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The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, is not the noble Lord getting in a terrible muddle? Frankly, we supported violent revolution in Afghanistan when the Russians were there, Israel was set up by violent revolution, Ireland was set up by violent revolution and in South Africa we, to a certain extent, encouraged violence by the ANC. We cannot say that all violence against tyrannical regimes is wrong. We also supported the French resistance and the Dutch resistance in the war;
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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Earl will understand that we have always objected, most recently in the case of Ireland, to unwarranted attacks on civilian targets. There is a big difference between military campaigns that fall within the Geneva conventions and the rest of international law and abusive campaigns that target asymmetrically civilians. I hope we have a consistent policy towards such groups.
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the PMOI, which is led by a woman, Madam Rajavi, has an agenda for peaceful change via a political process, believes in a human rights agenda, including womens rights, and its policies are the sort that we should support?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I certainly concede the point that the organisation is led by a woman, but I will risk the wrath of a portion of this House when I say that despite that, and despite what it says about the rights of women, the PMOI was involved in numerous terrorist attacks for a very extended period. At the time of the second Gulf War, it was considered by coalition forces to be completely assimilated into the security apparatus of the Saddam Hussein regime. Indeed, we had to disarm the organisation to the extent of 2,100 tanks, vehicles and artillery pieces. Since then it has made no renunciation of terrorism and disarmed only in the face of pressure from coalition forces; so, despite what it has to say on womens rights, we are not convinced that in other regards this organisation has permanently renounced terrorism.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, it was encouraging to hear the Minister say that Her Majestys Government would accept the outcome of the appeals process. Can we accept that, as a clear implication of that, Her Majestys Government will accept that this organisation should no longer be a proscribed terrorist organisation?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, one must always fight terrorism in the context of the rule of law and respect for judicial decisions. One stoops to the standards of ones terrorist opponents if one does otherwise. We will fully respect the decision of the appeals process.
What are the implications of the announcement of 29 January on the reorganisation of the National Offender Management Service, and of recent reports of difficulties in introducing the National Offender Management Information System, for the concept of an integrated system of offender management in England.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the reorganisation of the National Offender Management Service will bring NOMS and the Prison Service together to improve the focus on front-line delivery and improve efficiency. The rescoped NOMIS programme will ensure that staff in both prisons and probation have access to information required to support offender management.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I declare a strong interest, as one of those who laboured on the Offender Management Bill last year. Some of us were never entirely convinced that the Bill was rational and worth whileand nor are we convinced, from a succession of stories that are now coming out, that it will be implemented. Can the Minister assure us that the destruction of the National Probation Service, which is part of this, and the continual disruption of a very important service that keeps people out of prison, will not be exacerbated by the failure to put in place the offender management system that we were promised in one of the many Carter reports so many years ago?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not agree with any of those rather pejorative descriptions of our proposals. The Probation Service has to be part of an integrated offender management system. We will ensure that it continues to play an incredibly important part. We are committed to the offender management programme and that is how we will have an integrated system. It means that we will be able to continue our efforts to reduce reoffending, which are at the heart of everything that we seek to do.
Lord Henley: My Lords, if the Minister is going to accuse the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, of being pejorative, can I be a little more pejorative and say that the Minister and his department have blown something like £1 billion on a totally unnecessary attempt to reform this system? Does he agree?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, noabsolutely not. This figure of £1 billion is the product of great confusion. Most of the resources given to NOMS are for the bread and butter job of running prisons and probation services. The central cost of NOMS this year is £271 million and much of that goes to direct services, such as payments to the Department of Health for the pool treatment budget. Of course we want to ensure that out of these changes we get further efficiency savings. That will also contribute to our being able to put more money into front-line services.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, the Minister talks of the National Offender Management Service and the Prison Service coming together. We know about the Prison Service and the Probation Service and what they are there to do, but what is the National Offender Management Servicewhat does it do and what is it there to do? If the other two are doing all the work, why do you need something else?
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, the Minister may not agree with my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire, but would he not accept that there have been substantial changes to the idea of the National Offender Management Service since it was first mooted? Would he confirm that we are now dealing with the final version and that the service will have the resources, in terms of both manpower and structure, that it requires?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Never say never, my Lords. It is our intention that the changes being made should be entirely consistent with this approach. They are consistent with the overall changes which have occurred in the Ministry of Justice as we have taken on all these new responsibilities and which are part of the review by our new Permanent Secretary. The emphasis is on strong policy direction and strong operational management. One should acknowledge the success of NOMS over the past few years, looking at the reduction in reoffending rates, the other programmes that have been developed within the Prison Service and the expansion of probation services. There is much to recognise in terms of achievement.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, the Minister referred to some confusion over figures. Can he explain why all statistical information has been removed from the website of the National Offender Management Service?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I cannot but I am sure that it is part of ensuring that the figures are as accurate as possiblesomething to which my department is absolutely committed. In the light of the noble Lords question, I shall ensure that full information is sent to him and placed in the Library.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, is there still a director-general of HM Prison Service? Is it the same person as the chief executive of the combined Prison Service and National Offender Management Service, and, if not, who is it?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, final agreement on the management structure is still to happen. I think it better that we have final agreement and I will then make it available to the House. I assure the noble Baroness that, as I said, we wish to see integrated leadership, strong management within the Prison Service and certainly an identified leader for the Probation Service.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a very good indicator of the success of NOMS would be a reduction in the number of people in prison? Does he accept that we can judge the success of the National Offender Management Service by whether the numbers in prison continue to rise or start to fall?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No, my Lords, that would be a very misleading assumption. The reason that more people are in prison may be that we are catching more criminals who are being sentenced to prison. We have to ensure that prison is reserved for those people who need to be there and, at the same time, we need a very strong focus on community sentencing and other diversions where appropriate. That is the policy of this Government.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I wish to oppose the Question whether Clause 50 shall stand part of the Bill. This first grouping would remove Parts 4 and 5 of the Billthat is, the provisions to establish Her Majestys Commissioner for Offender Management and Prisons and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Prison Complaints. The amendments to Clauses 196 and 200 and to the Long Title are consequential upon removing these two parts.
