Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill

– in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 28th November 2000.

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Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip 3:45 pm, 28th November 2000

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton, I beg to move that the Commons amendments and reasons be now considered.

With the leave of the House, perhaps I may explain that due to unusual circumstances, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has only just received a copy of the Statement. Therefore, through the usual channels, we have agreed that my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton will first deal with the Commons amendments.

Moved, That the Commons amendments and reasons for disagreeing to the Lords amendments be now considered.--(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS REASONS FOR DISAGREEING TO CERTAIN LORDS AMENDMENTS, COMMONS AMENDMENTS IN LIEU OF CERTAIN LORDS AMENDMENTS TO WHICH THE COMMONS HAVE DISAGREED, COMMONS AMENDMENTS TO THE WORDS RESTORED TO THE BILL BY THE COMMONS' DISAGREEMENT TO CERTAIN LORDS AMENDMENTS, COMMONS CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS TO THE BILL AND COMMONS AMENDMENTS TO CERTAIN LORDS AMENDMENTS

[The page and line refer to HL Bill 83 as first printed for the Lords]

LORDS AMENDMENT

14 Clause 5, page 3, line 24, leave out ("accommodation") and insert ("supervision")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

14A Because the Commons believe that it is necessary to make clear the circumstances in which accommodation may be provided in approved premises under the arrangements in question.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Farrington of Ribbleton. I was slightly indisposed. I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in the said reasons.

These amendments reverse the changes made on Report in your Lordships' House which called into question the ability to fund hostel accommodation and restricted the categories of those who could be accommodated in hostels

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, it would be helpful to all of us if the noble Lord would tell us to which amendment he is speaking.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I should have said that I beg to move that this House do not insist on their Amendment No. 14 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 14A.

This is a small but important group of amendments that seeks to undo changes made in this House on Report that, perhaps inadvertently, did serious damage to local boards' ability to use hostels properly. I say that it was inadvertent because I do not think there is much, if anything, between us in terms of the policy. In moving Amendment No. 14 on Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, emphasised the importance of supervision in hostels. I agree absolutely with that.

Clause 9(1) of the Bill, as amended in the Committee of this House, defines the provision of accommodation as being for persons granted bail in criminal proceedings or--and this is the important bit--for, or in connection with the supervision or rehabilitation of persons convicted of offences. The whole purpose of hostels is that they offer supervised accommodation. Everyone who is resident in a hostel is required to abide by the hostel rules, including a curfew and a ban on alcohol and non-prescription drugs. A resident breaking those rules is likely to lose his place, which in some circumstances can result in a removal to prison.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary gave an assurance to the noble Baroness's right honourable friend in another place that all those in hostels are and would, under the Bill, be subject to supervision. I am happy to repeat that assurance now.

I hope that I have explained clearly why the Government have brought forward these amendments and why those changes were made in another place. I trust that your Lordships will now be content with them.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 14 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 14A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, first, I am grateful for the correspondence that we have received between the last stage of the Bill and today. I am grateful also to the Minister for putting on the record the effect which I wished to bring about with my amendments. It is not customary to criticise counsel in these matters. It is extraordinary that the reference to "approved premises" is not subsumed to mean "accommodation". I am not a lawyer so I am not competent to take issue on that point. We all agree that anyone who is referred to a bail hostel should be there under the supervision of the bail hostel staff.

While we are putting matters on the record, it is important for the Minister to consider the following. I am particularly concerned about the staff of bail hostels and their legal position. From the debates that we have had on this Bill, my understanding is that the Home Secretary intends that accommodation will be made available for those who have spent convictions but who are, nevertheless, still deemed by the police, social services or the Home Secretary to be a risk to the community. They can be accommodated in bail hostels, and if they are so accommodated, they will be supervised.

My understanding is that there will be no court authority for that. If someone like Robert Oliver, who has been referred to in much of the correspondence, were to go to a bail hostel when his period on licence is spent as well as his period in custody, he would have to go voluntarily. That would have to be on a voluntary basis because that is the only way in which such a person can take up accommodation in a bail hostel. However, if such a person were to go into a bail hostel voluntarily but then breached the rules of the hostel and breached the supervision, it would be almost impossible to do anything about it.

It is important that we understand and protect the position of those who will supervise someone who is deemed to be dangerous. I specifically mention dangerous people because that is the example given to me by the Home Secretary in correspondence. He was particularly concerned about that category of person.

As well as the issue of breaching the rules of the hostel, there is also the issue of something going wrong, of that person behaving in a manner that falls short of conditions for arrest but nevertheless presents a serious problem to the staff working in the hostel. As the Bill is in its final stages, it is important that we understand that their concerns are properly met by the arrangements made by the Home Secretary.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, it is possible that the noble Baroness is intertwining two issues. I shall try to deal with the point. In breaching the conditions of supervision the person may commit another offence and could be picked up by the police if the whereabouts of that individual are known. The noble Baroness will recall from earlier debates that the reason why we were concerned about the effect of her amendment was that we felt that it undermined the ability within the service to find this type of accommodation. It was for that reason that we took the opportunity in another place to reverse the effect of her amendment.

We have had extensive correspondence about that and I believe we now have a common understanding of the position. I believe that the noble Baroness is absolutely right. We require this type of accommodation and we must ensure that we can properly supervise people like Robert Oliver; otherwise it would be difficult to find the kind of accommodation where people like him could be properly and effectively supervised either because they are on licence or for their own protection. We are trying to ensure that such accommodation which will protect them, and more importantly the public, is in place.

The amendments that we have put in place ensure that. In those circumstances they will be properly supervised. I hope that that answers the point raised by the noble Baroness. I shall be happy to elucidate further and to provide further clarification. We accept that this is a serious matter.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, the Minister has not answered any part of my point. For all intents and purposes, the individual is an innocent person. I notice that the Home Secretary has re-submitted the words "at any time", so it is a person who at any time in his life has been charged with and/or convicted of an offence. The offence may have been spent a long time ago; it may have been spent weeks, months or years ago, so the person, of their own volition or with some persuasion presumably from those who believe that he is a risk to the public--the social services, the Home Secretary or the police--may go into a bail hostel.

It is important to know precisely what protection there is for the supervisors--the bail hostel staff--who have no legal locus whatever over such people. The Minister has said, as the measures of the Bill set out, that the staff will supervise them. If those people breach the rules of the hostel--for example, if they do not come in by 11 o'clock at night and the staff do not know where they are--what can the staff do? Such a matter is not a punishable offence. Those people are free people; they are deemed to be innocent people. They just happen to be people who once, some time ago, were charged with or were convicted of an offence which is long since spent. If they are dangerous, what protection is there for the bail hostel staff? They will have no protection because they will have no legal locus over such people in a hostel.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I invite the noble Baroness to consider that she is extending the range of consideration and debate on this point. We cannot afford for these individuals to be at large within the community. Of course, we are bringing forward other proposals precisely to deal with the kind of problem to which the noble Baroness refers. This amendment seeks to ensure that dangerous offenders who are at liberty are protected and that the public are protected as well. Providing accommodation for them in a hostel is designed to do that. I hope that that answers the point. Clearly it is important that they are in supervised accommodation. I believe that the original amendment tabled by the noble Baroness arose from her misunderstanding these matters. We have clarified that and we need to focus on the amendment rather than the other issues that the noble Baroness has brought in, understandable though those concerns are.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, I do not know whether I am in order, but with the leave of the House perhaps I can say that that does not answer my point. The hostel staff have listened to the debates. So far they have been dismayed and they will be dismayed further. I hope that the Minister will write to the staff and give them an assurance.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

15 Clause 5, page 3, line 25, leave out ("at any time")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

15A Because the Commons believe that it is appropriate to restrict in the manner proposed the category of person for whom the service in question may be provided under arrangements made by local probation boards.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 15 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 15A.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 15 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 15A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

25 Clause 7, page 4, line 30, at end insert (", provided that no such direction shall merge the functions of the Chief Inspector with those of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

25A Because the Commons believe that it is unnecessary to impose the proposed restriction on the power to give directions.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 25 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 25A.

