I have received one request in this House to consider introducing a pilot scheme on the lines of American boot camps, and a question about studies on boot camps. In addition, I have received a small number of letters from members of the public recording their views for and against the introduction of boot camps.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that what most people want for young offenders in this country is not only rehabilitation but appropriate punishment that acts as a deterrent? Will he look at a scheme operated by the Airport Initiative in West Linton in Scotland, which is handled by former special forces people—former marines and paratroopers—and has a 100 per cent. record in ensuring that those who successfully complete the course do not reoffend?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend the Minister of State is closely examining the scheme to which my hon. Friend referred. I agree that it shows signs of being a promising development in the treatment of young offenders.
Will the Home Secretary confirm that last year he commissioned a report on the operation of boot camps in the United States at a cost of £16,000? Will he further confirm that the conclusions of that report were, first, that there would be no appreciable cost savings from boot camps, and secondly, that the rate of re-offending in the American experience was not appreciably different from that of any other form of punishment? Is that not just another example of the Home Secretary talking tough but acting ineffectively?
No, it is certainly not. It is not surprising to anyone on the Government Benches that any mention of discipline for young offenders has those on the Opposition Benches running a mile, as we have just seen.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that the boot camps in the United States combine training, discipline, respect for others, anger management and respect for families and are voluntary, and that that kind of treatment might well benefit certain targeted offenders in this country?
I am prepared to learn lessons wherever we can to provide the most effective regime for young offenders. If we can borrow from the best in the United States and add it to the best that we have in this country, I am certainly prepared to do that.