With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the rehabilitation of offenders.
This Government are committed to an ambitious programme of social reform, even at a time of financial constraints. Major changes have already been delivered in welfare and education to tackle the challenge of endemic welfare dependency and educational underperformance, particularly in deprived areas. In the coalition agreement, the Government also promised
“to introduce a rehabilitation revolution”
to tackle the unacceptable cycle of reoffending, and today I am publishing a consultation paper entitled “Transforming Rehabilitation: a revolution in the way we manage offenders”. We need a tough but intelligent criminal justice system that both punishes people properly when they break the law and supports them to get their lives back on track so that they do not commit crime again in the future.
Despite significant increases in Government spending on offender management during the past decade, reoffending remains consistently and unacceptably high. In 2010, nearly half of prisoners were reconvicted within a year of release. This rate is even higher for short-sentenced prisoners, the great majority of whom currently receive little or no support.
Failing to divert offenders away from crime has a wide impact. The Ministry of Justice alone spent over £4 billion on prisons and offender management in 2011-12, and the wider cost of this failure is considerable. The National Audit Office estimated that the economic cost of reoffending by recent ex-prisoners was as much as £13 billion in 2007-08. I am clear that we cannot continue as before. In difficult economic times, delivering real reform requires a dramatically different approach. We cannot afford not to do this.
I propose to introduce a new emphasis on life management and mentoring support for offenders in order to address the problems that lead them to turn to crime time and again. For the first time, all offenders will be subject to mandatory supervision and tailored rehabilitation on their release from prison, including those serving sentences of less than 12 months. Those offenders have some of the highest reoffending rates, but there is currently no statutory provision after the halfway point of their sentences. I want to ensure that persistent offenders do not walk out of the prison gates with £46 in their pockets and little or nothing else.
My vision is very simple. When someone leaves prison, I want them already to have a mentor in place. I want them to be met at the prison gate, to have a place to live sorted out, and to have a package of support set up, be it training, drug treatment or an employability course. I also want them to have someone whom they can turn to as a wise friend as they turn their own lives around. I intend to open up the market for probation services, so that we can combine the expertise that exists in the public sector probation service with the innovation and dynamism of private and voluntary providers.
These radical reforms are underpinned by the principles of the big society. Enabling voluntary sector organisations to participate fully in the transforming of rehabilitation, harnessing their expertise, and making the most of existing local links will be vital to the delivery of the reductions in reoffending that we need to see. Providers will be commissioned to deliver community orders and licence requirements for the majority of offenders, and will be paid by results to reduce reoffending. They will be expected to tackle the causes of reoffending and help offenders to turn their lives around.
Through the introduction of payment by results, providers from all sectors will have a clear incentive to rehabilitate offenders. We will pay in full only for services that succeed in reducing reoffending. Services will be commissioned nationally, and delivered across broader geographical areas. I am committed to ensuring that the new system continues to make best use of local expertise, and to integrate itself into existing local structures. Potential providers will have to be clear about how they would sustain local partnerships in contracts, and commissioning will be informed by local intelligence.
Extending rehabilitation to more offenders will introduce new costs to the system, but I believe that they can be balanced by our drawing more providers into the system. Through increased use of competition, we can generate efficiency savings and drive down unit costs across the system, allowing our funding to go further.
The public sector probation service does an important job in protecting the public. The Government are very clear about the value and expertise that it brings, and we want to continue to use that expertise as we transform our approach to rehabilitation. There will be a continuing critical role for the public sector, which will include advising the courts and assessing the risk that an offender poses to the public. Offenders who pose the highest risk of serious harm to the public will continue to be managed directly by the public sector, and the public sector will retain ultimate responsibility for public protection.
Transforming rehabilitation will help to ensure that all who are given prison or community sentences are properly punished, while also being helped to turn their back on crime for good. That will mean lower crime rates, fewer victims and safer communities. I commend my statement to the House.
I thank the Justice Secretary for giving me advance sight of his statement.
It is universally agreed that we need to do more to reduce reoffending. Preventing offenders from going on to commit more crimes and create more innocent victims should be a priority for us all. Our probation service is the Cinderella of our criminal justice system. It has a low public profile, but is staffed by dedicated professionals who help keep our communities safe. In 2011 it was awarded the British Quality Foundation’s gold medal for excellence, and the performance of every single probation trust was rated by the present Government as either good or exceptional. The service has done all that the Government have asked it to do.
Let me begin by asking the Justice Secretary what he means by saying that he wants to professionalise the probation service. The probation service has been working in partnership with the private sector and voluntary groups for some time now, and I am sure the Justice Secretary will have seen some of the excellent work being done in partnership around the country from Avon and Somerset to Doncaster, and from Peterborough to Manchester. There is a place for all in our justice system, bringing in outside experience and innovation, and working together in partnership to reduce reoffending.
It is always worth looking for new ways to address the serious problem of reoffending, and that was the motivation behind the pilot that the last Labour Government began in Peterborough, which is a payment by results model. I suspect it is also why the Justice Secretary’s predecessor launched two PBR pilots in probation trusts. It is right to test and try out properly any fundamentally new way of working, and there is no history in criminal justice of payment by results. The Justice Secretary has chosen to cancel the two probation PBR pilots set up by his predecessor. Can he explain why? Did he do so because he has already made up his mind that PBR works, despite there being no evidence at present to support that view?
