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House of Commons Hansard
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09 February 2010
Volume 505
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4. What steps he plans to take to reduce the number of prisoners reoffending within two years of release; and if he will make a statement. [316132]

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We have had substantial success in reducing youth and adult reoffending, which fell by 23.6 per cent. and 20.3 per cent. respectively between 2000 and 2007. The Government will continue to work towards driving down reoffending and to ensure that, alongside punishment, we also try to reform offenders.

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I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. She will be aware that there is something of a revolving door as two thirds of people are reoffending. We are now talking about 20,000 extra places being made available for people who have committed crimes. Should we not be looking at why these crimes happen and why people get involved in criminality in the first place, and trying to prevent them from ever getting involved in criminality?

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Of course we should, and we do both. It is not unconnected, in my view, that crime has fallen by one third and that we incarcerate serious and dangerous offenders for longer. Those things are not unconnected. Violent crime is down by 41 per cent., although the Conservative party appears unwilling to accept it. There are fewer victims of crime than ever before and one now has the lowest chance of being a victim of crime since records began. These are substantial achievements that the Conservative party ought to recognise.

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It is disappointing to hear a Minister still claiming that the fall in crime has to do with the increase in the prison population, given that the same fall in crime has happened throughout Europe, apart from Belgium, without the same prison policy being in place. Does the Minister not recognise that the real underlying problem is that too many people are in prison in the first place for crimes that would be better dealt with by systems that work, such as restorative justice and getting them off drugs and drink?

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We have increased fifteenfold the amount of money that we spend on drug interventions in prison and the amount we spend on providing prison education threefold. They are substantial achievements. Some 38 per cent. of those leaving prison enter education and training; 26 per cent. get a job and 80 per cent. enter settled housing. That is tackling the underlying causes of crime. Not only do we protect the public by incarcerating dangerous and severe offenders for longer, but we tackle the causes of crime.

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What progress have the Government made on ensuring that offenders have bank accounts when they leave prison? Without bank accounts they cannot access accommodation or employment, and they are one of the things that help to prevent reoffending.

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My hon. Friend is right. We have some arrangements between bankers and the Department, and through those we are exploring the provision of basic bank accounts to offenders. Clearly there are difficulties, and some banks have concerns about allowing a certain type of offender to have a bank account. However, we believe that we can overcome some of those difficulties by continuing to discuss such matters, and we are seeing some progress in that regard.

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Neither reducing reoffending nor public protection is served by this Government’s reckless early release scheme. Can the Minister tell the House whether she or the Secretary of State plans to announce the end of early release before 6 May?

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I cannot say anything other than that we keep the matter closely under review. The policy was announced as a temporary measure to deal with overcrowding. We have said that we want to end it as soon as practically possible, and I, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and others keep that under review frequently.

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That was a gentle masterpiece of obfuscation, so let me try again. Can the Minister confirm that the official advice that she and the Secretary of State are receiving from their Department or the Prison Service warns against ending early release now, because the lack of cells means that it would have to be reintroduced in a matter of weeks or months? Can she reassure the House that there are no plans to leave the next Government the poison pill of a looming prison crisis?

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I am not about to start bandying official advice across the Dispatch Box, and I do not think that any Minister, in any Administration, would seek to do that. I will therefore not rise to the bait that the hon. and learned Gentleman is dangling before me. Beyond saying that we keep the matter, which we take very seriously, under constant review, I have nothing to add.