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Lord Elton: My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will take the opportunity to read the whole of the letter from which I quoted, and then consider whether the reason that he is now giving is the reason that was advanced by the authorities for closing the course.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I shall certainly take the opportunity to read the letter. If the figures are available, as I assume they must be, I shall also provide the detailed figures for which the noble Lord asked.

I cannot do justice to all the detailed points that have been raised. The programmes are taking place, based on research, in an attempt to change people's behaviour once they are inside prison and to make sure

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that they do not return to prison. The problem seems intractable, but an enormous amount of resources is going into the programmes—as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, accepted—over the next two years following the previous spending review.

Not all the programmes are perfect. Some are in their early days and we do not have sufficient results to come before the House with a compact on the basis that "this system works" or "this system does not". It is too early to say. I am certain that your Lordships will return to this issue on a regular basis. I can provide detailed reports from time to time on the progress of the schemes.

I shall seek to answer in correspondence the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, regarding voluntary organisations. The nature of the sentence, whether inside or outside prison, is fundamental. In due course, when we come to debate the consequences for the legislative framework and the criminal justice system following the publication of the Halliday report, we shall no doubt have extensive detailed debates on this issue.

I come with bad news as regards the level of the prison population. Nevertheless, work is going on around the country. I refer in particular to the Head Start programme in the North of England, about which I have been briefed in the past few days. Excellent programmes are taking place in northern prisons. I understand that hotels are taken over; employers go to the hotel, listen to the prisoners, see what they have done by way of work in the prison, and see whether jobs can be found for them when they come out; programmes are taking place and people can apply for jobs in association with the Commonwealth Games in a systematic way from one of the prisons. Prisoners will apply in the same way as normal members of the public. The idea is to prepare them in terms of filling in forms and doing the necessary work in prison. In that way, they stand a chance of leaving prison and going straight into a job, thus becoming part of the mainstream of our employment programme.

I accept the point that was made about international comparisons. Croatia was mentioned. We are interested in what other countries are doing and in what we can learn from them. We obviously have a great deal to learn, given the scale of our prison population compared to the population in the country. There are differences in jurisdictions and in legal and social contexts which must be taken into account. But in working to reduce re-offending we shall draw on the best of the international research. If a country has a programme that works, we shall look to see whether we can use the best from that research to apply to our own circumstances. We have no shutters up against any ideas in regard to one of our most intractable social problems—namely, the vast number of young men who keep returning to prison. We must do something for the Georges of this world, and we must be accountable if we do not succeed in doing so.

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The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he reassure the House that, even though he has expressed reservations about the Kainos project, the Government affirm and wish to encourage the work of church groups in prisons, not least in the area of preventing recidivism?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, as a general point, that is absolutely so. There is no reason whatever why church groups and the voluntary sector should not be involved in a positive way. This was a one-off project in four prisons funded for two years on the basis that

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it would be evaluated independently. Independent evaluation has demonstrated—I paraphrase—that it did not work. It did not work—I cannot go beyond what I have quoted—as regards reconviction in the 12 months after people left. I do not know whether there are any more figures available.

We are not putting up the shutters with regard to church groups and faith groups which make a contribution in that area.

        House adjourned at twenty-three minutes before eleven o'clock.

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