This is another amendment where I can almost predict what the reply will be but there is purpose to it because, the more one looks into the whole business of rehabilitation, the more one realises that the present Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 is not fit for purpose, which is a considerable concern to all those involved in the resettlement process.
A great deal of work has already been done within the Home Office on this subject. It is possible that if there had been a revision of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, a lot of the problems that we have been foreseeing would have disappeared. Recently the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, obtained a short debate on this subject so there is no need to go over the whole ground again. I have put it in the Bill because, as I have mentioned before, what is marked in the Bill about the management of offenders is really what is not in the Bill about the management of offenders. One of the things I shall be seeking in a further amendment is a revisiting of a lot of the issues which need to be in a proper regime for the management of offenders, including this. Therefore, by having it on the record as an amendment that we discuss in this House, I hope it will be drawn to the attention of those who will have to go through and see what needs to be put in to strengthen the Bill, particularly as we spent the first three days talking about the importance of rehabilitation, for which this Act is a very important tool. I beg to move.
I support my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham in calling for a review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. We have spoken a lot about reducing reoffending and have heard that the purpose of the Bill is to reduce it. I revert to some research that I mentioned on the first day of Committee, which seems an awfully long time ago. I described the eight points that that research gave us—"Eight Principles for Supporting Desistance in Criminal Justice", or what actually helps people to give up crime. I mentioned two of the principles on that occasion and promised some more. I would now like to quote the eighth, which is to "promote redemption":
"In some respects, the criminal justice system is pretty good at condemning people. But we also need to think about ways in which criminal justice policy and practice can recognise and reward efforts to change and to desist, so as to encourage and confirm positive change. For ex-offenders, there has to be an ending to their punishment and some means of signalling their redemption and re-inclusion within their communities and wider society".
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 is very important to the aims of the Bill in reducing reoffending. If people are ostracised for years, if they have to declare convictions for years and therefore cannot get work, they stay in the outcast part of society and crime is not reduced. I very much support the amendment.
I, too, support the amendment. I love the inclusion of the notion of redemption—it is really important. One of the constant themes of our discussions on the Bill so far has been the central objective of rehabilitating offenders, which should be the goal of everything we are trying to achieve.
It is well known to all who work in this field that there are three core prerequisites for a person to be able to establish themselves in society on release, which is also part of one of the objectives of the prison rules. Those are a roof, a relationship and a job. More often than not, these are the three things that imprisonment takes away from people and why community-based penalties are so important. They can be very difficult to re-establish.
Resettlement programmes can be crucial to this, both in prison before someone is released and then continued outside. We at the Butler Trust have frequently recognised excellent programmes in prisons, but the real test is how someone can find their feet in these three areas on release when they make the crucial transition from being an offender or an ex-offender to a citizen.
Housing is a major issue. All too often, people are released with nowhere permanent to go, even from YOIs. Without a place to stay, it is all too easy for a person to get into trouble again.
The Home Office recently reviewed the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and published a report in 2002 called Breaking the Circle,which recognised the well known fact that employment can reduce reoffending by between a third and a half. It also recognised the need for new arrangements to be introduced as quickly as possible. That was in 2002; now in 2007, perhaps—just perhaps—we have a new opportunity to do something.
The review has developed a scheme where all sorts of useful recommendations have been included, such as formulae around disclosure of a conviction, the requirements which should apply in various situations, a code of practice for employers, and so on. I hope that the Government will take this forward.
I support the amendment. The idea of rehabilitation is at the back of what we are all trying to achieve, and to hear what conclusions the review has come to would be very helpful.
I should like to draw attention to something I heard about when visiting Downview, a women's prison. When one woman there had served a proportion of her sentence—it was very long, as far too many of the sentences given to women are—she was allowed to work in the local Asda. She did brilliantly and got a prize. It was filmed to show the potential of so many people who have been in prison. The real problem was that other branches of Asda, all around the country, still held the view that if someone had been to prison they were much too dangerous to be employed and that other people working in the store would not like it. There was no central direction on the issue from Asda.
This is exactly where the Government, with all their influence, can play such an important role. They have done so already, with the list of employers they have got to join together to help with the rehabilitation scheme. The basis is there for the future. The example I have given struck me as a particularly good illustration of just how much prejudice there still is, and how much one needs to sell the idea that people can be reclaimed and rehabilitated after having been to prison. It is in everybody's interests that that should happen.
My impression is that the 1974 Act has worked only moderately well in England and Wales and may have disappointed those who first promoted it. I shall bring a Northern Ireland dimension to the debate. The rehabilitation of offenders in that jurisdiction is perhaps even more important than it is here, because many of them over past years have been politically motivated.
We still encounter problems over basic matters such as former offenders being allowed to have public service vehicle licences, heavy goods vehicle licences, taxi-driving authority and, in general, getting work within the public sector, which is very prominent in Northern Ireland. I mentioned NIACRO earlier. I am glad to say that that organisation has been active in educating potential employers about the risks involved in employing people who have had convictions. We have seen some success in that direction. I hope that it will be emulated in England. My noble friend was right to bring forward the amendment.
We have heard from all sides of the Committee that the proposals in the report of 2002 have not been implemented and that there must be uncertainty about the Government's direction on this matter. There can be no doubt that the task is not easy. It is essential that a careful balance is struck between the potential risks to the public and the criminal disclosure scheme, along with checks on those working with children and the vulnerable. That goes for those working both in and out of the Prison Service.
Life after prison has become increasingly difficult to manage—in some cases, perhaps rightly so. The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, rightly reminded us of the three basic requirements of roof, relationship and job. It has been further complicated by the introduction of the Criminal Records Bureau and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. Public safety must come first, but we must not ignore the fact that it can be enhanced only by the effective rehabilitation of offenders.
