Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

12 Jun 2008 : Column 673

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I think that the noble Lord is referring to Northampton magistrates’ court and Northampton Crown Court. Let me make it clear that the vehicle did not make a special journey to Northampton solely to move one prisoner from the Crown Court to the magistrates’ court. The vehicle left the contractor’s base in Leicester to collect prisoners from Her Majesty’s Prison Bedford and to deliver them to Cambridge magistrates’ court. The vehicle was then routed to Northampton to transfer the prisoner from the Crown Court to the magistrates’ court and to collect prisoners from the magistrates’ court and escort them to Her Majesty’s Prison Glen Parva in Leicestershire before returning to the Leicester base. That seems to be a perfectly appropriate thing to have done.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords—

Earl Ferrers: My Lords—

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I must answer the question. The point behind this is, of course, security.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, does the Minister agree that prisoners are at their most vulnerable just after sentencing? Is he aware that, of the 92 suicides reported in 2007, 41 involved prisoners on remand and 20 per cent occurred within the first seven days, in comparison with 8 per cent within the first seven days in 2006? Does he accept the importance of ensuring that prisoners arrive at their designated institution in time to be assessed, because that is when they are at their most vulnerable? This is a serious matter.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it is indeed a serious matter. I accept everything that the noble Baroness says. However, despite the current pressures in the system, the figures for 2007-08 show that 97 per cent of prisoners were delivered to the prison before reception closure. I very much take the point that she raises about the importance of the assessment that then needs to take place.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, will the Minister confirm to the House that, if a young person, woman or, indeed, any offender, for whatever reason, arrives late at night and there is clear evidence to everyone on the scene that there are mental health problems or a risk of suicide, someone with mental health expertise of a sufficiently high calibre will be available to come to the prison to give the appropriate treatment?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Baroness raises some of the pressures involved in ensuring that a proper assessment can take place if a prisoner is delivered to a prison or young offender institution late at night. That is why we have set a challenging target that 100 per cent of prisoners should be delivered before reception closes. When that is not possible, great care is taken to liaise with the appropriate establishment to ensure that an appropriate assessment takes place, but I accept that this is a considerable challenge.

12 Jun 2008 : Column 674

Olympic Games 2012: Greenwich Park

11.28 am

Lord James of Blackheath asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Ltd is working closely with stakeholders on the detailed plans for Greenwich Park as a temporary venue for the equestrian event at the 2012 Games. LOCOG’s aim is to protect the ecology and historic nature of Greenwich Park, including the buildings and archaeology that form the backdrop to the venue, and to avoid any sensitive areas. The site will be fully restored after the event.

Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. However, I find it a stretch of the imagination to understand how it can be restored when presumably a large number of trees will have to be demolished in order to make way for the 170-acre utilisation of the park for the creation of a three-day-event venue. That will be significantly less than the 1,800 acres used in the other principal establishments in this country for the same sport. Given that we have some medal aspirations for this sport, is it not unreasonable to restrict the crowd to about 25,000 compared with the 200,000 or so who can be accommodated elsewhere? How would the Olympic budget cope with the loss of revenue represented by such a restriction on the crowd?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the main stadium, which will be in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum, will cater for 23,000 spectators. There will be more spectators around the course. It is a restricted site in comparison with others, but it has the supreme advantage of being very close to the main Olympic facilities. This is London’s bid and it is only appropriate that these important events should be located within the capital if possible. The bid met with the full approval of the vetting authorities in those terms. However, a great deal of work needs to be done.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, the present car parking arrangements will obviously be inadequate for this event. Is it the Government’s intention to concrete over the ancient cricket and rugby fields, which have been in use for more than 100 years?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, detailed plans have not been finalised because there needs to be a great deal of consultation with local stakeholders, as I indicated in my initial Answer. I do not have a direct answer for the noble Baroness, but she and the House should accept that LOCOG is well aware of the significant historical nature of this site. It is of great value to all people in the United Kingdom. Nothing will be done to damage the site.

