Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I hope that that answers the various issues that have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, has indicated his concern as to whether what we are proposing will require further funding. Not all YOTs are funded to provide substance misuse workers to support screening, early intervention and referral to specialist services. As I have said, young people’s specialist substance misuse treatment services are currently funded via the National Treatment Agency’s pooled treatment budget which is included in the young people’s substance misuse partnership grant. Local children’s and young people’s partnerships are expected to play their part in ensuring that children and young people can access the full range of treatment modalities as outlined in the National Treatment Agency guidance. In practice, young people subject to this requirement will also be accessing services provided by this funding arrangement.

I invite the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, to withdraw his amendment.

5 Feb 2008 : Column 1031

The Earl of Onslow: Do I understand the noble Lord right in saying that it would be very unusual for a substance misuse order to be made under a youth rehabilitation order? Surely if someone is getting into trouble because they are slightly inebriated, and that is part of the cause of the violence or robbery, is it not something which must be addressed? Have I misunderstood the noble Lord, or has he said that this would not be part of a youth rehabilitation order? If so, it seems to be upside down.

Lord Bach: The point we are trying to make is that a large amount of this treatment goes on voluntarily. The vast majority will continue to be voluntary on the basis that young people are picked up before they have committed the type of offence which requires a youth rehabilitation order and so will be dealt with voluntarily. When this provision becomes part of the Act in due course, there will be cases when it is appropriate that a youth rehabilitation order should have such a direction in it, but our belief is that that will not arise very often.

The Earl of Onslow: I feel that I need to go on worrying at this point. If a young person is drunk when they commit an offence, it would be crazy not to make it compulsory for someone to try to get it into that person’s pea-sized brain that getting sloshed causes trouble. It is something that that person should be educated about. This is what I find so odd. The idea that these young people are going to volunteer to be taught about alcohol seems slightly crazy.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: The noble Lord said that the Government are providing an effective framework for dealing with this problem. Listening to the Minister, I have the impression that there is no framework at all. Who can set up these facilities? It would appear that any ex-alcoholic or even current alcoholic can do so. How is the court to know what places are available? Will the youth offending team go around trying to find a place with someone offering these services and include it in the pre-sentence report? How is it to be funded? We are not sure. It certainly is not a part of the youth offending team’s budget apparently and will come from somewhere else. The Minister is suggesting a ramshackle structure for the carrying out of these orders, not the tightly controlled suggestion made by my noble friend.

Furthermore, it is a little excessive if the criticism is that my noble friend is calling for a centralised list. As I understand the amendment, he is calling for the Secretary of State to make sure that there is a list, but it will not have to be centralised in London and made available nationally. It can be devolved via the Secretary of State to the local area so that it is available to the magistrates’ court faced with a sentencing problem. I would have thought the Government would have tried to get this into a better framework than that which has been suggested so far.

Lord Kingsland: The Government will not be surprised to hear that I share the concerns of my noble friend Lord Onslow. If nearly 50 per cent of all violent crime is fuelled by alcohol, then at best the Government’s reaction to this amendment is complacent; at worst it is inexplicable.

5 Feb 2008 : Column 1032

Lord Bach: Let me try again. I fear the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, took some pleasure in exaggerating what I said. The idea of alcoholics supervising those under treatment is ridiculous. It was not one that I talked about so I am very surprised at someone as experienced as he putting those words into my mouth. I wonder why he did it.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I am sorry if I hurt the Minister by exaggerating his point a little. He certainly referred to ex-alcoholics running these courses. As far as I can see, there is to be no accreditation of these people and so it could be an ex-alcoholic who slips a little from time to time.

Lord Bach: That contribution and the one before are not in keeping with the spirit of the Committee so far. Whether or not it is because it is after dinner I am not certain. We all relax a little after dinner. But it is not worthy of the noble Lord to suggest that that is what we said.

I think the Committee agreed that it was a good thing that those who were reformed should be among those who helped and guided those who were now in trouble because they could teach them more. I think that was the point I made. If the noble Lord thinks that I was saying something different, I do not think I can persuade him otherwise. But that is meant to be what rehabilitation is all about.

