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Probation Reforms

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 12 November 2013

2. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of his planned probation reforms on the rate of reoffending. (901029)

Extending statutory supervision and rehabilitation to every offender released from custody, introducing an unprecedented nationwide through-the-gate prison service, and bringing in innovation of a diverse range of providers will help to reduce stubbornly high and rising reoffending rates.

The Secretary of State will know that South Yorkshire probation trust is a high-performing organisation that has delivered five years of significant reductions in reoffending against predicted rates. Its performance is described as excellent by his Department. He also knows that his Department’s internal risk register warns that there is a more than 80% chance that his proposals to privatise the probation service will lead to an unacceptable drop in operational performance. Will he recognise the risk, face the facts, put public safety first and think again?

The real risk would be not to accept the fact that reoffending is rising in this country, and that each year thousands of people are victims of crime committed by people who leave prison unsupervised and unguided. That is what this Government intend to change.

Will the Minister look carefully at the evidence session that the Justice Committee held this morning and some of the practical difficulties that were raised there for achieving the objectives of his programme? Will he look with similar care at any recommendations that the Committee eventually makes, as the Department has clearly done in respect of our report on older prisoners, to which he responded today?

I can happily give my right hon. Friend that assurance. The reason that we have built into our plans a dry run-in period in the public sector of more than six months after the initial structural changes have taken place is precisely because we recognise the need to ensure that the transition is smooth and extended and that we iron out any wrinkles. I will look carefully at the evidence session and I look forward to giving evidence to his Committee and discussing these matters in greater depth.

I am a little hurt, Mr Speaker, that you have not seen fit to mention my moustache, although it has been there a while.

On a very serious point, the much-heralded Peterborough pilot has delivered a 6% cut in reoffending, whereas the integrated offender management project in Surrey and Sussex probation trust has achieved a 55% cut in reoffending. Does such evidence have no relevance to the right hon. Gentleman?

The right hon. Gentleman will have to extend his moustache somewhat sideways if we are to give him credit in Movember.

If the right hon. Gentleman looks at what has been achieved at Peterborough, he will see that the most recent figures published two weeks ago showed a 20% reduction in the number of crimes committed by that cohort, by comparison with a comparable cohort elsewhere, that the Peterborough pilot is making genuine progress, and that the integrated offender management schemes around the country are also making good progress. It is not an either/or. Our plans do not exclude—indeed, will actively encourage—the continuation of such schemes, but the reality is that reoffending is still rising.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the current probation system is not perfect, which is the picture being painted by the Opposition? In that light, will he release the internal inquiry report by the probation service into the case of Stephen Ayre who, after leaving prison, abducted and raped a 10-year-old boy in my constituency as a result of some appalling failures both in the parole system and in the probation system?

In normal circumstances in a serious further offence the family will see the report that is carried out. I will happily meet my hon. Friend to discuss the issue. He rightly highlights the very real challenge we face with reoffending in this country, because when it does take place, families are the victims of what happens and sometimes go through terrible circumstances. Some 3,000 very serious crimes committed by offenders who get no supervision is something that we all need to stop.