The House of Lords yesterday rejected the scrapping of the Youth Justice Board after peers backed an amendment to the Public Bodies Bill calling for the body to be removed from the so called “bonfire of the quangos”.
The amendment was proposed by Lord Warner, a former chair of the Youth Justice Board, and was passed by a majority of 63 with Lords from all political parties supporting it.
Lord Warner said members from both houses of parliament were saying the government was wrong to abolish the YJB. “The nub of the government’s argument is that the YJB has done its job and youth justice can be left to local youth offending teams (YOTs), Ministry of Justice civil servants and ministers..[but].leaving this specialist programme delivery work to generalist civil servants who move from job to job carries no credibility in terms of good government. Depending on locally financed YOTs, unaided at this time of severe financial retrenchment, is a recipe for youth justice sinking once again to the bottom of the pile in terms of priorities, which is why the Youth Justice Board was set up in the first place.”
Lord Woolf, former chief justice, said it would be “sacrilege if, whatever the motives put forward, we took out of the criminal justice system something that works, and introduced something that has not worked and has not been tried”.
Speaking against the amendment for the government, justice minister Lord McNally said: “One might equally ask whether one needs a similar arm’s-length body for women, the mentally ill or an educational training body. “When in doubt set up an arm’s-length body, or, if not, a tsar”; that was very much part of another age. It is worth pointing out that ministers and departments can be responsible for distinctive policies that they can pursue successfully, without necessarily setting up an external body to help them to do that.
“It is not true that we have not consulted. We have had 13 youth justice seminars across England and Wales as part of our Breaking the Cycle Green Paper. Early responses to that paper indicate that what is wanted is strategic leadership, cross-government working, a dedicated focus on youth justice and fewer central burdens on the YOTs. These responses are all in accordance with our proposals to bring the functions of the YJB into the Ministry of Justice.”
MPs have yet to debate the bill and it is possible the decision will be overturned when they do so and the amendment returned back to the House of Lords.
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