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Community Support Officers (Leicestershire)

10. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): How many community support officers have been recruited in Leicestershire. [12]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): On 31 March 2005, Leicestershire constabulary had 104 community support officers.

David Taylor: The arrival of the CSOs in the town centres and estates of North-West Leicestershire has been most welcome. What is the Minister doing to secure the necessary permanent funding for the 43 police authorities to reassure communities about the existence of CSOs in the medium term? Will he introduce high, nationwide standards of training so that the lamentable lapses such as those in the Met, which were revealed by the Daily Mirror on 11 May, are addressed as a matter of urgency?

Paul Goggins: I compliment my hon. Friend on being a great advocate for CSOs throughout their development. He and his constituents are now reaping the benefit of that.

This year, the Government will put £1.2 million into supporting CSOs in Leicestershire. We will continue to fund them 100 per cent. in the first year and 75 per cent. in subsequent years. We are making massive investment through the neighbourhood policing fund in precisely the services provided by CSOs.

Training remains a matter for the chief constable, who makes a judgment about how to deploy CSOs. A training packing has been developed by Centrex, the police training and development authority. The article in the Daily Mirror was a timely reminder of the need to keep training under review, and we will do that in conjunction with the Association of Chief Police Officers and local forces.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Is the situation in Leicestershire like the one in Staffordshire, where CSOs only work between 9 and 5? Is it not the case that they have no powers of arrest? We heard earlier about antisocial behaviour, but is it not the case that most antisocial behaviour is fuelled by alcohol? Does not such behaviour often occur in the evening, especially on Friday and Saturday, when there are no CSOs available? Is not the use of CSOs just policing on the cheap?

Paul Goggins: In the hon. Gentleman's constituency, as in that of my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor), CSOs are making a substantial difference. They do not do so on their own: they are part of the police crime fighting force comprising front-line uniformed police officers, CSOs, neighbourhood wardens, specials and so on, all working with community organisations. That is our vision for policing. Where the chief constable decides that it is appropriate, CSOs will have powers to detain individuals for up to half an hour, until the police arrive. However, their main focus is not to enforce—that is for uniformed police officers—but to be a visible presence and to reassure people that crime is decreasing and they are dealing with it.
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Prison (Rehabilitative Programmes)

11. Barbara Follett (Stevenage) (Lab): What research his Department has conducted on the success rates of rehabilitative programmes in prison. [13]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): Home Office research shows that a lack of basic skills, drug addiction and poor problem solving are significant risk factors for reoffending. We have used that research to inform decisions on investment in prison programmes. Last year, we increased the number of basic skills awards achieved by prisoners by 36 per cent., doubled the number of prisoners completing drug treatment programmes and increased by 13 per cent. the number of independently accredited offending behaviour programmes. We are currently conducting a programme of research to use randomised control trials to evaluate programmes and further improve the success rates of prison programmes.

Barbara Follett: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and I am pleased to hear about the progress that has been made in education and re-education in prisons. However, like my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), I believe that more can be done. In particular, I would like Ministers to examine the way in which contracts are awarded, administered and fulfilled, because I believe that if there was a little more flexibility, especially in the administration of contracts, the success rate would be even higher.

Fiona Mactaggart: Making sure that such programmes work is one of the challenges that will face the new National Offender Management Service. The service will consider the way in which we contract to produce programmes that work for those who are in detention or serving community sentences.

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Does the Minister believe that the rehabilitation of young people at HMP Prescoed will be helped by the Government's decision to start to place sex offenders in the same unit? Does she also believe that it is high time that the Minister responsible for prisons honoured the promise made in writing to me and the people of Usk not to place sex offenders in that unit if they have more than six months to serve of their sentence?

Fiona Mactaggart: That programme is under review. We are determined to ensure that all offenders are kept in a way that is both safe and rehabilitative. That presents a challenge in an overcrowded prison system, but it is a challenge that we are determined to meet.

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow) (Lab): To what extent is a prisoner's success in a rehabilitation programme taken into account when decisions are being made on moving that prisoner to another prison? I have come across cases in which someone who has been doing well in a programme—perhaps a drugs treatment programme—is moved to another prison where the same programme is not available, with the result that that person is in serious danger of lapsing.

Fiona Mactaggart: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We are trying to ensure that we have
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comparable, and therefore more transferable, programmes across the prison estate. However, as I said in reply to the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies), the prison estate is overcrowded. As a result, we have to move offenders, one of the consequences of which can be that people are unable to complete behavioural programmes. We want to avoid that wherever possible, but that will continue to be difficult while our prisons remain as overcrowded as they are now.

Drug Use

12. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): If he will make a statement on levels of hard drug use in England and Wales. [14]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): According to the 2002–03 British crime survey, about 3.3 per cent. of people aged 16 to 59 and 8.2 per cent. of young people aged 16 to 24 had used class A drugs on at least one occasion in the course of the year.

Bill Wiggin: Is it true that only six hard-drug dealers have been given the mandatory minimum sentence since 2000? Is it also the case that of the 10,486 prisoners serving custodial sentences for drug offences, 4,332 have entered drug rehabilitation places instead of the Government target of 7,885? Why are there not more rehab places for these people?

Paul Goggins: I will have to check the figures. I shall be more than happy to write to the hon. Gentleman to give him the precise answer that he seeks. If he suggests that the Government are going soft on drugs, he is entirely wrong. It will be a fundamental priority for the Serious Organised Crime Agency to target the trafficking of drugs. For those who are in prison as drug misusers, the development of the prolific and priority offenders programme will see people coming out of prison and linked straight back into treatment, including testing where that is appropriate, so that we ensure that wherever possible people are diverted from crime that feeds their drug habit.

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): Only one primary care trust has been bold enough to put the treatment of heroin addicts in the hands of general practitioners, copying the models of Australia, Sweden and France. What plans does my hon. Friend have to evaluate the success, both in terms of cost and reducing crime, of what the Bassetlaw PCT has done compared with other PCTs?

Paul Goggins: I intend to fill the promise that I made to my hon. Friend when I had a previous responsibility in the Home Office, which was to visit his PCT to see the difference that he persuasively argued for being made in front-line services. On a more strategic level, we are working closely with the Department of Health to learn what lessons we can to ensure that we break the link between criminality and drug misuse.
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Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): Everyone knows that the Government went soft on drugs when they reclassified cannabis, and they should reclassify it back. It is important that prisoners should receive the rehab that they deserve. Will the Minister ensure that our prisons are kept free of drugs so that prisoners are able to get off drugs? Will he ensure that there will be more searches of visitors who go into prisons, and that a message goes out clearly that anyone caught smuggling drugs into a prison will face a custodial sentence?

Paul Goggins: I dealt previously with comments about cannabis. The hon. Gentleman is right to argue that the Prison Service should take as a priority the need to ensure that we minimise the influence of drugs in prisons. That is what the service is doing, using a range of measures. The detoxification and drug treatment programmes in prisons are at a more intensive level than ever before. The key feature is to link the gains that are made while people are in prison with their return to the community so that the change is sustained.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the ways to reduce drug use is to reduce supply? Will he comment on press reports today about heavy criticism of the UK's actions in Afghanistan by the US embassy in Kabul? It is criticising the effectiveness of our campaign to eradicate poppy production in Afghanistan.

Paul Goggins: We are working closely with the Government in Afghanistan and with colleagues across Government, not least with the Foreign Office. As I have said, within the Serious Organised Crime Agency drug trafficking will be the highest order of priority because it is essential that, wherever we can, we cut off the supply of drugs into our country.

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