Monday 2 February 2015
I am delighted to announce that I have now signed a commencement order that brought into force the remaining uncommenced provisions of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 (ORA) on 1 February 2015. This marks another significant step in implementing the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms which will reduce the stubbornly high rate of reoffending which has been far too high for far too long.
For the first time we will be giving virtually all offenders a proper chance at rehabilitation. The most significant change the ORA makes is to extend statutory supervision to the 45,000 offenders a year who are released from short prison sentences of less than 12 months, the majority of whom currently receive no statutory supervision after completing a custodial sentence. This group of offenders have the highest reoffending rates of any group: almost 60% of adult offenders released from short prison sentences in the year to March 2013 went on to reoffend within the next 12 months.
The changes the ORA makes mean that any offender whose offence was committed on or after 1 February, and who is sentenced to a custodial term of more than one day, will in the future receive at least 12 months of supervision and support after release.
The ORA also makes a number of changes to the sentencing and release framework set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, including expanded drug testing powers for offenders released from custody and the creation of a new rehabilitation activity requirement that can be imposed on offenders serving sentences in the community.
Along with the provisions of the ORA coming in to force, on 1 February the new providers have also taken ownership of, and begun running, the 21 community rehabilitation companies which will manage low and medium risk offenders.
In addition, I have published revised national standards for the management of offenders and national training guidelines in line with the requirements of the Offender Management Act 2007. The standards and guidelines apply to all providers of probation services engaged in the management of offenders and delivering the sentence of the court.
The standards set out the minimum requirements for the effective management of offenders subject to community and suspended sentence orders, supervision on licence and or the new post-sentence supervision period. I have placed a copy of these standards in the House Libraries.
A competent workforce to transform rehabilitation provides a set of guidelines for the qualifications, training and experience of officers involved in delivering probation services and is available on line at: http://www.parliament. uk/writtenstatements.
I wish to inform the House that Mr Paul McDowell has tendered his resignation from his post as chief inspector of probation.
As I discussed with the Justice Select Committee on 2 December and covered in subsequent correspondence with the Committee Chair, an issue arose about a potential perceived conflict of interest for Mr McDowell given his wife’s employment with Sodexo, and their role as a provider of probation services. I have considered carefully all of the potential mechanisms and systems that could be introduced and used to manage any actual or perceived conflict of interest. However Mr McDowell has decided that, in the circumstances, he will resign.
Throughout this process Mr McDowell has acted with utter transparency and professionalism. Indeed I must acknowledge Mr McDowell’s assured leadership and the grounded independence of his findings in relation to the inspectorate and the work he has done since his appointment.
I regret that circumstances have changed and are now such that we have reached this position. At time of his appointment Mr McDowell’s position was fully reasonable and the appropriate pre-appointment processes in place at that time were properly followed. The Justice Select Committee will be involved in the appointment of a permanent successor in the usual way.
Light Dues 2015-16
On 26 July 2010, the Government announced their intention to take determined action in support of the UK shipping industry by addressing the increasing cost of the marine aids to navigation service and providing long-term stability for light dues payers so they could plan budgets effectively [Official Report, Columns 75-76WS.]
Following the penny reduction in the light dues rate to 40p per net registered tonne in April 2014,1 am pleased to announce that the rate will be cut by a further penny, to 39p, on 1 April 2015.
Since 2010, considerable progress has been made on three fronts. First, the three general lighthouse authorities for the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland have exceeded their RPI-X efficiency targets, through working assets harder, adopting new technologies, and procuring services together to reduce net costs.
Secondly, their pension liabilities have been addressed with the transfer of the general lighthouse authorities’ pension schemes to the principal civil service pension scheme on 1 April 2014[Official Report, 6 March 2014, Columns 64-65WS.] Thirdly, as I announced on 16 October 2014, the work of the commissioners of Irish lights in the Republic of Ireland will be met fully from Irish sources as from 1 April 2015 [Official Report, Columns 48-49WS.] Both of these measures further reduce costs and remove sources of volatility from the general lighthouse fund.
The formation in 2010 of a joint strategic board to co-ordinate and direct work,
“to achieve maximum efficiencies and improvements in the delivery of aids to navigation”
has proved invaluable to these successes and I have asked the board to identify the scope for further gains that can be secured over the next five years.
In partnership with the general lighthouse authorities and the shipping industry, the Government have successfully resolved the problems that faced the general lighthouse fund in 2010. This has opened the way to sustainable reductions in UK light dues. This further reduction, to support the shipping industry, means that there has been a 19% real terms reduction in light dues since 2010.