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At the most senior level, these changes are exemplified by the creation of a new post with operational responsibility for both prisons and probation: the NOMS chief operating officer. From 1 April this year, the chief operating officer has taken responsibility for the previous functions of prisons director of operations and director of the National Probation Service. I remind the Committee that this position was filled following a full external competition, supervised by the Civil Service commissioner, to ensure that the most suitable candidate was selected. The post of chief operating officer is much more than a simple amalgamation of senior posts in order to achieve efficiencies. His function is to ensure that the DOMs are delivering and to hold them accountable if they are not. As I have tried to make clear, the DOMS will now undertake much of the work at a regional level that was previously conducted nationally by either the director of the National Probation Service or the director of operations for the Prison Service.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that—as I think he knows full well—there is no intention to reappoint another director of the National Probation Service, precisely as there is no intention to reappoint another director of operations for the Prison Service.

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However, I assure him that oversight of the operational management of these two services has in no way been diminished. Rather, the additional oversight and scrutiny that the DOMs will provide constitutes a significant improvement in this respect. By contrast, the chief operating officer is responsible for representing operational management on the NOMS management board.

There can be no suggestion that the excellent work performed by staff in prisons, probation and headquarters is undervalued by us. We are under a duty always to seek improvements where they can be made. In these difficult times, the duty of public bodies to ensure that the taxpayer is receiving the best possible value for money assumes even greater importance. This requirement goes hand in hand with the need to focus resources on where they are most needed—that is, on the everyday management of offenders, whether they are in custody, in the community or in that world in between. Only by prioritising our efforts in this area can we hope to achieve our ultimate aim which is, of course, that of protecting the public.

The changes that I have outlined will have a dramatic impact on the front-line delivery of offender management, making it both more effective and efficient. There will be more co-operation between organisations and less bureaucracy; more regional direction and fewer national directives; and better ways of working, rather than a perpetuation of some of the mistakes of the past. While change is difficult and always controversial, we will not shy away from implementing this restructuring, given the potential benefits it will bring to the management of offenders across England and Wales.

Noble Lords made some very interesting speeches and I am grateful to them for their contributions. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, talked about restorative justice. We agree that it can be a particularly useful way for victims to receive reparation from offenders and we are committed to encouraging its use. She will know that its role is emphasised in the recently published Green Paper on Engaging Communities in Criminal Justice. The Government have already issued guidance on restorative justice for local areas and we are in the process of developing a victim-focused strategy to highlight best practice in victim engagement. I know that that is a topic that we will come back to on future occasions.

I was asked to deal with three questions from the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I can only say that I am delighted that the Official Opposition have a policy on this topic. It is certainly the exception that proves the rule. We look forward to seeing policy initiatives telling us what they might do if they are lucky enough ever to be back in government in other areas in this field. But I think that everyone will want to know exactly what they intend to do about the structure that we are creating here if and when they were to return to office. I do not ask the noble Lord to tell us now, but it is something for him to think about and tell us in due course.

He asked three questions. I cannot answer one today. I will have to write to him on his figure of £1.5 billion for the setting up of the new system. I know that that is not what he wanted me to do, but I

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will have to do that. As far as the headquarters costs of £1 billion, the figure of £1.012 billion for NOMS administration costs in 2006-07—I think that that was what he was referring to—in the NOMS business plan does not relate simply to funding the NOMS headquarters staff. Indeed, the vast majority of the figure relates to funding for major front-line programmes, which include private-sector prisons, electronic monitoring, prisoner escort contracts, the administration of the Parole Board, the prison and probation ombudsmen, Her Majesty's inspectorates of prisons and probation, dedicated funding for capacity building, administration of the shared service centre, providing human resources and financed support to prisons and central payments of IT costs for the entire organisation.

I am afraid that his middle question is one that has escaped me. If he would like to put it to me again, I may be able to answer it before I have to sit down. Otherwise, I will see what it was in Hansard and write to him. Before I sit down, I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for starting this debate. It is one that we will continue. While there are differences of opinion, I hope that all noble Lords accept that the Government as well as all others—

Lord Ramsbotham: I thank the Minister very much for all that detail, but frankly, if I may say so with respect, he has not actually answered my question about who is the professional head of the probation service. Who is responsible for the leadership and professional development of the staff of the probation service? It is all very well having an operational director responsible for DOMs, responsible for the oversight of all this happening and the money and so forth. The Minister has given me that, but he has not concentrated on the staff of the probation service. He told us that they remain as a separate entity but also that they no longer have a director. To whom do they look as their professional leader and to whom do Ministers look for advice about what is going on in the service as a whole? The Minister mentioned the 10 DOMs, who all have these wonderful characteristics. How many of those DOMs come from within either the prison or the probation service?

