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Volume 553: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2012

We fully recognise the importance of training and education in improving an offender’s chances of employment and thereby reducing reoffending. That is central to the reforms set out in the joint Ministry of Justice and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills strategy “Making Prisons Work”. My officials are also working with the Department for Work and Pensions to provide enhanced employment support via the Work programme.

I have three prisons in my constituency—[Hon. Members: “Well done!”] Yes! They work very closely together, and have an excellent record of effective education and training. Will my right hon. Friend agree to visit Sheppey to see for himself the good work that is being done to reduce reoffending?

I pay tribute to all the staff who work in the three prisons in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I should be delighted to visit Sheppey in the next few months and see, with him, the work that is being done. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s constituents—not just those who work in the Prison Service, but those who provide it with support services. What Sheppey is doing for the criminal justice system is enormously important.

Training for work and cutting back on drug use are two proven ways of reducing reoffending. Will the Secretary of State therefore comment on the independent monitoring board report on HMP Risley, showing that, because of Government cuts, training is being cut back and illegal drug use is increasing, thereby undermining officers’ past good work? That is likely to impose a further cost on the community if offending goes up as a result.

It is simply not the case that we are seeing the kind of problems the hon. Lady mentions across the prison system. The reality is that we have no choice but to deal with the financial challenges left behind by the previous Government. The trick is delivering a more effective system for less money, and that is what we are doing.