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Much can be done to improve community provision. My noble friend mentioned a number of exciting community project works that are being undertaken, such as the Asha Centre in Worcester and the 218 project in Glasgow. My noble friend recommended that these initiatives should be developed and replicated elsewhere, and that is what we wish to encourage. We have a cross-department initiative to examine how the services and support delivered by existing community women’s services could be developed further for women offenders and women at risk of offending.

I now turn to our general policy on population and my noble friend's recommendation about small custodial units. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, asked about overcrowding. Of course, the report of my noble friend Lord Carter of Coles enables us to deal with this in a comprehensive way, both in terms of supply-side and demand-side management. We will soon be debating provisions—I will not bet on it but I hope not too far away—in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. I gently point out to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that his colleague in the other place, Mr David Davis, said in the Daily Telegraph yesterday that he thought that we should be locking up many more under-18s. I would like to put on the record that that would not help the prison population.

It is dangerous for me to try to link my noble friends Lord Carter of Coles and Lady Corston because they are both sitting behind me. If I get this wrong they will tell me in no uncertain terms. However, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, put that to me and I must answer it. It is clear to say that my noble friend Lord Carter recommended that the Government should continue to develop a strategy that deals with the specific needs of women and suggested that future consideration should be given to reconfiguring some of the smaller prison sites to accommodate female offenders, allowing for a different approach appropriate to their needs.

There is no question but that we believe that the women’s estate must be reconfigured, as my noble friend Lady Corston said. We have set up a short project, which is led at director level, to consider the future of the women’s custodial estate and to explore how the recommendation on small, local custodial units could be taken forward. My noble friend made

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some very important recommendations. It is a significant change. We will have to look at it carefully, and we will do so in parallel to taking forward my noble friend Lord Carter’s recommendations. I agree with him about the importance of good design. This is an opportunity for us to try to inculcate good design into a future programme. I like the idea of a competition, which I will certainly pass on to my friends.

On strip searches, I say to my noble friend Lady Corston that she knows that we accept that full searching causes distress to many women, particularly those with mental health problems and those who have been sexually abused. We are piloting a new kind of women’s full search. The initial stage of the piloting is expected to be completed in May 2008 and then we will establish whether we can make further progress.

Some very interesting comments have been made about mental health issues, such as dual diagnosis. There is no question that the input of the primary care trust is positive but that much more needs to happen. I take the point that when people leave custody, ensuring continuity of health provision is one way in which one can make resettlement work as effectively as possible. My noble friend Lord Bradley is reviewing a number of these important matters in relation to mental health, and I know that my noble friend Lady Corston will have an input into that work.

I thank my noble friend Lady Massey for her work with the National Treatment Agency. I accept that while considerable improvements have been made to gender-specific drug services in prisons, there is more that we can do, and it must remain a high priority. With regard to drug mules, my understanding is that the proportion of women prisoners under immediate custodial sentences who are foreign nationals is 15 per cent, and 56 per cent of foreign national females are serving sentences for drug exportation and importation, with the largest number coming from Nigeria. Of course, this group of women have considerably different resettlement needs from other prisoners, and more is being done to respond specifically to those needs and to help to equip those women when they return to their home country.

I say to my noble friend Lady McIntosh that I was very glad to hear of the work of Pimlico Opera, Clean Break and Music in Prisons. I do not have firsthand experience of that work, but—

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I am sorry to intervene, but is the Minister aware that Pimlico Opera was one of the organisations that had its funding cut last week by the Arts Council?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, those decisions fall to the Arts Council and not to the Government. I am very much aware of the arts in the health service programmes, which have been hugely positive. I thought that there was much in what my noble friend said, and I will bring that to the attention of my ministerial colleagues.

To give my noble friend a couple of minutes to respond to the debate, I will draw my remarks to a conclusion. My noble friend’s report is one of the most important reports to be published in this area

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for some years. It contains many recommendations, some of which would lead to fundamental changes in the way in which women are dealt with in the criminal justice system. There is no question whatever that in the past women have been marginalised in a system that has been largely designed for male prisoners. We know in terms of the outcomes for those women that we have to do better and the Government are pledged to do just that.