This has been another short, valuable debate where there has been a great comity of view among its contributors and a general willingness to make further progress on the vexed issue of rehabilitating offenders. The amendment does what it says on the tin and asks the Government to conduct a review of the 1974 Act and publish their findings. We have learnt from the contributors to the debate that the Government have already conducted such a review in 2002, Breaking the Circle, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and others referred. However, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said, there are problems in implementing it because of the necessary checks and balances that one understandably has to put in place to ensure that, in rehabilitating offenders, one does not put the general public at risk through somebody reoffending.
Breaking the Circle proposed modifying disclosure periods for offences and other changes to the operation of the Act. In 2003, the Government agreed that the proposals had merit and proposed to legislate when parliamentary time allowed. That remains the position. However, as I have already said, it is clear that the disclosure landscape has changed to some extent since 2003. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, which followed the Bichard report, changes the situation for ex-offenders in many areas of employment. Consideration is required as to whether the Breaking the Circle proposals need updating in the light of these new arrangements. The Government will consider that in due course.
I want to make it clear that the Government are fully committed to improving opportunities for employment for ex-offenders. I entirely agree with all those who say that employment is a key route out of offending—that is plain for all to see. The cross-government document Reducing Re-offending through Skills and Employment: Next Steps focuses on the need to improve employability, to link skills training to labour market needs, and to provide offenders with a direct route into employment and with employment support. Those key elements are all there and in place. There are three key priorities in this work: engaging employers through the Corporate Alliance for Reducing Re-offending; building on the new offender learning and skills service, including through the campus model; and reinforcing the emphasis on skills and jobs in prisons and probation.
Two test-bed regions will be appointed to work with us to implement the vision in the most effective way. The Corporate Alliance for Reducing Re-offending is one of three alliances launched by my noble friend Lady Scotland in November 2005. Significant activity to engage employers is part of a cross-government agenda, linked into the national and regional education, training and employment boards and integral to the Green Paper Youth Matters: Next Steps action plan. Working in partnership with other government departments, including the Department for Work and Pensions, the National Offender Management Service is developing strategies at national, regional and local levels for engaging employers in providing jobs for offenders and ex-offenders, and using both custodial and community sentences constructively to improve employment opportunities for those offenders. In marketing offenders to employers, we are highlighting how the prison and probation services can train offenders to meet their workforce needs and requirements. A number of major companies have signed up to the corporate alliance including Cisco Systems, Compass, EDS, Holiday Inn, Wessex Water, Wolseley and UBS Investment Bank, as well as Asda, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, mentioned.
Education for offenders is key to helping them increase their employability. The Government have made substantial additional investment in education provision for offenders. It was £57 million back in 2001-02 and has now risen to £151 million in 2005-06 and £156 million in 2006-07. We have had a significant step increase in the resources set aside for that important work. A further £30 million of European Social Fund investment has been secured by the Learning and Skills Council for funding additional provision over the financial years 2006-07 and 2007-08, principally for offenders in the community. In addition, although the final decision has yet to be made, I expect the forthcoming criminal justice Bill to include clauses to bring cautions, reprimands and final warnings within the ambit of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
The amendment would create a statutory requirement for the Government to review a particular piece of legislation and report on it. Much as I understand the move behind the proposed amendment, it would be an odd provision. I contend that our substantive criminal law should not be used simply to require government to conduct a one-off review and publish a report. If we were to go down that road, the statute book could become littered with short-term demands and the volume of our law would increase substantially at a time when many Members of your Lordships' House would consider less would be better.
I understand and fully accept the noble Lord's commitment to these issues. To a large extent, the Government share it—it is part of a common agenda, but this would not be an acceptable intrusion on to the statute book. That should be reserved for other matters. We fully understand where the noble Lord is coming from. We have embraced much of what was set out in our 2002 review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and much progress has been made in Breaking the Circle, but of course I accept that much more needs to be done. I hope that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.
I thank the Minister for his detailed response. I also thank all those who took part in the debate. I make no apology for tabling the amendment as it is at the heart of what this is all about. I am very glad that the Breaking the Circle report is likely to be revisited, because things have moved on since then. Therefore, I should like to think that the initiative is ongoing. In that spirit, I am very happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 129:
Clause 33, page 23, line 1, leave out "under" and insert "or regulations under—
( ) section 5(3)(c),"
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendments Nos. 130 and 130A not moved.]
Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 36 agreed to.
Schedule 3 [Minor and consequential amendments]:
moved Amendment No. 131:
Schedule 3, page 32, line 30, at end insert—
"Race Relations Act 1976 (c. 74)
A1 In Part 2 of Schedule 1A to the Race Relations Act 1976 (bodies and other persons subject to general statutory duty under section 71), under the heading "Other Bodies, Etc" there are inserted, at the appropriate places, the following entries—
"A probation trust.""A provider of probation services (other than the Secretary of State or a probation trust), in respect of its statutory functions and the carrying out by it of activities of a public nature in pursuance of arrangements made with it under section 3(2) of the Offender Management Act 2007.""
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 132:
Schedule 3, page 32, line 30, at end insert—
"Children Act 2004 (c. 31)
A2 (1) The Children Act 2004 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 10(4) (co-operation to improve wellbeing: relevant partners), after paragraph (c) there is inserted—
"(ca) the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under sections 2 and 3 of the Offender Management Act 2007, so far as they are exercisable in relation to England; (cb) any provider of probation services that is required by arrangements under section 3(2) of the Offender Management Act 2007 to act as a relevant partner of the authority;".
