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Volume 535: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2011

We have started piloting payment-by-results models to drive what works and drug recovery wings. We are supporting the piloting and roll-out of mental health liaison and diversion services in police custody and courts. We are also developing plans to make prisons places of hard work.

Would not the task of the employment and work programmes to which my right hon. Friend has referred be improved if prisoners actually worked while in prison? Is it not the case that far too few prisoners are given the opportunity to work in prison workshops for a full working week? Would that not be of benefit to prisoners and their victims?

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. The Government are committed to ensuring that prisons are places of work and restoration. We are focused on a programme to ensure that, wherever possible, we introduce work into prisons. There are problems with the physical estate, but we are determined to make that happen wherever we can.

Parc young offenders institution in my constituency had a report from the chief inspector of prisons recently that revealed that 60% of the 64 inmates were admitted with drug-related problems, that 25% had alcohol-related problems and that 89% had truanted from school repeatedly. What steps are we taking to ensure that rehabilitation is a real possibility in private sector prisons?

Rehabilitation is important, whether in a public or private sector prison. The movement to payment by results will ensure that providers are focused on what they need to do to reduce reoffending. Ensuring that offenders get off drugs and deal with their alcohol problems is an important part of that. That is one reason why we are piloting drug recovery wings in prisons. We will maintain our focus on those areas.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work that has been done to introduce work for prisoners. However, my constituents and I are concerned that local companies that are full of honest, hard-working people may lose contracts to prisoners, who are effectively subsidised by taxpayers’ money. Will he assure me that that will not be the case?

I appreciate my hon. Friend’s concern. We will design the schemes in a way that ensures that that does not happen. However, we must not lose sight of the importance of ensuring that prisons are places where offenders are not simply idle, but where they are rehabilitated and introduced to the world of work and responsibility.

One factor that means that prisoners are less likely to be rehabilitated on coming out of prison is the lack of access to housing. Many prisoners are released with just a cash voucher and no chance of anywhere to live. What is the Minister doing about that scandal?

I agree with the hon. Lady that that is one of the very important factors that determine reoffending. That is why it is important that we have a concerted effort to ensure that on their release, prisoners, and particularly short-term prisoners who are not the subject of statutory supervision or support, receive the necessary support and entitlement to services. That can be done through the integrated offender management programmes that we are supporting, and also through the payment-by-results schemes that we are piloting, which the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt) described.