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29 Mar 2007 : Column 1703

We all have local anecdotes on the effectiveness of policing. I visited the headquarters of the northern division of the Cambridgeshire constabulary a number of months ago and met Chief Superintendent Paul Phillipson at Thorpe Wood in Peterborough. He showed me mugshots of the 22 most prolific and persistent offenders in the city, and estimated that crime would be reduced by perhaps as much as 50 per cent. if they could be permanently excluded from the community. We need to think hard about that.

Overall statistical evidence from the United States shows a disincentive to commit crime if the likelihood of going to prison increases. There is surely a strong economic argument for more prison places. In 2004, the cost of keeping the average prisoner on the prison estate was £27,320 per year. Today it costs us £2.7 billion to maintain 139 prisons, but crime costs us £60,000 million—£60 billion. That constitutes the entire school budget and two thirds of what we will spend on the national health service in 2008. We could spend just £7 billion on doubling the number of prison places to 160,000—which, incidentally, would amount to only 0.4 per cent. of the adult population. Surely such an opportunity cost is worthy of proper examination. Even by fiscal Conservatives such as me, prison can be seen as a bargain.

And, of course, there are the human tragedies. We routinely ignore the many thousand parole board failures that lead to such tragedies, the terrible murder of the City banker John Monckton being the most obvious and infamous example. As any good economist will confirm, unless objectionable behaviour carries a demonstrable cost, that behaviour will not be altered, and will prevail.

It cannot simply be said that prison does not work. It can be made to work. According to the Home Office report “Re-offending of adults: results from the 2003 cohort”, published in November 2006, the recidivism rate among those who had served at least four years in prison was 35 per cent., compared to 70 per cent. among those who were jailed for up to 12 months. We need to move from deterrence and incapacitation to rehabilitation. It is perfectly possible to believe in two complementary concepts: the concept that prison works, and the concept of necessary rehabilitation.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley that it is offensive to my constituents and his that 1,500 prisoners have access to Sky television—although I understand that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe) disagrees with that. It causes them anger and annoyance. That, however, does not mean that we should not focus on rehabilitation. It is not necessarily a question of being liberal, lily-livered and non-judgmental.

I stand four-square behind my party’s manifesto commitments of 2005—scrapping the early-release scheme, mandatory minimum sentences and more prison places—but we need to focus on drugs, on rehabilitation, and especially on education. Some facts are inescapable: for instance, 70 per cent. of female prisoners suffer from two or more mental disorders while 44 per cent. of male sentenced prisoners suffer from three or more, and the numbers are much higher
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among young offenders. It is also time that we focused on the one third of prisoners who have clearly been failed by the care system.

We all know of the endemic effects of alcohol and narcotics abuse across the prison estate, as well as the unacceptable levels of bullying. Two thirds of prisoners are affected by those issues. As a civilised society and for the sake of our own financial well-being, we have a right and a duty to tackle them and to rehabilitate the individuals whom we choose to incarcerate.

Although rehabilitation is vital to reforming criminals and reducing the risk of offending, we must make a decision about spending. We must consider the opportunity cost. There have been some successful schemes in the United States, including the Key-Crest 12-month drug programme in Delaware. After three years, only 31 per cent. of those on the programme had reoffended, compared to 61 per cent. in a control group. In the United Kingdom, there are just 4,700 drug treatment programmes across the whole estate. Prison-based vocational training and employment is important, too. A study in the United States found that prisoners who had been on that programme had a 35 per cent. less chance of re-offending than those who had not.

A particularly innovative scheme is in Florida where prisoners are taught basic skills and manufacture goods such as optical instruments and car registration plates. They are paid a decent wage and given self-respect and hope for the future. Some of the money that comes from selling those goods is put back into the prison estate and to victim support schemes so that prisoners understand the consequences of their actions.

It is our duty and responsibility as parliamentarians to look at giving prisoners hope for the future when they have finished their sentences. It is perfectly possible to believe that we need to jail people longer to prevent crime and that people can be reformed and rehabilitated. I thank hon. Members for listening and I wish all Members, Officers of the House and members of staff a restful and productive Easter break. With that, I look forward to the next recess Adjournment debate.