(3) In section 11(1) (persons required to make arrangements to safeguard and promote welfare), after paragraph (j) there is inserted—
"(ja) the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under sections 2 and 3 of the Offender Management Act 2007, so far as they are exercisable in relation to England;".
(4) In section 13(3) (establishment of LSCBs: Board Partners), after paragraph (c) there is inserted—
"(ca) the Secretary of State in relation to any of his functions under sections 2 and 3 of the Offender Management Act 2007, so far as they are exercisable in relation to England;(cb) any provider of probation services that is required by arrangements under section 3(2) of the Offender Management Act 2007 to act as a Board partner of the authority;".
(5) In section 25(4) (co-operation to improve wellbeing in Wales: relevant partners), after paragraph (b) there is inserted—
"(ba) the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under sections 2 and 3 of the Offender Management Act 2007, so far as they are exercisable in relation to Wales;(bb) any provider of probation services that is required by arrangements under section 3(2) of the Offender Management Act 2007 to act as a relevant partner of the authority;".
(6) In section 28(1) (persons required to make arrangements to safeguard and promote welfare in Wales), after paragraph (f) there is inserted—
"(fa) the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under sections 2 and 3 of the Offender Management Act 2007, so far as they are exercisable in relation to Wales;".
(7) In section 31(3) (establishment of LSCBs in Wales), after paragraph (b) there is inserted—
"(ba) the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under sections 2 and 3 of the Offender Management Act 2007, so far as they are exercisable in relation to Wales;(bb) any provider of probation services that is required by arrangements under section 3(2) of the Offender Management Act 2007 to act as a Board partner of the authority;"."
As we have previously identified, a large number of consequential amendments need to be made to reflect the fact that probation boards will cease to exist in due course. Clause 35 enables consequential amendments to be made by order after the Bill is enacted, and this is the mechanism that we plan to use for most of them. However, we are making a small number in the Bill in areas that have raised particular interest and where we think it would be helpful to show the Committee how we are approaching these matters. Amendment No. 132 falls into that category.
Local probation boards are also covered by these provisions. As I have already said, the duties need to be updated to reflect the new arrangements proposed by the Bill, and it is this that the government amendment is particularly interested in. It amends Sections 10, 11, 13, 25, 28 and 31 of the Children Act 2004.
As many Members of the Committee know, Section 10 of the Children Act requires each children's services authority in England to make arrangements to promote co-operation between the authority, the authority's relevant partners and such other persons or bodies as the authority considers appropriate, with a view to improving the well-being of children in the authority's area. Subsection (4) sets out the list of relevant partners, which includes a local probation board for an area any part of which falls within the area of the authority.
Paragraph (2) of our amendment replaces the reference to local boards with the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under Clauses 2 and 3 of this Bill and any provider of probation services that is so required by arrangements under Section 3(2). Therefore, it will be a general catch-all provision that, we think, will be important. In practice, this means that the Secretary of State will be under a duty to commission probation services in such a way as to ensure appropriate co-operation between probation and children's services authorities, but, as this is essentially a local activity, the day-to-day duty will be exercised through the local lead provider, and this will be specified in the contract.
Section 11 of the Children Act places a duty on the local probation board to make arrangements for ensuring that its functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Paragraph (3) of our amendment places that duty on the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under Clauses 2 and 3 for ensuring the provision of probation services. The Secretary of State will then be required by virtue of existing Section 11(2)(b) of the Children Act to ensure that any arrangements that he makes with another person to provide services also ensure that those services are discharged having regard to that need. In other words, when entering into contracts with providers of probation, the Secretary of State must ensure that those contracts make provision for services to be delivered having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
Section 13 of the Children Act requires each children's services authority to establish a local safeguarding children board for their area and for this to include a representative or representatives of the local probation board. Paragraph (4) of our amendment replaces the reference to local boards with the Secretary of State in relation to his functions under Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill and any provider of probation services that is so required by arrangements under Section 3(2). As with the duty to co-operate in Section 10 of the Children Act, this means in practice that the Secretary of State will be under a duty to commission probation services in such a way as to ensure that there is appropriate probation representation on the local safeguarding children's board. However, as the work of a board is a local matter, the contract will require the appropriate provider to participate in it. The provisions apply to England only. Sections 25, 28 and 31 of the Children Act mirror the provisions for Wales, and paragraphs (5), (6) and (7) of our amendment do the same thing.
I appreciate that this has been a lengthy and detailed explanation of the amendment, but I hope that it has shown the Committee how we intend to ensure that the existing duties on local probation boards are carried forward fully to the new arrangements envisaged by the Bill. We remain wholly committed to maintaining probation commitments not just to children's services but towards the full range of partnerships in which they currently participate. I beg to move.
I welcome the government amendment. It reflects fairly on the discussion that was held in another place in January on an amendment that was tabled by my honourable friend James Brokenshire, which sought to achieve exactly what the Government have now put before us.
The Minister was right to point out that there are occasions when particular commitments should be in the Bill. We have argued that on many occasions and the Government said no, but on this occasion we agree. The joint commitment to child welfare is a shining example of where it should be in legislation for all users of the legislation and all those who need to interpret it to see the will of Parliament clearly. In another place, the Minister said that there was no difference between us on this point. The Government have proved it by this provision, and I imagine that the Committee will welcome the amendment.
moved Amendments Nos. 133 and 134:
Schedule 3, page 32, line 30, at end insert—
(2) In subsection (3)(g)—
(a) the "and" after sub-paragraph (ii) is omitted;(b) after sub-paragraph (iii) there is inserted ";(iv) his functions under sections 2 and 3 of the Offender Management Act 2007 (responsibility for ensuring the provision of probation services throughout England and Wales)."
