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The Government drugs strategy is simple. We want to see tough enforcement of the law. There has to be a real clampdown on people who deal in drugs in our
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communities. Alongside that we want to see education for our children and for others in society, and an expansion in and more effective use of treatment. As I say, we need to have not an either/or policy, but an all-inclusive policy.

Prisons (Drug Use)

4. Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): What steps his Department is taking to reduce drug taking in prisons. [127792]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): To tackle drug use in custody, the National Offender Management Service has in place a comprehensive drug strategy. The strategy's three key aims are to reduce the amount of illicit drugs getting in by using a co-ordinated range of supply-reduction measures; to reduce the demand for drugs through delivery of effective drug treatment; and to strengthen through-care links with the community, helping to ensure timely continuity of care for drug users on release. While NOMS remains committed to doing more, the drug strategy is already making significant progress, with drug use—as measured by random mandatory drug testing—down from 24.4 per cent. in 1996-97 to 10.3 per cent. in 2004-05, a reduction of 58 per cent.

Mr. Jack: I thank the Minister for that encyclopaedic answer. I am sure that he will appreciate the seriousness with which Kirkham prison in my constituency takes fighting drug and alcohol addiction by prisoners. He will be aware of the use that it has made of the counselling, advice, referral, assessment and throughcare—or CARAT—programme. The integrated drug treatment service now beckons. Kirkham wishes to adopt that because it wants to do better in countering recidivism. When can Kirkham expect that particular facility to be made available to it?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his involvement in all aspects of Kirkham’s work. It has a proud record in dealing with drug treatment. He will recognise the improvement that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), talked about: the increase in the drug treatment budget of 974 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman made the point about the integrated drug treatment service, which is additional funding. It is going into up to 45 of our prisons. At the moment it is mainly concerned with the first 28 days of custody, and it is more likely to be rolled out in remand prisons because that is where the biggest problem is seen to be. I take his point that we need to look at prisoners who are on release—most of the prisoners in Kirkham are shortly to be released. We will do that through the National Offender Management Service. I do not charge him personally, but the Opposition voted against the Offender Management Bill. It is important that actions from that Bill are initiated to ensure that we deal with offenders. The release of offenders with drug and other problems is an important matter. We will look at the issue that he raised. Clearly, there is an issue about people coming out of prison with a drug habit.

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Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): My constituents would like to know from the Minister why £749,000 was paid in compensation to prisoners in an out-of-court settlement, plus costs, for the messing up, of their detoxification programme. Either the Government should have resisted those claims, or we need to be told what went wrong. It is unacceptable that taxpayers' money should be squandered in that way.

Mr. Sutcliffe: It will come as no surprise to my hon. Friend that I have some sympathy with his argument, but he will have to ask the courts why they took the decision— [Interruption.] The courts were involved in what the outcome was likely to be in terms of the recommendations of the legal people. He will know that that matter relates to treatments in the 1990s. Those cases were reluctantly settled out of court because we had to minimise the cost to the taxpayer.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): May I add to the Minister's three points the need to persuade young offenders in prison of the need to find alternative sources of employment that are at least as remunerative as drug dealing? What success has the Department had in ensuring that young people who leave offenders institutions have legally marketable skills?

Mr. Sutcliffe: Again, I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman raises that point and yet voted against the NOMS Bill, which enabled the voluntary sector which has expertise in reducing offending among young people. We are trying to reduce reoffending by using all the agencies available to us, whether from the public, private or voluntary sector. It is important that we get the message across to young people that reoffending leads to a life of crime. We must cut the reoffending rates and the NOMS Bill is a way to do that, so I look forward to it to receiving more support when it returns to this House.

Laura Moffatt (Crawley) (Lab): On a recent visit to Wandsworth prison I was very taken with the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners trust—RAPt—programme. In assessing how well drug programmes work in prisons, will my hon. Friend take into account the support given by prison governors, because it seemed to me that the absolute support for that programme from the governor at Wandsworth—there was a dedicated unit and it was ensured that the programme had all that it needed—contributed greatly to its success?