The amendment made by your Lordships is unnecessary because in the light of the result of consultation the Government do not intend to appoint a joint chief inspector for prisons and probation. It is not envisaged that any such appointment would be made without seeking the approval of the House in some form.

I fully understand the concerns that have been expressed in this House and elsewhere about the possibility that the posts of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Probation might be combined. We said that we would consider carefully the results of the consultation exercise, which we announced on 27th July and which concluded on 31st October, before reaching any decision about making a combined appointment. On 14th November I announced in a Written Answer to a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Orme, what the findings of the consultation exercise had been. It may be helpful to this House if I summarise them again. Full copies of all responses received have been laid in the Library.

The consultation exercise ended on 31st October. A majority of those consulted favoured some change, establishing terms of reference for the inspection of joint working between the criminal justice agencies and the sharing of inspectors between the inspectorates. In contrast, only small minorities were in favour of the status quo or of the appointment of a joint chief inspector for prisons and probation.

During the consultation exercise a helpful scheme was put forward by HM Chief Inspectors of Constabulary, the Crown Prosecution Service, magistrates' courts, and the Probation and Prison Services to inspect practice across their boundaries systematically. That scheme has much to recommend it and the consultation exercise also suggests that it will command broad support. It is therefore the option that we propose to pursue along with the arrangements canvassed in the consultation exercise for bringing the work of the inspectorates closer together.

That is a brief explanation of our position. But I hope the House will agree, following our full and open consultation exercise, and the fact that we listened carefully to the views put forward both in response to consultation and in your Lordships' House, that we have fairly moved forward.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 25 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 25A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Photo of Lord Windlesham Lord Windlesham Conservative 4:00 pm, 28th November 2000

My Lords, as I was the mover of the amendment which was carried on Report in this House, perhaps I may comment on the decision in another place.

It comes as a great relief. The Home Secretary has given two reasons for his change of heart. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, explained that the consultation process, which was due to end on 31st October, showed overwhelmingly that there was little support for the idea of a joint inspectorate of prisons and probation. It is good to know that the results of the consultation paper, which were not expected anything like so early, have been brought forward and that the views of those who were consulted were broadly in line with those expressed in your Lordships' House.

The second reason given by the Home Secretary, who spoke when this matter was debated on 14th November in the House of Commons, was that during the consultation exercise a helpful scheme was suggested by Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors of Constabulary, the Crown Prosecution Service, magistrates' courts, and the Probation and Prison Services, to inspect the practice across their boundaries systematically. Again, that reflects current practice. It is highly desirable that there should be joint inspectorates. Sir David Ramsbotham has said that repeatedly and there have been a number of joint inspections within the Prison Service in recent years. That was mentioned in our own debates.

Therefore, welcome though that response is, it is no change whatever. It was good to hear it repeated by the Home Secretary as the second reason he gave. He had the generosity to say that strong opinions had been expressed in this House. But naturally, in the more adversarial setting of the House of Commons, he did not want there to be any hint of a climbdown so those were the reasons given. Nevertheless, this is a substantial improvement. It is fair to say that there are still concerns in the Probation Service--my noble friend Lady Blatch may have something to say about that--so it is by no means a perfect outcome. However, it is a great relief compared with what might have been and what was in the Bill as it stood before the action taken by your Lordships' House.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, as a Minister formerly responsible at one stage both for the Prison Service Inspectorate and for the Probation Inspectorate, I echo what my noble friend Lord Windlesham said about the great relief felt in both services and by those who had knowledge of them at the decision the Government have taken, whatever reasons they give for it.

I pay tribute to the initiative of my noble friend Lord Windlesham for resisting the provision and thank him for his contribution in persuading the Government of what is a far better policy than that on which they originally embarked.

Photo of The Bishop of Lichfield The Bishop of Lichfield Bishop

My Lords, from these Benches I repeat our relief at the outcome. The original suggestion was widely resisted by probation officers, which is why the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln, who is bishop to prisons, has been involved in the progress of this Bill.

We certainly need to tackle crime. But we believe that is best done by working with young people to give them a sense of belonging to society and by strengthening their values and moral sense. That is best done, wherever possible, outside prisons. Therefore I speak on behalf of the integrity of the Probation Service in its own right and without seeing it as part of the prison establishment.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, I echo the words of the right reverend Prelate. The integrity of each service is important, and the Government have gone a long way to see that that will be established from the top.

Nevertheless, no doubt we shall all reserve judgment until we have seen the final document which will set out the practical details of how the inspection service will work, co-operatively where it makes sense, but distinctly where it is important that they are, although within the criminal justice system, distinct services pursuing different practices. We shall therefore wait for the final document. However, on behalf of the services, and on behalf of my noble friend Lord Windlesham who has worked so hard on this, I accept the improvements made so far.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

39 Clause 18, page 8, line 28, leave out ("(other than a chief probation officer)")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

39A Because the Commons believe that the changes proposed to be made in connection with a chief officer of a local probation board are not appropriate.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 39, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 39A.

In moving this amendment, it may be helpful to the House if I begin with a brief word about the procedure to be followed. Grouped with this amendment is the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, which asks the House to reject the Commons reason and to insist on the original amendment which was carried on Report in this House.

When I have finished speaking, the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, will speak to his amendment. The debate will then take place on that amendment and, at the end of the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, will decide whether or not to press his amendment. I hope that, by then, I will have convinced him to withdraw it and that the Commons reason will be accepted. However, I should make clear what will happen if the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, decides to press his amendment.

If the noble Lord's amendment is carried, the Commons reason will fall and the House will have decided to insist on the original Amendment No. 39 made on Report. If, on the other hand, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is defeated, the implication is that the House will then agree to the Commons reason. Thus, I expect there to be only one Division; and on that vote, in simple terms, a vote for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is a vote for insistence; and a vote against his amendment is a vote for the Commons reasons for non-insistence. I hope that explanation has been helpful to your Lordships' House.

This group of amendments deals with the appointment of chief officers. At Report stage, your Lordships changed the arrangements so as to make chief officers appointable by local boards with the approval of the Secretary of State rather than by the Secretary of State. The other place restored the original provisions of the Bill, subject to amendments to tidy up the drafting and to reflect the change of description from "local board" to "local probation board", which was made by your Lordships and accepted by the other place. The government amendments invite your Lordships now to agree with the Commons, subject to the significant protection of local interests inserted by government Amendment No. 121B, which I shall describe in detail in a few moments. Amendment No. 121C, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, would maintain the disagreement.

At earlier stages of the Bill, your Lordships clearly made your views known on the appointment of chief officers. You invited the other place to reconsider the matter. They have done so and have returned the measures for further consideration by your Lordships. While your Lordships may not be persuaded by all the arguments from the other place, I urge you to bear in mind that the measure was re-inserted in the Bill by a substantial majority. I hope that that, together with the additional safeguard provided by Amendment No. 121B, will enable me to convince your Lordships that you should not stand in the way of this important Bill.