(3) After subsection (5) there is inserted—
"(5A) The Secretary of State's functions under this Chapter as a partner authority of a local authority in relation to the functions referred to in subsection (3)(g)(iv) are functions to which section 2(1)(c) of the Offender Management Act 2007 (functions to be performed through arrangements under section 3 of that Act) applies.""
Schedule 3, page 34, line 35, leave out sub-paragraph (2)
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.
Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.
Schedule 5 [Repeals]:
moved Amendment No. 135:
Schedule 5, page 38, line 13, at end insert—
|"Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 (c. 00)||In section 80(3), the word "and" after paragraph (g)(ii)."|
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 37 agreed to.
Clause 38 [Commencement]:
moved Amendment No. 136:
Clause 38, page 24, line 15, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
(1A) No order may be made under subsection (1) until the end of a period of six months commencing with the laying of a report before both Houses of Parliament under subsection (1B).
(1B) The report to be laid under subsection (1A) shall contain—
(a) a review of the proposals contained within the report published on 11th December 2003 "Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime: a New Approach";(b) the collated responses to the consultation document "Restructuring Probation to Reduce Re-Offending";(c) a review of the responses referred to in paragraph (b); and(d) proposals for reform of the Probation Service.
(1C) Parts 2 to 4 of this Act come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may appoint by order made by statutory instrument."
The genesis of the Bill was the report by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime, which was published in December 2003. The report was based on the assumption that there would be a stable prison population, which simply has not happened. Indeed, the first chief executive of NOMS announced that NOMS as described was undeliverable without a stable prison population. Since then, we have seen a steady increase in the prison population, which has made that assumption seem even less likely day by day.
As I mentioned at Second Reading, the Government published their so-called considered response to the report 26 days later, which announced the formation of NOMS without consultation or pilot. Unfortunately, that was followed by a briefing of the prison and probation services on what was intended, which included severe changes to their structure, about which they were not informed before their briefing. That was very unfortunate, because it has tempered a great deal of the responses to the proposals by people who felt not that they were being taken along as members of a process but that something was being imposed on them.
I well remember that that was followed soon after by what was called an online consultation, which resulted in absolutely no feedback. It felt like a cosmetic exercise. I asked the first change manager how she would pay for the increased numbers of supervisors of those awarded community sentences under such things as custody plus. I received the reply, "From the reduced number in prisons". There seemed to be quite a lot of confusion about where this was going. The Government have made a number of attempts since then to bring in a NOMS-enabling Bill. The Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill was withdrawn during the 2005 election, there was no successor to it in the next Session, and the Offender Management Bill was laid in this Session.
Many people have for a long time—certainly long before the current crisis in both prisons and probation caused by overcrowding and lack of resources—been calling for improvements in the way in which offenders are managed. Clearly, reconviction rates in excess of 60 per cent are unacceptable marks of failure if the aim, given by the Government to the criminal justice system, is the protection of the public by preventing reoffending. How is that aim achieved? At the heart of what we have been discussing in Committee for six days is NOMS. I have asked the Minister several times whether NOMS means a national offender management service, which Ministers declared was to provide clear leadership and accountability in the performance of all the correctional services and to reduce reoffending, or whether it was the system through which the correctional services were commissioned and provided. As yet, I have not had a definitive reply. Indeed, the Minister has referred to NOMS both as a service and as a system in this debate.
The Committee has been united on a number of key points throughout its deliberations. First, everyone has supported the concept of what is called end-to-end offender management, although several of us remain to be convinced that as described, and however desirable, it is actually deliverable. What is needed is the consistent management of work done with and for each offender throughout their sentence, whether in custody or the community, or both. If called case management, which it is, it becomes more understandable. Secondly, everyone supports partnership working, including the public, private and voluntary sectors, each contributing what it does best. Thirdly, offender management needs to be centrally directed but locally delivered. In other words, we support a national offender management system that includes every agency and individual with a role to play in the management of offenders, and which is an integral part of the criminal justice system. Yet just as the criminal justice system is not an entity but a description of the environment within which courts, police, prisons and probation services work together so, too, the national offender management system is not an entity but a description of the environment within which all those with a role to play in managing offenders work together. Looking at it against that criterion, I hope that your Lordships will see why a great deal about this Bill is currently unsatisfactory.
What we have been debating over six days has not been how an offender management system might better manage offenders, but rather a government description of a way in which probation services, in particular, might be commissioned—but not delivered. That is not the same thing at all, and our concern here is exemplified by the number of amendments that have drawn attention to what is not in this Bill when we would have expected it to be in one about offender management.
Since Second Reading, there has been yet another sea-change in the organisation of government departments, with the formation of the Ministry of Justice that is now responsible for the management of offenders, and so for the processing of this Bill. Shortly, there is to be another with change between Prime Ministers, the already announced change of Home Secretary and the possibility of a Secretary of State for Justice sitting in the other place. I am one of those who have advocated a Ministry of Justice, under a Secretary of State able to give full and undivided attention to the administration of justice—as opposed to having to divide his or her time between that full-time purpose and homeland security in its widest sense. That support is fuelled by my experience of the difference made to the handling of Northern Ireland affairs by the 1972 separation of its then desk from the Home Office to form the Northern Ireland Office.
At the time of the announcement of the Ministry of Justice, I told the House that I hoped the new ministry would seize the opportunity to look afresh at some of the legislation coming out of the Home Office, including this Bill. I said that not because I am opposed to the intention behind the Bill, but because I believe that in its current form it is "not fit for purpose", to quote an in Home Office phrase. What is clear is that unfortunately, in its preparation, the Home Office failed to take account of views expressed by those on the ground, having made so-called consultations that were really not worth the name—because it pressed on regardless, determined to do what it had intended in the first place.