Mr. Sutcliffe: Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who was at the open day at HMP Wandsworth—along with, I understand, many other Members of Parliament, who were impressed by the work of RAPt. Its chief executive is Mike Trace, who used to be the deputy drugs tsar. It offers a 20-week programme and uses a 12-step approach. The exciting news is that 850 prisoners a year stopped using drugs as a result of their engagement with RAPt. We want to encourage such programmes, so we will look with great interest at how the RAPt programme can be rolled out nationally.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): The Minister will be aware that access to drugs in prison is a major problem. What assessment has he made of the Holloway scheme, whereby dogs with handlers are used to sniff out drugs among prisoners—and perhaps
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might even sniff out drugs being brought into prison by visitors? Does he intend to roll-out that scheme across the nation’s prisons?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that question, because she is right to highlight that there are now many ingenious ways that drugs are brought into prisons. I am grateful for the work of the Prison Officers Association, prison officers in general and prison governors, who are doing their best to stop that inflow. Tennis balls have been used to get drugs into prison; the balls are bounced over walls. We must ensure that we keep the balance right between stopping the drugs coming into prisons and also allowing visits to take place. The use of sniffer dogs is an option, but we must also look at the ways that telephone calls are monitored and visitors are inspected, to make sure that those who act unscrupulously are found out.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): May I refer my hon. Friend to an article written by prisoner Peter Wayne in the current edition of “Druglink”? He has been involved for 30 years in committing petty crime to fund his drug habit. In most of the prisons that he has been in, he has been detoxified—obviously without any result. His latest visit is to Wandsworth prison, which my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) mentioned. He has been admitted to a drug-free wing where he is involved in a harm reduction programme. Does my hon. Friend agree that harm reduction programmes are more successful in prisons than detoxification?

Mr. Sutcliffe: It is important to have a mixture of all the potential solutions. We know that up to 80 per cent. of offenders have some relationship with a drug problem at some stage in their time inside or outside prison, so we are dealing with a large problem. We have increased the investment in addressing it, but we would like to widen the opportunities to be successful. We have heard about the RAPt programme in Wandsworth, and we are looking at a range of measures that the voluntary sector can bring about. In an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall last week, the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) talked about the need for us all to unite to tackle drugs in prisons. There is an opportunity for us to have a sensible debate about what are the most effective ways to stop drugs being in prisons.

Victim and Witness Support

5. Mr. Shahid Malik (Dewsbury) (Lab): What steps he is taking to improve support for victims and witnesses; and if he will make a statement. [127793]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): The Government are firmly committed to rebalancing the criminal justice system in favour of victims and witnesses. We have introduced extensive reforms, including a victims’ surcharge to divert money from offenders to victims, a significant increase in resources for Victim Support from £11.7 million in 1997 to £30 million now, 165 new witness care units to provide tailored support during trial, and a code of practice to give victims statutory rights for the first time.

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Mr. Malik: My hon. Friend will be aware that according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office there are some 250 victims of forced marriage a year. In addition, more than 12 million women and 2 million men suffer from domestic violence of one form or another. I know that the Minister will agree with me that one victim of forced marriage or domestic violence is one too many, but what steps are the Government taking to ensure a better co-ordinated response from social services to maximise support for victims and help eradicate those grotesque practices?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question and for the work that he does in his constituency and throughout the country raising those issues. He will know that the Government’s national plan for domestic violence covers forced marriages. We have screening in health and social care settings and training for professionals in those sectors and the criminal justice system, so that people are dealt with in a supportive fashion and their cases understood. Since 2005, we have set up 64 specialist domestic violence courts and on 5 March 2007 we announced £2 million for the multi-agency risk assessment conferences.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): The Minister will be aware that the victims of human trafficking need a lot of care after they are found. They often need support in safe houses. With the exception of the POPPY project in London, which deals only with adults, we do not have enough of those houses. What is the Government’s position on expanding programmes such as the POPPY project?