As I indicated at Second Reading, we are aware that concerns have been expressed recently about the degree to which the governance and accountability arrangements set out in the Bill afford these two new statutory office holders a sufficient degree of independence from the Government of the day. Concern has also been expressed about the removal of the remit of these two commissioners from that of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. It is important to put on record that, compared with the existing administrative arrangements, placing these offices on a statutory footing already enshrines a significant degree of independence for the commissioners. The commissioners would be appointed by Her Majesty and only she will be able to remove them from office as a consequence of Addresses in both Houses of Parliament.
Furthermore, the commissioners would be legally distant from the Secretary of State and derive their remit and powers from statute. In formulating the provisions in the Bill, account was taken of the British
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Results of consultation in 2004 on the framework for a statutory ombudsman confirmed there was strong support for the removal of the commissioners remit from that of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, on the grounds that there should be a clear boundary between the commissioners remit and those of other statutory ombudsmen and that there should be no oversight of the commissioner by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. However, removing these provisions from the Bill will allow us time to properly reconsider, in consultation with the relevant parties, what changes may be necessary to address concerns, particularly in the governance and accountability arrangements. In reviewing the measures, we will have to ensure that any changes to the current proposals will also be viable and continue to deliver an efficient, easily accessible service for those potentially vulnerable people covered by the remit of these ombudsmen.
We intend to consult relevant parties, which will include the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, the Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration to agree a time-bound plan for review of the present policy. We will also want to consider carefully the conclusions of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in respect of those provisions. We would also expect the outcome of our review to be produced later this year and would hope to have an early opportunity to reintroduce fresh legislation.
I hope your Lordships will understand that it would be inappropriate now for me to seek to anticipate the outcome of this review. We will consider very seriously giving consideration to the other models that have been suggested and of course have regard to views that are expressed in Committee this afternoon. I look forward to hearing those views with interest and commend these amendments to the House.
Lord Ramsbotham: Half of me supports the proposal that these clauses should not stand part and half of me is opposed. Half of me is for it because one of the aspects that needs very careful examination is the title. The title, Commissioner for Offender Management is utterly inappropriate to the post. What is described is not commissioning, nor is it anything to do with the management of offenders. Therefore, if you introduce a confusing title, you will confuse anyone who wonders what the post is actually all about. Therefore, I hope that the opportunity will be taken to drop this title and come up with something more appropriate such as ombudsman, which is what the job is. I remind the Minister that there is a long history about the requirement for this
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That examination found that three aspects needed to be independently inspected: efficiency, propriety and the investigation of grievances. In the event, inspection of efficiency and propriety was accepted as part of the role of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, a post that was made statutory, as it has remained. In 1994, it was agreed that a separate post should be established for the investigation of grievances and the ombudsman was appointed. Ever since, successive ombudsmen have tried to have that post put on to a statutory basis in exactly the same way as the Chief Inspector of Prisons post is, because it came from the same stable. I am unhappy about the fact that we are having yet more delay, on top of 13 years delay since the appointment of the ombudsman, in the post being put on a statutory basis. I cannot see why there needs to be further delay.
One aspect in what is described threatens the independence of the ombudsman, not just in his appointment but in the eyes of those people whose grievances he is investigating; the fact that he is seen to be too close to the Secretary of State affects his objectivity in their eyes. In his evidence to the committee in the other place, the ombudsman suggested that one way of getting over that problem would be to give him status similar to that enjoyed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. I hope that, in conducting this review, the Minister will take account of that and not just go through the motions in looking at what currently exists in the Bill.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: We are in two minds on this. We broadly welcome the establishment of a review to rethink this area. In light of previous legislation, it is more important that we should rethink than go forward with something that is not entirely satisfactory and I appreciate the fact that the Minister has chosen to revisit the matter. However, we should like to put two or three things on the record, in light of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. It is vital that the person, whatever he or she is called, be visibly independent, particularly in relation toI know that the Minister has mentioned some of these thingsthe budget, the staff, the relationship with the Secretary of State, investigatory powers, directions from the Secretary of State vis-Ã -vis investigations and the way in which reports are laid in the public domain. Finally, the Minister talked about bringing forward fresh legislation forthwith. Does he expect to do so this side of the next Queens Speech?
Baroness Stern: I welcome the proposal to remove these clauses from the Bill in the circumstances, but I agree that it is a pity that we have had to do this. I should like to say a few words to remind the Minister why these measures are important. In its December 2004 report on deaths in custody, the Joint Committee on Human Rights noted that the evidence that it had received showed widespread concern that the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman was not on a statutory
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As a matter of priority parliamentary time should be set aside to bring in legislation giving a statutory basis to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, and providing him with investigatory powers equivalent to those of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Until such a statutory basis is provided, investigations by the Ombudsman are unlikely to meet the obligation to investigate under Article 2 ECHR.
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