We know, however, from where PBR has been used in the provision of other public services—the Work programme—that it has failed to hit its targets, and the Justice Secretary knows all about that programme, of course. Out of 800,000 people who started the Work programme, only 3.5% were still in work after six months, and not a single provider hit the target. That is bad enough in the context of the Work programme, with people not getting jobs or failing to keep jobs, but in the context of criminal justice, failure could lead to offenders walking the streets without the necessary supervision and support, with the risk that poses to public safety. We are also seeing in respect of the Work programme that it is not the small and local charities that are delivering. They have been crowded out by the big multinationals such as G4S and A4e. How will the Justice Secretary ensure that that pattern is not repeated in probation services? The Justice Secretary is proposing that only low and medium-risk offenders will be dealt with by private companies, but can he confirm that medium-risk offenders include those who have committed burglary and violent crimes, including domestic violence?
One in four offenders’ risk levels fluctuate during their time on licence. How will the Justice Secretary ensure the PBR model will be able to take that into account? In that regard, how does he propose the police should share their sensitive information about offenders under their supervision with the private sector?
The Justice Secretary has also announced a 25% expansion in the number of offenders who will be subjected to mandatory supervision, at a time when his budget is shrinking by 25%. Is it not therefore inevitable that resources will have to be stretched ever more thinly to cover that increase in offenders, and can he assure the House that high and medium-risk offenders will get the appropriate supervision and support?
We are willing to work with the Government to reduce reoffending. We will carefully consider the Justice Secretary’s consultation document and the answers he gives in the House this afternoon, and we hope that the detail given will provide greater reassurance than his statements have so far.
I am grateful to the shadow Justice Secretary, the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), for the elements of his statement that were supportive of what we are doing, and of course I should thank the Labour party, because it is only thanks to legislation introduced by the Labour Government prior to 2010 that I am able to make such an important reform for this country. I should also pay tribute to the former Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who established the Peterborough pilot. The work being done in Peterborough prison by the team involving the St Giles Trust—I met representatives from the trust this morning—and other charities working in partnership with the private sector is an impressive example of what can be done in mentoring offenders.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned pilots. The last Government were obsessed with pilots. Sometimes those in government just have to believe in something and do it, but the last Government set out a pilot timetable under which it would have taken about eight years to get from the beginning of the process to the point of evaluation and then beyond. Sometimes we just have to believe something is right and do it, and I assure Members that if they went to Peterborough to see what is being done there, they would think it was the right thing to do.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Work programme, and I wish he would stop using statistics that are certainly not entirely—[Interruption.] I am not sure how to describe them; “misleading” might be inappropriate language to use. The Opposition keep missing an important point: in the Work programme, we do not pay until someone has been in work for more than six months. So if 800,000 people joined the Work programme in the first year, half of them could not have been in work for six months. The reality is that the Work programme has so far helped 200,000 people find jobs. Many of those people have been in jobs for the short term and have then gone on to second jobs, and many of them have gone into long-term employment. The programme is making a real difference, and I defy any Member of the House to visit a Work programme centre, see the work that is being done and not come away impressed. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman mentions G4S. It is true that G4S is one of the prime contractors in the Work programme, but interestingly, it subcontracts all its work in the Work programme to voluntary sector organisations and small businesses. The Work programme is the biggest voluntary sector welfare-to-work programme that this country has ever seen, with organisations such as the Papworth Trust delivering support right across East Anglia and organisations such as the Careers Development Group involved. That charitable organisation is running large parts of the Work programme in London. Labour Members need to look at the detail of what is happening.
The right hon. Gentleman made a sensible point and asked a sensible question about the management of and fluctuation in risk. We intend the public probation service to work closely with local providers, and where there is a variation in risk—where it suddenly becomes clear that an individual represents a clear and present danger of harm to the public—the mechanisms will exist to move those people back under the public sector umbrella. So the public sector will continue to work with the most serious offenders, through the multi-agency public protection arrangements and similar, and the police will continue to work closely with the public sector on the most serious offenders. Where there is a clear and present risk to the public, it is the duty of the public probation service and of this Government—and it will continue to be so—to make sure that we supervise and manage that risk, and that intelligence is shared between the police and the public probation service to manage the risk that exists, when it does exist, because we must ensure that the public are protected.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of cost, and I simply offer him one example of where efficiencies can be delivered. When we contracted out the delivery of community sentences in London, the cost of delivering those sentences fell by nearly 40%. I am absolutely certain that although very good work is being and will continue to be done in the probation service, and those professionals will continue to work in this field, there are efficiencies to be found. Such efficiencies can be reinvested in providing support to those prisoners whose sentence is less than 12 months, who have never had it before.
Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman asked about the more difficult offenders. I wish to make it absolutely clear, as our consultation document does, that we will have a pricing mechanism that makes it impossible for providers simply not to support the most difficult prisoners. Every prisoner must have support. We are delivering support that is mandated by the courts for every prisoner, and that will be continued.