Mr. Sutcliffe: It is important that we try to use the full resources available to resettle victims. The hon. Gentleman will know that it is difficult to find accommodation when resettling prisoners, and the situation is similar for the victims of trafficking. It is important that we provide support in a range of areas, including sometimes medical support, and we are working with various Departments and the Local Government Association to see what further support can be offered.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): The Minister will know that there is still a long way to go, for example in cases of child abuse. The sad thing that one discovers, in Cheshire at any rate, is that it is only the commitment of one particular female police officer that provides support for very badly damaged families in nightmare situations. Will he look closely at the issue of co-ordinating support services, because families are still being very badly served?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her work in her constituency and beyond on these issues and for raising those important points. What is important is the education of the public and the agencies about those issues to ensure that people fully understand the implications and the impact on people’s lives of what takes place. We are seeing a better level of training and the involvement of the police and those in criminal justice agencies, who are working with social services and health. We cannot be complacent, because we have to do more, and we are trying to do more.

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Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): Have we sent guidance to local departments of public prosecution advising them how to keep up to date and inform the victims of crime and witnesses, so that they can be sure that they do not meet the perpetrators walking down the street? Is the guidance robust and is it being applied consistently throughout the UK?

Mr. Sutcliffe: There is national guidance on witness support. The Government have introduced witness support units, and victim care units are being piloted. We recognise the problems with supporting and keeping victims and witnesses informed. What tends to happen is that the act of crime takes place, the criminal justice system takes over and witnesses and victims are left behind in the process. We are working hard on that and I am especially pleased with the work that has been carried out with the Victim Support voluntary organisation, which is trying to bring together its organisation on a national basis to offer support for victims.

Knife Crime

6. Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of measures to combat knife crime. [127794]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): I wish to begin by offering my personal condolences and, I am sure, those of the whole House to all the loved ones, relations and family of the recent victims of the tragic and awful knife crimes.

The Government fully recognise the seriousness of the issue of knife crime and have put in place a variety of measures, encompassing legislation, enforcement, education and prevention to address it. We will continue to work in partnership with the police and local communities to get those weapons off our streets.

Mr. Mackay: In supporting the Home Secretary’s condolences, may I remind him that a particularly vicious crime was committed 18 months ago in my constituency? Two teenagers were stabbed to death in Finchampstead and the case is now before the Crown court. At the time and afterwards, with the backing of Ministers, I gave the victims’ families assurances that action would be taken, but in light of the latest dreadful murders over the past few days, I think that they all have the right to feel that we have collectively let them down. What more can we do?

John Reid: The right hon. Gentleman is right: we need to take action before, as well as during and after, the awful headlines that we have seen. Perhaps I can reassure him and some of his constituents—if not about the terrible recurrence and instance of such awful crimes—about the fact that we have been taking action. Just a few weeks ago on 12 February, for instance, we doubled the maximum sentence for possession of a lethal weapon or knife in a public place without good reason. In a few weeks from now, on 6 April, we will implement the new offence of using someone to mind a weapon; if the weapon is a knife, the maximum sentence will be four years. We had already planned a few weeks after that to give school
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staff powers to search pupils for weapons. Those are among the range of measures we have introduced.

In addition to the measures we have brought in over the past few months, I can announce to the House two more steps that I hope will assist in combating knife crime. First, I have authorised that, as from next month, data on serious violent offences involving the specific use of knives and sharp instruments will be separately collected so that we can provide a more detailed understanding of the prevalence of the problem than is currently available. Secondly, we will improve facilities to allow the public to play an even greater part in providing the authorities with information on knife and gun crime. I have today spoken with the chief executive of Crimestoppers to see what additional work can be undertaken to encourage the public to report offences, and will shortly have a meeting with the organisation on that subject.

