12 Jun 2007 : Column 1583

House of Lords

Tuesday, 12 June 2007.

The House met at half-past two: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Chester.

Youth Justice Board

Baroness Stern asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the Youth Justice Board remains key in implementing our strategy for children and young people who offend or who are at risk of offending. At present, we have no specific plans for further development. The creation of the Ministry of Justice provides the opportunity for the various parts of the justice system to work together better. Agencies such as the Youth Justice Board will have a critical role to play in making that a reality.

Baroness Stern: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Has she had time to study the comments of the Durham coroner at the end of the inquest into the suicide of 14 year-old Adam Rickwood, who was on remand in a children’s prison? Adam hanged himself just after he had been restrained and had had pain inflicted on him by four male staff because he would not go to his room. Is restraint using pain infliction still being used today on children in secure training centres to get them to do what they are told? Will the Minister now set up an urgent and thorough review of the restraint of children in prison using pain infliction, as called for by the Durham coroner?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, Adam’s death is a tragedy. We are following up the coroner’s recommendation at the inquest of an urgent review of the legal position of the use of physical restraint to ensure good order and discipline in secure training centres, and I shall of course keep the noble Baroness informed.

Lord Elton: My Lords, will the Government publish last November’s report of the Youth Justice Board on past abuse suffered by children in custody and a way forward, which seems to be very germane to this issue? Can the noble Baroness tell us which Minister in the department will be responsible for the board?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I do not think that we have any plans to publish the report. The Minister responsible will be my honourable friend Bridget Prentice.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, does the Minister recollect that in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which set up the board, there was a very important provision enabling the board to make grants to local government for the purpose of stimulating and developing good practices among children and young persons, for saving young persons who are at risk and for making various provisions for research and allied objects? How much has been spent in total on those grants in the six years or so of the board’s existence? If that information is not available, can the Minister say how much was spent in the past financial year?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the Youth Justice Board has a grant in aid, mainly from the offender management area, of about £417 million in total. Of that, around £42 million goes directly to youth offending teams to support programmes which we believe are critical to the success of the youth justice system and which will incorporate some of the elements to which the noble Lord referred. The YJB also spends £18.5 million on resettlement and aftercare provisions. He rightly referred to the provisions within the Act and the terms of reference under which the Youth Justice Board was set up about the importance of working closely with local authorities to develop these programmes further. If I can get more detailed figures for the noble Lord, I shall do so and place a copy in the Library of the House.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, according to reports, Adam Rickwood had a long history of mental disturbance and had been admitted to hospital seven times with incidents of self-harm. In her plans for the Youth Justice Board, does the Minister intend to ensure that such vulnerable children get the treatment they need and are not sent to totally unsuitable establishments, such as STCs?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, there is no doubt that in trying to tackle the issue of the 3 per cent of young offenders who end up in a custodial setting, we need to bear in mind their physical and mental needs during their time in custody. I hope that the noble Baroness is reassured that this is one of the issues kept at the forefront of our thinking.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, is the structure of the youth offending teams likely to remain the same? Will the process of monitoring and evaluating their work remain the same?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, 157 youth offending teams are monitored, as my noble friend will know, by the Youth Justice Board. The proposals set out in the recent Government White Paper Strong and Prosperous Communities will enable the Youth Justice Board to align the performance framework for youth offending teams with those new arrangements. Youth offending teams are also inspected as part of the five-year cycle by nine national inspectorates led by HM Inspectorate of Probation, and new performance assessments of those services have been introduced as part of the reforms in Every Child Matters. I hope that that gives my noble friend a flavour of the holistic approach to ensuring that the teams are monitored effectively.

Lord Henley: My Lords, the department’s new manifesto, Justice—A New Approach, sets out how the new Ministry of Justice intends to proceed. It comments on youth justice that:

an idea that could have been expressed in a more felicitous phrase. Does that reflect a 26 per cent increase in youth crime since 2002?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, we have increased our ability to bring young offenders through the court system, as is necessary to ensure that we not only deal with and tackle issues raised by youth offending but find ways to ensure that these young people do not reoffend. As I have already indicated, the percentage of those receiving custodial sentences is around 3 per cent.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, will the Minister expand a little more on the question of the noble Lord, Lord Elton? If there is such a report, it would be helpful in understanding what is happening on children and previous abuse and how they should be treated in the future. Will she explain why the Government do not propose to publish this report? Is there any real reason?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I indicated that I have not been told of any plans to publish it. As your Lordships have asked the question again, I will of course take the point back to my honourable friend Bridget Prentice and get a fuller answer for the noble Baroness.

Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, the number of children in custody at the end of March was 2,870. That is an increase of 85 on the same time last year. Is the Minister content with that figure, which absorbs 70 per cent of the budget of the Youth Justice Board, or would she prefer to see more of its budget spent on diversion and prevention?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I do not underestimate, for one moment, the importance of diversion and prevention in ensuring that our young people do not end up in custody. The figures I have for those in the under-18 secure estate on 11 June are 2,445 in offender institutions, 245 in secure training centres and 229 in secure children’s homes. The proportion of juvenile offenders receiving a custodial sentence has reduced.

Passports: Interviews

2.44 pm

Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, further to the Written Ministerial Statement made by Joan Ryan, the Minister responsible for immigration, nationality and citizenship, on 20 March 2007 in another place, I can confirm that passport interviews have started in two locations. Passport interviews will be introduced at the remaining 67 offices progressively through to the end of 2007. We are working to make interviews available in remote communities via secure telecommunications from early 2008.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. I looked at the website and saw that only two offices are operating at the moment—in Glasgow and Belfast. How can the Minister reconcile that with the Answer that I received on 12 October 2006? It stated:

Secondly, if the Home Office is unable to put together the 69 passport interview offices, is it not time for the identity card scheme, to which they are linked, to be totally scrapped?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, absolutely not. Noble Lords behind me wholeheartedly agree. The noble Lord will know that this system must be rolled out appropriately and in a measured way. We must secure the correct addresses. We have done all that. I assure the noble Lord that very soon we will have a further roll-out, which should satisfy everyone—even, I hope, the noble Lord.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, does my noble friend recall the questions that I asked when this was proposed about the use of Crown post offices for the purpose? Does she agree that it would be much better to give the Post Office some work back, rather than to keep taking it away, as the Government do?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we all believe in the importance of the use of post offices. My noble friend will remember that the Post Office was able to bid for this work. I say nothing about why it did or did not do so, but post offices are a very valuable resource and nothing that we do about the interview centres will in any way impinge on or detract from that value.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, passports and identity are serious matters for fraud in this country. The new UK Borders Bill will put further pressure on people applying for new passports. Is the Minister satisfied that the remaining 67 passport offices will be fully operational by the time the UK Borders Bill, which we will debate tomorrow, is on the statute book?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the most appropriate question to ask is whether they will be ready by the time that they need to be used. Noble Lords will know that the UK Borders Bill will be the last part of the jigsaw that will put the system in place, but the implementation will be very important. Fifty-nine offices have now been acquired—10 are still under negotiation—but we are well on track and confident that those processes will continue at a proper speed.

Lord Henley: My Lords, will be noble Baroness be giving the same answer to the House on identity cards in three weeks’ time, when we have a new Prime Minister?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am in the comfortable position of speaking on behalf of the Government. To the best of my knowledge and belief, there will be no change of government in the next three weeks.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, will the data on identity cards be shared with all the other countries of the European Union, in the light of the agreement that is about to be made on data-sharing?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I commend the noble Lord on getting Europe into this question. This procedure has not changed any of the things that we have said from this Dispatch Box for the past 10 years.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, when we debated this matter a few weeks ago, the noble Baroness mentioned interviewing from remote locations by means of webcams. I referred to the particular case of Anglesey and expressed the hope that there would be facilities in Llangefni, Amlwch, Trearddur Bay, Holyhead, and so on. I now understand that there will not be remote interviewing facilities in any of those places and that the residents of Anglesey will all have to travel to Bangor for interviews. How will they be able to afford those expensive journeys?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Bassam said in response to our earlier debate, we are looking at the average price of travel. The remote locations are being worked out carefully with local authorities to make sure that people do not have to travel inappropriate distances. All of that work continues, and we still believe that we have made appropriate provision for those who will need to travel.


2.51 pm.

Lord Eden of Winton asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Government are working to conserve forests in these countries through payments for reduced emissions from deforestation and other actions. In March 2007, the UK announced a £50 million contribution to conserve the Congo basin rainforests. In addition, DfID is helping the Democratic Republic of Congo to identify alternatives to industrial logging, supporting new work to help on forest law enforcement and governance in Latin America, and improving forest governance and reduced deforestation in Indonesia.

Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, I declare an interest in that I am involved with the work of the Rainforest Foundation. I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. Will she take note of the fact that, quite often, large sums of money given or sent to Governments are diverted and wasted? Will she therefore note the clear advice given in the recent Stern report to the effect that local communities should be involved and that, wherever possible, this Government should take the lead in working through locally based NGOs to identify who owns the forest lands and what rights they should have?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I salute the noble Lord’s work on rainforests throughout the world. We do indeed take heed of the advice from Sir Nicholas Stern that policies on limiting deforestation should be shaped and led by the nations where those forests stand. For that reason, we have given £50 million to the Congo basin. The whole project is managed by Professor Wangari Maathai, who I am sure all noble Lords would agree is the person best placed and with the most appropriate knowledge to manage that money on behalf of the Congo basin.

Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their ongoing efforts to stop illegal logging, but is the Minister conscious of the fact that the Stern report estimates that 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions every year are caused by deforestation? Will the Government redouble their efforts to get an international agreement, which probably would involve paying countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Brazil not to allow deforestation?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Government are very conscious of the contribution made by deforestation to climate change. For that reason, we have redoubled our efforts and are working with the relevant countries and in partnership with the EU and the G8 to try to combat the problem and reach an international agreement, as my noble friend suggests.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, the noble Baroness has just referred to work with the EU. Is she optimistic that the EU will legislate to tackle illegal logging? Given that China is often a route for this particular trade, can she say whether a ban would reach down the supply chain as opposed to applying only wherever the wood has been immediately exported from?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Commission will present its proposals later this year. The UK Government have been following this very closely, and I am confident that real action will be taken. On the supply chain, I am afraid that I shall have to respond to the noble Baroness in writing, but I should say that I have noted that the Conservative leadership is also in favour of EU action on this subject, and I welcome that.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, further to the G8 summit declaration on the vital importance of reducing deforestation, what are the Government’s plans for including forest carbon in their own UK emissions cap and trade system?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we are reviewing this matter. We are in discussion with our partners in this country, in the G8 and in the EU, and the matter will be considered in depth in December at the meeting in Bali.

Lord Brookman: My Lords, I declare an interest in that a member of my immediate family works for Survival International. It is concerned about logging but is more interested in the people living in these areas, who are being removed from their land, from their habitat, so to speak. What do the Government think about that? Is it on the radar screen of our agenda that people living in the Amazon region and elsewhere face serious difficulties as a consequence of logging?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Yes, my Lords. Much of DfID’s work in the Congo basin and in Indonesia is with the indigenous populations and civil societies of those countries. This is to ensure that the people who live in the forests can remain there, develop their capacity to manage those forests and find alternative livelihoods if necessary.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, returning to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Eden, what is being done to ensure that the funds reach the intended recipients? In a country such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 4 million people have died in the past 15 years, which is regularly plundered by its neighbours and where there is no civil society worth talking about, what guarantees do we have that the money is not being embezzled and going into the pockets of crooked politicians?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Government and their international partners are monitoring these issues extremely closely. We are also working on governance in those countries precisely to ensure that the people working there develop the necessary capacity to administer those funds in a non-corrupt way.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Government could support the use of credits for avoided deforestation in the clean development mechanism? Not all logging is illegal, but there has to be some incentive to stop it.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Yes, my Lords. As I understand it, that is one of the issues under consideration. We would welcome further discussion on these issues.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, are the Government sufficiently aware of the condition of migrant workers sent, in appalling conditions, to the north-east of Brazil? Is the Minister aware of the ILO’s efforts to improve those conditions, and what are we doing about it?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the noble Earl has drawn this important matter to the Government’s attention on other occasions. We are certainly aware of it and, as he will know, we provide funding to the ILO to work with workers so that they are not exploited in the way that they currently are.

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, in encouraging the use of biofuels, what steps are the Government taking to ensure that those biofuels are not grown at the expense of forests, which are frequently cut down to provide ground on which other crops can be grown?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, as I understand it, we are developing monitoring systems with our partners precisely to ensure that biofuels are from sustainable forests only. If I am wrong, I shall certainly write to the noble Lord.

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