powers to detain those undertaking it. However, we have specifically acknowledged that, given that we are dealing with employees of private companies rather than the Crown, tight controls should be placed on their powers of detention. For that reason we have not provided PCOs with broad constabulary powers as enjoyed by their public sector counterparts. Further, in the clause we have expressly limited the circumstances in which the power can be used and the maximum period of detention.

Against that background, the amendment is in any event fundamentally flawed, as it seeks to limit the detention powers of a PCO to other employees of the prison and to exclude from them visitors, who are the major source of trafficked items. We need this power to apply to all persons who may be attempting to bring items into the prison, which is why the clause was drafted as it was. It is designed to cover everyone, including visitors and those working in a prison, except the prisoners themselves.

Accepting this amendment would, as I am sure the noble Viscount would acknowledge, send a message to those who seek to smuggle items such as drugs into private prisons that they may attempt to do so at no risk to themselves. If detected, they would simply be able to walk away, with staff powerless to do anything to deal with the problem. That cannot be right. Indeed, it is precisely that result that the clause was intended to prevent.

Finally, and importantly, the amendments would create a disparity between what could be done in the private and public sectors when a criminal offence was suspected, for which there is no sensible justification. In any event, the amendment is flawed not only in purposive terms but in the manner of its drafting. A close reading of the amendment reveals that it excludes from the power to detain many of those “in” a prison by inserting the word “employed” before it, but does not at all deal with those “seeking to enter” such a prison. The latter remain liable to be detained under this amendment. It seems unlikely that this was an intended consequence of the drafting, as it leads to an anomalous outcome.

We will require contractually that staff be trained in how to exercise these new powers. In addition, sensible safeguards will have been put in place with regard to both the period of detention and the circumstances in which the power can be used. The contracts covering private prisons will continue to specify procedures to be followed and will place penalties, including financial penalties, on non-compliance. We also have the controller to monitor the application of the power, and other changes that we are proposing are intended to free up more of the time to undertake such tasks.

The noble Viscount asked whether the power would capture those in the voluntary sector. The measure is aimed at providing a flexible power to ensure that anyone reasonably suspected of an offence under the Prison Act 1952 can be detained. It would be wrong to exclude those visiting on a professional basis, although I anticipate that the power will be used primarily for those making social visits. The power needs to be there in extremis to cover those cases, but its use would have to be proportionate in the circumstances. Having said that, I hope that the noble Viscount will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Bridgeman: I am most grateful to the Minister for that explanation and, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 101:

The noble Viscount said: This follows on naturally from what the Minister was just saying on the previous amendment. My Amendments Nos. 101 and 103 would add valuable safeguards to the Bill to accompany the new power of detention given to prison officers. Currently, nothing in the Bill attaches specific child safety protection and welfare training in relation to the detention power. Given that a large number of people will be implementing this new power who will not have any experience of holding people in custody, it is vital that they are given the appropriate training in respect of detention, safe handling and the proper management of custody.

The Minister will not have forgotten that we will shortly debate the provisions for a duty of care owed to those held in custody. I do not believe that we need to rehearse those arguments again. The principle has been accepted by the Government that the Prison Service, in whatever form, owes a duty of care to those held in custody. Noble Lords have made it clear that they hope that there will imminently be such provisions in the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill. These amendments would be an essential and helpful addition to those providing prison services. I beg to move.

Lord Ramsbotham: I support the amendment from my own experience of seeing the lack of training among both public and private sector custody officers, which has always caused me considerable concern. In the previous days in Committee, we discussed the training of probation officers and the need for a long—indeed, degree-based—course in their work.

To my mind, the custody officer, who has a very difficult task quite apart from the elements that are mentioned in the amendments, such as child safety, does not get good enough training to do their job, which is increasingly complex. It is small wonder that there are many problems connected with activities such as looking after young people, people with mental health problems or foreign nationals. Those run into problems because the staff are not trained to deal with them. Indeed, I always remember an inspection of a young offender establishment that we had criticised for the appalling way in which children were being mistreated. The staff appealed to me to inspect them because they had not been trained to look after those particular people, and therefore that activity was an unfair burden on them.