These proposals, which will greatly increase the potential for offender managers to deliver rehabilitation, should mean that probation officers will be employed by many different types of organisation. Indeed, it will be vital for the success of these reforms that probation officers at all levels of experience are found in the remaining public sector organisations and in the new delivery organisations. Will the Secretary of State therefore ensure that he strengthens the corporate identity, and the training and academic underpinning of probation as a profession, so that there is a strong base for our excellent probation officers and their profession, wherever they are deployed?
I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend. There is a slight myth in the media that we arrived in the Department in September and nothing had been done before, but that is totally untrue; I have inherited some very good work done by him and his colleagues, which created the foundation for these reforms. Indeed, he and I worked closely together in providing employment support to prisoners through the Work programme. It is very important that we ensure that we have the best possible professional standards. I apologise here, because the point was raised by the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan). One of the questions I have for the probation profession is: should we facilitate the creation of some sort of chartered institute that raises professional standards in the profession? It will continue to be an important profession, with high-level specialist skills needed to manage the most serious risk. I am also ensuring, through these proposals, that existing probation staff have the opportunity to set up social enterprises and mutuals, so that they themselves have the opportunity to be part of the future.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with working with the private and voluntary sectors in the justice system; I did it when I was the Justice Minister. I have two questions to put to the Secretary of State, if I may. First, on resilience, how does he know that the organisations with these contracts, like G4S in the Olympics, will be able to deliver? Secondly, on accountability, things will go wrong in the justice system, cases will be disastrous and things will be serious. Who will ultimately be accountable to this House and to the public for the errors and mistakes?
The simple answer to the latter point is that responsibility will continue to lie with the public probation service and, ultimately, the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman and I know that in any system with a rate of reoffending there will be further crimes, whether a public, private or voluntary sector provider does the work. I want to ensure that the level of reoffending continues to go down and that we try every means at our disposal. The payment-by-results regime opens the way to innovation to ensure that we do the best possible job in ensuring that people do not reoffend.
Although I understand the Secretary of State’s enthusiasm for getting on with the job without waiting for more pilots, a decision that some of his advisers might have called courageous, may I ask him to pay particular personal attention to ensuring that charities and voluntary organisations with a track record are not crowded out by how contracts are let? Will he also consider whether he should expand the role of the chief inspector of probation so that quality control over the whole of the provision is maintained?
The latter point is an important one and I rather agree with my right hon. Friend on that. I look forward to having discussions with him and his Committee about it. I am also strongly supportive of the voluntary sector. It is simply not the case, even though the Opposition keep saying that it is, that the voluntary sector is not involved in the Work programme. That programme supports well over 100,000 people in the voluntary sector, using the real expertise of small and larger organisations such as the Papworth Trust and the Salvation Army. I want to see more of that in this process.
May I ask the Secretary of State about accountability to the courts? When a medium or low-risk offender is on a programme run by a private company and fails to keep to the conditions of that order, who will make the decision to return that offender to the court? Will it be the private company, which clearly has an interest in a successful outcome to the programme, or will it be a probation officer?
It will be a probation officer. I expect to have in every centre a seconded or attached probation officer who will be responsible for enforcing the legal side of things. In much the same way as happens in the Work programme, where Jobcentre Plus does the sanctioning, it will be a contractual duty of providers to report a breach but it will be the job of the public probation service to decide how to respond and whether to refer it to court or do something else.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, which I welcome. Does he agree that the most effective support for former prisoners can be given by those with whom they have developed a relationship of trust—a relationship that has been developed not just over the days or weeks prior to release but over a longer period of time—and that that is particularly the case for young offenders? In light of that, will he consider how support can be given to the excellent restorative justice work done with young men by the Sycamore Tree project at Thorn Cross young offenders institution in Cheshire?
Absolutely. I look forward to visiting Thorn Cross at some point. I visited some years ago when, as my hon. Friend knows, I was the candidate in Warrington South. It is a very good centre and I look forward to visiting it again in the not-too-distant future. I absolutely believe that the role of such local projects is very important. I am often asked why crime is coming down. I think that one of the reasons is that all around the country real efforts are being made by the voluntary sector and the community sector to engage with young people who might otherwise re-engage with or embark on a life of crime.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins) and I recently had the opportunity to visit the probation service in Greater Manchester, where we saw the programme to deal with some of the most dangerous individuals—that is, people who had been convicted of terrorist offences who will be released over the next few years. The work being done to reintegrate them into the community and to de-radicalise them—very specialised work indeed—was first rate and very professional. Will the Secretary of State reassure us that in the case of such prisoners—ex-terrorist offenders—the community will be kept safe and that vital reintegration and de-radicalisation work will continue?
I can absolutely do that. I envisage no change, unless it is an improvement, to how we manage offenders such as former terrorists in the community. They would fall under the high-risk umbrella and I would expect that work to continue in the public sector, where it takes place at the moment. I pay tribute to Greater Manchester probation trust, which is among the most innovative and entrepreneurial of the probation trusts. I have little doubt that some of the people in that trust will see the opportunity to create a mutual or co-operative. In the spirit of the Labour party and the co-operative movement, this is a great opportunity for a new generation of co-operatives to emerge and I want to see staff participating in the future.