Lord Bach: I am sorry that I did not answer the noble Lord's question before, but the professional head is Michael Spurr, who is the chief operating officer I was talking about. He was recently appointed and supported by the DOMs themselves. As I already said, he was appointed following full independent competition. The senior operational probation staff work directly to Michael Spurr. Under each of the DOMs, there is a senior probation officer alongside a senior Prison Service officer. I have already said that the DOMs themselves have a lot of experience in a number of different fields. I am not sure that it is not a bit over-simple to look at the background of each individual DOM and say, “He’s a prison person or a probation person”. These are people of great experience, who will play a vital role in the new system. I have already pointed out how much extra resource this Government have put into the probation service as proof of how important we see it as part of this end-to-end management structure.

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Lord Ramsbotham: The Minister mentions their great experience—but great experience at what? Have they got experience of managing offenders?

Lord Bach: Whether they come from the Prison Service or the probation service, I would argue that they all have management experience of offenders because management of offenders is not just about probation—it is what happens in custody, too. There is a linkage, not a separation, between the two services, which is at the heart of our argument about the NOMS structure.

I have troubled the House for rather longer than I should—

Lord Dholakia: The noble Lord, Lord Henley, raised the important issue of consultation. Was the matter of organisation to which the Minister referred discussed with NAPO and other professional probation organisations? What was the outcome of those consultations?

Lord Bach: I am advised that consultation has continued over the years with NAPO and all relevant organisations. So the argument that we have not consulted in this field is not a valid one.

3.52 pm

Sitting suspended.

Transport: Segway

Question for Short Debate

4.03 pm

Tabled By Lord Harris of Haringey

Lord Harris of Haringey: I am delighted to have this opportunity to raise this matter this afternoon. I am particularly grateful to all noble Lords who have put their names down to participate, and to several others who were keen to participate but have not been able to do so at short notice.

Today’s discussion is probably extremely timely; I have a sense that we have reached a stage at which personal transporters have come of age. This was brought home to me in 10 minutes of the BBC’s “Children in Need” appeal this year. There, appearing to watch a performance of “The Office: The Opera”, was Ricky Gervais, coming in on a personal transporter. You could see, with the facility, grace and elegance with which he did this, that it was now part of the national psyche.

I am also well aware that as long ago as 2005 my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham, responding to discussions in your Lordships’ House on personal transporters during the passage of the Road Safety Act, said that,

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That was certainly the perspective with which I have initially approached this issue. I declare an interest as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Policing.

Certainly, there is now considerable evidence around the world of substantial use by the police service of personal transporters. The documented benefits include helping to cut response times, assistance in community engagement, vehicles serving as an ice-breaker and so on. Numerous UK police forces have indicated that they would be interested in using the personal transporter, and there have been letters of support from a number of parts of the country.

I am told that Segway personal transporters are used by more than 1,000 police, law enforcement and security agencies worldwide, and the benefits to officer and community safety are universally perceived. In the United States, the Segway personal transporter is classified as a special purpose vehicle on the approved equipment list in the homeland security grant Act. Anyone who has followed attempts by organisations to get their product on that list will know that it requires a high degree of testing and of satisfying people of the safety involved.

I have seen correspondence from the commander of Sutton borough police in London, part of the Metropolitan Police, who examined in considerable detail the possible use that the police might make of personal transporters in their regular work. There was a case study to look at the matter and the police were keen to use the transporter in their own context. They quoted a community police officer in Albuquerque—you may say that there is not a great similarity between Albuquerque and Sutton, but they nevertheless felt that what was said by him was pertinent to what they saw as an important use in their area—about how the use of personal transporters could be easily integrated in the daily patrols of officers. Sutton police could see how it would cut down response times in a particular patrol area, and it was clear that it would facilitate community engagement because the police officer would be very visible and, as he was not in a car and perhaps not moving quickly, people could converse with him. Also, the novelty of the personal transporter might act as an ice-breaker for conversations. Sutton police saw it as an opportunity to improve relations between the public and the police, while delivering a better service more efficiently.

