Juvenile Remand Prisoners

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th March 1998.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East 12:00 am, 30th March 1998

What representations he has received with regard to the remand of 15 and 16-year-olds in adult prisons. [35155]

Photo of Ms Joyce Quin Ms Joyce Quin Minister of State, Home Office

I have received a number of representations expressing concern about 15 and 16-year-olds on remand in adult prisons. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Government have initiated a review of the juvenile secure estate.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she agree that the primary way in which to deal with youngsters on remand in that age group is to try to find them secure local authority accommodation? In that connection, does she recall the repeated attacks by members of her ministerial team and the Prime Minister when they were in the shadow Home Office team on the Conservative Government's programme of building 170 such places? How does she square that attack with the revelation by the Under-Secretary of State for Health in a written answer on 11 March that the new Government planned only six such places to be built between 2 May 1997 and 31 December 1998?

Photo of Ms Joyce Quin Ms Joyce Quin Minister of State, Home Office

The hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that, although the Conservative Government introduced legislation to end the remanding of juveniles to prison in 1991, six years later, the problem had become worse.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Cunliffe Mr Lawrence Cunliffe Labour, Leigh

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that many of the young offenders on remand are drug takers. Will she bear in mind the astounding success of the American drug courts, which have a specialised judge and a specialised team of workers? Their aims are to deter and to rehabilitate young offenders. Statistically, the programme has been a resounding success. Does she agree that adopting such an approach would speed up the process of bringing young offenders to trial? Will she consider at least a pilot scheme to tackle that very grave problem for young people?

Photo of Ms Joyce Quin Ms Joyce Quin Minister of State, Home Office

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We must respond appropriately to the problems of those who offend because they are addicted to drugs. The Government are introducing a drug treatment and testing order to enable us to work with such people.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Is the Minister aware that the Crime and Disorder Bill will explicitly allow the remanding of 15 and 16-year-olds to adult prisons? The Government are providing for only six places—that is places for six individuals, not six institutions. Will that not ensure that 15 and 16-year-old boys continue to be remanded to adult prisons for many years, even though Labour Front-Bench spokesmen said that the situation was a scandal when they were in opposition? Is not the real scandal the comprehensive failure of the Labour party—including the Prime Minister—to deliver on its promises?

Photo of Ms Joyce Quin Ms Joyce Quin Minister of State, Home Office

The hon. Gentleman knows that the real scandal is the comprehensive failure of his Government over six years to tackle the problem. Indeed, they made it a good deal worse. We are committed to dealing with the problem that they left us.