I also find the regulatory impact assessment extremely disappointing. To find that, under the implementation and delivery plan, it says that,
"plans for the individual measures in the Bill are being developed", and then to find, when it talks about resources, that,
"A key assumption is that the process of market testing will deliver efficiencies from suppliers, irrespective of whether the process results in a change of supplier", makes me very concerned that there is no full assessment of whether the private and voluntary sectors will be able to deliver what is actually required of them. Without that assurance, it seems dangerous to launch off into the unknown as far as the management of offenders is concerned. That is not to say that the intention is not good, but I wish that I felt more confident that the affordability case had been examined; already, there are people saying that it is impossible to deliver what is required of them because they have not been given the resources. I am talking about probation, and others. It is no good giving them another demand, or wish-list of things to do, if the resources are not there for that. It seems that people do not know exactly how much resource is required to do what is being asked.
I understand entirely why the estimates have not yet been completed, because there is no clear description of what resourcing is required. Unfortunately, an awful lot of this Bill is aspirational at this stage. I could go on about all the points that are missing, but frankly I feel that it is unfortunate. It is asking noble Lords to approve something that is not yet in a state to be taken forward.
The purpose of my amendment is not to kill the Bill—far from it, because I am one of those who have advocated for some time that a great deal needs to be done to improve the management of offenders in prison and in the community. Rather, I suggest that the opportunity presented by the introduction of the Ministry of Justice should be seized and that the ministry should be given time to go over the evidence. That should include not only what has been said at various stages of the Bill, but what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, proposed originally and what has been said in consultations and has been disregarded. As part of this process, a proper business case should be prepared to determine whether what is available is "possible and deliverable". Those are the words that the Minister used to describe dynamism. I could not agree with her more.
That could provide an opportunity to include other proposals that have not been discussed, such as the formation of adult offender teams to look after adults in the same way that youth offender teams look after youths. That would enable trained probation officers to oversee the supervision of low-level offenders in the community, freeing them up to undertake more professional tasks—in other words, to consider the whole operation of probation and not just how parts of it might be commissioned from outside the public service.
Originally, in tabling the amendment, I followed the line offered by the excellent Public Bill Office, to whose staff I pay tribute and thanks for their unfailing help and courtesy. They suggested a period of 60 days, but I realised that that would coincide with our Recess. Therefore, I propose a period of six months. I suspect that some noble Lords will object immediately because they will say that that would risk the Bill running out of time in this parliamentary Session. I accept that, but the protection of the public and the well-being of all those charged with the management of offenders are matters too serious to be endangered by being submitted to imperfect legislation that could be made immeasurably better if time and further examination allowed. I am sure that many other noble Lords would be only too willing to be included in that process if they were asked to contribute. In that spirit, I beg to move.
I support the noble Lord and pay him an unreserved tribute. He has brought very special qualities to public life in Britain and we would all be the worse without him. His intellectual integrity speaks for itself. His relentless—if I may be forgiven for using that word—logic and analysis is invariably challenging. I do not often try to make forecasts about history—my wife is a historian and gets worried if I even start to talk about history. However, I really do believe that the noble Lord's contribution to the progress of this Bill and his other contributions on penal policy will together prove to be a landmark in the deliberations on penal policy in this country. We all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for what he did as Chief Inspector of Prisons. He did not just lay down the mantle when his time was up; he picked up his experience as a weapon to fight for what he believed to be right and necessary.
I also take this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to my noble friends on the Front Bench. They have, yet again, shown exemplary courtesy, patience and thoroughness in all that they have endeavoured to do in responding to our deliberations. I wish sometimes—perhaps not just sometimes—that they had given more ground, but their thoroughness and their commitment to ensuring that all our arguments received proper and full replies could not be bettered.
However, I want to explain now why there is another amendment following in my name; I assure the House that, whatever happens to this amendment, I do not now intend to pursue mine. In thanking my noble friends, I wanted to make a point that follows on from what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has just said.
We are talking about important and significant developments in the administration of penal policy. I am perplexed. At a time when we have seen it necessary to make a major reorganisation in government—in which the Home Office is to be divided into two separate ministries, each with its own Cabinet Minister—and the new Ministry of Justice is to have responsibility for everything discussed in this debate, I am perplexed that the Minister of Justice did not take the Bill and carry it forward. We had the presence of one of the Ministers from the Ministry of Justice today, but the Ministers of the Ministry of Justice would have done well to be here to hear all the debates, deliberations, analyses, arguments and concerns. In my experience of administration, which has been in very different spheres, to make a success of it, there has to be an intellectual and ethical ownership of what it has been decided should be administered. We are left with a question mark as to how far the new Ministry of Justice feels that it owns the Bill and is responsible for it. That is why in my amendment I wanted to emphasise the importance of the Ministry of Justice.
Again, I do not want to be offensive to my noble friends, because they have done a terrific job. I know that they will not for a moment believe that I have anything but admiration for them. However, this situation is strange. As we said in earlier deliberations in Committee, the arrangements are not there as ends in themselves, but to enable us to fulfil objectives. Therefore, there has to be a very real look at what the total objectives are. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, clearly went through—in a sort of revision course—the issues that had emerged in Committee with great agreement from all sides. He will forgive me, because he has heard how highly I think of what he has been doing, but I was a little disappointed that he did not pick out one salient point. Perhaps it is just my subjective commitment, but I thought that one of the fundamental commitments of all of us in Committee—from whatever party and even on the government Front Bench—was the rehabilitation of the offender.