Does the Secretary of State agree that it is difficult and challenging to rehabilitate hardened drug addicts? Does he share my concern that many young people are going into prison as mild drug users but coming out as addicts? Why are there still so many drugs available in our prisons and what is he doing about it?
That is a concern that I and the prisons Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright), share. We have done quite a bit of work on it already, but we are up against a determined effort to get drugs into prison; some of the means used to smuggle drugs into prison are quite eye-catching. We will do everything we can to reduce the availability of drugs in prisons, but when someone comes out, if they have had some form of rehabilitation in prison I want to see that continue in the community. The structure of these reforms and the through-the-gate approach will make it much more likely that we have consistent rehabilitation through prison and beyond.
The last report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, entitled, “Drugs: Breaking the Cycle”, pointed out that 35% of those coming out of prisons had a drugs problem. I support the principle of what the Secretary of State has said today, but will he be able to choose the expertise in dealing with drugs of those organisations that will help with his rehabilitation revolution? Not just any organisation can deal with drugs; those people must be experienced in helping people once they have come out of prison.
That is why not just any organisation with cash in the bank will be able to come in and win the contracts. I want to see expertise and understanding of how to bring in the different services that are available. They should be able to bring in the drug rehabilitation services funded by the Department of Health and deal with the local college, ensuring that prisoners are on training courses. The people who do this work must have a joined-up understanding of what needs to be done, otherwise we would not work with them.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Will he give me an assurance that those who will now be responsible for rehabilitation will give high priority to getting prisoners working while they are serving their sentences and into jobs when they have completed their sentences?
I intend to continue the work done by my predecessor, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe, on increasing the amount of work done in prisons. He has done good work in extending that already and it is particularly important that that work continues after prison. That was why my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt) and I worked hard to ensure that prisoners who came out of jail entered the Work programme on day one and started to get back-to-work support straight away. I want to see an integration of support that not only delivers the life management and mentoring I have discussed today but ensures that we provide proper back-to-work support for offenders alongside that, as that is the best way of stopping them reoffending.
During his statement, the Secretary of State said that sometimes we must believe that something will work rather than having a pilot. That same Secretary of State believes that we should drastically increase electronic tagging, despite his own impact assessment saying that that will have no impact on reoffending. Should we take the consultation seriously?
I would simply invite the right hon. Gentleman to visit his own probation trust in Wales, which is one of the trusts trialling GPS tagging. I can see real benefits in that tagging. We are considering it and we are recontracting tagging contracts at the moment. I think that GPS tagging offers a new dimension for our community justice system that will help sometimes to protect offenders and sometimes to deal with offenders who are doing things that they should not be doing.
Does the Justice Secretary agree that it is simply astonishing that there has not been rehabilitation support for the roughly 50,000 a year whose sentences are less than 12 months? They have a reoffending rate of about 60% and I congratulate him on the fact that this Government will finally address the issue, helping them back into society and reducing reoffending.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. It is baffling that over all the years of plenty for which Labour was in power, this is something Labour never did. We have an extraordinary situation with thousands and thousands of offenders who leave prison with £46 in their pocket and nothing else, and with no support, and a huge proportion of them reoffend. I am determined to change that.
The Government talk a lot about evidence-based policy making. Will the Secretary of State tell me why we are not having pilots to see whether the reform will work?
I simply invite the hon. Lady to look at the work done in Peterborough and by voluntary sector organisations to mentor offenders. Sometimes when we look at something, we can say, “That is the right thing to do.” That is what we are doing.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to drug treatment. Does he share my concern that, in the past 10 years, there has been a 165% increase in methadone maintenance prescriptions in prisons but a 30% reduction in detoxification procedures? Will he commit today to making rehabilitation and recovery a key and central part of his plans?
I absolutely give that commitment. One problem has been that if prisoners who are in prison for a short time have no support after they leave, all prisons can do while they are inside is to stabilise the situation. When there is through-the-gate rehabilitation, with somebody waiting to ensure that rehab continues in the community, we have a much better chance of addressing the issues to which my hon. Friend refers.
The probation service is staffed by highly qualified, professional, extremely dedicated and hard-working people. Medium-risk cases can be complex and serious in their consequences. The public will be concerned that the same levels of qualification and professionalism should apply to supervision. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the same level of qualifications and experience will apply to probation officers in the voluntary and private sectors?
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman quite understands what we are trying to achieve. We need the qualifications and experience to protect the public from harm, but in my view the former offender turned good—the former gang member gone straight—is the best way of making sure that a young person coming out of jail does not go back to the same ways. This is about getting a mix of high qualifications, of the kind we find in our public probation service, in people who have turned away from crime and who are helping those who might end up in a place where they once were.
I draw the House’s attention to my historic interest in social investment.
I welcome the opportunity for charities and social enterprises to get more involved in this area. Payment by results is very hard on working capital. Will the Secretary of State outline what his Department is doing to increase access to finance for charities and social enterprises—for example, the nascent social impact bond sector?
