Report (5th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 20th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 10:00 pm, 20th March 2012

My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. He identifies a useful process and an obligation on the Government to ensure that cases are properly considered and that there is a reasonable way of reporting back on them.

Although I sympathise with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, I do not find the content of it particularly persuasive. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to delegate the responsibility for implementing release plans without saying to whom the responsibility should be delegated. That would be odd in primary legislation. The requirement to report within a year of enactment on all cases seems to be too restrictive, given that unfortunately under the previous Government there was a backlog in working with such prisoners, and it is not at all clear how much work would be involved and what resources would be required to deal with the current numbers. It is not really acceptable for the timescale to be in the Bill in this form.

Having said that, if the noble Lord were minded to look seriously at the propositions-and I would certainly commend the thinking behind them if not necessarily the precise formulation that reaches us in the form of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham-that could be brought back for consideration at Third Reading. The direction of travel is right but the precise route is somewhat questionable. I hope that the Minister will think sympathetically about the underlying approach of the two noble Lords whose amendments are before the House.