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Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I am aware that we shall not be detained long with this, but I rise to express my regret and sadness that in the list of institutions that have been referred to, STCs have been included. Secure training centres are secure

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institutions for children as young as 12 and it is now formally on the books that we in this country imprison children as young as 12. Anyone with experience of children who require secure accommodation, as I and many others in this place have, recognises that prison is no place for a child, especially a very disturbed offending child. However awful their crime may be—and they can be awful—children are none the less children and they need the welfare, support, understanding and therapy that goes hand-in-hand with the sort of secure children's homes that we have always argued for.

I will leave it at that and just say that I hope that the House will note that this is a very sad moment.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her comments. I understand the sentiment behind them. I said that it was a technical amendment and that is exactly what it is. It is proposed for consistency in the legislation and to ensure that the language is right. Of course it is sad that people as young as 12 have to be confined. That will not change as a product of the amendment. The amendment secures the position that when young offenders are older—when they reach the age of 18 or 20—the Probation Service is legitimately enabled to work with them. This technical amendment is simply a reflection of that in part. Again, although I understand the sentiments expressed by the noble Baroness, thankfully not too many 12 year-olds have to be detained.

3.45 pm

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I do not know whether it is in order to ask a question before the Minister concludes.

The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, the Minister has sat down, but perhaps the noble Lord wants to speak.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I intended to speak before but I was looking at my papers when the Minister rose. I entirely understand the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, that instead of defining young offender institutions and secure training centres as prisons, perhaps the clause could be amended so that we are talking merely about assisting the rehabilitation of offenders who are being held in prison, which is the only place where prison is mentioned in this part, and then simply add, “and young offender institutions and secure training centres”, rather than imply that secure training centres are prisons.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone moved Amendment No. 2:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we return again to this issue, as promised, following our interesting and robust debate in Committee. This issue is of central importance to the way in which various agencies responsible for offender management will do their business in the wake of the changes created by the Bill. As was pointed out, there was complete agreement in Committee that all concerned should indeed co-operate. The question was whether that co-operation should be a statutory duty in the Bill. Given the consensus in Committee, I hope that the Government will be prepared to listen on this occasion.

The Government’s argument rested mainly on the reference to Clause 3(3), in which the Secretary of State is authorised to make probation provision with any person and,

It was argued that this amounted to the same position as that in our amendment. It is in fact crucially different, because a duty to co-operate is just that; an obligation to co-operate. This is important, because, as we all know, without such an obligation there is always the very real chance that there will be no such co-operation in the face of the constant competing demands on the time and resources of so many agencies in the field, and where optional commitments are the first to be ignored.

We also heard how there are already precedents in other areas, such as the duties of agencies under the Children Act and the duties to promote equality under the race relations legislation, which became a reality only when it became a duty. Members on all sides of the Committee—the noble Baronesses, Lady Gibson, Lady Stern and Lady Howe, the noble Lords, Lord Judd, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Waddington, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and my noble friend Lord Dholakia—adduced many powerful arguments to support this case. They brought a considerable weight of wisdom to bear, which I suggest the Government should take very seriously. I recognise and applaud some of the changes that the Government are making, such as introducing reducing reoffending partnership boards. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, actually talks about being,

However, she should respond now on this issue, because we are far more likely to see the end-to-end offender management that we all seek through such a duty to co-operate.

I also sought to demonstrate that there has been a very different outcome in Scotland, where the situation was very similar. At the outset, there were consultation exercises in Scotland and England on changes to offender management, which produced very similar responses: an overwhelming resistance to a more centralised system from both ends of the UK;

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and less than 1 per cent of responses in favour of the plan in England. Scotland chose to listen, resulting in eight community justice authorities rooted in their local authorities consisting of a range of statutory partner bodies, including the voluntary sector, with an additional wider range of partners. Silos are being broken down and, although it is still early days, the enthusiasm from the Minister down for this way of working is palpable.

The point about illustrating this model just up the road is not to argue that it necessarily should be emulated in every respect or be dismissed because certain structures are different in England and Wales from those in Scotland, but to demonstrate what can and has been done in another part of the UK where the issues are not radically different, but where, as a result of the sort of changes that we have been advocating on these Benches, the outcomes are seriously good and the approach really worthy of consideration. It is our belief that this amendment will materially improve outcomes for the better, for better effective offender management, for the reduction of reoffending and for the better rehabilitation of offenders. We urge the Government this time to listen. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I was unable to take part in the Committee stage, but I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I say a word now. The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, of course knows all about the situation in Scotland. But I hope she will agree, to give the Government their due, that the Scottish system, as yet, is untested. It is on the statute book, but those concerned are still working out their roles in the new system. The noble Baroness said that the situation is different in Scotland; for example, there is no probation service and that work is done by the social work department. However, there is an aspiration in Scotland—whether the new Minister is very enthusiastic, I have no idea—that everyone should work together. The Act is designed to make that happen. We do not yet know whether it will work, but we shall see whether it does. We must remember that when talking about Scotland.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, not for the first time in my life I find myself in strong agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, who in a sense gets to the hub of this amendment. I am not clear whether it is effectively a probing and debating point to say that co-operation is important or whether it is a genuine attempt to say that we should stop the Bill, tear it apart and remodel it on the Scottish model. I thank the noble Baroness for shaking her head. Clearly, it is not that.