Let me start by saying that I do not expect this to be a 100% payment-by-results contract. There is a need to enforce orders of the court, so I do not expect to be able to put 100% of the fees that we pay on a payment-by-results outcome basis. However, I do want providers to be at risk; I want them to have their money on the table to deliver excellence for us, but I absolutely accept my hon. Friend’s point. That approach will make the cash flow situation less challenging than it would be in a 100% situation.
I have already held and will continue to hold meetings with people in the social investment sector to encourage them to look at the measure as a real opportunity. This is the kind of area in which social investment in this country should be involved. There is a clear public benefit and the possibility of earning a return. I absolutely hope and believe that our social investment sector will row in behind it.
The Secretary of State was explicit in saying that we could not afford not to do this. Can he be equally explicit about the primary focus of the consultation exercise? Is the measure about a reduction in reoffending or a reduction in expenditure?
This is absolutely about a reduction in reoffending. I have believed for a while that we should carry out this measure. I was particularly pleased when the Prime Minister invited me to take my current position. I absolutely believe that I should try to lead with the reform, and the Prime Minister is absolutely behind it. As the hon. Gentleman will know, in some parts of the United Kingdom, such matters are devolved; I hope that we are setting an example that others will choose to follow.
I thank my right hon. Friend for fulfilling another manifesto promise in this rehabilitation revolution. Will we be following the great model of the National Grid young offender programme, which moves people into work? Its reoffending rates are in single digits, in contrast to the unacceptable rates nationally. Can we follow through with that model and replicate it across the country, so that we have a conveyer belt not into crime but into employment?
I pay tribute to the work done not only by National Grid but many other companies in this area. I have visited the Timpson’s workshop, which involves the father of the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson). It is a first-class facility in Liverpool jail of the kind that I would like to see more of. The more that we can engage the private sector in helping offenders make the transition from prison into employment, the better. I pay tribute to all those organisations, and particularly National Grid.
I strongly welcome the Secretary of State’s decision to look at the gap between a person leaving through the prison gate and finally being picked up by the authorities, and to close that gap; it is a key vulnerability when it comes to reoffending. Will he also look downstream at creating programmes that will help social and emotional capability to be developed within prisons before people are released? As he has converted to co-operatives, will he extend the Whitehall co-operative to health and education, so that offending behaviours are addressed way earlier and potential offenders do not go to prison in the first place?
The latter point is important, and I give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. I pay tribute to his work in establishing the Early Intervention Foundation. The way in which he works across the House is a good example of Parliament setting aside politics and coming together in the interests of the country. I assure him that we will continue to look for different ways of working.
I see social challenges as a jigsaw puzzle. We are reforming welfare and education, and we have the troubled families programme and an increased focus on early intervention. Today I am trying to put in another piece of that jigsaw. The hon. Gentleman and I know that the problems will not be solved overnight, but if we do not move things in the right direction, we will never solve them. I hope and believe that the measure is one part of doing that.
Following on from the question asked by the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen), we should change the attitude towards reoffending while offenders are in prison. Should we not have modern and efficient prisons rather than Victorian ones? Would it not be a good idea to reopen Wellingborough prison—a modern prison and the third cheapest in the country to run?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on continuing to be a first-rate advocate for his constituency. He knows that my strategy is to modernise the prison estate as fast as resources allow; it is clearly both cheaper and better if prisoners are in more modern prisons. I will have more to say about that as time goes by. We have had extensive discussions about Wellingborough prison and its site. My answer is never say never, but he will know the nature of the challenges that we face and how we are trying to address them.
One of the busiest places in prison is the gym. I hope that the Secretary of State will look at how sports can help to reduce reoffending. Will he look at the boxing project in Doncaster prison? It teaches offenders to get involved in boxing and uses boxing coaches. Unfortunately, it has had to be stopped because of a change in the guidelines on boxing in prisons. I understand some of the problems, but the scheme is great and people get jobs at the end of the course.
I can give an assurance to the hon. Gentleman. I am aware of the project to which he refers. I have seen a number of projects around the country in which boxing is used as a way of engaging young people. I have no problem with that happening in our prisons. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Kenilworth and Southam is writing to the hon. Gentleman to say that we are happy for the project to go ahead; our only caveat relates to violent offenders. We are happy to see the project continue as a way of engaging non-violent offenders.
I warmly congratulate the Justice Secretary on having the vision to have every offender met at the prison gates with somewhere to live and a proper package of support. There was certainly a pilot under the last Government—giving offenders £46 and little else. We have seen where that ended up.
Will the Secretary of State outline the number of offenders who have problems with alcohol? Will he reassure me that alcohol will be given the same priority as drugs as offenders leave prison?
