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House of Lords

Monday, 8 February 2010.

2.30 pm

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Manchester.

Prisons: Education


2.36 pm

Asked By Lord Ramsbotham

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): My Lords, this Government will continue to fund learning and skills provision in prisons from April onwards through the Skills Funding Agency. For those in youth detention, the Government will fund education through the Young People's Learning Agency from April, and from September this will be funded through local authorities with funds allocated to them by the Young People's Learning Agency.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, which was rather what I feared. Only in the past three years has education in prisons come together under one authority, the Learning and Skills Council, but that is now to be abolished and the responsibility is to be split between two organisations. Who will be responsible for telling the YPLA and the SFA what they have to fund so that provision is consistent for prisoners of the same type wherever they happen to be held in the United Kingdom? Who will lay down who does what on a split-site young offender establishment, which has juveniles who will be under the YPLA, and subsequently local authorities, and young offenders under the SFA? Who will control that?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, knows, after rather extensive discussions on those issues during the passage of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, there is a transition process from the Learning and Skills Council to the Young People's Learning Agency and the Skills Funding Agency. It is done on an age criterion. We believe that that will be a more appropriate system for providing education for young people in custody, which is one of the principal concerns. The YPLA will deal with those up to the age of 18 and the Skills Funding Agency from 18 onwards. The prison authorities will be notified accordingly. An important point is that spending on education for young people in custody has increased since April 2000 more than sevenfold.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, education in prison is a proven pathway to reducing reoffending. Given that two-thirds of prison education is provided

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by further education, what measures are the Government taking to ensure that changes in college funding do not impose additional disadvantage on this most vulnerable group of learners?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I thank the noble Baroness for her question. We will reply in detail in writing. We do not expect them to be disadvantaged. Educational provision for offenders has risen threefold from £57 million in 2001-02 to more than £175 million in 2009-10. We are not expecting any impact in that respect. I will give a more detailed reply in writing in relation to that point.

Baroness Trumpington: Does the Minister agree that it is not only young people's education that one should worry about? It is the mature person who can neither read nor write and therefore has the utmost difficulty ever getting a job, which starts him on the road downhill. I hope the Minister agrees with me that education all round in prison is vital.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I agree with the noble Baroness about education all round being of prime importance. For the over-18s, the Skills Funding Agency will continue to fund a full range of courses from below level 2 through to level 4. We know from reoffending rates that those who receive education and employment help are least likely to reoffend.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that health services are now delivered in prisons by primary care trusts? Can he explain what the problem is with having local authorities deliver a consistent education service to prisoners?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, we do not see a problem with local authorities delivering an education service to prisoners. We laid down specific safeguards in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill. They are best placed to provide education. We believe they will have an incentive to ensure that young people, for example, are delivered the education they need while they are in offender establishments.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: How does the Minister account for the fact that only one-third of prison education managers regularly receive prisoners' records following transfer? How can education that is aimed at improving prisoners' chances of getting jobs upon release be effective with such a lack of information on their needs?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, before I answer the question, I am sure the House will join me in congratulating the noble Baroness on her birthday today. I am sure she is merely a smidgeon over 21, like me. We currently have a system for adults that has learner plans following prisoners. We think that is a good system, and it is gradually being put on an electronic database. In relation to young people, education authorities have a responsibility, which we defined in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, to make sure that learning records follow young offenders around.

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The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, has the Minister made any assessment of the impact of these new education arrangements on IPP prisoners who have served their term but are still in prison because there are already insufficient educational courses available to them?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: That is beyond the scope of the answers I have here. I will write to the right reverend Prelate on this matter.

Lord Acton:My noble friend gave figures on how much money was put into young people's education in prison. From his answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, I was not clear how much money is put into adult prisoner education.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: Our investment in education in prison for offenders has risen threefold from £57 million in 2001-02 to more than £175 million in 2009-10. Since April 2000, spending on education for young people in custody has increased more than sevenfold.

The Earl of Listowel: Does the Minister acknowledge the important role that prison officers play in the education of young offenders?

Noble Lords: Order!

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I think the sense of the House is that it is time to move on to the next Question.

Kazakhstan: OSCE


2.45 pm

Asked By Viscount Waverley

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as chair of the British-Kazakhstan APPG.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): My Lords, we will work with Kazakhstan to deliver progress on the key issues facing the OSCE. These include the discussion on the future of European security, the protracted conflicts in Moldova and the Caucasus, and the protection and promotion of democratic institutions.

We welcome President Nazarbayev's pledge on 14 January to "pursue further political liberalisation". We will continue to support Kazakhstan's efforts towards meeting its OSCE commitments and the challenges that it faces as chair.

Viscount Waverley: This could be the important East-West landbridge year for the OSCE, the chairmanship and Kazakh internal best practice. Are the differing Eurasia security concepts initiated under the Corfu process being advanced satisfactorily? In addition to keeping that process alive, has not the Helsinki Committee on Human Rights also now

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recommended, with official US support, the merits of an end-of-term summit last held in Istanbul in 1999, which would allow leaders to adopt agreed priorities?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I thank the noble Viscount and pay tribute to the work that he undertakes in the all-party group which fosters links between the UK and countries in central Asia. The Corfu process was set up to discuss the security concerns of all members of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space and across all three dimensions of our security. At the OSCE ministerial meeting in December, all OSCE countries agreed that the Corfu process had already improved the quality and contributed to revitalisation of political dialogue. We are committed to supporting and continuing that dialogue.