2.44 pm

Baroness Corston: My Lords, earlier this week, a former colleague from another place asked me how I was getting on here, and he said, “The truth is that you have better debates than us”. Today exemplifies that statement. I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part. I opened my remarks by saying that it was impossible for me to summarise everything that was in my report. It was wonderful to note how many noble Lords today have done that for me and have raised so many different issues to which I drew attention.

I have been heartened by the response of Ministers to my report. My noble friend Lord Hunt will know that it is not my way to get on my feet and make remarks in the Chamber. Over my parliamentary life I have found that it is far better to talk to people one to one to persuade them, because to get on one’s feet can sometimes paint them into a corner, and I have never done that. It has been marvellous to have had voicemail messages, letters and phone calls over the weekend, saying, “Can we talk to you about this?”, “How do you think we should do that?”, “What is the best way of achieving something else?”. In my experience, there has never been such cross-departmental interest, with Ministers from the Department of Health, DCLG, the Home Office all coming to me and saying, “Please can we talk to you about how we make this work?”.

Someone not long ago said to me, “If you are not careful, you are going to be known as the champion for women in prison”. I actually cannot think of a better epitaph, because not many people have been that concerned about women in prison. Lots of people who work in prisons and who work in organisations that deal with women in prison who will read today’s report and be gratified that so many of us are interested. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Police: Flanagan Review

2.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, I would like to make a Statement in response to Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s independent review of policing in England and Wales. Copies of the final report have been placed in the Library of the House. I start by thanking Sir

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Ronnie for his report. He has worked hard meeting and talking to people up and down the country. I particularly appreciate the work that he has done to include the voices and views of frontline officers. His recommendations are independent and are challenging to all of us, across the political spectrum, and to the police themselves.

“In asking Sir Ronnie to carry out this review, we were determined to find the best ways to ensure that the investment that this Government have made in extra police officers and police community support officers has an impact where it counts, with visible teams in every neighbourhood and with officers able to focus on what will really make a difference in continuing to reduce crime levels. The report is wide ranging. It deserves further reflection and discussion. It raises important questions about how working practices can be reformed, so that police officers can get the most out of their job and communities can get the best out of the police.

“In the area of reducing bureaucracy, I believe that we can make quick progress, and this where I will focus today. As the Association of Chief Police Officers recognises in its submission to the review, ‘Current levels of unnecessary bureaucracy are created both within as well as outside the police service’. Sir Ronnie is clear that freeing up police officers to do the job they came into policing to do requires more than simply removing paperwork, important though that is. It is not just about cutting requirements from the centre, important though that is. It requires new thinking on performance management from top to bottom of the police service, new attitudes to risk, new ways of working across the criminal justice system and new technology to support the work of policing. I accept that challenge. We are already making progress in response to Sir Ronnie’s interim report from September.

“First, from this April, new public service agreements and targets will provide greater flexibility to focus on what matters locally, on serious violence and on anti-social behaviour, and to streamline the process that gets suspected criminals to court. Secondly, we are consulting on reforms to the working of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act that will reduce police bureaucracy and allow experienced officers to focus on their core roles by making better use of police staff. Thirdly, working with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Justice and the Attorney-General, I am piloting a range of improvements to the way the police work with the courts and the wider criminal justice system. These include virtual courts and new streamlined processes to reduce police and administrative time in preparing prosecution files.

“Fourthly, we are investing in new technology to make crime-fighting more effective and to save officers’ time—including video identity parades, livescan electronic fingerprinting, body-worn cameras, and the £50 million capital fund that will deliver 10,000 mobile data receivers by September.

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I want to end the days of officers having to enter details more than once, on systems that do not talk to each other. Sir Ronnie’s final report shows how we can go further, and identifies further savings to the equivalent of 2,500 to 3,500 officers a year. I accept his recommendations to achieve this.