About three quarters of prisoners have an addiction problem, a mental health problem or both. About half of prisoners have had some form of addiction problem. That is a real challenge, which colleagues at the Home Office are looking at closely as well. There are new mechanisms to monitor and help and support those with alcohol problems. I accept that it is a real issue, which I hope and expect mentors working with prisoners to address if they work with people with an addiction challenge.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on the consultation. As one who in a previous life spent four years as Roy Hattersley’s deputy working on our party’s policy in this area, I can say that most Governments have failed to get the issue right. However, I did learn at that time that we must pay careful attention to how many people we put in prison and what we do with people in prison—education and skills training is still absolutely pathetic. Lastly, when a prisoner comes out, he needs the full package of support—housing, education, a job and everything else. Highly skilled people are needed to help make that happen.
I absolutely agree. We are doing this through a consultation document rather than simply arriving with a final blueprint—I am setting a direction of travel but I am not saying that every detail is finalised—to offer people in this House and outside an opportunity to say, “You want to do that, but if you tweak this a bit it might be better.” I hope that over the next two or three months we can look at that feedback, digest it, and help to hone the final package in a way that gives us the maximum opportunity of working with and using the expertise of people such as the hon. Gentleman who have been here and done this.
Order. I am keen to accommodate the extensive interest in this important statement, but I remind the House that this is an Opposition day with significantly subscribed debates to follow. Therefore, if I am to succeed in my mission to accommodate colleagues I require their help in the form of succinct questions, an object lesson in which will now be provided, I feel sure, by Mr Philip Davies.
I warmly support the thrust of my right hon. Friend’s proposals, but the thorny issue is about what constitutes a successful outcome on payment by results. I have met people in the probation service who think that reducing reoffending from 10 burglaries a month to two is a success. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that that will not be considered a success and that only no reoffending will be considered a successful outcome?
I can give my hon. Friend an assurance that I will not be rewarding people for someone burgling a few houses rather than a lot of houses.
The moment at which the probation service has been commended for its effective performance is an odd one for the Secretary of State to choose to put his foot on the accelerator. What is his estimate of the number of probation officers who will be made redundant, what is the anticipated cost of that, and does he have an agreed budget for it from the Treasury?
I do not expect this to lead to wholesale redundancies in the probation service. It certainly means a new world for many people in the probation service in being part of the new organisations, new social enterprises and new consortia that will deliver the services. Yes, of course there will be some changes, but this does not involve, suddenly and instantly, mass redundancies in the probation service—that would not be right.
Of the 50,000 prisoners on short-term sentences who are released each year, a growing proportion are EU and other foreign nationals. These people do not deserve rehabilitation; they deserve deportation. Will my right hon. Friend dig deep within the security provisions of the EU free movement directive to ensure that if any EU national commits an imprisonable offence in this country, of whatever sentence length, they are deported on release and barred from returning to this country?
I agree with every single word that my hon. Friend said. We have far too many foreign national prisoners in our jails. The challenge of returning them, of course, is that there has to be somebody willing to take them at the other end—I am not willing simply to release criminals on to the streets. I absolutely agree that we need to be able to return prisoners as quickly as possible. I intend to do everything I can to use the prisoner transfer agreement, which more and more countries are now ratifying, as much as possible to return offenders to other countries, and to do everything I can, with my hon. Friends in the Home Office, to make sure that they do not come back.
The practical effect of the Work programme in Wrexham is that local charitable organisations have been excluded from providing services, and some of them have closed. Will the Secretary of State impose a contractual condition that local charitable organisations should be involved in the provision of services for the new scheme?
It depends on what works. There are very good charities delivering excellent services for this country. There are charities that do good and noble work but are less good at the jobs they do. What matters to me is that we have the organisations that do the best job. In the Work programme we will find excellent organisations in the charitable sector doing first-rate work and excellent private organisations doing first-rate work, and I would like to have the best of both.
I strongly welcome what the Secretary of State has said. Will he look not only at the amount of money that prisoners get on release but the monetary form in which it is given to them? I am concerned that many prisoners are given the money in cash form and go immediately to the nearest town to use it to purchase inappropriate goods such as alcohol that damage the essential stability of their first 48 hours post-release when they need to set a good pattern of behaviour.
Absolutely. Another problem in the system was that up until a few months ago prisoners could not even sign on for benefits for a week after release, which left a huge hole in their finances and caused a lot of reoffending. I addressed that when I was a Minister in the Department for Work and Pensions. We have to make sure that the environment is right when prisoners are released. If they are met by a mentor at the gate who then sorts out their lives, showing them where they are going to live and making sure that they are signed on to benefits, I hope that their time to go down the pub will be much diminished.
Changing human behaviour is a complex business, and I have been very impressed by the work going on across agencies in the Scunthorpe area to reduce reoffending, particularly when it is related to alcohol and drugs misuse. Changing what is going on puts at risk those sorts of activities. Why is the Secretary of State allowing only six weeks for this consultation when it is so important to get it right?
This is an iterative process. We have a formal consultation period of six weeks. We carried out a consultation on the future of probation last year, and this is an updated consultation. We are going to carry on listening to Members across the House. It will take us a few more months to hone and finalise our final package, and we will look at what works. If the best idea comes in half an hour before we finalise it, then that is fine. I want to make sure that what we have is what works.