That is why I initially became interested and involved in the issue. It is clear that there could be other specialist uses of the personal transporter that would greatly assist the public service. I have also seen correspondence from the then director of environmental services at the London Borough of Bromley, who was also keen to examine the use of Segway personal transporters as part of the local council’s sustainable transport strategy. It used one for about a year—I do not know whether it still does—and it could see huge advantages in the way in which it could raise awareness for local council policies. There are many practical applications of the machine that it would like to pursue. It commented that the Segway personal transporter had been used successfully by police forces,

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airport staff and postal workers elsewhere. The London Borough of Bromley made the case to take this further by testing its use, initially, with park rangers within the council service and street service engineers. Both services typically involve numerous trips over short distances which are currently undertaken by car or van. The council’s aim would be to undertake the majority of those trips by personal transporter, thereby reducing the impact of those services on the environment and the community.

If the trials were successful, Bromley then wanted to extend use of the Segway to other council services and to include it in a potential project focusing on mobility management in the town centre. Council officers from a variety of departments have seen the viability of using such personal transporters for existing transportation needs, and all the concerns that might have been expressed internally about practicality and safety were overcome as they examined this in some detail. That is an example of the possible use that might exist.

I noticed recently that the London Borough of Westminster—which, as many noble Lords will be aware, has some of the most assertive and aggressive parking attendants in the country—has put its parking attendants on mopeds, and they are zipping up and down to make sure whether people have paid the necessary fees. Here, again, the use of a personal transporter would be more environmentally suitable and provide them with the facilities they need.

The British Airports Authority at Heathrow provides another example of specialist use. Its five-man team of facilities inspectors use personal transporters in their daily inspection patrols around the building. It reports benefits in covering greater distance in less time and being able to respond to call-outs more swiftly. It also allows for more frequent inspections of passenger-sensitive equipment that is known to be unreliable. As far as it is concerned, the trial, which was entirely on its own private premises, was very successful and it did not want to give it up at the end of the trial period.

The British Airports Authority saw a number of strengths: quick response times to incidents and faults; virtually zero maintenance; simple to use, only 10-minutes training; large distances covered quickly; highly manoeuvrable; zero emissions and so on. It could see huge possibilities for it. BAA summarised the business benefits—which would apply not only to Heathrow but to many local authority services—as being the ability to patrol greater distances in less time, thus reducing response times and increasing the frequency with which it was able to respond.

There are clearly a number of specialist uses to which this could be put. It is quite clear that a much wider use of personal transporters is possible and I hope my noble friend the Minister will respond to those points in the course of his reply. Obviously this would facilitate a degree of modal shift. It would meet environmental concerns in that it would reduce emissions, and there would be huge benefits in terms of mobility for many people. So there is a case for wider use.

No doubt my noble friend has been briefed by his department on the possible problems and objections that there might be, but I hope that he will consider, as

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a result of the discussions that we have here today, the possibility of facilitating a number of trials. He has the legal authority to do so. Section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 makes quite clear that:

“The Secretary of State may by order authorise, subject to such restrictions and conditions as may be specified by or under the order, the use on roads ... of special motor vehicles or trailers, or special types of motor vehicles or trailers, which are constructed either for special purposes or for tests”—

and, indeed, vehicles and trailers which are used overseas. So the legal powers are there.

Further, this would enable the Government to demonstrate their commitment to these issues. A Canadian study in 2006 reported a substantial modal shift. This was not about cyclists converting to personal transporters or pedestrians moving towards them; this was about people giving up their cars for short journeys to travel by personal transporter. So, in delivering the Government’s objectives on modal shift, there is a very strong case.

I hope my noble friend, in responding to the debate, will take the opportunity to tell your Lordships that it will be possible to engage in some wide-ranging trials, either specifically in respect of the emergency services or local government, or, ideally, by designating an area where Segway personal transporters are available for general use.

4.14 pm

The Earl of Liverpool: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, for securing this opportunity to debate the merits of the Segway human transporter. His comprehensive and informative contribution has set the scene for this debate. I look forward to hearing the answers to the questions which he has posed to the Minister and I shall put a few of my own.

I am a firm supporter of Segways and have owned a machine for three years. They are a fun and eco-friendly way to get around but they are not toys. They need to be taken seriously and I hope to explain why. They have been around for at least seven years and are now street-legal in more than 10 European countries as well as in a number of states in America and Canada. They have a truly global reach with 350 Segway authorised retail points in 66 countries and they are used with enthusiasm, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has told us, by around 1,000 police departments and security agencies around the world.