Therefore, the amendment is about whether we should put something explicit on co-operation into the Bill. The amendment is not aided by the fact that, technically, it is flawed because it refers to probation boards rather than probation trusts, which, clearly, is what the Bill is all about. But let me not be nitpicking in that respect. It is really about whether there is a need to do this, given that there are already responsibilities on parties and further powers elsewhere in the Bill to insist on proper co-operation.

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As one would expect, the noble Baroness is absolutely right that co-operation is fundamental. But from what I understand—no doubt, my noble friend on the Front Bench will clarify this—the duty to co-operate will be reinforced by other elements in the Bill and we should not be so simple as to assume that simply putting it again in the Bill will transform behaviour.

The transformation of behaviour that is necessary to get a better reduction in reoffending will come in part from such measures, but even more so from the central structure of the Bill which is trying to ensure that there is a more end-to-end system of offender management and the development of a diversity of suppliers under proper local and central control. I hope that I have not been too harsh on the noble Baroness because I respect much of what she says in many debates.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, has been harsh; he has just got hold of the wrong end of the stick. If we wanted to destroy the clause, the amendment would have been quite different. My noble friend, with her considerable experience in Scotland, has been able to identify good practices there. Her amendment seeks to find out whether it is possible to establish a system in which a duty is placed on agencies to co-operate with each other. That is an important point. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, is aware of the fact that until there was a duty to co-operate in terms of the duty to promote equality under the Race Relations Act, agencies did not have to do anything. They could sit quietly; the Race Relations Act could not damage them because they were doing nothing unlawful. At the same time, they never promoted equality to the extent required under this proposed new clause. If we promote this duty, there will be a positive response in terms of co-operation between different agencies.

Let us look at what happened when this issue was debated in the other place. The Bill received its Third Reading in the Commons on 28 February. It was amended by the Government so that court work is now exempt from its provisions. However, Clauses 2 to 5 still open up the work of the Probation Service to market forces and privatisation. A consultation document entitled Restructuring Probation to Reduce Re-offending was published on 11 October 2005. It is an interesting paper in which the Government propose to abolish the National Probation Service and replace it with a fragmented market of competing providers. It received 740 responses, of which under 1 per cent were in favour of the proposals, which demonstrates very effectively that people are still unclear about this. All my noble friend’s amendment seeks is to make sure that agencies co-operate with each other so that in the end-to-end management of this service, there are positive outcomes.

Lord Warner: My Lords, although I am strongly in favour of all parts of the United Kingdom learning from those where there are good practices, this amendment, apart frombeing technically defective, is a bit anachronistic and unnecessary. If this debate had been taking place around 1997, I would have had

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some sympathy with the thinking behind the amendment. The noble Baroness rather understates the extent to which partnership and co-operation between different criminal justice and other agencies has moved on, particularly following the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. We have bodies like crime and disorder reduction partnerships, youth offending teams, local criminal justice boards and a raft of other bodies working to ensure that the agencies work together. The structure of the Bill itself continues to encourage co-operation and joint working when dealing with some of the difficult problems that those in the Probation Service haveto face. This legislation builds on that co-operative approach, one that has become a much more significant part of the criminal justice system. This amendment is a bit out of time and rather unnecessary. All it does is extend the length of the Bill to no great purpose.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I am extremely sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, has used the word “anachronistic”, because that is far from what this amendment is. As I understand it, the Bill is all about the better management of offenders, and Part 1 in particular concentrates on the Probation Service. If you picked up this Bill, you could be forgiven for thinking that Part 1 is not really about the management of offenders, but the imposition of a different way of commissioning probation services. One element of making everything better is evolving the partnership of everyone involved. Many noble Lords have said that the probation system is not working as well as we should like. That is because co-operation has not been happening as much as people would like. Therefore, if we hope that the Bill will result in the better management of offenders, surely it is right to include in it all the words which we think will bring that about, including the element of co-operation which has not been as good as it should have been.

4 pm

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I support the amendment and will vote for it if it is pressed.

The amendment is necessary because co-operation between the Prison Service and the Probation Service is of the first importance. In the past they have had a somewhat different ethos from each other, which may explain why co-operation has been less than perfect. I agree that it is important to have it on the face of the Bill.

As to designation, I do not see how the Secretary of State can effectively know all about local voluntary organisations. Some will be good, some will be mediocre and some will be bad and, therefore, any designation should be done at a local level. Perhaps this could be incorporated in a future refinement of the amendment.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I do not quite understand some of the comments that the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and other noble Lords have made, so I hope the House will forgive me if I ask questions for clarification.