3.42 pm

Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): I am delighted to be able to take part in the debate and to address this packed House of Commons. First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) on returning to the Front Bench as Deputy Leader of the House. I have always found him to be helpful to Back Benchers and I am sure that he will take up all the issues that have been raised today with the appropriate Ministers.

The hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) mentioned developments on Canvey Island. Cleethorpes conjures up the image of a wonderful British seaside resort, which it is, but, geographically, it is a very large constituency. On the Humber bank we have one of the highest concentrations of COMAH—control of major accident hazards—sites in the UK. Several years ago, there was an explosion at one of the oil refineries in the constituency, which impacted on neighbouring villages and towns. I was in my office in
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Immingham, about two to three miles from the refinery. When the explosion happened, the shock wave bent the glass in the window. I can appreciate the concerns of the constituents of the hon. Gentleman, who also mentioned Flixborough, which is near Scunthorpe. I believe that we have two full-time fire stations because of the number of COMAH sites—refineries, power stations, inorganic chemical works and so on. I understand that given its size Immingham would not even warrant one part-time fire engine if it were not for the COMAH sites within the area. That always has to be looked at in relation to those hazardous developments.

Bob Spink: The hon. Lady is starting her speech in an excellent fashion and I congratulate her. The problem for me is that the COMAH site on Canvey Island will be a liquefied natural gas site, not a petrochemical site. With LNG, it is much more difficult to fight the fire. In fact, it is impossible, because it vaporises and floats as a cloud in the air until it meets an ignition source. We cannot use foam, as we can on a petrochemical fire, as happened at Buncefield, for example. Essex firefighters went in and fought that fire and many of those firefighters were trained to protect my constituency.

Shona McIsaac: I take the hon. Gentleman's point. There are many different types of COMAH sites around the country. On the Humber bank, many of the factories have in-house fire crews with specialist equipment. Given the number of COMAH sites within my constituency, I understand the great concern that his constituents have.

The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) is perhaps an hon. Friend in relation to the subject that I am going to mention next, which is seaside towns. He mentioned the report that had been published. I wished to mention it, too. It details the poverty that can exist in seaside towns and the problems with infrastructure due to their remoteness. Those are serious issues to which the Government need to pay more attention. Those issues were covered by the hon. Gentleman, so I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will address those points in his closing remarks.

Like the hon. Member for Southend, West and others, in previous Adjournment debates in the House, I have raised many issues. I recall standing here mentioning the subject of East Ravendale school in the Lincolnshire wolds in the constituency, and the fact that it still had outside toilets and other problems. I spoke in the House about getting funding to build a new school. I am happy to report that the new school building is under way. The children are in their temporary classrooms and are looking forward to going into their new school as soon as possible.

I have mentioned in these Adjournment debates before the issue of nuisance from fireworks. We have seen progress on that issue with the passing of private Member's legislation, but we need closely to monitor that issue because, although there have been improvements, it is clear that there are still problems and there is still misuse.

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I have mentioned the resurfacing of the A180, one of the noisiest roads in Britain. I know that other Members here would probably claim that their roads are noisier. In our trunk road network, we have an awful lot of noisy concrete-surface roads, which are causing disturbance and annoyance. Some of the A180 was resurfaced, but the programme has stalled, so many of my constituents are still disturbed by the level of noise from the road.

I urge my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House to put pressure on the appropriate Ministers to complete the resurfacing work. It is ludicrous that, in travelling to Grimsby and Cleethorpes, one is literally rattling around on that concrete-surface road. One can almost feel one’s bones juddering and the car falling apart. The noise is dreadful. The newly surfaced bit is only a short section. The quietness is astonishing. It was only when it was resurfaced that residents and I realised how extreme the problem was. After the short section, we go on to the old surface again. The port of Immingham is growing. Year on year, there is more HGV traffic coming off the container ships. We need to be able to do something as regards those roads. It is not fair that residents continue to be disturbed by vehicles on that road as the traffic on it increases and the port grows.