Let me try again. It is worth considering the treatment requirements attached to the YRO within this context: they will be subject to the same considerations on availability and suitability as are applicable outside of the criminal justice system. However—and this is the important point—in practice, most young offenders with identified drug substance misuse or mental health treatment needs will receive treatment on a voluntary basis, supported by appropriate workers in youth offending teams. We expect that that treatment of these needs would be included as a part of a court order only when a young person had previously failed to engage with treatment services and when drug substance misuse or mental health had been identified as a factor in offending behaviour—for instance, committing crime in order to support drug substance misuse or while under the influence of drugs or intoxicating substances. Consequently the expectation is that there will only ever be a small number of young people who will require a court order to undertake treatment. We are confident that the availability of treatment should be sufficient to cater for those young people.

Youth offending teams will know of providers in local areas and supervise any treatment. I have said more than once that the funding is provided by the National Treatment Agency. If alcohol addiction is the cause of the offence for which the YRO is given, the court can give that requirement. The fact is that YOTs are giving alcohol treatment without recourse to a court order as part of their general work on substance misuse. All YOTs are funded to provide substance misuse workers and we believe, as does the Youth Justice Board, that only very few require court orders for substance treatment. If they require orders they will be given them, but just because an offence is committed by someone in drink, it does not follow

5 Feb 2008 : Column 1033

automatically that the best order to make for them is one that involves treatment for drinking too much. There is a whole sequence of other orders that may be more suitable. For the noble Earl, who knows better than this, to suggest that everyone who is drunk and is brought before the court, even if they have committed an offence of violence, should necessarily get one of these orders attached to a YRO is frankly absurd.

The Earl of Onslow: The Minister is getting ratty. I am saying, and I think this is blindingly obvious, that alcohol, as my noble friend says, is part of the problem. People must therefore be told that and must, if possible, be helped. I come from a long line of people who have died of drink, so I know how difficult it is—

Lord Bach: The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, should beware.

The Earl of Onslow: All I am saying is that this is very serious and the Government ought not to rely on the voluntary position.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Before we get to the serious part, a slur has been made about my contribution after dinner. It is fortunate for me that, if the Minister would like to express that outside the Chamber, he will find eight noble Lords who are sitting in the Chamber at the moment who had dinner with me and who know that I had a small glass of wine.

Lord Bach: Absolutely no slur on the noble Lord was intended. He seems able to give out some stick but not really able to take it. I know him well and his contributions are always extremely welcome. My remark was not meant seriously, and I apologise if it caused him offence.

Lord Ramsbotham: I have listened to a lot of this with some incredulity. It is a fact that alcohol is behind a lot of young people’s offences—that is proven. It is also a fact that there is not enough alcohol treatment available for them. To suggest that the solution should be voluntary is therefore quite absurd. They will not volunteer for treatment because they do not admit that anything is wrong with them. It is incumbent on the Government to go away and think seriously about this problem; it will not go away unless something firm is done, rather than leaving it on a voluntary basis.

The Earl of Listowel: Before the Minister responds, may I just follow that point and put a supplementary question myself? It would be interesting to be reassured that where a pattern of drinking is associated with the behaviour, there is appropriate intervention. One would wish to know how effective obligatory interventions are. Many of us were surprised how effective parenting orders were, for instance, because they obliged parents to take these classes, although for alcoholism it may work quite differently.

On the separate matter of supervision—I know it is getting late, but to my mind this is a crucial matter that often gets overlooked—I take the point that a

5 Feb 2008 : Column 1034

former alcoholic doing such work can often provide a good intervention, but they would need to be well supervised when doing that because they themselves are vulnerable. I would be grateful if the Minister could provide a bit more information about what is expected in terms of supervision. It may be that within the National Treatment Agency that is clear in any case.

Lord Bach: I shall make sure that that is done. I think that there is a misunderstanding about the voluntary aspect of the requirement. Many young people take up the scheme voluntarily. The figure of 13,000 which I gave earlier was for those who had done so. Many of them do it voluntarily; many, it is to be hoped, are cured by doing it. The Bill will make provision for part of an order to contain a treatment direction as well, but it is not right to laugh out of court the voluntary nature of some of the work that is being done on the people to whom we are referring. There are other directions that can be imposed under the order. It may be expected of people that they will go along voluntarily to have their alcoholism, or whatever their condition is, cured. There may therefore have been a misunderstanding.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Knowing the Minister as well as I do, and hearing his response to my noble friend’s sensible suggestion, I am surprised for two reasons. The first is that the Government seem to be being inconsistent. They say that the voluntary nature of the scheme works, yet in many other parts of the Bill, and in the clauses on prostitution in which I shall take particular interest, there is no question of the requirements being voluntary—indeed, prostitutes face detention if they do not comply with their orders. But for one of the biggest social ills facing the country, that of alcoholism in young people and the consumption of alcohol, voluntary treatment is OK. The second reason is that the Minister gave an insufficient assurance in his reply that either good guidance or a framework will be provided. That is not consistent with the quality of reply that we normally expect from him

Lord Judd: I was not going to intervene on the amendment, but for the first time in a long time, I was not entirely convinced by what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said about refusing to go if the treatment was voluntary. I have had the opportunity of mixing in my own family with people who do this kind of work. They say over and again that the treatment will work only if the person concerned really wants it to work and is committed to it. If they are there because they have been told that they must be there, we can forget it.