While I recognise that the Secretary of State’s proposals seek to ensure that ex-prisoners make a success of their lives once they are released, I want to return to the matter of those who enter prison with a drug problem. Has he managed to call a complete halt to the practice of retoxifying prisoners prior to release when the Prison Service has taken the trouble to detoxify them at the beginning of their sentences?
We will do everything we can to do that. The Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam, is looking very hard at the whole issue of how we manage drugs in prisons and the nature of such rehabilitation. As a result of these reforms, I hope that we will end up not only dealing with the question of retoxification but identifying problems, starting rehab in prison and continuing it post-prison, and getting prisoners off drugs altogether.
Some parallels have been drawn between this plan and the Work programme. One of the problems with the Work programme is that minimal information is available from some of the private providers, and they are not subject to freedom of information requests. How will this be different?
I am working on reforms to FOI at the moment. We will try to be as transparent as possible. The hon. Lady has to remember, although she is not guilty of this, that over the past couple of years I have been regularly attacked by Labour Members about the use of national statistics. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot demand the information in advance and then want me to conform to national statistics rules. We will publish data as soon as we are able to do so, under the guidance of our statisticians, and we will be as transparent as possible over all this.
In welcoming this statement, may I ask the Secretary of State to expand on one aspect of it? He said, “Services will be commissioned nationally”, but he also said that he is committed to ensuring that the new system will make the best use of local expertise. In an area such as West Mercia, where our probation service has a strong record of working with the voluntary sector, how can we ensure that the existing relationships are expanded and improved on rather than discarded and replaced?
One of the things I intend to write into the tender documents when the time comes is a requirement for the bidder to demonstrate that they are capable of maintaining and developing these local partnerships, which are crucial. In an area such as integrated offender management, for example, it is essential to maintain those close links. The point made in the document is that it is not practical to commission a contract of this kind on a fragmented basis. Trying to have 15, 20 or 30 small payment-by-results contracts around the country, locally commissioned, would be unbelievably complex and take an inordinate amount of time to administer, and the expertise is not really there to deliver that. We will commission nationally but the delivery will be as local as possible.
This statement seems to be driven more by extremist right-wing ideology than by any empirical evidence, because the Secretary of State acknowledged that the public sector is best placed to deliver public safety. Is he planning to allow the police to share intelligence with G4S and other private providers?
I know that the Labour party is going through an identity crisis at the moment, and the hon. Gentleman may be in the wrong party, but if I am not mistaken the Peterborough pilot was started by Labour and the legislation that allows me to do this was passed by Labour, so does he support what his party did, or not?
I welcome the extension of rehabilitation to more offenders. As my right hon. Friend rightly said, a place to live on release is vital. Will capital funding be available to assist in the development of such, sometimes specialist, housing?
This is an important issue that was raised with me this morning by the probation trust chairs. Of course, we provide a number of specialist accommodation blocks already. As part of the work we do over the next two or three months, we need to look at exactly how we ensure that the right vehicles are available to address accommodation needs. I want to see what I saw this morning at St Giles Trust, which has a small team of professionals who are very good at finding young people who are out of prison somewhere to live and stabilising their lives.
I want to press the Justice Secretary on something. On his watch, the Government have cancelled the probation service’s payment-by-results pilots before we have heard the evidence. Is not risk to the public increased when we do not have the results of those pilots?
I sat through a decade in opposition watching the previous Government so often piloting something, with nothing ever happening. The number of pilots that the Labour Government went through in office was endless. There is something in the work that is being done in Peterborough and the voluntary sector that I want to capture now, not in a decade’s time.
In my constituency, Royal British Legion Industries is doing a great job in getting people back into employment through the Work programme. Does the Secretary of State envisage organisations such as RBLI helping, in particular, ex-service personnel who are former offenders to be rehabilitated?
I absolutely hope that RBLI will be one of the organisations that will come forward. It is an example of practical delivery of the Work programme by the voluntary sector on the ground, contrary to what we sometimes hear. There is a particular challenge in dealing with the number of ex-service people in our prisons. The more expertise we can bring to bear on that, the better.
The Secretary of State mentioned in passing the importance of mental health in prison and the number of prisoners who suffer from mental health problems. I am sure that he understands the need for significant support, both in prison and after, in reducing reoffending among that group. Will he confirm that counselling and other services for those with mental health problems will get the priority they need, both in prison and after, as a result of these changes?
The support in prisons for mental health is substantially provided by the national health service. We have to make sure that what starts in prison carries on after prison, but one of the flaws in the current system is that it does not work very well in that respect. I hope that, by creating a service that is much more through the gate and by addressing the life-management of offenders as they move through prison and afterwards, there will be continuity in the delivery of those services and that a mentor will look three months ahead and say, “Prisoner X is coming out and needs to carry on with their counselling service. I will make sure that happens.”
The Secretary of State will be aware that in 2010 and 2012 only 56% of those on drug treatment and testing orders completed them. Will he clarify and confirm what further steps will be taken to ensure that those who are on such orders fully complete them?
I intend to legislate in the near future to ensure that, when we do this, the court has the power to require people who have short sentences to go through rehabilitation programmes. It is important that we have a system whereby if someone who has a drug problem has a short sentence and is released from jail having started rehab there, that rehab will carry on and they will be required to do it. That will be the case.
