Previous Section Index Home Page

Approximately 2 per cent.—probably 1 per cent.—of the prison population never leave prison. The vast majority go to prison and come out. If we put people in prison illiterate and on drugs, and allow them to maintain that state of affairs, it is hardly surprising that they reoffend when they leave prison. One cannot get a job if one cannot read. One needs a reading age of 14 or older to get a job. Even an unskilled job requires some reading ability. Approximately 65 to 70 per cent. of the prison population has a reading age of under 11. The Government appear to want to do little about that.
28 Nov 2007 : Column 387

Yes, the Government have increased the number of pounds that are spent on education. However, they think only of input, not output. It is no good, as a Government Back Bencher suggested in the debate, simply increasing spending on drug rehabilitation. The Government may well have increased the amount, but they have not increased the benefit to the public or to the prisoners. [Interruption.] It is uncontroversial to say that there is no better place than prison to take drugs, pick up a drug habit and become a drug addict. If any Labour Members want to contradict me, I suggest that they visit as many prisons, young offender institutions and secure training centres as I have. They will soon learn different.

The hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) was right that there is a need to consider whether a prison or custodial accommodation should be provided—for men and women, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) said—in north Wales. It is not right that people should be taken a long way from their homes so that their families are broken up and children lose touch with their parents in prison. The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady may know—but the Secretary of State may not—that 150,000 children who go to bed tonight have a parent in prison. Broken families lead to repeat crime. Failure to be visited by their families just once a year has a correlation with reoffending by those who are released from prison. I urge hon. Members to consider that carefully as we watch the train crash happening. We have been watching it for the past few years.

Sadly, time does not permit me to give full credit to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Woking, who spoke with great knowledge and passion about education and drugs in prison. The average time spent on purposeful activity in our prisons is currently 3.6 hours a day. Given the time that prisoners are kept locked in doing nothing, cannot we get them to learn to read if they have 14, 15 or 16 hours in their cells alone? Cannot toe-by-toe schemes be spread more widely throughout the prison estate? Cannot we do something practical rather than simply allowing the Secretary of State to make a few feeble jokes about my being on a voyage of discovery? I have indeed been on a voyage of discovery. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] Yes, I have been on a voyage of discovery, and the public and the Government would have benefited greatly if the Secretary of State had been on it with me. I do not say this with any sense of amusement or pleasure, but we currently have the blind leading the blind and it is the public who pay for it, in money and the huge rates of reoffending. Until the Government get their head round that, get a grip and really pull their socks up, I am afraid that we are in for worse.

6.50 pm

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): We have had a productive debate. A lot of it was predictable, but in part it was also thoughtful. I pay tribute not only to my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Mahmood), for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) and for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) for their contributions, but to the hon. Members for Woking (Mr. Malins) and for Reigate (Mr. Blunt), although less so to the hon. Member for
28 Nov 2007 : Column 388
North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara), but he is entitled to make his political points.

This has been a thoughtful debate, which has added to the need to look at some of the key issues. There are key issues—I share the view of the hon. Member for Woking on this—to do with numeracy, literacy, drug abuse, employment, providing people with accommodation post-prison, and rebuilding lives during prison, before prison when people enter the youth justice system and post-prison. There are real issues that we can address. There is even an element whereby, dare I say it, the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) agrees deep down with some of the things that the Government are doing. Deep down, he knows that we are taking a positive approach and that we have matters in common on the way to tackle reoffending.

I pay tribute not only to the staff in the Prison Service, but to the staff in the probation service, who do an excellent job.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that I represent a constituency with one of the biggest prison populations? The morale of the Prison Officers Association at Wymott, one of the two prisons in my constituency, is at an all-time low, but the governor is unhelpful. We need to consider what we can do. Will my right hon. Friend intervene to see what the issues are, so that we can help get that prison back on track, as its numbers are going to be increased and the current dispute is not the right way to go?

Mr. Hanson: If my hon. Friend wants to discuss the situation in Wymott, as well as general issues, I should be happy to meet him, because I know that he will share my wish to see an effective Prison Service and an effective probation service that is committed to reducing reoffending.

We are having this debate against a background of reducing crime, and we must never forget that. Crime is down 32 per cent. over the past 10 years, burglary is down 55 per cent., vehicle theft is down 52 per cent., household offences are down 33 per cent. and all personal offences are down by 32 per cent. overall. I am not going to duck the fact— [ Interruption. ] I am grateful for the intervention of the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham). If only he had been here throughout the debate, he could have listened to all the thoughtful contributions. There are still some clear challenges for us and for the Prison Service in preventing reoffending.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North mentioned the Corston report. There is much positive policy promoted by Baroness Corston. I hope that I will be able to respond to that shortly. We have already given the process a positive response and I look forward to responding to the report in detail, I hope very shortly.

