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Prison Work

Volume 555: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2012

Getting more prisoners working longer hours is a key priority for the Government. Enforced idleness does nothing to help prisoners lead law-abiding lives on release. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that we are making good progress. Last year, public sector prisons delivered more than 11.4 million hours of work in production and service areas—an increase of 800,000 hours on the previous year’s figures.

PVC Recycling in my constituency runs a groundbreaking scheme in conjunction with the Prison Service and provides offenders with paid work for sorting through plastic composites. I am told that those skills are much in demand in the private sector when people finish their sentences. The work stops a huge amount of material going to landfill or being exported to the developing world. Will the Minister look at whether that scheme can be expanded, because I am told that there is considerable scope for expansion to prisons across the country?

Yes, I will certainly look at that. We are keen to see the expansion of exactly that kind of work, for the reasons the hon. Gentleman gives. It is good for prisoners because they learn the hard skills of a trade and the softer skills of going to work in the morning and working a proper day, and we all benefit if offenders have the skills they need to ensure that they do not reoffend on release. I will look at what he has described. If we can find a way of expanding it, we will.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is entirely right to make prisoners work, and that the enforced idleness that there has been in prisons has to be reversed because that will lead to prisoners getting gainful employment on release?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. It is right, and it is what the public expect, that prisoners do something productive while they are in custody, rather than simply sitting around in their cells. That could involve a range of things such as work, education or drug treatment, but he is right that his constituents and mine would expect them to be doing something.