These amendments are fundamental to the Bill. Lengthy discussions took place during the passage of the Bill, both here and in another place, on the position of chief officers. The Government have listened carefully to the arguments and--

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative 4:15 pm, 28th November 2000

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. We do not have Amendment No. 121B in our papers. I have now been handed the amendment on a separate piece of paper.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that. I had a feeling of dread and horror as she said that. I shall continue with the thread of my argument. The Government have listened very carefully to the arguments and have concluded that our original proposal, that chief officers should be statutory office holders appointed by the Secretary of State, remains the best option. The proposal that chief officers should be employees of boards and appointed by them, despite being members of those same boards, all of whose other members have been appointed by the Secretary of State, would in our view seriously undermine the establishment of a national service and confuse national accountability. We wish to see chief officers fulfilling the role of effective chief executives of local services, directly accountable to the Secretary of State through the national director.

I shall attempt to summarise the arguments against appointment by the Secretary of State and in favour of the amendments agreed by your Lordships on Report. They fall into two categories. The first contends that local is best and that it is an essential function of local probation boards to appoint their own chief officers, albeit subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. I understand that argument. However, I believe that it is misguided. Crime does not recognise local authority or national boundaries. If we are to receive an effective response, we need to take a wider view of these matters, in a national context and not in terms of traditional, local boxes.

This Bill seeks to create a national probation service, organised into 42 local areas, to match those of the other criminal justice agencies. A national service would offer several advantages: greater consistency in dealing with offenders, so providing more effective and rigorous enforcement of community sentences; centrally-led offending behaviour programmes, based on real evidence that they work, and implemented in accordance with carefully designed procedures; a national risk management strategy, under which all services operate in accordance with the same procedures and use the same commonly understood terminology. But, of course, national services have always to be delivered locally. Therefore, it is inevitable that there should be both a national and a local focus for the service. Achieving a balance between the two is a matter of judgment. In our view, the principal focus must be national, in order to achieve the ambitious but realistic national targets for reducing re-offending that the Government have set for the service, and to give the service the best chance of protecting the public.

The existing system, under which individual areas appoint their own chief officers, has failed. While there are many excellent chief probation officers, there are also some who are far from effective. One needs only to consider the variation in performance and the excessive variation in standards. For example, only 8 per cent of offenders who should have been breached were returned to court in one area, against 89 per cent in another. We need greater consistency. One way of achieving that is through the close control of the appointment of senior managers. The Government believe that the key executive in each area--the chief probation officer--should be appointed centrally. Consistency on appointments will lead to greater consistency in management, which will in turn lead to greater consistency in standards of performance.

However, we agree that it is important that the local probation board should be involved in the selection of its chief officer. For that reason, during the current round of recruitment we have included the chairman designate, or other appropriate representatives from the local probation board, on the selection panel for every chief officer post to be filled. In that way, we can ensure a powerful local input to the process. That is the principle enshrined in our new Amendment No. 121B, which inserts a new sub-paragraph into paragraph 2 of Schedule 1. It requires that there should be a proper selection panel for all the Home Secretary's appointments occurring after the national probation service comes into being. It further requires that, in the case of chief officers, the local probation board should be represented on the panel. We believe that that is an important safeguard for local interests. I hope that the whole House will welcome it.

The second category of arguments against the Government's position is what I shall refer to as the managerial argument. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and others have argued that the Government's proposals would create confused accountability. We do not agree. In our view, the lines are clear. The chief officer will be a member of the board and will be expected to assist in creating and implementing the board's policy. His executive membership of the board makes him clearly responsible for the deployment of the board's staff. But his own line management accountability will be to the National Director of the Probation Service and, ultimately, to the Secretary of State. Any conflict between the Board and the Secretary of State will be resolved by means of a direction to the board from the Secretary of State, under the terms of paragraph 12 of Schedule 1.

The amendments carried in this House on Report would create more confusion. They would provide for the boards to appoint one of their own number. That would result in a very peculiar relationship. I am disappointed that the arguments in favour of the status quo have been sustained as long as they have, with little evidence to support them.

It has been pointed out, unfavourably, that there is no direct precedent for the appointment procedure favoured by the Government. That is true. However, there is no other structure quite like this one. It is a specific solution designed for a specific service. It combines the consistency of a national service with the local responsiveness of area organisation. An essential part of that system is that chief officers should be appointed by the Secretary of State. To achieve that effect, I urge your Lordships to accept the amendments made in the other place, along with the new government Amendment No. 121B.

Of this group, Amendments Nos. 39A, 45A, 46A, 48A, 49A, 121A, 122A, 123A and 124A, taken together, would restore the Bill to its original position on this subject before the amendments were carried on Report. Without the amendments, it will not be possible to establish a national probation service from next April. Much needed reforms will be delayed and the establishment of CAFCASS will be at risk. The proposed fundamental change to the new structure could not be achieved in the time available, and transitional arrangements would be required until boards could appoint chief officers. It seems inevitable that committees would need to remain in place for some time. In our view, that would hamper the transfer of staff and other assets involved in family court welfare to CAFCASS. From a practical point of view, the amendments simply do not work.

Amendments Nos. 44A, 50A and 50D are technical, tidy up the drafting and ensure consistency of phraseology throughout the Bill. Amendments Nos. 44B, 50B, 50C, 50E and 130A make changes to ensure that, wherever the words "local board" appear in the Bill they are changed to "local probation board". This reflects further amendments passed by your Lordships which the Government have accepted.

I commend all these amendments to the House and hope that your Lordships will now agree to the text determined in another place subject only to the Government's new amendments. There is no doubt that the arrangements for the national probation service have been enhanced by the debates in your Lordships' House but in our view the time has come when we must draw a line. We have made changes to try to meet the understandable concerns of noble Lords. While some will no doubt see that as the Government's hand being forced, I should prefer to take the line advanced earlier in our proceedings by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that this is an example of the revising Chamber doing its work well. But there is only so much revision that can be done without seriously undermining the new national structure we wish to see established and I believe that we have reached that point.

The appointment of chief officers is a fundamental issue and the Government cannot move beyond the very real changes that we have accepted to the Bill and now propose through Amendment No. 121B. I commend to the House this and all the other government amendments. I hope that he noble Lord, Lord Dholakia will not press his amendment but, as I have already mentioned, if there is a Division and his amendment is carried, the Government's amendments will fall and the House will have decided to insist on its original amendments.

I urge your Lordships to accept the Government's amendment in lieu and let the Bill pass.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 39 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 39A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Liberal Democrat

My Lords, this appears to be the appropriate time for me to speak to my Amendment No. 121C. Let me first concede that the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill is an important piece of legislation. We should never lose sight of the various provisions in the Bill which are designed to take into account issues of concern highlighted in recent times. The Bill is more effective now than when it was first introduced in your Lordships' House. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and her colleagues on the Conservative Benches and we on the Liberal Democrat Benches must share a great deal of credit.

Equally, I believe that after losing successive votes during the passage of the Bill the Government have looked at our concerns and offered solutions. For that, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Bassam and Lord Bach, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn.

There is no fundamental disagreement on three of the four issues which need resolution. That has already been identified. We are content with the assurances on the matter relating to hostels. However, I hope that the noble Lord will take into account some of the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. We have no concerns about the chief inspectors of prisons and probation. We are pleased that there is no intention to combine the two posts and I thank the Minister for his assurance. But it would have saved so much time if that ill-conceived idea had not been floated in the first place. Let us hope that it is buried for good.

