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At present, as has been mentioned many times during the passage of the Bill, the reoffending rate is disgracefully high, which suggests that the present system is failing to protect the public. One of the main reasons for this is the shortage of positive activities in prison or probation to encourage and enable useful and law-abiding living on release. In light of this, I would have expected the unprotected public to protest and ask Ministers why and what they were doing about it. Every constituent should harry their MP into pressuring the Government to make the necessary resources available to enable their better protection. If the Daily Mail really was the responsible newspaper that it claims to be, I would expect it to lead this charge, challenging successive Governments to better protect the electorate, rather than cynically trying to increase its circulation by sensationalising criminals. In other words, the continuing failure of our criminal justice system should be made a regular election issue on which every Government should expect to be called to account.
It is quite clear that the Secretary of State recognises this, which is why I so strongly support the intent of his proposed rehabilitation revolution. However, I have warned him many times, as I have mentioned in connection with many of the amendments that I have tabled to the Bill, that until and unless he improves the management of offenders, which has failed the public for so long, his intent will not be realised for all the wrong reasons. He will also need the support of his Cabinet colleagues
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I know the Minister will say that this is above his pay grade. However, bearing in mind the early support that both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister gave to the rehabilitation revolution-support replicated on all sides of this Committee-I hope that the Minister, having accepted my amendments, will be able to persuade No. 10 to reverse its decision and restore the original, positive, accurate and meaningful "rehabilitation" to its rightful place in the Title, instead of the nihilist, populist and meaningless "punishment". I beg to move.
Lord Judd: My Lords, I strongly support this amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. As we come to the end of the Bill, I feel I must speak for many of us in saying how much we admire and welcome his consistent and valiant leadership on these issues. The House is all the better for his presence, experience, and what he has to say on the basis of that experience.
If the Bill really has had its Title changed by the intervention of No. 10 from "rehabilitation" to "punishment", that is a very gloomy story indeed. I hope that the noble Lord will forgive my saying that I would be perfectly happy with a Title which referred to both punishment and rehabilitation because I am one of those who are absolutely convinced that it is part of a civilised society that crime must be punished. However, I also happen to agree very strongly with the noble Lord that the punishment is the deprivation of liberty and the singling out of a person as somebody who must be deprived of liberty. The challenge right from day one is how you enable that person to change their behaviour and become a positive member of society.
I am sorry if I have to repeat what I have said several times in debates in this House; namely, that this issue matters for several reasons. First, it is a wicked waste of taxpayers' money to have any other policy because if you do not succeed with rehabilitation there will be reoffending, more trials and the costs arising from further punishment and further deprivation of liberty. That is a waste of taxpayers' money. Secondly, if we are a civilised society, we surely care desperately about the person. We are not being sentimental but saying, "This person should be enabled to become a decent member of society". That is the real challenge for a civilised society. Just to shut somebody away and put them to one side is a condemnation of the real strength of civilisation and of a society itself because it shows that we are not confident that we can win that person back into a positive position. It is very unfortunate that, aided and abetted by the worst elements in the press, this is somehow seen as a feeble approach; I was
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This issue also matters desperately because successful rehabilitation will ensure that that person will not reoffend. Of course, there will be some sad cases in which, try as you might, rehabilitation will not succeed. It is just being starry eyed to pretend that that is not the case. However, the challenge must always be to try to achieve rehabilitation. The more heinous the crime, the bigger the challenge to try to win that person back into positive citizenship. If we are putting a sane policy before the country, it is terribly wrong to be tentative and apologetic about the concept of rehabilitation. That is misguided, plays to the worst elements of the public gallery and will never win because it is a process of appeasing prejudice, and the appeasing of prejudice will never win the battle.