The Bill discusses the management of offenders. That management depends on the staff being able to carry out their tasks. If there is not a clear demand in the Bill that sets out the whole raison d’ĂȘtre of that management and reflects the amount of training necessary to qualify people to carry out the tasks on the public’s behalf in these places, the Bill is defective. We should seriously consider whether these amendments should go into it.

4.45 pm

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: I support the amendments. In these clauses, the powers of search and detention are being extended to the contracted- out and privately run YOIs and the STCs, all of which are privately run. That means that custody officers could be in the position of searching a child visitor. The management and the handling of visitors in prison is an extremely sensitive areathat has to be properly and professionally managed. Although the notes to the Bill will be exercised in line with the relevant prison and YOI rules, there is no explicit reference to child safety, protection and welfare safeguards. This is a real and serious concern, so we support the amendments.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: I support Amendments Nos. 101 and 103. It is of paramount importance that any custody officer is adequately trained to a high standard, especially when they are dealing with young people. I am sure that the Minister will tell the Committee that the Government support a high standard, and obviously I am pleased about that, but I hope that he will forgive me for being a little sceptical and for wanting to see this safely written into the Bill—if for no other reason than the fact that what happens today may not always happen tomorrow. The amendments would ensure that such standards did not slip and would remind those who run private prisons that some of the public, including politicians, will keep their eye on how they run those prisons, not only now but in the future.

Lord Dholakia: I apologise that I was slightly late coming into the Chamber. I support the amendments, because I was a member of a board of visitors at a prison in the old days and have worked for the Police Complaints Authority. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, we expect custody officers to perform a very difficult task. The largest number of complaints that I used to receive at the PCA concerned custody officers. They have a very delicate task. It is not disputed that training and, to an extent, the method of recruitment of custody officers would help to resolve this problem, but we are trying, in the interests of children, to put into the Bill an amendment that would be a safeguard. I do not think that any person in their right mind could refuse to accept it. I hope that the Minister will consider seriously what he can come up with so that the interests of children are protected.

Lord Judd: I, too, apologise for not being here at the outset; I was at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

This is not a theoretical issue. There has been all too much evidence in recent years of things going wrong with children in our custodial system. Therefore, it seems crucial not just to anguish about what has happened in the past but to put in the Bill measures to ensure that these things will not happen in the future. Whatever our feelings about wrongdoing and crime, the moment of initial custody may for many youngsters be the most traumatic moment of all. It therefore seems particularly important that the people handling that stage understand everything that is involved for the young person, psychologically as well as physically.

The Earl of Listowel: I, too, apologise for not being here when the amendment was moved. The noble Baroness may have referred to the five-day juvenile awareness staff programme introduced to prepare custody officers to work with children. It is a step forward—a very small one, given that the programme lasts only five days—but I would be grateful to hear how far it has been rolled out. Can we expect every custody officer working with children to have gone through the JASP course?

In Norway, prison officers have a two-year course of training. First, they simply have a responsibility as a turnkey and in their second year they go to correction college, or whatever it is called. They have access to a dummy prison and are encouraged to travel, perhaps coming to England to see what we do here. They are obliged to undertake a period of community service so that they learn about the sort of clients with whom they are dealing. I suggest that that is what we should aim for when we are talking about reform of these services for adults and especially children. It troubles me that we do not yet have really good supervision for custody officers, and I hope that that will improve. One hears on visits to these settings that the younger the offender, the more difficult they are to manage and the more expertise is required to do it well. I hope that the Minister can provide some reassurance. I strongly support the amendments.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I am sure that mine will be the last voice on this amendment. The amendment is crucial because so many children in custody suffered abuse in the past. Therefore, it is even more traumatic if they are tackled inappropriately.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I fully recognise that the basis of the amendments, tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, my noble friend Lord Judd and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is a concern to ensure, quite properly, that staff are competent to do their jobs and that we have the right safeguards to ensure that security and decent treatment of prisoners are not compromised. I especially understand the concerns about those detained in youth custody and secure training centres. The Committee will not be surprised to know that I share many of those concerns and that the Government are utterly committed to the maintenance of high standards of service delivery because we recognise that that is the only way to achieve the results on which there is a comity of view.


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