12 Jun 2008 : Column 675

Lord Addington: My Lords, if we accept that the London Olympics must, in principle, have its main events—the equestrian event is clearly one of them—in London, can the Government assure us that they will put as much pressure as is reasonable on LOCOG to ensure that we never lose any sporting facilities permanently? For example, the football pitches at Hackney Marsh were supposed to disappear, but they are not going to; they will come back in better condition. Will LOCOG ensure that anything that is disrupted is improved, and that, if we lose the odd tree, we plant two instead?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, on the question of facilities, the legacy plans of the Olympic movement are to ensure that opportunities are enhanced, not restricted, after the Games. That is why I am confident in answering the noble Baroness’s question about whether facilities will be lost. If it proved absolutely necessary to take some away permanently, there would be an obligation to replace them elsewhere. As far as trees are concerned, there is no doubt that there is local anxiety about the issue. The removal of trees must be kept to a minimum.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that the development of the Olympic sites will involve the principle of the maximum use of public transport and, therefore, the minimum provision of car parks? Will this apply in Greenwich, as it will in Stratford?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is certainly the objective, but it is more easily realised at Stratford, with its superb communications, than at Greenwich. We all appreciate that Greenwich, by comparison, has greater difficulty with regard to public transport. Nevertheless, my noble friend is right. As far as possible, these will be the green Games. In order to be the green Games, public transport must play a significant part.

Lord Lyell of Markyate: My Lords, is it not correct that some of the football is, sensibly, going to be played in Manchester? In those circumstances, when some of the finest three-day-event areas in Britain are in other parts of the country, is it not rather ridiculous to insist on having it in Greenwich Park, which will suffer so much damage?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, football will be scattered because it will have many series of games in the Olympic tournament. The Greenwich site will be used only for the equestrian events and the running and riding parts of the pentathlon. Its use will be much more limited. A crucial part of London’s bid is that the vast majority of events should take place within London. Greenwich has always figured as the site for these events. That must be fulfilled, while respecting the sensitive issues that have been presented by noble Lords today.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, will the Minister undertake to write to those who have expressed an interest in the issue of trees? He blithely says, “I’m

12 Jun 2008 : Column 676

sure the trees will be replaced”. We are talking about a park which has very ancient trees, including the hollow tree where Elizabeth I played as a child. These are very important sites, and I am not sure that the Minister has grasped the importance of those trees. He seems to be too focused on the wood.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, bearing in mind all these anxieties, Friends of Greenwich Park, which is an important community group, seems satisfied that the site can be constructed. Of course the noble Lord is right that care has to be taken of trees that are not easily replaced; that certainly includes trees associated with Elizabeth I.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, will the noble Lord think again about having the event in Greenwich, as opposed to Badminton? After all, the lottery funds are being raided for the London Olympics. Is it not about time that somewhere else in the country other than Manchester, for football, had some hope of seeing some of the Games?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, if the noble Baroness will forgive me, it is a little late in the day to suggest that there may be better sites elsewhere in the country. Of course there are specialist sites elsewhere, but we are talking about the London Olympics. That is why the bid was made in the name of London and was successful over Paris—because the vast majority of events are to be located closely together in London. That was one of the great virtues of the bid, and it is why we won.


11.38 am

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, with the permission of the House, my noble friend Lady Morgan of Drefelin will repeat a Statement entitled “Cabinet Office assessment documents” immediately after the first debate in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford.

Counter-Terrorism Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Business of the House: Debates Today

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of Lord Thomas of Gresford set down for today shall be limited to three hours and that in the name of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer to two hours.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

12 Jun 2008 : Column 677

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Investigative Powers of Prosecutors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Code of Practice) Order 2008

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Disclosure of Information) Order 2008

Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Disclosure of Information by SOCA) Order 2008

Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2008

Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006 (Sources of Energy and Technologies) Order 2008

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I beg to move the next five Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft orders and regulations be referred to a Grand Committee.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Youth Justice

11.40 am

Lord Thomas of Gresford rose to call attention to the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies paper, Ten Years of Labour’s Youth Justice Reforms: An Independent Audit; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is good to hear that the Counter-Terrorism Bill is to be with us shortly. I am sure we shall have many happy hours with that.