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First, I thought the Bill was about partnership and co-operation and that the difficulty people were having with it was that it was moving out of the existing system—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Warner, that it has moved on to some extent—into a position where even greater co-operation was made possible by the opening of markets. I use that term unreservedly and without the need to apologise for it, although opening those markets to the voluntary and private sectors is a cause of great concern among other noble Lords. The Bill’s core being partnership and co-operation throughout, I should like clarification from the government Front Bench and from the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, of the difference they feel the changes in the service will make.

The second area of confusion in which I find myself relates to the comments about the whole Bill and the fragmentation of the service by the movement forward in the Bill. I understood that we were talking not about fragmentation but about trusts which would have greater powers to draw the services closer together. It is to be hoped that the Bill has the capacity to retain central control on some services. I believe this is essential for the specialised services of which I have considerable personal experience, particularly in the treatment of sexual offenders. That is a very important element.

While agreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, that there is a need for co-operation—I do not think anyone on the Floor of the House will disagree with that—I find it difficult to understand some of the comments from her side of the House on how that will be improved by the amendment.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment on the previous occasion and supported the aims behind it. I agree that matters have moved on; there have been various Bills—they have not only been on offender management—advocating co-operation, working together and so on that have been somewhat allowed to go in their own directions.

The amendment attracts me because if you are talking about end-to-end offender management being the important aspect of the Bill, it ought to involve co-operation and, in particular, the Prison Service. But the Prison Service is hardly mentioned—I think it is mentioned once in the entire Bill—and end-to-end must involve it. Indeed, we must assume that training in the Prison Service is of an adequate level and parallel to that given to those who undertake probation duties.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am delighted to see the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, in her place. I assure her that the Government take very seriously her comments about co-operation. I hope I will be able to help the House to agree that there is very little, if anything, between us. I agree with the comments made by my noble friends Lord Warner and Lord Filkin about how this matter should be looked at. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, has asked some very pertinent questions. We have moved quite a long way forward. The Scottish model, which

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the noble Baronesses, Lady Linklater and Lady Carnegy of Lour, have referred to, is admirable but set in a slightly different structure—a different system—and would not necessarily fit that easily here.

I have listened carefully to all those who have spoken. We are still very much in agreement about the importance of partnership working and the close co-operation between agencies involved in the supervision of offenders. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, is therefore right when she says that the whole Bill is about partnership; it is about nothing if not that. No one doubts that the task of reducing reoffending can be tackled effectively only by a full range of agencies working together. It is just not going to happen unless that occurs. That is why we have established, both through statute and administratively, a whole range of mechanisms to facilitate multi-agency working.

I outlined those mechanisms in Committee on 21 May and followed that up in greater detail in my letter of 4 June to noble Lords who had spoken in Committee. I do not apologise for the fact that that detailed note spanned eight pages, because it was important for us to track through all the different statutory and other arrangements that we have in place to ensure that co-operation is embedded as a reality—it is systemically there—and cannot be inappropriately uprooted. I shall not repeat that detail today, but I remind noble Lords of the examples contained therein—the crime and disorder reduction partnerships, through which we delivered the prolific and other priority offenders programme; the multi-agency public protection arrangements; the local safeguarding children boards; the local criminal justice boards; the regional reducing reoffending partnership boards; and so on. All those initiatives have created a culture change in the way in which agencies now work together.

In the past few weeks I have been privileged to go up and down the country and speak to many of those working in the crime and disorder reduction partnerships, and I have been deeply impressed by what I have listened to. I have heard police officers who know as much about what is happening in education and health as they do about what is happening on the streets, and vice versa. They are thinking laterally; they are planning together; they are plotting, frankly, against the crooks and how better to address some of their needs. It is truly inspirational. So often we believe that by legislating we fix things. In fact, by legislating we create a framework within which others can fix things, and we already have much of that legislation. I do not disagree with the noble Baroness when she says that co-operation is vital.

The question we now have to address is what we can do to facilitate even greater and more effective co-operation. We have to cast our net more widely than we have in the past, so that arrangements encompass not only statutory agencies but all those agencies, from whichever sector, that have something to offer in the reduction of reoffending. That is what our proposals in Part 1 seek to do. The importance of co-operation is crucial to those arrangements. As I pointed out in Committee, Clause 3(3)(a) explicitly

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enables the Secretary of State to authorise or require—I emphasise “require”—providers to co-operate with one another and with other agencies involved in crime prevention, crime reduction or work with victims. Those expectations will be clearly set out in contracts.

The extent to which probation boards are able to demonstrate their commitment to partnership working is one of the key criteria in the process that is under way to determine which probation boards should move to trust status first. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, says about making sure that co-operation is real, but this is a way in which we think we can deliver it. Thanks to the amendment agreed in Committee, the Bill now includes, in Schedule 3, a provision to ensure that probation providers participate fully in the negotiation and delivery of local area agreements.

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