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Crime Reduction (Ex-prisoners)

Volume 589: debated on Tuesday 16 December 2014

Despite investment, reoffending rates remain stubbornly high. We are fundamentally reforming rehabilitation services by opening up the market to new providers and incentivising them to focus relentlessly on reducing reoffending. For the first time in recent history virtually every offender released from custody will receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation and mentoring in the community. We remain on track to deliver these key reforms early in the new year.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Notwithstanding the fact that I hope he would agree with my constituents that there are cases where offenders should remain in prison for considerably longer, what assessments has he made of the effect of extending supervision to the group of offenders who leave prison having served less than 12 months?

As was said earlier, this is the key part of the reform we are pushing through. There was a group of people who were literally left to walk the streets with £46 in their pockets, and not surprisingly the majority of them reoffended very quickly. From 2015 all those people will receive a 12-month period of mentoring, support and supervision after prison to try to turn their lives around, and we know from trials in different parts of the country that this can make a real difference to the level of reoffending.

Probation works best when the service has close relationships with prisons, councils and others, but under the Justice Secretary’s reforms is there not the real risk that police intelligence will not be shared with the new companies? Not only will that put at risk the tackling of reoffending, but it also runs the risk of jeopardising public safety.

The reason that that is simply not true is that, under the last Labour Government, we had examples of police control rooms being contracted out to private organisations. If the police are happy to share control room data with private organisations, there is no earthly reason to believe that they will not work together with providers of all backgrounds on the rehabilitation of offenders.

One in seven offences are committed by foreigners, and many of those foreigners are ex-convicts from foreign countries. What is my right hon. Friend doing to ensure that only people with good records can come into our country?

Of course, this is predominantly a matter for the Home Office, but I can say that we are working closely with the Home Office. I stand second to no one in desiring to see foreign national offenders moved out of this country. I hope very much that the European prisoner transfer agreement, as it comes on stream and is completed by 2016, will make a real difference to ensuring that offenders in prisons in this country are able to be returned to their home country as quickly as possible.

23. Given the amount of upheaval in probation caused by the Government’s reckless privatisation, I echo colleagues in saying that we need a strong, independent chief inspector in order to reduce reoffending by ex-prisoners. How can the current postholder possibly fulfil his duties, given his links to winning bidders? Why did the Justice Secretary appoint him, given that these links were known to him at the time? (906657)

Let us be clear: I regard the current chief inspector as a man of great integrity and great skill, who has been doing a very good job for the past few months. He was selected on merit by my Department and his appointment was approved by the Justice Committee. The fact that an issue has now arisen with the very recent appointment of a member of his family to a senior position in one of the providers clearly has to be addressed. It will be addressed sensitively and I will report to the House when it is appropriate to do so.

In order to prevent foreign national offenders from committing further crimes in this country, what steps are being taken together with the Home Office to ban them from returning to the United Kingdom once they are repatriated?

The deportation process should mean that these people are not entitled to re-enter the UK. Of course, the increased sharing of data between European police forces is one way of ensuring that we know who they are before they try to enter the country and that they do not return. My hon. Friend and I share the same ambition of ensuring that people who have committed terrible crimes in other countries simply cannot come to live here.

The Lord Chancellor is correct in describing the chief inspector of probation as a man of great integrity, because his report yesterday contradicts somewhat the description of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme that the Lord Chancellor has just provided us with, even though the chief inspector’s wife runs half the service now. The chief inspector said that splitting the probation service in two has caused problems with process, communication and information sharing—I am not being funny, but some of us have been saying that for quite some time. Is it not now about time the Lord Chancellor woke up to the reality of his risky, shambolic privatisation?

I do wish the hon. Lady would get her facts right. She just said that the chief inspector’s wife is running half the service at the moment, but of course that is not true. The service remains, as of today, entirely within the public sector, and she might get her basic facts right. Had she read that report, she would have seen that the chief inspector identified a number of long-term systemic problems that predate any change we have put in place and were ensuring underperformance. He said that it was necessary to move to a steady state—in other words, to complete the reforms and get things bedded in for the long term—as quickly as possible.