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Prison Capacity

Volume 511: debated on Tuesday 15 June 2010

I thank the Minister for his response earlier and agree with the comments that he made. Does he agree that the successful reduction of reoffending levels requires a long-term focus rather than a series of short-term piecemeal proposals? The Labour Government had short-termism and failed.

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am afraid that we have seen too much focus on the pursuing of political positions and influence by the media. What we have to do now is take advantage of the change in Administration, and the fact that we have a coalition Government, to try to take the political heat out of the issue, and achieve consensus on a long-term strategy to address reoffending.

The Justice Secretary is reported as saying that millions of pounds could be saved by jailing fewer offenders and slashing sentences. Does the Minister accept that our first duty is the protection of the public and that we must provide prison capacity accordingly?

Yes, but I do not entirely recognise the hon. Gentleman’s presentation of my right hon. and learned Friend the Justice Secretary’s comments over the weekend. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the first objective is public protection, and if we are to protect the public of tomorrow, so that there are fewer victims, we have to ensure that we have a justice service that will deliver a reduction in reoffending rates and can divert people from offending in the first place.