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When I went into the Home Office I was very surprised to find how many prisoners were idle because there simply were not programmes to do what was required to prevent them reoffending. Nobody knew how much it would cost to provide those programmes. They did not know how much it would cost to provide classrooms, education instructors or whatever. So when they said that prison cost X and so much per year, what they meant was what it cost per prisoner out of what they had been given. But they did not calculate the difference between what they had and what they needed. Exactly the same is true of probation. You have only to ask the chief officers of probation about this. In

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Committee, I described this as like trying to land a jumbo on a postage stamp. They have now been told that their budgets will be frozen for three years. So it is no good listing all the things that we want them to do with the public sector, the private sector and the voluntary sector, if they do not have enough money to buy what is needed. That is an academic argument.

I like two things about the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. First, she makes provision for that sort of basket weaving exercise to take place in the form of a plan in which the Secretary of State, and everyone else who needs to be, is involved. It includes working out the cost of what is needed. That will have to go to the Treasury. If the Treasury does not give you the money, there is no point in planning to do something when you cannot get the resources. Secondly, in the event of failure, the noble Baroness’s amendment proposes a new clause to make certain that there is a machinery to do something about it.

Everything else that we are discussing has nothing to do with whether it is public, private or voluntary sector provision: it is all about the reality of enabling probation staff to do the task—the rehabilitation of offenders—which this Bill is all about. Therefore, I could not support these amendments more.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, we, too, support these amendments, as we supported this important principle of local commissioning in Committee. The Minister argued then that although she did not see a great deal of disagreement between the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the Government, she found that the noble Baroness’s amendments lacked clarity and called them a recipe for confusion.

These new amendments seem to me to be a model of clarity, but they also reaffirm the crucial distinction in the argument between the Government’s position, which is that the primary accountability and statutory duty for commissioning is upwards, in the hands of the Secretary of State, and the position in these amendments—that the primary power should lie with local boards or trusts, that they should prepare plans for the year, and that needs can best be identified and met locally.

The amendments also give the Secretary of State a backstop power to commission services should a trust fail to do so or where there is a gap. But successful commissioning—commercial or in the public sector—is always best close to the business. However, to refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, said, local commissioning does not mean that there should be any restriction on which sector these services can be commissioned from. It is not exclusive, because the power lies locally, and the noble Lord described that it is already the case. The Government argue that because historically boards have not contracted out more than 3 per cent or so to other providers—although the figure was higher before 2001—the commissioning responsibility and power should be transferred to the Secretary of State, presumably via the ROMS. The Minister has said that there can be national, regional and local commissioning, but the issue is where the commissioning authority and power lie.

While we know that reoffending rates are a blunt measurement and that often the rate and type of

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reoffending are a more realistic measurement of success when one is looking at rehabilitation, we also know that the Probation Service has been meeting all its targets, including those blunt ones, in an impressive way. We pointed that out in Committee. We are all agreed that to commission a wider range of providers from the voluntary sector and the private sector alike is highly desirable. But if we assume that best value in terms of quality will continue to be the guiding principle in reducing reoffending, we will not see a great difference, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has pointed out, in results from the commissioning process unless and until significantly more funds are made available so that there will be a real widening of the pool of available interventions.

We understand that there is a place for central and regional commissioning for particular services. The service of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, is a good case in point. However, the retention of commissioning power locally—which is where, after all, the overwhelming proportion of offending originates—not only links local needs for offender management with available provision but, crucially, creates and develops local confidence in that provision. That lies at the heart of greater community sentencing, which in turn is partly a solution to prison overcrowding. Above all, end-to-end offender management must be coherent, clear, enforceable and responsive to local needs. That is precisely what local boards represent. It is also what a recent YouGov poll shows that the public want; we on these Benches want it as well. We support the amendment.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I would deeply wish to be able to support the amendment, but in fact I oppose it, for quite different reasons from some given in the debate. I am utterly committed to local services where local services are appropriate. I understand the way in which the wording of the amendment has been put—to try to ensure that the Secretary of State can intervene when other services need a more centralised service. It is for very different reasons from those that I oppose the amendment; I think that it is all about change. It is about ensuring that the services we have on the ground are much more effective.

The noble Baroness said that the Probation Service had been meeting its targets. I have some questions about the targets that are met, when we all know that reoffending is going up. What are the targets? Have the Government set the right targets? That is the challenge that I would put if the targets are being met and reoffending is increasing. Something significantly different needs to happen in the behaviour of the services on the ground. The argument for the mixed economy has been made, and the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Benches have said that that is not an issue in this debate; but I believe that it is. As the noble Lord, Lord Warner, pointed out, there has always been the capacity for this change, and it has not taken place.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. While she is right that for reoffending from prison the rates have been going up, although slightly

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levelling out, they are going down where community sentencing occurs. It is very important to make the distinction between reoffending from prison and reoffending from community sentences.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a good point that community sentences are much more effective than prison sentences—one with which I join her wholeheartedly. I want to go back to the issue of the delivery of services at a local level. I, too, speak from experience of having to work to change the culture in two large organisations. One was the Meat Hygiene Service and its veterinary provision and the other is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. One of the big issues about change is compliance, and learning good experience and good practice from other regions. If you work only from the local level, you lose those things.

