§ 9. Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
If he will make a statement on the availability of locally based secure accommodation for young offenders. 
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Alun Michael)
An initial review of all forms of juvenile secure accommodation has been undertaken by the youth justice task force established by the Home Secretary and as part of the comprehensive spending review. As promised in the White Paper "No More Excuses", it is our aim to sort out the present incoherent system of secure accommodation.
§ Dr. Jones
I wanted to ask this question because of written remarks made by one of my local police inspectors, who despaired at the repeated release on bail of a hard core of juvenile offenders, whom his officers were arresting weekly and sometimes even daily, because of a lack of secure accommodation to which they could be sent. Does my hon. Friend accept, first, that there is a shortage of such accommodation, and, secondly, that rehabilitation is assisted if youths are detained close to 9 home? If so, will he take urgent action to improve the supply of locally based secure accommodation for young offenders?
§ Mr. Michael
My hon. Friend raises several important points. The existing system is incoherent and, as she pointed out, there is a shortfall in the number of places. Offending while on bail can be tackled in a number of ways, including bail support and replacing the repeat cautioning system with a final warning so that there is intervention, rather than allowing cases to drift.
We want to target secure accommodation where it is needed. The previous Government failed to provide the number of places identified as necessary in 1991 and left us an incoherent state of secure accommodation, which we are now tackling.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)
The hon. Gentleman is keen on rhetoric, but what about resources? Will he confirm that, since they came to power, the new Government have enabled only six new places to be provided by local authorities? Where's the beef?
§ Mr. Michael
The hon. Gentleman should direct any remarks about rhetoric rather than action to the previous Home Secretary. Since the general election, we have tackled the whole youth justice system. We have authorised the refurbishment of six places in one unit within the spending limits allowed by the previous Government, who failed over nine years to produce the number of places that were needed. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman ought to look elsewhere for the answer to his question, rather than playing silly tricks. I know that a thumb and five fingers make six—that is about the limit of his contribution to youth justice policy.
§ Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East)
Would my hon. Friend be surprised to learn that purpose-built accommodation for young offenders was provided in my constituency at great cost, but, because it was never licensed and the previous Government cut local authority expenditure, after a few years of using that accommodation as a children's home, Bolton local authority was forced by that Government to sell off the property?
§ Mr. Michael
That comes as no surprise. When the Conservatives were in government, I found them unwilling to listen to practical ideas about how to stop youngsters offending, and about managing secure accommodation. My hon. Friend gives us an example of what they achieved during their 18 years.