Report (2nd Day)

Part of Criminal Justice and Courts Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:02 pm on 22nd October 2014.

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Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 7:02 pm, 22nd October 2014

My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. My amendment is designed to avoid the situation that appears to be arising in relation to the awarding of contracts for the probation service. I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to confirm this or not, but it is said that the Government are deliberately proceeding with 10-year contracts for the outsourcing of that service, on the basis that, should a future Government decide to change the system, they would have, in effect, to pay up for the whole of the 10 years. In other words, it is really binding the hands of a future Government—in financial terms, if not necessarily in legal ones—in a way that is quite unacceptable. It would be quite wrong—perhaps, one could argue, even more wrong—to do so in this case, with a completely untried institution being set up. Whether or not that ultimately proves successful, in principle it would be entirely wrong. Five years is a perfectly adequate period within which to assess the merits of the proposal; that is, five years of operation, not just five years in chronological time, because the Minister has indicated that if the matter goes ahead, it will not be built until 2017. I hope that the Minister will accept both amendments, particularly the one in my name.