That leads me on to another urgent local issue to do with Immingham, which is both a town and a port. Although Immingham has the A180 and two very good roads that lead from the east and west dock gates to the main dual carriageway, far too many heavy goods vehicles go through the centre of the town. I have written to local firms saying, “Please can you make sure that your drivers do not go through the centre of town,” and they have assured me that their drivers do not do so, but we have monitored the traffic and we have seen them going through the town. That happens week on week, month on month. It is not only the traffic coming out of the port that is increasing; the traffic going through the middle of what is a residential town is also increasing. That is unacceptable. The local authority is consulting on having a bypass so that the majority of HGVs no longer disturb Immingham’s residents. However, as we all know in respect of all such major road projects, that will not happen in the short term. Any solution will be put in place only in the long term. Therefore, there must be some short-term solutions to the problem. I shall continue to press for a weight restriction on the main residential road through Immingham.

Other Members might have come across similar problems in their constituencies to do with my next subject; if so, I would be interested to know of them. I have found that there is a great problem to do with satellite navigation in HGVs. It does not matter whether we put up weight restriction signs at the beginning of certain streets, because if their satellite navigation system tells them to go down such a street, they will go down it. I do not know whether much can be done about that. I fear that it will increasingly become a problem throughout the country, unless satellite navigation can be programmed to inform of weight restrictions on specific roads and to say that no vehicle over a certain weight should travel down them.

Mr. Heath: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. She is not alone on this issue: she might like to take a look at an Adjournment debate secured by the hon. Member
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for High Peak (Tom Levitt), in which I spoke. We discussed some of the options that are available, and the Minister present gave a helpful response.

Shona McIsaac: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that information. I think that that Adjournment debate was held this week. [Interruption.] Apparently, it was an earlier debate. I shall certainly take a look at it, and if there is more that I can do on this issue, I will certainly do it. I will join other Members who are campaigning to stop the “sat nav” invasion of our residential streets. I do not suppose that I shall get any free satellite navigation systems in the post after having said that—besides, I much prefer using a traditional map. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Angela Browning) talked about water earlier; I would rather have a traditional jug of water with my meal, and I prefer to use a traditional map than satellite navigation.

Sadly, Immingham has a large landfill site on the outskirts of town, and unfortunately, because it is in a particularly flat part of Lincolnshire, that site is probably the highest bit of ground for miles around. I noticed that under the Budget there will be increased landfill taxes. That worries me because, sadly, my area is still not recycling as much as it should be. Given that the increase has been announced, I hope that the local council takes on board more initiatives. I have many ideas for initiatives to reduce the amount of waste that our area generates and the amount of it that goes into landfill, thereby reducing some of the blot on the landscape that the residents of Immingham have to live with.

I want to move on to a couple of other issues that are causing residents in my constituency some concern. I have raised them in the House before, off and on. I warn my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House that I shall continue to do so until Ministers kindly get the message, give way and try to come up with solutions to these problems.

The Humber bridge is a marvellous, superb piece of engineering; unfortunately, the level of toll that people have to pay each way to cross it is not so marvellous. Because of the way in which health services in my part of the country have been reorganised, thousands more people who live in the towns and villages on the south bank of the River Humber have to travel north to the hospitals in Hull for essential treatment, particularly cancer sufferers. It is a very long journey, which is always problematic for those travelling for chemotherapy or radiotherapy. On top of that, there is this added charge. Because of the way that the benefit system works, although those in a certain income group can get recompense, those just above that threshold—that includes a lot of pensioners—cannot get any assistance. As those who have to travel for such treatment or to visit someone in hospital regularly know, it costs a lot of money to cross the Humber bridge.

All the local MPs have been working on a cross-party basis to find a solution to this problem. Two private Members’ Bills were introduced on this issue, one by my constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey). As a Whip, he cannot speak in the House for himself any more, so I have to do so. Sadly, his Bill was caught by the ticking clock and we simply ran out of available
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Fridays to debate it. I was lucky in the draw, so I took up the measures in that Bill, but yet again we crashed into the parliamentary barriers and ran out of time. The Government have a role to play. I hope that, by bringing together all the parties concerned, we can examine the serious issue of the increasing cost of accessing essential life-saving health care.