Then there is the matter of who owns and manages land used by the national probation service. Again, if the Minister were to clarify the Government's position as indicated to me in his letter of 27th November there is no dispute that local probation boards will be responsible for the management and maintenance of the buildings they occupy. I look forward to having that assurance.

There now remains one matter which needs to be resolved. It relates to the procedures for appointing chief probation officers. There is a fundamental disagreement between the Government and ourselves on this matter. The Government's key objective is the successful creation and management of a national service. We subscribe to that aim. They see the appointment of the chief probation officer by the Secretary of State as crucial to that aim. We disagree with them. We believe in local accountability. The system has worked well and has delivered what was asked of it. To take its chief officers under central control and allowing the boards to appoint other staff is a recipe for disaster. I cannot see any precedent and the Minister has agreed that there is no precedent for such action with any other bodies.

The Government's solution as reflected in the Minister's amendment simply tinkers with the procedure without due regard to the principles of local accountability and management of its affairs. We may ask why the Government want to establish a system which is so oppressive. They have enough powers to deliver a centralised service without recourse to central employment. Perhaps I may spell that out and examine the controls which the Government already have.

The controls available to the Secretary of State include the appointment of chair members of the local probation boards under the Bill before us; default powers under the Probation Service Act 1993; and the removal of board and activation of a management order under this Bill. The latter allows the removal by the Secretary of State of any or all of the members of the board, including the chief officer who will be a member of the board. The Secretary of State has available 100 per cent funding, again under the present Bill; control of the allocation of funding between boards under the Probation Service Act 1993; ring-fenced funding for specific Home Office priorities under probation rules; the control and allocation of capital budgets under the probation rules; and the approval of chief probation officers for selection and appointment by probation committees under the Probation Service Act 1993 and under the probation rules. Your Lordships can see that the Secretary of State already has wide powers. Why does he need any more powers?

Let us look at the accountability of boards through the Secretary of State for expenditure and service delivery. The list includes annual audit by the Audit Commission; inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation; national standards; annual reports--

Photo of Lord Williams of Elvel Lord Williams of Elvel Labour

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He appears to be making a Second Reading speech on Commons amendments. I believe that the House would prefer him to make a speech about the amendments in front of us.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Liberal Democrat

My Lords, what I am saying directly relates to the powers of the Home Secretary so what I am saying is necessary. The noble Lord might like to refer to my speech in Hansard. I shall continue with it. The list includes an annual report and regular returns of specified statistics. That information is available to the Home Secretary. A number of possible alternatives could be put in place regarding chief probation officers.

I accept that a good start has already been made by the Home Office in relation to the assessment of candidates for chief officer posts. With the exception of the inevitable teething troubles, the new assessment centre process looks promising and rigorous. Not only will it provide a pool of candidates assessed as suitable but it will also identify training and development needs for those who do not pass first time. Again, we welcome that. Candidates will be approved for particular posts or a range of posts. Those powers are already available to the Home Secretary.

The process is, in effect, a licence to practice as a chief officer in the Probation Service. That is good enough. If that licence is available, employment by the local probation board should pose no problem whatever. Arrangements could be made for the secondment of chief officers. Least satisfactory but worth considering is the appointment of a chief officer to a local probation board by the Secretary of State. That is possible, so why do we need a centralised appointments service?

I am well aware of the disputes which are pending on the basis of the selection procedures adopted. The Minister's formula means that the buck stops with the Secretary of State. What a sorry state of affairs if in future the Home Secretary has to appear in industrial tribunal on employment disputes with chief probation officers.

Let me spell out two other concerns. The obsession with central control creates a system which will be seen as oppressive and remote. The only element in the criminal justice system which offers some support to those appearing in court is the Probation Service. The criminal justice process is valid as long as we all have a stake in it and we share its ownership. If that is lacking the system will lose its credibility. There is also the frightening thought that some Home Secretaries could use the system for political expediency from which we are immune at present. I trust that the Minister will think again.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative 4:30 pm, 28th November 2000

My Lords, the Minister who both defended the position of the Government today and kindly wrote to us in the period between the Bill leaving this House and returning to it has totally missed the fundamental point made by all noble Lords in previous debates. Although this is a narrow technical and legal issue it is a matter of extreme significance. One is considering here the ownership, culpability, responsibility and accountability of the chief officer to the service of which he is head. Who is to be the employer, not when things go right but when they go wrong?

At the outset, I must pose some very important questions. Are these bodies corporate bodies? What operational autonomy will be enjoyed by the chief officers as they execute their responsibilities? Under the terms of the Bill is the chief officer a public office holder or civil servant? It is no secret that as to those questions the Home Office is in great disarray. It is essential that we receive unequivocal answers to those questions today.

The chief officers of the probation service will be absolutely dismayed by what the Minister's said today about their performance. We are all aware of inconsistencies. Both the present and previous governments have gone a long way to try to improve consistency across the board. The previous government introduced What Works policies. Those policies have been continued by this Government and much progress has been made. However, the Home Secretary approves the appointment of every single chief probation officer. It is not good enough that the Minister should stand at the Dispatch Box today and denigrate the performance of chief officers of probation when he is at least partly culpable in that he approved their appointment in the first place.

The noble Lord said that there were only two strands to the argument: first, that local was best. Local is best because that is where the service is delivered. If it is not effective at local level it is not effective at all. The second strand relates to management. Linear management is absolutely crucial. I note that when speaking to these amendments in another place the Home Secretary likened the service to a company in private business. The analogy in private business is for W H Smith to have its head person appointed by Waterstones. Further, W H Smith is one single national company. That is not a good analogy at all. The noble Lord has been at pains to tell us that the boards are corporate bodies. We know that those boards are not NDPBs, but we should like to know their precise status.

Just as there were a number of questions left unanswered on the issue of bail hostels, a number of matters remain unresolved in this context. The Minister said that through its chairmen the service itself would be involved in the appointment of chief officers. I would have hoped that that would happen without the need to place it on the face of the Bill. It is important that the service has such a role. Therefore, although I welcome that concession it is not one that displaces much that has been said about the amendments.

I do not repeat the enormous number of powers that the Home Secretary has at the moment and will have under the Bill which give him 99.9 per cent control of the service. With almost complete control, one wonders just how personally culpable the Home Secretary will be if something goes wrong. One wonders just how culpable will be the Home Secretary, who wants to be the ultimate line manager in the technical and legal sense, if he merely comes to the Dispatch Box to announce that the chief officer of Whatshire has done something wrong.

The document emanating from the Home Office makes it explicit that in the event of a conflict between the chief officer and the chairman of the board the employees of the board shall follow the instructions of the chief officer. But the chief officer may be at odds because he follows the instructions of the Home Secretary. Some learned minds believe that that will create problems which may need to be settled in court in the likely event of a conflict. Is that really what the Government want? The proposed legal structure gives the probation staff two masters, with the obvious additional complexity that the chief officer is a member of the board. The chief officer is also a direct Home Office agent. It is legitimate to ask whether that arrangement is coherent in employment and public law as both frameworks are relevant.