“I commend Sir Ronnie for his careful and measured consideration of how to reduce the bureaucracy surrounding stop and account. I agree with his proposal that we should scrap the lengthy form that officers use to record data when they carry out this critical activity. But I do not underestimate the need to build community confidence in policing. We must be able to monitor the proportionality of stops. So I welcome the proposal that we use airwave police radio technology to record any encounter, and that the simple card officers will give out to those stopped will have a phone number that they can call.

“We will immediately pilot this new approach to stop and account in three areas and I expect the changes to be national later this year. As the House will know, stop and account is a very different issue from stop and search, for which Sir Ronnie says, ‘a more formal and comprehensive process is both proportionate and appropriate’. I therefore welcome the work already being done by the Metropolitan Police and the Metropolitan Police Authority, in co-operation with community representatives, to produce a shorter form, which they are introducing later this month. Separately, the use of handheld devices to allow officers to input information directly and create a central record of a stop and search is cutting the average time from 25 minutes to six minutes. In view of the considerable benefits identified, I am calling on all chief constables to streamline their forms and process in the way Sir Ronnie has advocated. Both stop and search and stop and account can be powerful tools in tackling crime. So from April we will extend police powers to tackle gang-related gun and knife crime—enabling officers to stop and search in designated areas where an act of serious violence has taken place, as well as in anticipation of serious violence.

“We can now go further in other areas of recording. Sir Ronnie proposes that we endorse a radical new approach being trialled in Staffordshire and other forces, where police are freeing up more time to deal with victims of crime by using a standard one-page form. Officers are able to use their discretion in how much further information they record, proportionate to the severity of the crime. I will ensure that this approach can be introduced nationally as soon as possible.

“In today’s report Sir Ronnie celebrates the development and delivery of neighbourhood policing. Thanks to the hard work of forces and police authorities throughout England and Wales, there will be a team for every neighbourhood in April. More than 3,600 teams are now in place, and 16,000 police community support officers have

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been recruited. Up and down the country, at public meetings and in street briefings, local communities are helping to influence their team’s priorities. And throughout March, people will be hearing more about who their local teams are and how they can contact them.

“I have asked Sir Ronnie to report back to me in six months on the progress we and the police are making to reduce bureaucracy. This spring, I will publish a Green Paper with proposals for greater flexibility for frontline officers and staff, greater reductions in bureaucracy, strengthened local accountability arrangements and a reformed performance management framework.

“Sir Ronnie’s report sets out a powerful challenge for how we can adapt to meet the demands of 21st-century policing: freeing police officers from unnecessary red tape; giving them the skills and the tools for the valuable job they do; delivering neighbourhood policing in every area; and ensuring a better police service, for officers, victims and communities alike. Working together, it is a challenge that I am sure the police service and Government will rise to. I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

2.55 pm

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made by the Home Secretary in the other place. We welcome this thoughtful and incisive report, which has appeared after considerable delay and which takes up many of the challenges that have been made about the police service and the Government’s micromanagement of it. Sir Ronnie has come up with recommendations based on common-sense views on how policing ought to serve its local communities as well as tackling serious crime and security threats. He shows how changes can be made quickly, and without the need to resort to yet more legislation.

This is a thorough and fascinating report, raising as it does many issues which have been central to the concerns over policing in this country, which has moved from a robust “bobby on the beat”-based organisation to one which has gradually, under this Government, been throttled by red tape, health and safety straitjackets, and implausible targets, pinning police officers to their desks when they should have been out in the streets. Everyone but the Government seems to have known this but it has taken already five reviews of police in nine years, with 150 recommendations, for precious little change to be made. So first, may I ask the Minister, what will change with this report? Do the Government intend to implement all the recommendations made by Sir Ronnie, against the strict timetables he has laid down?