That makes economic sense. It is foolish not to succeed with the rehabilitation of offenders, because of the future costs of reoffending and all that goes with it, not to mention the pain and social cost of the crimes committed. In a decent, civilised community none of us should want to leave a stone unturned in the battle to ensure that as many people as possible can become decent, positive citizens, as distinct from people trapped in a self-destructive, stunted kind of life. We know, sadly, that too much of our current penal policy reinforces the stunted life to which I refer.
This amendment and the way in which it has been moved have been tremendously important. I am not sure whether at this hour the noble Lord will want to press it to a vote. Perhaps that would be unwise, but I think that he has been right to make the points as powerfully as he has.
With regard to all the dedicated people who have worked on the Bill, the noble Lord mentioned the Public Bill Office, which is great, and of course our own servants in this House are fantastic. However, I think that we are inclined to take for granted all the civil servants out there who work unsocial hours to tie in with the processes by which we deliberate in this House, so we also want to thank all the dedicated civil servants who have been working on the Bill.
I believe that we will only be ready for the future if, at this moment all over the Ministry of Justice, civil servants and Ministers are waiting for the next copy of Hansard to read what was said in the debate. They should be waiting to see what issues were raised and what they want to take into account as they approach the moment of fulfilment and administration of the Bill as the necessary legislation for the future, however inadequate it may be—and I agree with most of what the noble Lord said about its inadequacy.
I thank the noble Lord for introducing the amendment. I assure the Committee that I shall not pursue mine, but I ask my noble friends, in the same spirit that they have shown throughout the Bill, to take very seriously what he has said.
If I ever have the honour to serve in this House for the length of time that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has done, I hope only that I retain his optimism and enthusiasm, because that is exactly what I would want to do.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for bringing forward this amendment, which I support. It has the benefit of giving the Ministry of Justice the opportunity—an aspect emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham—to consider matters carefully before pressing ahead with plans for contestability, which will be centralised in the hands of the Secretary of State. The more the Minister has tried to be helpful in responding to amendments during the six days of Committee, the more concerned I have become about the apparent lack of real preparedness for the significant changes that will be necessary if contestability is to be rolled out successfully.
Here, I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Both Ministers on the Front Bench have done an extraordinary job. Their patience has been tested to the limit because they have been defending what we have alleged to be the indefensible. I am sure that, if there is a government case to be put, they have made the best of it. The trouble is that the case is just not good enough.
The list of issues that have aroused concerns in the Committee is very long. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred to some of them and I shall refer briefly to four. At one point in our deliberations, the Minister referred to the fact that the Ministry of Justice was preparing model contracts. I certainly hope so, but I wonder why they have not already been prepared and made available to the other place and this House for our consideration before the Bill passes. The Government have certainly had a long time to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, reminded us that the Bill had its genesis two years ago. Will we see those model contracts before Report?
Secondly, there is the question of Clause 4. What should be protected from contestability and for how long? I am not at all sure that the Minister satisfactorily met the points made by her noble friend Lady Gibson of Market Rasen in speaking to her Amendment No. 51A. Members of the Committee will recall that that would have added protection to the work carried out by the Probation Service in providing impartial, accurate, reliable, skilled and professional advice to assist the Parole Board in making its decisions on the release of prisoners. That is one area where it would be of benefit if we were to return to the matter on Report.
The third issue is best value. We hardly scratched the surface on how it will be achieved or, indeed, whether it is achievable. The deliverability of what is in the Bill remains of concern.
Fourthly, noble Lords have expressed a great deal of concern about the lack of a commitment in the Bill to training. I feel sure from what noble Lords have said—particularly the Liberal Democrats to my right—that we may also return to that matter on Report. There are a lot of unanswered issues that are core to the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has made a powerful argument on behalf of his amendment. I perhaps have one reservation. I hate to say this but its drafting is ghastly. That makes me sound almost like the Minister—never, I am sure. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred to the fact that he deviated slightly from the advice he was given by the Public Bill Office. I am a little reticent because I note that the impact of his change regarding the period of six months in proposed new subsection (1A) would mean that it will take longer than six months for the whole of this to take effect, as the Government have to be able to prepare their reports. Of course, they should have had the contracts ready to show us by now, but for the other reports even I have to be generous enough to say that they need some time.
Perhaps between now and Report it would be useful if we could all reflect on just how long a delay might be appropriate, without trying to undermine the purpose of the Bill itself. However, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has done the Committee a great service today with his amendment.
I support the amendment. I must say that I was glad to be in the Chamber to hear the remarkable, heartfelt and entirely appropriate tribute that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, paid to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and to the Ministers on the Front Bench. On behalf of the rest of us I thank the noble Lord for that.
The amendment offers a welcome and excellent opportunity, in the light of the major changes which have taken place in the Home Office and the creation of the Ministry of Justice, for a moment of valuable reflection. It requires a report to be laid before Parliament, which would include a review of the proposals in Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime and the responses to the consultation Restructuring Probation to Reduce Re-offending, for the reform of the Probation Service. That would give Parliament an opportunity to debate thoroughly all the issues surrounding the reform of the Probation Service and the management of offenders. This breathing space would be really helpful and creative. It would mean that in the new world of offender management, with contestability, wider welcome involvement of the voluntary and private sectors, trusts, training, arrangement with prisons in both the public and private sectors and the future of child detention—to name just a few—coupled with the myriad wider contextual issues which the new Ministry of Justice will be dealing with, we would have the opportunity to reassess the new landscape and reach far better informed conclusions than currently we are able to do.
I, too, strongly support the amendment. Although I have not played an extensive part in the deliberations of the Committee—perhaps because I do not have the great expertise of other noble Lords, especially the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham—I have listened carefully to the debates. It is clear to me that, despite the extensive discussion which has taken place, many doubts remain.
