Clause 1

Offender Management Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am ar 11 Ionawr 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Meaning of “the probation purposes”

Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 24, in clause 1, page 2, line 25, at end add—

‘(6) This section applies to—

(a) the functions of the Secretary of State; and

(b) the functions of providers of probation services and their officers so far as they are exercised for the purposes set out in this section.

(7) In exercising those functions the person concerned must have regard to—

(a) the protection of the public;

(b) the reduction of reoffending;

(c) the proper punishment of offenders;

(d) ensuring offenders’ awareness of the effects of crime on the victims of crime and the public;

(e) the rehabilitation of offenders.’.—[Mr. Garnier.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con) rose—

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

On a point of order, Mr Bayley, and I apologise to my hon. and learned Friend for interrupting him. In our discussions this morning on the motion to admit written evidence, the Minister was kind enough to say that the Home Office would transcribe the evidence taken yesterday by several members of the Committee and others from Lord Ramsbotham, Sir David Green and Martin Narey. I have the compact disc here and, with your permission, I pass it to the Minister.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

That is not a point of order for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman can, of course, do what he likes with his CD and appears to have done so.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am extremely grateful to the Government for their offer.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I always like to start an afternoon sitting with a degree of happiness. May I welcome you to our deliberations, Mr. Bayley? I was coming to the end of an anecdote about public confidence and how it related to a particular case I sat on as a Crown court recorder. The point that I was making does not need to be repeated. In essence, I was struck by what the hon. Member for Stafford said. In a moment I will try to relate what he said to what the Minister said.

Before the Minister spoke, the hon. Member for Cheadle was good enough to support broadly the case that I was mounting in favour of our amendment. He and his colleague share our concerns and our desire to ensure that the Bill, if it is to work at all, works in a practical way. I therefore will not damage his arguments  by attempting to paraphrase or repeat them. Suffice it to say that what he said can be read in the Official Report tomorrow. I am grateful to him and his hon. Friend for their presence and their support for the amendment.

The Minister referred to the National Offender Management Service strategy, which was not published but was circulated within the Home Office

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

It was published—in early 2006. I cannot remember whether Helen Edwards was the chief executive at that stage. I think that she was pretty close to the senior levels of NOMS at that stage. That is fair enough. If the strategy is a published document and accessible by the public, that is fine. But it is not legislation and it is capable of being ignored. It is not owned by other providers of probation services. It is important that if the non-strategy is to have any practical effect and to be carried out in an orderly fashion, it should more closely reflect what is in the Bill.

I became a little concerned when the Minister started talking about what he called the interface between statutory obligations and contractual obligations. One of the concerns of some Labour and Liberal Democrat Members is the provision by non-state operatives of a criminal justice function, namely the provision of probation services. If the non-state actors—the third sector, the charities and the private companies—are not to be tied closely into the obligations that the Bill places on the probation services, they, and certainly I, would need to be convinced that the contractual terms enforceable not simply at law through tedious and lengthy court proceedings, but by means of ministerial direction or other order. That is why I was concerned when the Minister seemed to think that there might be room for a difference between the statutory obligations and the contractual obligations. If I am wrong about that I am happy to be corrected.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I apologise if I confused the hon. and learned Gentleman; it was not my intention to do so. He makes a fair point. Returning to what my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford said, I was slightly concerned that we might be causing confusion about the interface between relationships with the private or the voluntary sectors. We do not want to increase the risk to the public. I hope that that explanation helps the right hon. and learned Gentleman, although it may not do so.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I hope that that has been of assistance to some people.

I want to draw on some of the Minister’s remarks when, having listened to the hon. Members for Stafford and for Cheadle and to me, he said that he was happy to reflect on what had been discussed this morning. Often, that is code for “Thank you for your remarks. You have taken up the whole morning’s sitting and I wish you wouldn’t take so long. Yes, there will be a Report stage, but frankly you shouldn’t think that  anything you have said will find its way into the Bill, even though I’ve said I will reflect on it.”

However, I have a suspicion that we are dealing with a different sort of Minister, who wants to keep his word. When he says that he will reflect, what he means is that he will take the ideas presented by the hon. Gentlemen and me back to his Department and think about them. Given the tone in which the Minister responded to us, I suspect that he would very much like Government amendments to be tabled and debated in Government time which will have the support not just of what I think is called the payroll vote, but of members of his party such as the hon. Member for Walthamstow, who represents the purest form of support for non-contestability within this aspect of public policy. I complimented the hon. Gentleman on Second Reading and it was genuinely meant.

I think that the Minister wants to return on Report with a well thought-out and crafted Government amendment that reflects the concerns that the hon. Gentlemen and I have expressed. When the Minister says that he will reflect he does not simply mean that he will squirrel away what was said in the debate and ignore it; he means that he will do something positive about it.

I do not know what the hon. Member for Cheadle and his hon. Friends will want to do, but I am taking the Minister at his word, and I will advise my hon. Friends that I am prepared to ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment. However, before doing so I will give the Minister the opportunity to intervene so that he can clarify precisely what he intends to do and what he means by “I will reflect”.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right. I have worked with him and his hon. Friends on previous Bills and he knows that my way of working is to reflect on what can be done with a view to tabling amendments on Report, if that is appropriate, and, if it is not, to write to members of the Committee to let them know that that is not possible.

I genuinely believe that there are grounds for us to consider the matter, judging by what has been said by not only the hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Member for Cheadle but my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

It is extremely helpful to know that in this context “reflect” does not mean simply that the Minister will bounce back the light beams that have been shone at him from all around but that he will absorb them and then send out information. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman, being of the opinion that the principle of the clause and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of the debate on the amendment proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question, pursuant to Standing Orders Nos. 68 and 89, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.