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Volume 511: debated on Tuesday 15 June 2010

8. What steps the Government plan to take to reduce reoffending by prisoners after release; and if he will make a statement. (2223)

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election as deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats?

The Government believe that more can be done to cut reoffending by overhauling the system of rehabilitation. We are exploring how sentencing and treatment for drug use can help offenders to come off drugs once and for all. We are also exploring how we can do more with independent providers, including the voluntary sector, to reduce reoffending.

I welcome the Minister and all his colleagues to the Front Bench to consider such an important subject. May I encourage them, as they work out the plans to deal with reoffending—as has been said, it is a serious issue, which the previous Government did not address adequately—to take the advice of people such as the previous governor of Brixton prison, who were clear that, if secure housing and continuing support to deal with addictions are provided when people are released, the chance of immediate reoffending, which often starts in days, is hugely reduced?

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. We must improve the multi-agency approach to tackling reoffending. That means bringing together the police, probation, prisons and local authorities, and ensuring that they work together more effectively. The key is to get offenders off drugs and into work, and, in particular, as he says, into housing. If we can do that, we have a chance of reducing the unacceptably high reoffending rates that we currently experience.

But how will the cuts that have just been announced to the future jobs fund, which provides employment for ex-offenders in my constituency—a third of a million pounds comes from Connexions and an equal sum from Positive Activities for Young People—contribute to reducing reoffending in Slough?

Clearly, the Opposition still have not grasped the scale of the fiscal deficit that the country faces or their responsibility for creating it. Reoffending costs the criminal justice system and wider society billions of pounds a year. If we can succeed in reducing reoffending and capture some of that money to invest in rehabilitation services through a payment-by-results model, which we proposed in our rehabilitation revolution, we have a chance of producing the rehabilitation services that the previous Government lamentably failed to provide.