Schedule 10

Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:15 pm on 22 November 2007.

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Controlling authorities

Amendment made: No. 317, in schedule 10, page 164, line 19, at end insert ‘in England and Wales’.—[Maria Eagle.]

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice)

I beg to move amendment No. 157, in schedule 10, page 165, line 2, at end add—

‘A local authority in any part of the United Kingdom which owns or manages secure accommodation.’.

This is a short amendment, which adds a further controlling authority. One sees from clause 50 that, in part 4 of the Bill, a controlling authority is defined as

“(a) a person listed in schedule 10; or (b) any person of a description specified in an order made by the Secretary of State”.

The list of persons in schedule 10 includes the most obvious sorts of people that one would expect. For this purpose, “person” means not only human beings but legal personalities. I propose to add to that list.

The Minister may well persuade me that a local authority that controls or manages secure accommodation is already covered by the listed persons, or that my adding of such authorities would be the result of a misunderstanding of the definition of controlling authorities and its purpose in clause 50. Local authorities own and manage secure accommodation, and the commissioner ought to have an eye on such things, subject to the children’s commissioner or the children’s ombudsman—one of whom we discussed briefly this morning—having a parallel or distinct jurisdiction.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

It is the local safeguarding children’s boards of local authorities that have jurisdiction in respect of those children’s homes.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice)

If that is the answer to my question, perhaps we do not need to press the amendment much further. However, I would be grateful for an explanation of the relationship between local authorities that own and manage secure accommodation units, the commissioner, and the controlling authorities listed in schedule 10.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I will do my best to persuade the hon. Gentleman that it is not necessary to add local authorities as controlling authorities. However, I can say that, in general, we will have to consider suggestions for additions to the list. Before making any commitments, we must look at the matter in consultation with the prisons and probation ombudsman, and consider whether the body in question is one with which the commissioner may need to deal, and whether it would be appropriate to impose a duty of response on them.

Schedule 10 provides a list of bodies who are controlling authorities as defined in clause 50 for the purposes of the legislation and it includes those who are currently listed. The amendment would add local authorities who are owners or managers of secure accommodation in any part of the UK to the list of controlling authorities. It would give those local authorities the additional responsibilities of a controlling authority. That will come into play in four areas of part 4.

Under clause 31, a controlling authority is the body that is considered by the commissioner

“to have the most direct responsibility for the matters covered by the complaint”.

It must normally be given a reasonable opportunity to deal with that complaint before the commissioner takes any action. Under clause 34,

The Commissioner may make recommendations to a controlling authority about any matter arising from a complaint”,

and the controlling authority must respond in writing to the commissioner within 28 days, setting out what it proposes to do.

Under clause 36, the commissioner must report in writing on the outcome of the death investigation to the controlling authority that appears to have most direct responsibility over the matters covered in the investigation. He can make recommendations to a controlling authority about any other matter arising from his investigation. Under clause 46, the commissioner may notify the controlling authority if, while performing any functions, he forms the opinion

“that a controlling authority should, as a matter of urgency, take action in relation to any matter” that he might have come across during the investigation.

Schedule 10 lists all the bodies whose responsibilities for matters within the commissioner’s remit suggest that he may need to engage with them in those four different ways. All the controlling authorities included at present are those whose activities are directly covered by the commissioner’s remit.

Local authorities have control over secure children’s homes which provide accommodation for children placed by local authorities on welfare grounds. However, those placed by the Youth Justice Board fall outside this remit and that is why the local authorities are not there at present. Because of the links between secure children’s homes, secure training centres and youth offending institutions, there may be some occasions in which it would be useful for the commissioner to make recommendations for secure children’s homes. That can be done without adding them to the list of controlling authorities, as we do not believe that that is necessary at this time.

The issue is about the purpose of schedule 10, and the fact that there are other complaints arrangements outside of this in relation to secure children’s homes. That is why they are not there—they do not need to be. However, it is not something that we want to be pedantic about. Should the remit change to include complaints and secure children’s homes, it might be sensible to put local authorities into schedule 10, but as the Bill stands it is not necessary. I hope that that will satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman, with respect to the amendment.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice)

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out her understanding of the purpose behind schedule 10 and clause 50. Given her undertaking to keep the matter under review and to change the schedule if necessary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 10, as amended, agreed to.