Individual probation trusts determine their staffing requirements. The contracts negotiated and agreed with the trusts take account of the need to ensure that services are delivered effectively, efficiently and economically within the resources available. The performance data we collect indicate that probation trusts are making effective use of their resources to protect the public.
Many will recall that the Deputy Prime Minister said before the last election that he wanted to stop prisons turning into “colleges of crime”. Last week, the Minister revealed in a written answer to me that 4,175 offenders in England and Wales had been recalled to prison in the first three months of 2012 and that the rate is actually rising under this coalition, to more than 16,000 a year. Is that happening because the Government are failing on reoffending or because the probation service is totally understaffed?
I do not think it is either of those two things. It is right to be concerned about the rate of recall to prison; the hon. Gentleman is perfectly right to say that. It is also right that I put on the record, because this is my first opportunity to do so, that the probation service comes in for a great deal of criticism but does excellent work. It looks very hard at risk when it releases prisoners from custody and it does its very best to minimise that risk. Where we find that reoffending or breaches of licence resulting in returns to custody occur, we will work hard with the probation service to learn the necessary lessons.