Like other noble Lords, I have my list. As I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, listing his doubts, I was not gratified by the extent to which they echoed mine so much as impressed by the degree of consensus which was emerging as to the deficiencies of the Bill as it now stands. Given the exhaustive nature of the debate, I shall do no more than list about a half-dozen of my doubts. I will do that briefly because if one is repeating what other people have said, it behoves one to do so as briefly as possible. I make so bold as to repeat my list of doubts because, as I hope that the Minister will agree, it may be of value to hear how far the doubts about the present state of the Bill are echoed in all corners of the Committee. I hope that the noble Baroness will take the opportunity before Report to reflect on what is said.
My first concern is that the Bill is not evidence-based. No business case has been made for dismantling the National Probation Service—which came into being a mere six years ago in 2001—or that introducing competition and contestability will improve the effectiveness of the service in the reduction of offending and reoffending.
Secondly, as has been said, the Bill ignores the responses to consultation exercises. In the most recent consultation, in the autumn of 2005, 99 per cent of responses opposed the proposals now in the Bill, but the Government have pressed on regardless.
Thirdly, in promoting competition, fragmentation and Balkanisation rather than co-operation, the Bill threatens coherence in the provision of probation services, with the Probation Service ceasing to be the statutory co-ordinator of provision of rehabilitation services by the range of providers in the community.
Fourthly, the Bill transfers commissioning powers away from the locality, in contrast to the devolution agenda promoted in so many areas of government policy. The changes move commissioning powers from the local probation boards to a regional or even national level. When I spoke to a senior probation officer about the changes introduced by the Bill, the point that she impressed on me most forcefully was that, if nothing else was preserved of the Probation Service as we know it today, she hoped that its local co-ordinating and partnership-brokering role, which it already undertakes with considerable success with courts, police, health services and local authorities, would remain.
Fifthly, there are fears that the new system will favour the large national and multinational companies and the large national voluntary sector organisations at the expense of the small, local, community-based voluntary sector organisations, which have so much to contribute.
Finally, the imposition of contestability threatens to undermine the professionalism and ésprit de corps of the Probation Service. Indeed, it threatens the destruction of probation as a profession—a service that has honourable traditions of professionalism and effectiveness built up over 100 years.
The Bill is silent on the subject of training. Constant reorganisation of the service has given rise to a state of demoralisation and difficulties in retention, risking the loss of key skills and resulting in inadequate supervision of offenders. If probation services are provided by a range of private, public and voluntary sector providers who, in time, will have different terms and conditions, how will the continuation of a trained probation profession be guaranteed?
Given all those considerations, added to the recent change in the responsible department and the imminent change of Prime Minister, it is essential that the Government take the opportunity to draw breath, undertake a review, reflect, and rethink precisely where they are going with these proposals. I hope that they may even welcome such an opportunity.
I am grateful for the careful and thoughtful way in which all noble Lords have responded to this debate, and to the issues in relation to Part 1 and how we have taken it through the Committee stage. They are important measures which deserve careful consideration. I join others in saying how impressed I have been by the energy of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. Indeed I have to say that I found his presentation of this amendment at times breathtaking for a number of reasons. I recognise the keen interest of the noble Lord in these matters, but I am afraid that I do not quite agree with him that this amendment is a helpful way forward. I offer my warm thanks to my noble friend Lord Judd for the kind remarks he made about us all and for the way in which he, too, has pursued this issue with great energy.
I should say that the Committee should not labour under any misapprehension. All the officials in the Box who have assisted me are in fact from the Ministry of Justice. The Committee has had the terrible burden of my continued presence to present this Bill, but the policy remains the Government's policy. I should make it clear that there is not a breath between the views that I express and the views held and advocated by the Ministry of Justice. We speak with one voice. In this House we are in the happy position that whenever any Minister stands at this Dispatch Box, the Minister speaks not for the department but for the Government, and therefore it is the joint and several view of the Government that I now express on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. I need also to say to noble Lords that all the Ministers in the Ministry of Justice have paid acute attention to the deliberations in your Lordships' House. Noble Lords know that my honourable friend Gerry Sutcliffe, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, has had the honour of discharging the role in the Home Office and has now joined the serried ranks of the Ministry of Justice. He retains his responsibility, now acting as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to my right honourable friend David Hanson. So I need to say to my noble friend Lord Judd that I am afraid that the department and the Government have formed a view.
It is not a view to which we have rushed. The amendment of the noble Lord, Ramsbotham, would prevent the provisions in Part 1 being implemented in the normal way. Instead the Government would be required to lay before both Houses of Parliament a report containing specified information, much of which we have already made public anyway. We would then wait six months before making any orders under Part 1. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is right when she says that this is not really a delay of six months, but one of much longer than that. The noble Lord therefore may have been labouring under the misapprehension that the Ministry of Justice may take a different approach during that time from the way in which matters were adopted when these issues were with the Home Office where they originated. I hope that I have now laid that misapprehension to rest.
Nor do I believe that things have changed because of changes in the machinery of government. Of course I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord said about the changes that he foreshadows, and it may be that he is far more intimately involved in the future Prime Minister's plans than any of us. We shall wait and see whether that is the case. I cannot accept the noble Lord's assertion that we are rushing these proposals. Indeed, if anything we might be vulnerable to criticism that we have taken too long. As the noble Lord's amendment indicates, these proposals have their roots in the report, Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime, which the Government commissioned from the noble Lord, Lord Carter, in March 2003, and which he published in December of that year, some three and a half years ago.
We then waited for nearly two years before issuing our consultation document, Restructuring Probation to Reduce Re-offending, in October 2005. This was followed in March 2006 by a summary of responses and our proposals for taking the policy forward—in effect, what is required by proposed new subsection (1B)(c) and (d) in the noble Lord's amendment. But the world has moved on considerably since then and it is unclear what purpose would be served by revisiting these now rather dated documents.