Tensions are inherent in the architecture of the service and can be expressed in employment law before employment tribunals, particularly in cases of actual and constructive dismissal or judicial review of the acts or decisions of employers. There may be disagreements between boards and chief officers about the distribution of resources and consequent priorities. For example, the chief officer may wish to make enforcement the chief priority, whereas the board, with a clear duty to the local community, may opt to prioritise spending on crime and disorder matters.

The model set out in the Bill does not have the ability to resolve potential problems where the chief officer belongs to the board but reports elsewhere. At present, conflicts will normally be resolved by a decision of the committee. The dynamic created by the proposal is highly problematic. For example, there could be structures to resolve disputes but the Government do not appear to believe that they are necessary. The links between the Minister, chairman, board, chief officer and staff are complex but remain unresolved in this Bill. There could be policy and operational distinctions, such as occur with Next Step agencies. Occasionally, when a problem presents itself resort has been had to such a distinction to decide who should have done what.

Home Office documents refer to resolutions of conflict between the chief officer and the board. They suggest that the incidence of conflict may be too rare to worry about it. Importantly, employment law suggests that what matters is the pathology rather than the healthy state of an organisation. One cannot assume that there is no need to worry about conflict: that is just what one must worry about. We are all aware that goodwill can make most things work where the organisation is in a healthy state. Serious tension will need to be resolved in a much more formal way.

I should like to record another tension. I refer to judgments about the performance of chief officers which I believe will be a real issue. One would have to be aware of the distinction between a failure in performance and failure to follow a particular political line. The specification of the position of the chief officer in following the wishes and instructions of the local board is vital. Clear and simple management structures are of the highest importance. If there was a linear structure of accountability with boards having clear accountability to the national director and the political centre, chief officers employed by board would be stronger and clearer in their role and it would provide the Minister with a more direct cogent route.

I spoke to officials yesterday on the telephone. The Secretary of State could withdraw his approval of an appointment, which would probably mean dismissal of the individual if the Minister believed that in some way the performance of the chief officer was such that it gave rise to concern. Clearly, before a tribunal he would have to give reasons.

I return to the questions that I posed earlier. What is to be the status of the chief officer? Will he or she be a civil servant or public office holder? What is the status of the board? Is it a corporate body? What degree of operational autonomy is to be enjoyed by a chief officer who serves his local community? The nature of a public office holder implies autonomy as with the charity commissioner and the data protection registrar. But in the probation proposal the status of the public office holder is being compromised by the level of direction. I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, there is a preliminary point that needs to be cleared up. The Motion before the House refers to Amendment No. 39 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, that the House does not insist on its amendment for the reasons that he gave. The Motion to which the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, spoke applies very much later on in the Marshalled List. I believe that it is Amendment No. 121C, if I remember correctly. Therefore, if the House divides at the end of this debate, it will not be on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, but on the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton.

The noble Lord may wish to take advice or think about that for a moment. I entirely endorse what both the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and my noble friend have said and in the interests of expedition I shall not say it again. The chief probation officer needs to be the servant and colleague of his board and not the servant of the Secretary of State and a colleague of his board.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, wishes me to clarify a procedural issue. I am happy to do that at this stage. My understanding is that any Division as regards the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, will have to wait until we deal with Amendment No. 121. We are now debating Amendment No. 39.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 4:45 pm, 28th November 2000

My Lords, since the Government are attempting to overturn an amendment which was put forward at the last stage in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and myself, I hope that the House will allow me to make a few points on this important matter. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, readily accepted, the matter is fundamental to this part of the Bill.

It is not an argument as to whether we have a national service, but about how to make it most effective. It was striking that in the justification put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, in seeking to overturn the amendment that this House passed on the last occasion, the word "consistency" rang like a dirge through his speech. The key word here is "effectiveness". After all, consistency can be second or third rate. We on this side of the House feel very strongly indeed that effectiveness is infinitely more important than consistency, particularly where a lack of it may be a very proper reflection of the different experiences in many parts of the country where different criminal regimes have to be contended with. There may be different social circumstances.

If the Government want to neutralise the local probation boards and diminish them and ensure that no one of real power and consequence wants to serve on them, then they have only to continue treading this path. As my noble friend Lord Dholakia and the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, have said, the powers retained by the Home Secretary under this Bill are total. Here we have the responsibility of the boards without power.

It is a question of the maintenance of experience. As the noble Lord has frankly admitted, there is no precedent for this measure. The characteristics of effectiveness, the morale, drive, pride, commitment and energy so desperately needed in the local boards if they are to do a good job--and how much we hope they do--are simply not consistent with the balance of powers constructed by Schedule 1 to the Bill and in particular if the chief officer is appointed or imposed by the Home Secretary of the day.

Perhaps I may add to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. If this were a company the Home Secretary's position would be that of a shadow director. If it were a trust, the Home Secretary's position would be that of a de facto trustee. There is no question about that. That alone should give pause in consideration of the arrangements being put forward.

It is not unfair to suggest that perhaps the most unsatisfactory aspect of the 18 years of Conservative rule, as I hear it from their lips, is the way in which they chipped away at local powers and centralised. I thought that this Government understood the dangers of the tendency which every government suffer to centralise power in the wholly fallacious belief that if it is in Whitehall it will be better and more sensitively and economically exercised. I do not know of anyone beyond the Government Benches who believes that. If I wanted to score a cheap point--and I shall--one might cite the Dome where many hundreds of millions of pounds have been expended on precisely the principles that the noble Lord has advanced today for his Schedule 1 structure..

Surely, the most important thing here is to have an effective partnership between the Home Secretary and the local boards. It must be a partnership that can work and of broadly equal powers. Here it is a partnership--if one can use that term at all--of subservience on the part of the local boards.

I remind your Lordships that I asked the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, at previous stages of the Bill if he would explain how the matter would develop. Let us suppose that the chief officer of, let us say, the Suffolk probation board travels to London for a meeting with other chief probation officers under the guidance of the national chief probation officer, and he is told about the Government's line to be followed on particular aspects of the delivery of justice in the regions regarding punishment and policy towards the wide discretion which magistrates are given under our complicated criminal law. Let us assume that that line is not liked by the Suffolk chief probation officer. He returns to Suffolk with the order ringing in his ears to deliver that line of policy in the Suffolk probation board.

Let us suppose that at the board meeting where this important matter of policy is discussed the remainder of the board believe as the chief officer does and persuade him that his views are the right ones for Suffolk. They may not be suitable for Newcastle or Liverpool. What is that probation officer to do?

No answer has been forthcoming from the Government Benches. The reason is that there is no answer. The system proposed is of a chief probation officer with the person to whom he is responsible further along the line and who is not present at the board table and not even in Suffolk, but far away in London. In those circumstances unanimity among the members of his board can have no influence on what he can do and does. That is unworkable. If the Government do not know that then they should. That is why we on these Benches are persevering and why we shall not be content with anything short of the minimum requirement that a board must appoint its own chief officer. We must bear in mind and never forget that if he or she does not do well, he or she can be removed by the Home Secretary of the day at the flick of his or her pen. I speak for the Members of this House on these Benches and I know I also speak for the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. The Government's proposal is a serious error and I hope very much that even at this stage they will have the courage to withdraw their amendment.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, strong and powerful views have been expressed on a familiar argument which we have gone around on several occasions. At the outset I said that there was a fundamental disagreement between us. There remains a fundamental disagreement between us on these matters.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, thinks that the current system works well. Our view is that the current system, for all its strength--the strength is there in the staff, in the time given freely and honourably by members of local probation committees and in many of the chief officers--is far from perfect. For that reason we have set ourselves on this course of reforms.