The Justice Secretary will be well aware of the special experiences and needs of women in the criminal justice system. There are already some excellent programmes supporting women offenders, such as the women matter programme in Greater Manchester. Will the Justice Secretary assure me that he will use the consultation period to reflect carefully on how a payment-by-results method will need to be adapted to meet the particular needs of women offenders?
I can give the hon. Lady that assurance. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), who has responsibility for women in prisons, and I are looking at the issue. There are different challenges for adult males, young people and women in prisons, and we need to be careful and ensure that we approach each of those groups with an appropriate understanding of the different circumstances in which they find themselves.
The Justice Secretary has rightly said that the failure to divert people away from crime is having a wide impact and he has mentioned life management. Will he confirm that he recognises that the transformative impact that we could have includes focusing on early years work at primary school, and even before that, with professionals such as speech and language therapists and, probably even more importantly, good parenting specialists?
I absolutely accept that. That is why I said that I see meeting the social challenge we face as a jigsaw puzzle. Different pieces, whether they be intervention to work with troubled families, health visitors in the home, guidance for young lone parents or helping offenders who are long-term unemployed, are all part of a broad-ranging challenge that I believe will, as time goes by, deliver real change in our society.
Northamptonshire has the lowest reoffending rate in the country, despite the chaotic circumstances that prevail. That is a tribute to the local probation officers in my area. They are concerned that this ideological move is being rushed through without proper thought for the circumstances and that it has not been properly tried, tested or evidenced. The real concern is that the Justice Secretary is not like a shopkeeper gambling on a new line of stock; he is dealing with public protection. What is his response to the comments of Harry Fletcher of the National Association of Probation Officers, who says that this move will compromise public protection?
I do not agree with Harry Fletcher. I am making sure that, when it comes to risk of harm to the public, that remains in the public sector and will continue to do so.
I pay tribute to the probation service for its work in my constituency, a very rural and sparsely populated area. What thought has the Secretary of State given to how these proposals will be carried out in such areas, which lack the presence of private sector and charitable organisations with the necessary skills to carry out rehabilitation?
The probation service in Wales has been one of the most innovative in doing this and has, in fact, in the past few months produced a blueprint on how this could happen in Wales, following a similar model to the one I have set out today. I fully expect to see members of the Wales probation team at the forefront of creating either mutuals or co-operatives to deliver the services. I pay tribute to the Wales probation trust, which is imaginative and innovative and has some great ideas to do precisely what my hon. Friend is talking about in difficult areas where communities in rural areas are spread out.
I warmly welcome the Lord Chancellor’s statement. Often, small and medium-sized enterprises and voluntary providers are put off applying for Government contracts because of the complexity of the process involved. May I urge my right hon. Friend to make the application process to run probation services as straightforward as possible in order to maximise the number of applicants?
I can give that assurance. One of the things that I have learned from the contracting of the Work programme is to try to make the process as simple as possible for small organisations. I am not sure that we did it as effectively as we could have then, but we will certainly do so this time.
Along with many other Members, I greatly welcome the statement. Will my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor join me in commending the governor of HMP Shrewsbury, Mr Gerry Hendry, on giving the very highest priority to finding places for prisoners on release to live and work? He has demonstrated clearly that rehabilitation works, because reoffending has fallen greatly.
I indeed pay tribute to the work not just there, but across the prison service. We have some first-rate professionals in the probation service who have a strong future in delivering support to offenders in our communities, whether as part of a high-quality, specialist public sector probation service or, indeed, as part of one of the new generation of organisations.
The Labour party suggests that there is no evidence on mentoring. I spent the past 12 months studying that particular issue for my book, “Doing Time”, which, amazingly, is still available in shops. The fact of the matter is that the Labour party introduced custody plus in 2004 to 2007 on this exact issue, but it did not follow it through. It is this coalition that has the guts and determination to address the crucial bridge between prison and release.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I pay tribute to him for the work he has done. There is enormous expertise in this field in the House and I hope that all Members will feel able to take part in the consultation. The Labour party introduced power after power, scheme after scheme and pilot after pilot, often for PR purposes, but seldom did anything.
The Lord Chancellor rightly reminded us in his statement that the criminal justice system must both punish offenders and seek to rehabilitate them, but will he acknowledge that many of our constituents doubt that we have got the balance right? Will he reassure us, and is he confident, that his proposals will achieve outcomes that will increase public confidence?
I hope and believe so. The reality is that, whether we are the hardest hard-liner or the softest liberal on crime, we all have an interest in preventing reoffending. I understand where my hon. Friend and his constituents are coming from. That is why we have taken steps such as increasing the protection that householders receive if they meet an intruder in their home, introducing a mandatory life sentence for a second-time serious sexual or violent offender, and introducing a mandatory punishment to every community sentence. We will take further measures that will restore and rebuild the public confidence in the criminal justice system that was so lacking when we inherited it.
I thank the Secretary of State and other colleagues for their succinctness, which enabled 45 Back Benchers to question him in 41 minutes of exclusively Back-Bench time.