Since the Bill was introduced into Parliament last November, it has been thoroughly debated, not least in the six sittings of this Committee, when the great majority of our time has been spent focusing on the 12 clauses in Part 1. I may not agree with all the amendments made, some of which we will wish to reflect on further, but overall I believe that the Bill is much improved as a result of the careful scrutiny it has received here and in the other place. That is what the parliamentary process is all about. We will look at the Bill even more carefully on Report and at Third Reading before it goes back to the other place.
Once the process has been concluded, however, the provisions must be implemented in the normal way. There is nothing novel in this Bill which would require such a restriction on the Government's ability to implement. This is particularly so given the gradual pace at which we propose to proceed. By virtue of Clause 4, the Bill already ensures that the work carried out by the Probation Service in relation to courts can be commissioned only from the public sector. As we know, and have debated at length, that restriction could be lifted only after a positive endorsement from both Houses of Parliament. This is a significant change from the policy set out in the original consultation document. We have also made clear that the core offender management work will be commissioned only from the public sector until 2010, again a change from the policy originally outlined. So we are certainly not envisaging rapid change in terms of opening up probation services to competition.
The noble Lord is concerned about the rate of change of the boards to trusts, but here again we are proceeding cautiously. We want to establish trusts in three waves, starting next April and finishing in 2010. As I made clear when we discussed Clause 5, we see this very much as a collaborative process. We know that it will be a learning process for all concerned, which is why the first wave will comprise only a small number of trusts, with which we will work closely to develop our experience together, with a view to applying the lessons learnt to future waves.
Boards are being invited to apply to become trusts in the first wave. We are not forcing them to move before they are ready. We have invited 35 of the existing 42 probation boards to express an interest in forming part of the first wave of trusts in April 2008. Only the seven probation boards classified as poor performers were not eligible to apply. I emphasise that we are talking only about eligibility, not the number being chosen.
Today was the deadline, and we are still looking at responses, but it looks as though nearly two-thirds of the 35 eligible boards have expressed an interest in becoming trusts in April. It is an impressive indicator of the commitment to change in the service, despite the uncertainties to which various noble Lords referred. This is an important point.
I know that noble Lords are genuinely concerned. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Low, who was not able to be with us throughout all our deliberations, that the issues he raises have been explored in great depth during the previous six days in Committee. There is a great deal upon which we agree but there is certainly more that we need to look at again.
I hope I have outlined the lengthy gestation of these proposals. I know that there has been a period of uncertainty and anxiety for both the service as a whole and the individuals working within it, and prolonging that further will not assist them. We need now to set out a clear programme for change, which we are doing in consultation with the service, and we then need to get on and implement it so that we can put an end to staff uncertainty and reap the benefits of improved delivery. I regret that I do not think the noble Lord's amendment will assist us in this, and I ask him to withdraw it. I accept, however, that we have more to do; we still have Report and Third Reading. The Bill has not left us yet.
Before the Minister sits down, I should like to add that we have had a useful Committee stage, looking in detail at a whole range of issues, but at the back of the minds of a number of us in the Committee are some underlying doubts about the rationale of the Bill. When I first heard the Carter report, I failed to understand the noble Lord's logic. In some ways, I still fail to understand the logic of what is proposed in the Bill. We here are all committed to better offender management, to bringing down the prison population, to managing better rehabilitation and even to the better enforcement of fines—which was the bit of the Carter report that I understood—but we are not entirely convinced yet that the Bill helps to achieve those underlying objectives.
I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, says, but one has to will the means if one wishes to have the outcome. We believe that our proposals in the Bill will help us to deliver those outcomes. I accept that there is a difference of view on some issues, but I hope we will move forward. Whatever the position, we should come to a decision on the Bill, and if there are those who wish to drive a coach and four through it, who do not wish the Bill to see the light of day, they will have to make that clear along with their reasons. Postponement, though, is not a sensible way forward.
I thank the Minister for the tone and detail of her reply, and echo the words of both the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, in thanking her and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for the way they have conducted the deliberations during the past six days. We have covered a great deal of ground, and today has been remarkable in many respects because we have covered a huge number of issues with considerable dexterity, helped hugely by the way the Ministers have responded. I am grateful for that, as I am sure everyone is.
I am immensely flattered and embarrassed by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and thank him for them. His contribution has been remarkable throughout the debate, and we have listened with great attention for the warm humanity and wise experience that he has brought to bear on the issues. I am sure the Committee has benefited hugely from that. I also pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Low of Dalston for his summing up. It was a valuable reminder of the issues, and it does no harm to remind ourselves of major issues at the end of a debate.
The Minister said, rightly, that government goes on. We are not expecting anything enormous. She said we should not expect anything different. "Different" was not the word I used, however; my word was "fresh". From my experience, with issues as complex and demanding as this, a fresh pair of eyes looking at them every so often brings a clarity that may have been diminished over time by people who have been focusing on them for a very long time. That is the great opportunity that is presented.
I note that the Minister will not be taking us through Report.
I must disabuse the noble Lord of that. There seems to have been a mistake made on the presentation. I regret to tell your Lordships that the House is burdened with me unless and until the new Prime Minister decides that there is another role he would like me to play.
I stand corrected; I was going on the basis of the document that I had. We shall come to Report, I hope, after deep consideration of what has been said over these six days—consideration not just in the ministry but also by noble Lords who have taken part in these debates. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for drawing my attention to the question of the date with her customary skill and courtesy. I look forward to discussing that and seeing whether we can come up with an alternative. Happy as I am to withdraw the amendment at the moment, I do so with every intention of bringing it back on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.