I turn to antisocial behaviour and police community support officers. One of my local newspapers, the Grimsby Telegraph, recently ran a strong campaign on the respect agenda and tackling various antisocial behaviour issues in our towns. Sadly, north-east Lincolnshire did not become a respect action zone, which was a great disappointment to people in our area. However, on analysis, it was clear that many things on antisocial behaviour were not being done as well as they could be. I hope that, by taking on board some of the suggestions that were made, we can move forward and become a respect action zone in the next round. I will certainly support that move, and I hope to come up with some suggestions for the council—based on what colleagues in the House have told me is happening in their areas—that might speed up our application to become a respect action zone.

There is one small difficulty relating to police community support officers. I am not going to get into a debate today about numbers. However, our problem in Grimsby and Cleethorpes concerns recruitment: not enough people are coming forward to fill the places available. In the wider area, yes, we can get people to apply, but in the towns, where we want PCSOs to patrol, people are not coming forward. I hope that the Home Office—or whichever bit of the divided Home Office will be responsible—can consider providing extra assistance if an area is struggling to recruit people. Our problems may be because we were late in recruiting PCSOs. We are perhaps four years behind other parts of the country, because the previous chief constable did not want PCSOs. That time lag has created many difficulties. I have raised the issue with Ministers before, but we are trying to recruit at the moment. That serious issue must be addressed so that people can obtain some sort of relief from the hellish antisocial behaviour that can occur.

Cleethorpes winter gardens does not quite compare to the winter gardens in Blackpool, but it is still very special to Cleethorpes residents. It is the only venue of any particular size in the resort. Planning permission has been granted to demolish the winter gardens and build flats on the site. Yes, of course we need accommodation, but it must be affordable. High-rise executive flats on the sea front are not the type of home sought by most people in Cleethorpes. Some of the prices that I have seen are akin to London prices, but the average house price in Cleethorpes is well below them. I am not sure who would buy those properties.

The winter gardens is iconic to the residents of Cleethorpes, as the winter gardens in Blackpool is to its residents. After the planning permission, we had the sad sight of fences being put up around the winter gardens with “Construction Site” notices slapped on them. The guts have been ripped out of the winter gardens and sold off. However, we now hear that the sale of the winter gardens and land, to which the planning permission was linked, has fallen through. I do not know whether there is any way to save the
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winter gardens, but there have been marches through the town. I understand that independent candidates will even be put up at the elections on a “save the winter gardens” ticket.

Now that the sale has fallen through, perhaps the Department for Culture, Media and Sport can advise on what we can do next. We have tried to get the building listed, which might have helped, but apparently it had been altered a little too much to get a listing. However, there must be some way in which we can save the only real venue of any size in which entertainment can be put on in our seaside resort. The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) mentioned the report about the problems in seaside resorts, but we have just lost our only major venue and that will have a severe impact on the economy of the area and tourism in the resort. I hope that the matter can be taken up with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

For those with vivid imaginations, my next subject may sound a little odd, but it is referred to locally as the problem of the grass on the beach. I am getting some quizzical looks from hon. Members, but I am not talking about the smokable type of grass. I mean the salt marsh growing on the beach. The Humber estuary has shallow areas and salt marsh has grown, causing concern in the tourist industry in the area that it will eat up the whole beach and kill off tourism in Cleethorpes as we know it. If one considers the detailed botany, biology and ecosystems involved, that is not likely to happen, but we are having some battles with various Government agencies as to how to resolve the problem.

The Humber estuary is a site of special scientific interest. Further south, the salt marsh areas are excellent for visiting birds. Donna Nook is one of the biggest seal colonies on the east coast of Britain. The area is certainly attractive, yet we must get the balance between that more natural part and the more traditional beach with its donkey rides and seaside. We need Ministers to broker some understanding between the two sides to see whether we can contain the growth of the salt marsh and maintain the nice sandy area of the resort that people love.

The final issue of concern to my residents is time dependent and concerns the Humberston fitties. Ironically the name “fitties” comes from a Lincolnshire word for salt marsh. The fitties lie behind the sand dunes and are a most wonderful chalet village. The chalets are painted white and the village is the jewel in the crown of the Lincolnshire coast. It is a conservation area. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton extolled the virtues of Devon, but I will extol the virtues of Lincolnshire. The scent of wild roses by the sand dunes on east-coast Britain is a delight in the summer months and certainly worth a visit.

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