Finally, I have spoken today to Assistant Commissioner Tim Godwin of the Metropolitan police about the specific events of the recent tragedies, and I urge anyone with information about the deaths of Kodjo Yenga or Adam Regis to contact the Metropolitan police. More generally of course, people can provide information about gun or knife crime through the Crimestoppers number, which is 0800 55511.

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): Last Thursday, two of my constituents, Susan Hale and Sarah Merritt, were found murdered—reportedly stabbed to death—in a flat in the Townhill Park area of Southampton. The man initially sought by the police has been arrested and now, like the victims’ family and friends, we must wait for justice to take its course. However, reports of the incident highlight the fact that not all knife crime has young people as its victims or that they are necessarily the assailants. Can my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that in the renewed focus on knife crime and knife violence in our society we will look carefully at all the circumstances in which knives are used in crimes of violence so that we have a full picture and can tackle every aspect of those dreadful crimes?

John Reid: I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. I think that I can give him that assurance. We have more police than ever before, as well as more police community support officers. We will bring in more powers to sentence where it is appropriate, and for longer in particular circumstances. At the end of the day, neither the Government nor the authorities, nor more powers nor more police, can on their own tackle the problem. Unless we empower communities and engage the whole community as partners in the fight against knife and gun crime and other violent crime, and emphasise the role of parental and personal responsibility as well as the police and powers, we shall not achieve our aim of combating those crimes effectively. I agree that there is a need for particular information about a range of circumstances, and I hope that my announcement today about data collection on violent crimes where knives are involved is a step in the right direction.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Although I do not doubt for a moment the Home Secretary’s commitment on this matter, may I ask him
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for an assurance that, by the time schools return from their Easter holidays, all inner-city schools will be adequately monitored to ensure that pupils do not go to school possessing these weapons? It is deeply disturbing that so many of the apparent perpetrators are of school age.

John Reid: As I have already said, I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern and, as of May, we are giving school staff powers to search pupils for weapons. As I said, those powers and police presence alone will not solve the problem, but they are a necessary part of the solution. May I correct the telephone number that I provided a few moments ago? Crimestoppers is 0800 555 111.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I join the Secretary of State in sending condolences to the families and others affected by these tragic incidents. Will he join me in urging people to redouble their efforts to engage with young people in the community in order to divert them from such crime? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, notwithstanding what the Government have already achieved through youth offending teams, for example, his Department should work with the Department for Communities and Local Government and others to provide further resources to help local communities to come together and tackle this crime? We need to work with young people to stop them getting involved in the first place.

John Reid: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, which is one of the reasons why, before this recent terrible spate of deaths and attacks associated with knife crime, we had a round table meeting that brought together not just the Government and local authorities, but local, voluntary and charitable organisations. We need to go further and involve other Departments—it is a cross-departmental Government issue—particularly the Department for Education and Skills. It is no consolation to any of us to know that the incidence of knife crime, which is in the order of 6 to 7 per cent. of all violent crime, has remained relatively stable. That is a cold statistic, but it conceals within it some of the terrible tragedies that happen when these weapons are used. I am sure that the whole House wants to do everything possible—not just within the Government, but throughout the country in the communities and in local government—to make sure that we combat it.

Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): Kodjo Yenga was tragically murdered on Hammersmith grove in my constituency last week and I would like to put on record my sympathy for the family and my praise for Hammersmith and Fulham police for acting and getting on the scene extremely quickly. Hammersmith and Fulham police and the British Transport police have been very effective in recent months in monitoring and examining the prevalence of knives in Hammersmith centre; there have been a number of metal detector searches at Hammersmith bus station, and so on. The Home Secretary offers a solution of more data collection and more offences, but does he agree that it is time to look again at the regulations behind stop and search, particularly in London? The current practices of stopping and accounting for searches are simply not working. We need far greater prevalence of stop and search in areas such as Hammersmith centre.

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