Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I turn finally to two issues, the first of which is prisons. I think that we will be discussing prisons both at Question Time tomorrow and again next week. Many noble Lords are very interested in this subject and have spoken with great passion about it. All I want to make clear is that it is important that we provide enough prison places for serious offenders. Clearly there are people in prison who should not be there, including those with mental health issues and vulnerable women. The report of my noble friend Lord Bradley is due to come out early in the new year. We accept that prison is not always the right answer for less serious offenders, and our support for community sentences is there for everyone to see. Since we came to power, we have increased spending on probation by 67 per cent in real terms, so anyone who thinks that all we are concerned to do is send people to prison is wrong. Some must go to prison, but others should serve community sentences.

I want to refer to the excellent speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller. She referred to extremism and radicalisation. A number of things have happened since she left her office. The Government strategy called Prevent is designed to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism. This is a long-term challenge and a top priority for us. Success in countering terrorism means more than success in the pursuit or disruption of terrorists; we cannot arrest our way out of the problem we face. Delivery in partnership and at local level is essential and we are working closely with key partners, including local authorities. Some £45 million is being made available over the next three financial years as part of the area-based grant to support local authorities’ priority work to tackle violent extremism in their communities.

On RIPA, my colleague, the honourable Vernon Coaker MP, when addressing the House of Lords Constitution Committee recently, agreed that there had been occasions when local authorities had used RIPA powers inappropriately. John Healey, the Minister for Local Government, has recently written to all local

9 Dec 2008 : Column 370

authority chief executives emphasising the need to use the powers only when it is necessary and proportionate to do so. The Home Office is revisiting the codes of practice on surveillance and covert human intelligence sources. This will clarify the test of necessity and proportionality. I am grateful for the important points that were made on that subject during the debate.

My noble friend Lord Lofthouse made, in many ways, the speech of the day—it certainly impressed me—on the issue of compensation for coalminers. He will understand that, because proceedings are taking place as we speak—he mentioned them himself—I cannot comment on the merits or otherwise. However, I promise to take his request back to the department and to see whether it can do anything further. I am grateful, too, for what my noble friend Lord Dixon said.

It is time for me to end.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, before the Minister sits down—

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am not giving way. I want to say to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that, as the legal aid Minister, I would very much enjoy debating the subject with him. Like him, I feel it is one of the great achievements of this country. It needs to be protected but we have to accept that there are limited resources for it at this time. What is important is that it should get to the people who need it most.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, before the Minister sits down—

Lord Bach: My Lords, I have not sat down and I am not giving way. My time is up. I look forward to the forthcoming Session, as I hope do Members who have taken part in the debate. Of course there will be challenges to the Government; we look forward to those challenges and stand on our record. The issues we have debated today are serious and important and I commend the programme to your Lordships, particularly those parts of it emanating from my department and the Home Office. I look forward debating them with noble Lords shortly.

Debate adjourned until tomorrow.

House adjourned at 10.12 pm.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page