When will the Green Paper promised by the Home Secretary be published? It is nearly spring now and that is when we are promised it, but none of the issues raised by Sir Ronnie regarding the bureaucracy is new or unknown. What the Green Paper canvasses about flexibility for front-line staff, strengthening local accountability and producing a greater reduction in

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bureaucracy as well as reforming the performance management framework can be implemented immediately with the minimum of fuss, and without legislation, by simply binning the forms, particularly those for stop and search and stop and account, and reducing the number and complexity of targets. Green Papers almost always herald legislation. Does the Minister anticipate that we will see a Bill, if it is necessary, this Session, or will important changes which require parliamentary time have to wait for the Queen’s Speech, and thus roll on into infinity?

The Government have a real job to do to convince the police and the public that they are determined to relieve the police of the desk-binding paperwork that has jeopardised proper policing for so long. They also have to convince the public that they are determined to get on top of gun, knife and drug crime, and teenage gangs. Gun killings are up by 20 per cent on last year, blade killings by 18 per cent and youth on youth crime is soaring. Two-thirds of the victims of murders in London since January 2007 were black or Asian, so the stop-and-search restrictions and reporting, which were introduced to protect ethnic minorities, have not succeeded in doing so. Will the Minister confirm that police officers will not only be empowered to stop and search for a limited period, without reasonable suspicion, when a serious crime has been committed or is anticipated but will be free to decide the areas where this is necessary? The Home Secretary’s Statement limits this to what are called “designated areas”, so will the Minister tell us: what does that mean; and designated by whom?

The Statement refers to reforms to be considered in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, but it is silent on those that need to be made to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which regulates police surveillance operations, and to reforms on health and safety regulations, which have resulted in the police having a risk-averse culture. Will the Minister say whether consideration can be given to amending these Acts to respond to some of the issues raised by Sir Ronnie’s report?

The report covers many more aspects of the police service than mentioned in the Statement, including more civilianisation, which had already been introduced by the Conservative Government some 15 years ago; the greater use of technology; the allocation of resources; and improvements in the management of the service. The public want to see police when they are burgled, have their cars vandalised, have their shops broken into, are harassed in the street and are frightened by yobs. They will believe that this report has been worth while when they see the changes that Sir Ronnie advises should be made, resulting in the police dealing with crime and not just logging reports without taking further action.

I believe, too, that police officers themselves want to do and be seen to do the job for which they have signed up, and to be assured of the public’s recognition of their professionalism. I hope that that will not be the last we see of this report. I look forward to this House having more opportunities to discuss the way forward. It is an important document and I hope that we will not lose sight of it.

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Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, from these Benches we, too, welcome the thrust of this report. We fully support the need to reduce bureaucracy, and of course we support neighbourhood policing and attempts to create an efficient and accountable police force. It is, however, a shame that it has taken some 11 years to get to where we are. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, mentioned, there have been many reviews on the road to this report.

Several issues were only touched on in the brief Statement, and we understand that, but I want to draw out two or three of them. First, on the general need for reform and the hope that we can now make progress, does the Secretary of State recognise that police workforce reforms have perhaps been set back by the folly over the pay settlement? That political controversy, born of a very small pay settlement, could have been avoided and would therefore have created the conditions today for better interaction between those wanting to see reform at the top—the strategic responsibilities—and the police force that has to deliver those reforms. We regret that those relations have broken down.

In the report itself much has been made of the use of technology. We hear of virtual courts, video ID parades, and 10,000 mobile data services by September. We will look closely at the details of these measures, but our concern will be that, in addition to streamlining and reducing workloads, they will impact on civil liberties, data privacy and security? One would have thought that the imbroglio on ID cards, the recent epidemic of data theft and the loss and sheer human incompetence that may well result in data being corrupted, would have made the Government slightly less enthusiastic about resorting to technology so readily. Given that Britain is becoming increasingly concerned about surveillance we expect to examine the Government’s proposals extremely carefully in this regard.

My other point relates to community confidence and the safeguards that have been introduced—we understand the good reason behind them—but I wonder whether the Government have thought through the confidence of ethnic minorities, which will be a key issue. The safeguards were introduced for good reason—most of them in the aftermath of the Macpherson report, when we had serious ethnic minority confidence issues to deal with. We would not wish to see the expense of those safeguards being sacrificed and a further erosion in relations between minorities and the police.

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