The Earl of Onslow: I do not think that any of us would say that to go voluntarily is not better than to go compulsorily—I concede that. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd—not for the first time—that if one really wants to give something up, it is easy. I really wanted to give up smoking and it was dead easy. When I was told that I had to give up hooch because of health problems, I found it incredibly easy. I wanted

5 Feb 2008 : Column 1035

to do it, and that is important. I therefore concede that the noble Lord is halfway down the track. Still, I ask what many young people would rather do: would they rather go and be lectured by a reformed alcoholic, employed by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, or go down the pub to drink illegally? The answer in the case of a lot of people is probably the latter. Even though voluntarism is better, it is to those people that one has to apply some pressure.

Lord Bach: That is precisely what this Bill does. We hope that people who have offended and have been caught will understand that one of the reasons they have done so is perhaps because of substance misuse. An order will be made against them; they will be advised to go and voluntarily sort out their problems. Of course, if they do not do that or it is clear to the court that they will not, they will be required to under the terms of the order.

The contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has persuaded me of this: I am conscious that this debate has not been satisfactory for Members of the Committee and I will, if I may, write to all those on the Committee with an explanation of how the voluntary nature of this fits into the order. Perhaps I may say once again to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, I really did not mean to insult him.

Lord Avebury: There is a substantial measure of agreement that has been masked by some sharp interchanges, which do not reflect the general sense of the Committee that alcohol and alcohol-related offences are very serious problems that need to be addressed and that while voluntarism must be given a chance to work, we would not be looking at this paragraph in the schedule if we did not find that ultimately an element of compulsion was necessary.

I agree entirely with and am a great fan of the pilots taking place in the National Health Service on brief interventions following what Robin Touquet of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington calls “the teachable moment”—that when you get in the A&E department a young person or adult who has had an accident, or someone who is brought before the police for some criminal offence, you can sometimes persuade that person to think about his drinking habits by referring him there and then to an alcohol social worker who will persuade him that these habits have not been useful to him and that he needs to look at his way of life. So voluntarism is essential to the first stage in looking at people who come into the criminal justice system or the health system as a result of the consumption of alcohol. But it is not enough, and that is why we have this provision in the Bill.

I remain concerned that, as the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, has pointed out, alcohol treatment accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total money available for drug and alcohol treatment as a whole. The Minister has explained that, while we have always had drug treatment orders, this brings alcohol into line for the first time. I applaud that principle; but then we have to look at the way in which alcohol and drugs treatment are each funded and ask whether that is commensurate with the damage caused by alcohol and drugs within

5 Feb 2008 : Column 1036

the criminal justice system. My submission is that the funds available are not commensurate and we need to think very carefully before we leave this part of the Bill—perhaps not now, but on Report—about how we structure the help that we are going to give.

While I am not totally wedded to the idea that the Royal College of Physicians should be in charge of the process, there needs to be a strategy. I accept everything that the Minister said about the need for local control, but that has to be within some sort of framework of validation and you cannot have totally ad hoc designs for these treatments in every local authority or PCT. The noble Lord did not comment on my reference to the Review of the Effectiveness of Treatment of Alcohol Problems just published by the National Treatment Agency. Clearly it knows a lot about how this works. If that review has taken the trouble to look at the problem and to comment on the effectiveness of treatment, surely that should be fed into the system and we should not have PCTs or local authorities going off and doing their own thing in a manner that is not consistent with an overall strategy.

Let us leave this for the moment and come back to it on Report when we have had a chance to study the Minister’s letter. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 20 not moved.]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 21:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 not moved.]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendments Nos. 24 to 27:

(a) the references to a detention and training order include an order made under section 211 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (c.52) (detention and training orders made by service courts); and(b) the reference to section 103(1)(a) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c.6) includes that provision as applied by section 213(1) of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (c.52).”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone moved Amendment No. 28:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page