I made the point during my opening comments and observations about the disparity in enforcement and the wide variation in the way various orders are acted upon and interpreted; and it has to be remembered that there is considerable variation in the quality and integrity of many of the local programmes.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, made much of the other powers which the Secretary of State will have. I do not dispute that those powers are there. They are clearly set out as part of a new national scheme to create a new national service. We do not want to create a service where there is a built-in collision course. We believe it is better to have a system of appointments which will work from the beginning, and let the service get off to a good and sound start.

We have set out in the Bill a system of practical management of services. It is not an argument about constitutional niceties. Much as I respect the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for his view, we shall continue to differ. We see the central appointment of the chief probation officer--the chief executive of the locally delivered service--as fundamental to our belief and commitment in our reforms to create and sustain a new national Probation Service.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked a number of questions. She started by saying that it was an important technical and legal argument. She asked three questions. First, she asked whether local boards are bodies corporate? The answer is, yes, and the Bill makes that clear. Secondly, she asked whether chief officers are civil servants? The answer to that is, no, they are statutory office holders. Thirdly, she asked whether chief officers are autonomous? They are members of the board in the structure and must act for the board, but subject to the Secretary of State's direction. Certain functions within that can be delegated to them directly by regulation.

We have had a strange debate. It has not borne directly on what we are trying to achieve. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, raised an extraordinary red herring. She sought to compare this issue with the relationship between W H Smith and Waterstones. They are two separate commercial organisations. The situation that we are trying to create is where the Essex Probation Service is part of the same national organisation as the Gloucester Probation Service, rather than having two rival organisations. We are trying to create one organisation nationally. If the amendment is insisted upon by your Lordships' House, it will strike fundamentally at the heart of our powerful reforms.

The question of conflict was part of the argument used against the Government's position. I thought that I had described accurately the line of accountability and the chain of management. There is no doubt that if there is a conflict there will be efforts undertaken to resolve any such conflict locally. But ultimately the chief probation officer is accountable to the Secretary of State through the national director of the Probation Service. Ultimately, if conflicts cannot be resolved through agreement, the Secretary of State will have to issue directions to resolve that conflict. From time to time all organisations have conflicts within them. That is inevitable in any organisation, whether it be national or local. We must have effective lines of management and effective lines of accountability to ensure that those conflicts can at least be handled; rather than what we have in many situations where local boards disagree with their local chief officer, who has a poor relationship with the local board, and there is no one in the current system able and capable to seek a resolution to the problems. We seek to put in place something which will address precisely that issue.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I gave the example of a chief probation officer being unhappy about a line of policy agreed in Whitehall, going to his board and finding that his or her board is of the same mind by dint of local circumstances. Does the Minister say that in that case the Home Secretary would issue a direction requiring unanimity of view on that board to be reversed? If that is so, what effect does he think that would have on that board?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for making that important point. There will not be a problem. The chief officer will advise the Secretary of State of the conflict. The Secretary of State will then issue a direction to the whole board, ensuring that the line of accountability is maintained, that the chief officer can act from a position of strength and that the chief officer can act with the full knowledge that he or she is acting in accordance with nationally directed policy. That is what we seek to achieve in this exercise. That makes the position plain and clear.

That brings me to a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. She said that there should be a clear duty to the local community. There will be duties to the local community. But in putting the point in that way the noble Baroness is confusing the nature of a local service. It is not like a local authority where there are clear duties through the locally-elected councillors. Probation boards are not of that ilk. They are not that kind of local organisation. With the creation of a new national probation service they will be part of a national service. Their duty to a local community must surely be to ensure that there is effective public protection. That is the primary purpose in this exercise.

I have described a clear, no nonsense, under- standable transparent system of linear accountability to a national organisation. If noble Lords opposite insist on their approach, they will be driving a wedge into the general thrust of the reforms that we propose. I believe that noble Lords fully understand that. The matter has been debated in your Lordships' House. More importantly, it has been determined in another place, not once but twice, and with very clear majorities. Another place is very clear about the Government's policy; and the Government are very clear about their policy objectives. It would be wrong. It would undermine the general direction of our policy towards the creation of a new Probation Service if your Lordships' House were to insist on amendments which were carried on Report. I urge your Lordships' House to think long and hard before disagreeing with the general thrust of the Government's reforms and with another place. That is the Government's position.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him a question. The noble Lord said that the boards will be bodies corporate; that chief officers will be public office holders and that they will not have operational autonomy in the way that a chief police officer has. In the light of those answers and in the light of what I said earlier, a public office holder implies autonomy--for example, the charity commissioner or the data protection registrar. Neither of those public office holders are subject to the direction of any Secretary of State. Therefore, how can these be bodies corporate and public office holders and be different from public office holders and public bodies as we know them?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office 5:00 pm, 28th November 2000

My Lords, the short answer is that we have decided how we wish to have the system and line of accountability in creating an entirely different and specific national service. The members will have a degree of autonomy as they will be members of a board. But they will ultimately be subject to the constraints of a national service. The noble Baroness shakes her head, but that is how we see the new service developing. That is exactly what we wish to see develop. The noble Baroness clearly takes a different view. I am very surprised by the view that she takes, because when she was a Minister and held responsibilities not completely dissimilar to the ones that I hold, on a number of occasions she expressed frustration at the way in which the Probation Service was developing.

We believe that the reforms are very important. The amendment would strike not just at the heart of what we are trying to achieve but at the certainty we need to achieve that objective.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, it is not me who has a different view and has changed my mind; it is the Minister. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, he said that in the event of any tension the Home Secretary would override not just the chief officer but the whole board. Yet he has just said in answer to my question that the chief officer would have autonomy. He cannot have both.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I made it clear that there is a degree of autonomy. But I made an important point to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, when describing the relationship that ultimately would have to pertain and ultimately would have to reside; a situation where, yes, when push comes to shove, the Secretary of State will be able to issue directions to the local board.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I may help him to clarify the position for the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. If we go along the route that she suggests, national standards might not be enforced in particular parts of the country and local boards might choose to ignore a national direction on the national standards regarding, for example, breaches of orders made by the courts.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, that is precisely the point. We are seeking for those very reasons to create a national service. We do not want widespread regional variations. We want national consistency with national standards. Noble Lords opposite are seeking to undermine that important principle.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Liberal Democrat

My Lords, there is confusion here. Does the noble Lord agree that under the Bill the Secretary of State will have power to get rid of the board if it does not follow a direction from the national service? The answer is "yes".

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I am sure that the answer is yes, but that is not the point. The chief officer has day-to-day organisational responsibility for that part of the Probation Service. The chief officer is in an important position of responsibility in managing the day-to-day affairs of the local probation service.

Photo of Lord Carter Lord Carter Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Lords Chief Whip (HM Household)

My Lords, we may have reached the point where it would be helpful if I gave the House some procedural advice. I am not entering into the debate on the merits of the various amendments. The only way in which the House can have a vote, which is what I think it wants to do, is to vote on Amendment No. 121C. No Motions have been tabled to any of the other amendments before the House. There is always confusion over Commons amendments. There is only one way in which the House can have a vote--I see that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is nodding. Notice has been given by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, to insist on Amendment No. 121. The House can do that by voting for Amendment No. 121C, although I hope that the majority of the House will vote against it. No notice has been given of opposition to Amendment No. 39. Therefore, the decision on Amendment No. 39 is not procedurally binding on Amendment No. 121. Therefore, the only amendment on which there can be a vote is Amendment No. 121C.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

41 Clause 18, page 8, line 37, leave out paragraph (b)

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

41A Because the Commons believe that it is not appropriate for local probation boards to hold land.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 41 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 41A.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No, 41 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 41A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

42 Clause 19, page 9, line 3, leave out ("Service") and insert ("new employer")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

42A Because the Commons believe that it is not appropriate for local probation boards to hold land.