When I went into CAFCASS, there was some good practice around the country. Compliance with what was needed to change the system to ensure that more children could be dealt with was nil. Compliance needs to be clear across the country, because that is how you can make better use of resources. I would like to argue for more resources for all the services that I am involved in—I do—but I know that resources are finite and the only way to make better use of them is by changing the way that people work. That is why I hope that we will be able to move forward in a better way that changes services, gives greater direction when those services are not being changed, allows successful probation trusts to be innovative, and allows them to be able to work from probation trust to probation trust with the help of the centre to develop regional services of the kind that I know cannot be delivered locally. Then we will have a service to be proud of.

I just have to say, because I cannot resist it, that on a historic day like today, it is fascinating to hear the Conservatives arguing for the retention of what appears to be the status quo in relation to the state—

Noble Lords: No!

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I am saying only that it sounds like that. Meanwhile, the Labour Benches are arguing for a mixed economy. That may not be how it is, but it does sound interesting.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, I, too, cannot support the amendment. I will be brief, because much has already been said in opposition to the amendments in this group. I base my view on what happens at present and I do not share the view that probation boards and probation trusts will, in fact, involve the voluntary sector and others in developing and expanding services. Their approach to date shows that there does not seem to be too much enthusiasm for doing that. If we were to pass an amendment that in reality gives them continuing power to make those decisions, we will not make progress. It is interesting that, as I understand it, the voluntary sector, the CBI and the Local Government Association support the measures in this Bill.



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I appreciate what has been said about a backstop power as far as the Secretary of State is concerned, but it is very vague. The amendment does not really say under what precise circumstances or against what criteria it might be used. Frankly, one can see that if this power were to be introduced there would simply be endless arguments as to whether the situation had been reached where the Secretary of State was justified under that proposal to intervene.

I am afraid that I share the view expressed just now that the amendment is a call for the status quo. That is what it is in reality—it is leaving decision-making on commissioning greater involvement of the voluntary sector with those who have not done it until now, and there is no indication that their views might change. The Bill and the changes being made are about a change in culture and about indicating that there is an alternative—there are alternative providers and providers who may be able to expand, develop and improve services. If you want that kind of increased involvement and development, you do not hand over responsibility for achieving it to boards which, the figures and records suggest, have not been particularly good at doing so until now.

This cannot be a debate about what might be in the interests of a probation board’s association. Surely we are talking about what is in the interests of addressing reoffending, and that must be to involve as many people as possible in the voluntary sector and elsewhere who can contribute, develop and assist with programmes in that regard.

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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, has not the threat of this Bill caused a rapid increase, from 2 to 10 per cent, in the farming out of services to voluntary organisations, which had been dropping very much over the years? Will not the threat of Amendment No. 6 have an even greater effect?

Lord Rosser: My Lords, I am not sure whether the figure is 10 per cent but my noble friend may be able to comment on that. However, the noble Baroness’s point is very important if, as is her view—and she may well be right—the threat of this Bill is producing a change. The Bill provides that the commissioning will be done not by the probation boards or probation trusts but by commissioners. However, if you remove the role of the commissioners and give it back to the probation boards and probation trusts, on the noble Baroness’s own argument, you remove the incentive which she is now applauding.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, in this interesting debate a number of noble Lords have spoken very highly of the Probation Service and probation officers generally. Practically everyone who has talked about probation has mentioned how committed and good probation officers are, so it seems necessary to listen to what they tell us.

I understand that probation officers believe that the case for local commissioning is overwhelming. If commissioning were to occur at regional or national level, it would be remote from local agencies and local

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communities. They say that there is a real risk that local voluntary sector groups would lose out in the commissioning process to large national organisations. Indeed, the Government’s model for the voluntary sector has been strongly criticised by the Charity Commission on the ground that charities are being put at risk by a growing dependency on poorly funded contracts to deliver public services. The probation officers’ organisation therefore supports the amendment because it believes that, if enacted, it would ensure that probation boards and trusts, which have detailed knowledge of local areas, would be responsible for commissioning.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I do not think that anyone in your Lordships’ House does not support the voluntary sector. A whole range of your Lordships have worked with such organisations in one capacity or another. Support for localism—with a lot of the work being carried out at a local level—certainly does not mean that there is not total confidence in national and regional organisations playing their part. There is concern that the smaller voluntary organisations will lose out in the process because of the greater bargaining power, staffing and so on of the larger organisations. But we are also talking about ownership of what goes on in a local area—the ownership of the people who live there and the contributions that they can make to the rehabilitation of offenders.