On the second issue, I would point out that the OSCE is not just about human rights; it has a busy agenda, including European security issues, conflict prevention, human rights democratisation and security impact of energy and environmental issues. Progress discussions will be relevant to our consideration of a possible summit.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, Kazakhstan has made some welcome moves away from autocracy but my noble friend will recall that at the Madrid conference in November 2007, to allay fears about the human rights record, Kazakhstan made a number of specific commitments. Are the Government satisfied on the expectations of compliance with those commitments during the one-year term of office?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I agree that Kazakhstan's performance on human rights since independence compares favourably with some of its neighbours. Kazakhstan has taken some important steps forward with its reform agenda, but certainly we would say that more progress needs to be made, which was acknowledged by the Kazakh Government, on individual cases, on human rights, on media restrictions, internet law, legislation and religion. We expect all those issues to be addressed.

Lord Howell of Guildford: While it is perfectly proper to put pressure on Kazakhstan to accelerate its democratic development, does the Minister accept that this country is an important part of the Afghanistan jigsaw and the international energy security jigsaw? Will she assure us that aside from any links on our foreign policy through the European Union we will develop strong bilateral connections with Kazakhstan over the coming years to ensure that our foreign policy interests are promoted effectively?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I thank the noble Lord for the important points he makes and his acknowledgement that Kazakhstan has made public commitments to preserve the mandate of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions. We support Kazakhstan's focus on the protracted conflicts in Moldova and the Caucasus. We would like to see more progress from Kazakhstan on arms control under the Kazakh chairmanship and the treaty on conventional forces in Europe. We welcome Kazakhstan's focus on Afghanistan,

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to which the noble Lord referred, and the engagement in central Asia is essential to the stabilisation of Afghanistan.

Lord Dykes: Perhaps I may press the Minister further on the answer given to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. The special reputation of the OSCE is likely to be tarnished if the Kazakh Government do not make more progress on democracy, human rights and freedom of speech. There is still a lot to be done. Why is the Minister so confident that the Kazakh Government are dealing properly with these matters?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I do not think that I was being as positive as perhaps the noble Lord thought. I acknowledged clearly that, although there has been some progress, a great deal still needs to be done. We are working with the Kazaks bilaterally and with our EU partners on a wide range of human rights issues, including that controversial legislation on religion and the internet, as well as individual cases, such as Yesergepov and Zhovtis who have had very flawed legal processes to face. The Kazaks participate in human rights dialogue under the EU central Asia strategy, and the UK and the EU contribute their views. But we want them to co-operate more effectively and consistently on all these matters.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, given what my noble friend has said about general support and how much more needs to be done, has any consideration been given to forming a group of the friends of the chair for Kazakhstan during the period of its chairmanship and, if no such thought has been had, will consideration be given to that point?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I thank the noble Baroness for her intervention. I agree that friends of various countries and organisations have been effective in the past. I am not aware of any initiative of the kind of which she just spoke, but I will investigate whether it has some potential.

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, I notice that the non-compliance by Armenia of the various United Nations resolutions relating to its occupation of Nagorno Karabakh and several provinces of Azerbaijan was not listed as one of the priorities of the OSCE. As the non-resolution of this problem could lead to further violence, will the Minister bring this matter to the attention of Kazakhstan and have it on the agenda during its presidency of the OSCE?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: I thank the noble Lord for that question. I, too, can confirm that this is not a priority listed on the agenda. However, I will look into whether it can be included.

Airports: Heathrow


2.52 pm

Asked By Lord Trefgarne

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The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, the Government's policy with regard to a third runway at Heathrow remains as announced to the House in January last year. We support a third runway at Heathrow, subject to conditions, including an initial limit on the overall number of flights. It is for the airport operator, the BAA, to bring forward a planning application in the light of this announcement.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. Is he satisfied that the consultations conducted by the BAA are being properly conducted? They have been widely criticised. In the light of things that have happened since the Government made their announcement in this matter, is he satisfied that their original decision is still correct?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am satisfied with the consultations that have been conducted. If the noble Lord wishes to draw any particular matters to my attention, I would be glad to look at them, but I am not aware of any which give me cause for concern. The decision to allow a planning application to come forward for a third runway, subject to conditions being met, has stood the test of time, despite two years of recession. Heathrow is still running at near 100 per cent capacity, despite the downturn in business at other airports. It is our main international hub airport. The lifeblood of our national economy depends on it. This Government will not betray the national interest by refusing to take a decision which is manifestly in the best interests of the country.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Mayor of London has taken up a position opposing a third runway at Heathrow on the grounds of noise and pollution, but in favour of building a new airport floating in the middle of the Thames to the east of London? Will my noble friend comment on whether that policy position is consistent and in the national interest?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the proposal for an estuary airport has been widely dismissed by sensible commentators, including most of the official spokespeople of the Conservative Party. The official Tory spokesperson says that Boris takes an independent line as Mayor of London. I thought he was a Conservative, but clearly this is not the case for the purposes of this and so many other decisions. Paul Carter, the leader of Kent County Council, the second largest Conservative-controlled authority in the country, says:

"There is a growing consensus that the estuary airport is undeliverable, unaffordable and unnecessary".

I could not put it better myself.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, can I ask the Secretary of State about the status of the UK's application to the European Commission for derogation of the nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter 10 limits around Heathrow? Will giving the go-ahead to a third runway at Heathrow not make it impossible to improve the air quality sufficiently to avoid this country being penalised?

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