I am one of those who believes that a healthy democracy depends upon accountability and leadership -there should be a creative tension between the two-and that, all the time, enlightened leadership should be enabling society itself to move forward in its attitudes by arguing the case and trying to win the arguments. I am afraid that we are always defensive and apologetic when it comes to the attitude towards rehabilitation. We should be rigorous, and say that the people who are against rehabilitation are the very people who are exacerbating the problem of crime and the cost of crime in our society, and it is they who should be in the dock for aiding and abetting crime. It is as blunt as that. We have to come off our defensive, apologetic approach and come to an approach in which we determinedly argue the positive case for rehabilitation.
For all these reasons, I cannot say how glad I am to be able to support the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. Having known the Minister for as long as I have, and although I said a slightly barbed thing on an amendment a moment or two ago, I cannot believe that, in his heart of hearts or in his very good mind, he does not know the absolute logic of what the noble Lord is proposing and that he would not really prefer to be four-square behind it.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I certainly always wish to join my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham in his belief that rehabilitation is a crucial part of the criminal justice system. I was amazed that we could not attack the Title right at the beginning and talk about this as a rehabilitation Bill. I was sad about that because it seemed to me that many of the proposals within the Bill were, in fact, working towards a much more rehabilitative approach.
I was also sad about the fact that we have been waiting for this for so long. It is over 40 years since Keith Joseph made his great speech about the cycle of deprivation. That speech was made because he listened to the people who were actually doing the work on the ground. I am very sad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has left because we have relied for years and years on the Church of England to be around to try to help people coming out of prison and do a little to move them in the right direction. There is the whole business of lining up a programme of things
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I know that the Minister has made some very interesting updates to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. However, I cannot say that there were very many indications of really progressive activities that are going to take place, so if, when the Minister replies, he could tell us a little more about what is going to be happening, that would be helpful too.
I know that it is a late hour, but I must say that I think that the Government have been pushing us. To start such a debate at this hour of the night does not command a great co-operative spirit. It would have been much better if we had been given a reasonable hour at which to debate these important issues.
Lord McNally: It was decided that this was more descriptive of what the Bill was intended to do. I also draw the attention of the House to the fact that, late yesterday, I tabled Amendment 198, which added to the Long Title,
It is probably the only criticism that I would make of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, but I sometimes think that-rather like his desire for committees in the structures we were talking about yesterday-he gets obsessed with form rather than substance. The rehabilitation of offenders is in the Bill. What is more important, it is in the daily action of the Ministry of Justice. Ever since I became the Minister, every day I have emphasised the importance of rehabilitation, for exactly the same reasons as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, gave. It is a win-win. If you can rehabilitate, you save the public purse from having to put someone in prison again at a cost of £40,000 or £50,000 a year. You save future victims from the crimes that that person would have committed. Actually, it is a triple whammy, because if you can really rehabilitate, you get a taxpaying, constructive member of society. Everything that we have been doing, especially in Part 3 and the piloting programmes, is aimed to get effective rehabilitation.
I am very much impressed at the attention paid to my speeches at Liberal Democrat conferences. I shall take even more care over them in future. As for the rest, you will have to wait for my memoirs. I do not think that changing the Short Title at this stage of the process is helpful or will have an effect.
On what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, said right at the end, this is an extra half day in Committee for the Bill. Perhaps if we all made a resolution to make shorter speeches, we would not find ourselves debating these issues at 23.33. In the mean time, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I was going to say how pleased I was that the noble Lord had recognised that I commended him on Amendment 198, which appeared last night. I am sorry that he has completely misunderstood what I have been saying throughout the Bill, because I have been arguing against committees, not for them, and for people to lead what happens rather than committees.
This is not about the form but about the Title. I was saddened to hear the Minister say that punishment represents what it is all about rather than rehabilitation, because that is not what I take away from what has happened during Committee. That is not what I take away from the intent expressed by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State in his rehabilitation revolution. I hope very much that that reflected the lateness of the hour rather than the real motivation behind what is going on inside the Ministry of Justice.
I shall reflect on the wise thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who, with his usual mixture of passion and compassion, hit several nails well on the head. However, at this late hour, and bearing in mind that I preserve the right to bring this matter back on Report, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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