I could not agree more with what the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, said about the approach of the Probation Service. It is now much more in favour of seeing commissioning happening at a local level where appropriate, and of course it should be available at national and regional levels, if appropriate, for certain specialist services. If the Probation Service has been encouraged in that view by the introduction of the Bill, that is good. This is very much a local issue. There may be a need for national or regional areas of support as well but we must encourage local areas, with appropriate resources being put in their direction, to take ownership in the genuine rehabilitation of offenders. I certainly support the amendment.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, yet again, we have had a fascinating debate. I say straightaway that I certainly do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is a basket amendment. That would be the wrong way to describe what she is trying to do.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, with respect, I did not describe it as a basket amendment. I said that what was in it enabled that process to happen but I did not use that phrase.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I do not know whether that makes the situation better or worse. Basket-weaving was the way in which it was dealt with. That conjures up certain connotations which I am sure were not intended, and I expressly disavow any such interpretation.



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This has been a very important debate on the fundamental issue concerning the proposals in Part 1—that is, where the responsibility for commissioning probation services should lie—and it follows on from debates that we had in Committee.

We have heard some extraordinarily powerful speeches. A number of them came from my noble friends Lord Filkin, Lord Warner and Lord Rosser, the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth. But those who are concerned also made fine points. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, raised some interesting points, as did the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and my noble friend Lady Turner, together with the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Howe.

Perhaps I may get us to the essential position, which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale. These provisions are about not only the service providers but the people who use the services, both victims and offenders. I listened very carefully and was interested in how many people spoke of the latter, as opposed to those who provide the service. We need to concentrate on the victims and offenders who are in need and, as my noble friend Lord Warner said, we need to look at how we can shape things to meet their needs most appropriately.

I recognise that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has reviewed the amendments that she tabled earlier and that she has presented a more streamlined set for us to consider now. I also recognise that some of the technical deficiencies have been tidied up. However, some significant ones remain—not least the continued references to both trusts and boards, which simply do not work alongside one another under the arrangements in Part 1. But I should like to focus on the policy.

What is the set of amendments before us designed to achieve? As I understand it, the noble Baroness supports the principle of commissioning and contestability. Her amendments do not, therefore, seek to challenge this principle but to make the probation trust the lead commissioner of probation services. However, that is exactly what the Government’s proposals do. We have made it clear that we do not intend regional commissioners acting on behalf of the Secretary of State to hold myriad contracts directly with a range of providers. Instead, regional commissioners will have contracts with lead providers at the area level. Those lead providers will in practice be a probation trust at the outset. Noble Lords will recall that we have committed to contracting only with the public sector for offender management for three years, and that court work will remain with the public sector indefinitely and could be removed only by a positive endorsement by both Houses. I cannot emphasise enough how much I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, when he says that this is not “and/or” but should be “and/and”. It is a false premise to believe that we have to choose between local, regional and national. On occasion, national will be necessary because of the specialised services; on occasion, regional will be the most efficacious because of the need to build capacity; but on the

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majority of occasions, local will be absolutely essential because it will respond more appropriately to identified need.

Lead providers will be responsible for commissioning services locally, and the Secretary of State will delegate many of the functions for co-operating with other agencies to them. For example, in relation to local area agreements it will be the lead provider—the local provider—to whom the Secretary of State will delegate the task of negotiating and delivering local improvement targets. The pre-eminent position of local commissioning is clear.

Why then do the Government object to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay? The truth is that these amendments do not place local commissioning in a wider context or provide a clear framework of accountability within which it can operate. Though the noble Baroness supports the greater involvement of other providers, her amendments provide no levers to ensure that this happens. It is important to look at the question raised by my noble friend Lord Rosser in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy. Why have they not been more involved before? That was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. Why are they more involved now? How do we sustain that engagement? The levers are therefore incredibly important.

The noble Baroness’s amendments rely almost entirely on probation trusts deciding for themselves which services to deliver directly and which to sub-contract—an arrangement that has led to 96 per cent of services being delivered in-house. The amendment is entirely unclear on the basis for the Secretary of State’s intervention. He may commission services from others or deliver them himself, “If it appears to” him,

by probation trusts or boards. I ask the question that was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale: on what basis and when is he to make this decision, and where does the ultimate statutory duty lie? What are the lines of accountability between the trust and the Secretary of State? What levers does the Secretary of State have to raise performance of the trust aside from the blunt instrument of commissioning elsewhere? All this is unclear.

The Government’s approach, I respectfully suggest, is coherent in this regard. It places the statutory duty with the Secretary of State, who then commissions the majority of services through a lead provider—a lead local provider. It provides, through the contracting process, levers to encourage trusts to involve other partners and to raise performance across the board. It gives flexibility for the Secretary of State to commission some services on a regional basis or across the prison and probation divide. He may do that not only in response to poor performance by the local trust, which is the implied ground for intervention in the opposition amendment, but where consultation and a needs assessment indicate that this is appropriate and merited. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, reminded us in Committee that local commissioning is not always best, especially where

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specialist services are concerned. I was not surprised that she reiterated that today, as it is an important point.


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