LORDS AMENDMENT

43 Clause 19, page 9, line 7, leave out ("Service") and insert ("new employer")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

43A Because the Commons believe that it is not appropriate for local probation boards to hold land.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reasons numbered 42A and 43A.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reasons numbered 42A and 43A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

44 Clause 20, page 9, line 20, leave out subsection (2)

The Commons disagreed to this amendment but proposed the following amendments to the words so restored to the Bill--

44A Clause 20, page 9, line 22, leave out ("for") and insert ("of")

44B Clause 20, page 9, line 23, after ("local") insert ("probation")

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 44 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 44A and 44B to the words so restored to the Bill.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 44 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 44A and 44B to the words so restored to the Bill.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

45 Clause 20, page 9, line 25, leave out ("or persons so employed")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

45A Because the Commons believe that the changes proposed to be made in connection with a chief officer of a local probation board are not appropriate.

LORDS AMENDMENT

46 Clause 20, page 9, line 27, leave out ("or person so employed")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

46A Because the Commons believe that the changes proposed to be made in connection with a chief officer of a local probation board are not appropriate.

LORDS AMENDMENT

48 Clause 20, page 9, line 30, leave out ("and chief probation officers")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

48A Because the Commons believe that the changes proposed to be made in connection with a chief officer of a local probation board are not appropriate.

LORDS AMENDMENT

49 Clause 20, page 9, line 30, leave out ("or appointed")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

49A Because the Commons believe that the changes proposed to be made in connection with a chief officer of a local probation board are not appropriate.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 45, 46, 48 and 49 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reasons numbered 45A, 46A, 48A and 49A.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 45, 46, 48 and 49 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reasons numbered 45A, 46A, 48A and 49A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

50Leave out Clause 22

The Commons disagreed to this amendment but proposed the following amendments to the words so restored to the Bill--

50A Clause 22, page 10, line 35, leave out ("for") and insert ("of")

50B Clause 22, page 10, line 35, after ("local") insert ("probation")

50C Clause 22, page 10, line 45, after ("local") insert ("probation")

50D Clause 22, page 11, line 6, leave out ("for") and insert ("of")

50E Clause 22, page 11, line 6, after ("local") insert ("probation")

50F Clause 22, page 11, line 12, after ("local") insert ("probation")

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 50 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 50A to 50F to the words so restored to the Bill.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 50 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 50A to 50F to the words so restored to the Bill.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

76 Clause 41, page 24, leave out lines 31 to line 38

The Commons disagreed to this amendment but proposed the following amendments in lieu thereof--

76A Clause 41, page 22, line 39, leave out ("one year") and insert ("two years")

76B Page 23, line 5, leave out ("one year") and insert ("two years")

76C Page 81, line 17, leave out ("one year") and insert ("two years")

The Commons further proposed the following amendments to the words so restored to the Bill--

76D Clause 41, page 24, line 31, leave out from ("direct") to ("shall") in line 36 and insert ("that section 40A(5) above")

76E Page 24, line 37, leave out ("so specified") and insert ("specified in the order")

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 76 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 76A to 76C in lieu thereof and Amendments Nos. 76D and 76E to the words so restored to the Bill.

The amendments restore to the Bill the power for the Secretary of State to add to the list of factors that must be taken into account when imposing exclusion orders and exclusion and curfew conditions. They also increase the maximum length of exclusion order requirements to two years rather than 12 months. Other amendments are consequential on the removal from the Bill of the delegated power to alter the maximum length of an exclusion order, an exclusion or curfew condition or another community order, or a drug abstinence order. They simply ensure that the delegated powers which remain are correctly referred to in the right places--that is, the right powers are shown to be subject to negative and affirmative resolution procedures--and those powers which no longer exist are no longer referred to. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 76 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 76A to 76C in lieu thereof and Amendment Nos. 76D and 76E to the words so restored to the Bill.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for putting on the face of the Bill the two years' maximum. We fought hard in this House for that provision and so we are grateful for the concession made in another place. Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord to clarify what he has just said. Did he say that he was reinstating the Secretary of State's power to increase maximum sentences? My understanding was that they were to be removed and that the provision to increase the maximum sentence would be on the face of the Bill. That was the argument we put to the noble Lord for deleting the power and taking the advice of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I said that the amendments restore to the Bill the power for the Secretary of State to add to the list of factors that must be taken into account when imposing exclusion orders and exclusion and curfew conditions. I think that the noble Baroness now follows what we are trying to achieve. It certainly reflects the understanding that we thought we had reached.

The amendments accepted in your Lordships' House earlier in the passage of the Bill were moved on the advice of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. They deleted from the Bill the power of the Secretary of State to alter the maximum period of exclusion orders or exclusion curfew requirements of other community orders and of drug abstinence orders. However, those same amendments inadvertently deleted non-contentious powers that allowed the Secretary of State to add to the list of factors that must be taken into account when imposing exclusion orders and exclusion curfew conditions. Notice was therefore given that it would be necessary to restore these non-contentious powers.

The changes made in another place are designed to meet the wishes of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, while at the same time ensuring that the powers that ought to remain do remain. I hope that this explanation will be sufficient to satisfy the noble Baroness.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 76 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 76A to 76C in lieu thereof and Amendments Nos. 76D and 76E to the words so restored to the Bill.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, I had misheard the Minister. I am delighted with what he has just said. It represents a sizeable concession. I thank the noble Lord.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

78 Clause 42, page 26, leave out lines 12 to 15

The Commons agreed to this amendment and have made the following consequential amendments to the Bill--

78A Clause 42, page 78, line 23, leave out ("58B(4)")

78B Clause 42, page 78, line 30, leave out ("40C(2) or 58B(4)") and insert ("or 40C(2)")

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 78A and 78B, consequential on Lords Amendment No. 78, to which the Commons have agreed.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 78A and 78B, consequential on Lords Amendment No. 78, to which the Commons have agreed.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.).

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

79 Clause 45, page 29, leave out lines 14 to 19

The Commons disagreed to this amendment but proposed the following amendments to the words so restored to the Bill--

79A Clause 45, page 29, leave out lines 15 to 17

79B Clause 45, page 29, line 19, leave out ("so specified") and insert ("specified in the order")

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that this House do not insist on their Amendment No. 79, to which the Commons have disagreed, but do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 79A and 79B to the words so restored to the Bill.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 79, to which the Commons have disagreed, but do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 79A and 79B to the words so restored to the Bill.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

80 Clause 46, page 30, leave out lines 15 to 20

The Commons disagreed to this amendment but proposed the following amendments in lieu thereof--

80A Clause 46, page 29, line 27, leave out ("one year") and insert ("two years")

80B Clause 46, page 81, line 10, leave out ("one year") and insert ("two years")

The Commons further proposed the following amendments to the words so restored to the Bill--

80C Clause 46, page 30, leave out lines 16 to 18

80D Clause 46, page 30, line 20, leave out ("so specified") and insert ("specified in the order")

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 80, to which the Commons have disagreed, but do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 80A and 80B in lieu thereof, and Amendments Nos. 80C and 80D to the words so restored to the Bill.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 80, to which the Commons have disagreed, but do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 80A and 80B in lieu thereof, and Amendments Nos. 80C and 80D to the words so restored to the Bill.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT NO. 106

Clause 63, page 43, line 2, at end insert--

("( ) This section shall apply only in cases where the failure to attend school is with the knowledge and consent of the parent or other adult responsible for securing the child's attendance at school.")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment but proposed the following amendments in lieu thereof--

106A Clause 63, page 42, line 35, leave out from beginning to ("of") and insert ("In section 444")

106B Clause 63, page 42, line 36, leave out from ("school)") to ("is") in line 37 and insert--

("(a) after subsection (1) there is inserted--

"(1A) If in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1) the parent knows that his child is failing to attend regularly at the school and fails without reasonable justification to cause him to do so, he is guilty of an offence.",.