It all started back in 1992. Your Lordships will remember the pledge of the shadow Home Secretary at the time, Mr Tony Blair, to the Labour Party conference when he said that the Labour Party would be,

He pledged a shift away from what David Blunkett later called,

Jack Straw pledged curfews for 10 year-olds. It was Labour’s response to the disaster of the 1992 election—a repositioning that would put them well to the right of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, who in his period as Home Secretary had argued that the British prison system did not work effectively and called for more rehabilitation of offenders and alternative sentencing. Mr Michael Howard, however, appointed as Home Secretary in 1993, coined the phrase “prison works” and ratcheted up the rhetoric in a competition for “toughness”, which has led us to the position where

12 Jun 2008 : Column 678

we are today, with prisons bursting and the Home Office seeking to devise new wheezes, through Titan prisons and offshore hulks, to contain by far the highest prison population per capita in Europe.

In the 1997 election, one of Mr Prescott’s five pledges on his little pledge card was to halve the time it took from arrest to sentence for young offenders. The manifesto said that,

So it was that in government new Labour sought to tackle youth offending through the criminal justice route. The deep-rooted social problems which various studies had identified were to be solved not through investment in mainstream local authority children’s and young people’s provision and more effective children's services, but through punishment. The White Paper No More Excuses, published in 1998, stated that,

Any plans to tackle the complex economic and social factors that cause youth offending were put on the back burner. The flagship Bill in 1998, which your Lordships will recall was the Crime and Disorder Bill, abolished the principle of doli incapax—one of the principles of this country that nobody under the age of 13 could be assumed to be guilty. It also established the Youth Justice Board, created locally accountable youth offending teams, replaced cautions with a new reprimand and final warning scheme and restructured non-custodial penalties. It also introduced the ASBO, the rationale for which was described by Hazel Blears MP in these terms:

She praised ASBOs for introducing the civil burden of proof, making it easier for orders to be obtained and welcomed the punitive sentence of five years’ imprisonment, which could be imposed for their breach. There was a relish for the punishment of young people in Labour ranks for conduct that was not criminal at all. Those feelings were extended and deepened by successive Home Secretaries from David Blunkett to John Reid, whose frustration at the courts’ insistence on the legal traditions of fairness and justice was self-evident.

Between 1998 and 2001, four separate Acts of Parliament dealt with aspects of youth crime and in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act recently passed, it has all been overhauled again. The report, which is the subject of the debate, Ten Years of Labours Youth Justice Reforms, is an independent audit by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, and its two authors, Enver Solomon and Richard Garside are the deputy director and director respectively. They focused not on the philosophy or principles behind the Labour Government’s initiatives,

12 Jun 2008 : Column 679

but on the implementation, examining whether the Government and the YJBs hit the targets that they set themselves, as set out in business plans, public service agreements with the Treasury and Labour manifestos. They say that assessment has been difficult. They have been struck by the lack of consistent and robust data on which any measurement of progress can be made. Employment levels, relative levels of income inequality, demographic breakdown, cultural practices and technological progress will all have an impact. Indeed, that echoes the report of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit that 80 per cent of the reduction in the official crime rate since 1997 was due to economic and not criminal justice factors. On page 13, the report states:

Therefore, it does not seek to quantify the distinctive and particular contribution made by the various youth agencies to levels of youth crime. It does not have the material on which to make that assessment. The report’s most significant finding is the move away from a welfare approach to dealing with children and young people, to one which relies far more on punishment. “New Labour, new punitiveness” is a phrase that has been coined to describe it.

Secondly, the report concludes that the Government sought to introduce a more managerialist approach to tackling youth crime, focusing on “processing” young offenders from arrest to sentence. The only target it set that has been hit has been from Mr Prescott's little five pledges card getting children quicker through the courts and into custody.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page