About three years ago when I was in America, I spoke to a member of the Kentucky police who patrols on one. He told me how good they were in street-market situations as well as for normal patrolling because it was possible to move around discreetly and silently and to see over the heads of the crowds without appearing to be too threatening or intimidating. He even told me that he had been able to make an arrest when thieves had tried to get away in a car, something which he said would certainly not have been possible if he had been on foot, although I am not sure that I can visualise that happening. I was even told that the chief of police was so impressed with them that he was doubling the number of machines in Kentucky.

In this country, despite having the support of the Metropolitan Police, the forces of Sutton and Brent and the O2 Arena police force among others, they

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have still not received formal approval from the DfT. So it seems that, because of this deafening silence, we in this country are falling seriously behind the curve. I hope that everything that the Minister hears today will convince him that these machines will not go away. This country is beginning to look increasingly isolated and out of touch. Despite widespread support for these machines, it is my understanding that ACPO is saying that it is reluctant to carry out an official trial until they are made street legal. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong but, if I am right, then we are in the midst of the most ridiculous Catch-22 situation which we have to resolve.

As I have already said, I am the owner of a Segway. I use it on private land around my home in Gloucestershire and I can assure the Committee that when I am out exercising our dog, it puts a wide smile on both our faces. I have reached the age when arthritic knees can take the fun out of a round of golf and so I also use it on golf courses. It always creates interest and even some amusement. Almost invariably I am asked by other golfers to let them have a go.

Some eight months ago, on 9 September last year, I was part of the parliamentary delegation led by Lembit Opik when about 12 of us set off from this House on Segways to deliver a petition to the Ministry of Transport in Marsham Street. Shortly after that, and because I still had the loan of the machine I had used for that purpose, I decided to carry out some practical research of my own. I wanted to see whether a Segway is really a viable commuting vehicle which did everything it said on the tin. We have a flat near Shepherd’s Bush, so I decided to put it to the test on a journey to and from your Lordships' House. I donned a high-visibility jacket, wore a helmet and even had a flashing red light on my head, and set off. It was one of the easiest and most enjoyable journeys I have ever undertaken. I certainly had a novel view of London as I went through the parks en route, using the cycle ways. I received no antagonism whatever, only interest in what it could do. I completed the journey in a little under the time it takes me to drive. I have done this journey only once but the experience was enough to convince me that the Segway is entirely fit for purpose.

These machines tick many boxes for the urban environment. They are electric, with a range of about 24 miles from one charge; they are pollution-free at the point of use; they are practically silent in operation; and they can efficiently transport one person at a speed of 12.5 miles per hour while taking up a footprint hardly bigger than the person riding it. Therefore, if we are serious about reducing our carbon emissions—a point alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Harris—and we all know what a long way we have to go if we are to meet our 2020 target, never mind the 80 per cent reduction by 2050—then these machines should be approved immediately. At the very least, let us start conducting official trials.

There are now some very powerful electric bicycles on the market. They are perfectly legal and, as far as I know, the Department for Transport has no complaints about them. So I ask the Minister: why cannot Segways

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be grouped together with them, provided that some initial rider training is given? Would that not provide a quick and simple solution?

There are people out there who are desperate to start up businesses selling or hiring these machines. In these difficult times, surely new business start-ups should be wholly encouraged. About six weeks ago, I was written to by a Mr Chris Hough from Liverpool. He asked me whether there had been any further developments to legalise Segways. He went on to say that he wants to set up a Segway tours company in Liverpool and make it a top tourist attraction. I have looked at his website and this is what he has to say:

“I think it’ll be awesome. Not only have I been on two Segway tours myself (Paris and San Francisco), but the City of Liverpool is crying out for such an attraction. With historic buildings, a beautiful waterfront, plans for a new canal and the Beatles experience (of course) there is nowhere more suited to the Segway”.

I entirely agree with that statement. Is that not a great idea and very appropriate for our latest city of culture, as well as being a fine example of private enterprise at work? When he replies, I ask—in fact, I plead with—the Minister to give me some encouraging news so that I can write back positively to Mr Hough.

4.22 pm

The Earl of Erroll: I will make a couple of brief comments in the gap. I did not expect to be here in time. The only interest that I have to declare in this matter is that I have ridden a Segway. I thought that it was absolutely brilliant and terribly easy to master. To echo a point that has just been made, when I was in Holland the other day to speak at the Black Hat computer hacking conference, about 50 yards from the hotel was a shop selling Segways, including a cross-country one. That was the one that I really wanted because I am married to a farmer.

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