A number of hon. Members mentioned the Carter report, including my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor. Hon. Members will know that we have asked Lord Carter to assess the pace and scale of the current prison building programme, the management and efficiency of public sector prisons, the impact of recommendations for the prison estate on all parts of the criminal justice system, and the changes in the sentencing framework. As my right hon. Friend said, we expect Lord Carter to report shortly.

28 Nov 2007 : Column 389

We have a big building programme of more than 9,500 places. I should point out to the hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire that the funding is there for 8,500 of those 9,500 planned places.

We also have a positive programme of examining not only prison building but the reduction of reoffending. It is on that point that I wish to concentrate now. My hon. Friends the Members for Wrexham and for Birmingham, Perry Barr and the hon. Members for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and for Woking have all put their finger on the key issues that we need to address. There is an element of support across the House for those issues.

The Government have identified seven pathways that need to be addressed in order to prevent reoffending. They include accommodation, drug treatment, and education—the hon. Member for Woking mentioned support for education and training. They also include finding a better way of linking employment opportunities outside prison with training opportunities in prison. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr mentioned the scheme at Winson Green prison, which I happened to visit a few weeks ago, and the community justice scheme at Lozells in his constituency. Both are attempting to examine the key issues of employability, training and support for individuals. Self-evidently, there are three issues that are important to individuals in regard to the prevention of reoffending. They are employment, accommodation and support from family, friends and colleagues.

I refer the hon. and learned Member for Harborough to a document that I produced yesterday on the consultation on reducing reoffending, which contains our designs for tackling the issues of accommodation, drugs, debt, family, employment, literacy and numeracy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Ms Butler) mentioned, we also need to look at the causes of crime before people even get into the criminal justice system. We have examined the work of the Youth Justice Board and I would like to tell the hon. Member for Woking that the Department for Children, Schools and Families is now working with my Department to examine what we need to do in regard to interventions on families, to young people identified as being a problem, to raising levels of literacy and numeracy and to supporting those key issues.

There are several things that we can do in regard to the prison programme generally, and I believe that we will do them. They involve not only increasing prison capacity but making prisons effective in tackling some of the long-term issues that have been mentioned.

Colin Burgon (Elmet) (Lab): The Minister has mentioned investment in the service. Some of the key people in it are the members of the Prison Officers Association, who do excellent work in the two prisons in my constituency. Will he put on record his acknowledgement of their work? Will he also dismiss the story that appeared in The Observer—on 18 November, I think—that said that drastic cuts in the membership of the Prison Service were being considered?

Mr. Hanson: I will certainly put on record my support for the work that the prison officers do. Like
28 Nov 2007 : Column 390
the hon. and learned Member for Harborough, I visit prisons almost every week, and I meet committed staff who are working hard in challenging and difficult circumstances, with some very challenging and difficult people, to ensure their rehabilitation and the protection of the public.

My hon. Friend asked about future prison officer numbers. We are currently looking at the budget and we have yet to determine the budget for future years, but with an expanding prison programme, we need to take on more prison officers. We shall need to ensure that we have prison officers who are trained to the highest capacity and who can do their important job safely. We have a positive prison building programme and a positive programme for the prevention of reoffending. We also have positive views on the challenges facing the Prison Service.

The real question for the Conservatives is whether they will support our agenda to tackle the causes of crime and social exclusion, and whether they will work with us to tackle some of the other issues that drive people into crime in the first place. Would they put forward the necessary resources to fund the prison building programme and to secure the necessary investment in the Prison Service? I very much doubt it, given their tax-cutting proposals.

Judging by today’s debate, there is unanimity on the Labour Benches, and—dare I say it?—a common theme between ourselves, the Liberal Front-Bench spokesman and some Conservative Members on how we need to tackle these issues, but there is still a dichotomy that the Conservatives need to face. On the one hand, the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs and the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) want to see more and more prisons being built, more and more people being put away and, in due course, more and more people being put in prison without any remission whatever. On the other hand, the thoughtful hon. and learned Member for Harborough wants to see rehabilitation, investment in training, education and support and all those other positive issues.

I commend the Government’s amendment to the House.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 156, Noes 356.
Division No. 012]
[6.59 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brazier, Mr. Julian

Brokenshire, James
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Butterfill, Sir John
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, Philip
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rosindell, Andrew
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Richard Benyon and
Mr. Crispin Blunt


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, Danny
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brake, Tom
Brooke, Annette
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Lorely
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Don
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harris, Mr. Tom
Harvey, Nick
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen

Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Hughes, Simon
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hunter, Mark
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kramer, Susan
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mulholland, Greg
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Olner, Mr. Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Price, Adam
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Rowen, Paul
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob
Russell, Christine

Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Swinson, Jo
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Teather, Sarah
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Thurso, John
Tipping, Paddy
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vaz, rh Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Webb, Steve
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Tony Cunningham and
Mr. Alan Campbell
Question accordingly negatived.
Next Section Index Home Page