(b) in subsection (8), for "this section" there is substituted "subsection (1)",

(c) after that subsection there is inserted--

"(8A) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1A)").

106C Clause 63, page 42, line 41, at end insert--

("(8B) If, on the trial of an offence under subsection (1A), the court finds the defendant not guilty of that offence but is satisfied that he is guilty of an offence under subsection (1), the court may find him guilty of that offence").

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 106, to which the Commons have disagreed, but do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 106A to 106C in lieu thereof.

Briefly, these provisions will create a new and additional aggravated offence with a maximum penalty at level 4 and/or three months' imprisonment. The current offence under Section 444 would remain unchanged. However, the new and additional aggravated offence would require proof of parental knowledge of truancy and failure without "reasonable justification" to,

"cause the child to fail to attend regularly at school".

The failure to appear in court to answer the summons in respect of the aggravated offence would allow the issuing of a warrant to secure attendance.

We have debated these matters at considerable length on earlier occasions. What we have put before noble Lords today are, I believe, the fruits of a common agreement and understanding of the very necessary changes that we seek to make.

I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, for his kind words of commendation for the approach adopted by the Government and I congratulate him on securing what I believe is now a position of common consent between us.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 106, but do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 106A to 106C in lieu thereof.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Photo of Earl Russell Earl Russell Liberal Democrat

My Lords, perhaps I may thank the Minister and, through him, his officials for the care that they have put into this matter. Perhaps I may also congratulate parliamentary counsel on the exactitude with which the agreement reached between us has been embodied. I am fully satisfied and I thank all those involved.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

121 Schedule 1, page 46, line 10, at end insert?

("( ) The chief officer is to be appointed by the Board with the approval of the Secretary of State.")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

121A Because the Commons believe that the changes proposed to be made in connection with a chief officer of a local probation board are not appropriate.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

rose to move, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 121 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 121A, but propose the following amendment in lieu thereof--

121BSchedule 1, page 46, line 15, at end insert--

("( ) Regulations made by virtue of sub-paragraph (4) and coming into force on or after the coming into force of section 4 must make provision--

(a) for the selection procedure for the chairman, the chief officer and the other members of the board who are to be appointed by the Secretary of State to include selection panels,

(b) in the case of the chief officer, for the board to be represented on any selection panel making a final recommendation to the Secretary of State.")

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 121, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 121A, but propose Amendment No. 121B in lieu thereof.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Liberal Democrat

rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 121, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 121A, and do agree to Amendment No. 121B in lieu thereof--

121CLeave out the words after "House" and insert "do insist on their Amendment No. 121".

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 121C.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 121C) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 116; Not-Contents, 139.

Division number 1

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

On Question, Motion No. 121B agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

122 Schedule 1, page 46, line 11, leave out (", the chief officer")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

122A Because the Commons believe that the changes proposed to be made in connection with a chief officer of a local probation board are not appropriate.

LORDS AMENDMENT

123 Schedule 1, page 46, line 31, leave out sub-paragraph (5)

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

123A Because the Commons believe that the changes proposed to be made in connection with a chief officer of a local probation board are not appropriate.

LORDS AMENDMENT

124 Schedule 1, page 46, line 33, leave out ("sub-paragraph (5) and")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

124A Because the Commons believe that the changes proposed to be made in connection with a chief officer of a local probation board are not appropriate.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office 5:26 pm, 28th November 2000

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 122 to 124 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reasons numbered 122A to 124A.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 122 to 124 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reasons numbered 122A to 124A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

130 Schedule 1, page 47, line 37, leave out paragraph 10

The Commons disagreed to this amendment but propose the following amendment to the words so restored to the Bill--

130A Schedule 1, page 47, line 37, after ("local") insert ("probation")

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 130 to which the Commons have disagreed but do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 130A to the words so restored to the Bill.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 130 to which the Commons have disagreed but do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 130A to the words so restored to the Bill.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

135 Schedule 1, page 48, line 12, after ("holding") insert ("or managing land and other")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

135A Because the Commons believe that it is not appropriate for local probation boards to hold land and it is not necessary to confer on them the proposed power to manage.

MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS REASON NO. 135A

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

rose to move, That this House do not insist on their Amendment No. 135 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 135A but do propose the following amendment in lieu thereof--

135BSchedule 1, page 48, line 18, at end insert ("(though they may manage it)?)

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 135 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 135A and do agree to Amendment No. 135B in lieu thereof.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 135 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 135A and do agree to Amendment No. 135B in lieu thereof.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

137 Schedule 1, page 48, line 18, after ("hold") insert ("or manage")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

137A Because the Commons believe that it is not necessary to confer on local probation boards the proposed power to manage.

LORDS AMENDMENT

138 Schedule 1, page 48, line 18, at end insert ("without the approval of the Secretary of State")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

138A Because the Commons believe that it is not appropriate for local probation boards to hold land and it is not necessary to confer on them the proposed power to manage.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 137 and 138 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reasons numbered 137A and 138A.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 137 and 138 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reasons numbered 137A and 138A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

245 Schedule 6, page 78, line 20, leave out ("40(2), 40C(2), 58B(4),") and insert ("40(2)(b), 40C(2)(b),")

The Commons agreed to this amendment with the following amendment--

245A Schedule 6, line 2, leave out ("40C(2)(b)") and insert ("40C(2)")

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 245A to Lords Amendment No. 245.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 245A to Lords Amendment No. 245.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

246 Schedule 6, page 78, line 21, leave out ("7(9) or 8(8)") and insert ("7(9)(b) or 8(8)(b)")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

246A Because the Commons believe that the amendment is not necessary in consequence of the amendments made by the Commons to the words so restored to the Bill by the disagreement of the Commons with Lords Amendments Nos. 79 and 80.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 246 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 246A.

Moved, that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 246 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 246A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

247 Schedule 6, page 78, line 22, at end insert--

("( ) after "15(1)" there is inserted "40(2)(a), 40C(2)(a)",")

The Commons agreed to this amendment with the following amendment--

247A Schedule 6, line 3, leave out ("40C(2)(a)")

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 247A to Lords Amendment No. 247.

Moved, that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 247A to Lords Amendment No. 247.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORDS AMENDMENT

248 Schedule 6, page 78, line 24, after second ("or") insert ("paragraph 7(9)(a) or 8(8)(a) of Schedule 2 or")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

248A Because the Commons believe that the amendment is not necessary in consequence of the amendments made by the Commons to the words so restored to the Bill by the disagreement of the Commons with Lords Amendments Nos. 79 and 80.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 248 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 248A.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 248 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 248A.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.