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Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 23 June 2015

May I take this opportunity to welcome the hon. Lady? Edmonton is a part of the world I know extremely well: it is where I grew up and did my early schooling, in Montagu Road. We have opened up the delivery of rehabilitation services through a diverse range of public, private and voluntary sector providers, who are providing excellent new facilities so that we can have fewer people reoffending.

Half of the prisons inspected by Ofsted in 2013 and 2014 were judged either to require improvement or as inadequate for learning and skills. Purposeful activity for adult male prisoners has plummeted in the past few years. Does the Minister agree that budget cuts are reducing opportunities for rehabilitation?

No I do not. We inherited a really difficult situation with the economy when we came to power, but the way we have reorganised rehabilitation and training is vitally important. The key to rehabilitation is to ensure that people do not reoffend, and education and training are often the best ways of giving them an opportunity in life.

In the last Parliament, I visited a prison in Denmark with the Justice Select Committee. One of the biggest contributors to preventing the prisoners from reoffending was their ability to cook their own food. Does the Minister agree that that ability is not a reward for good behaviour but an essential part of dealing with reoffending?

I am not the prisons Minister but I have visited many prisons, not least the ones on the edge of my own constituency, and I have seen that happening in our own prisons. Giving people life skills is vital, as is giving them somewhere to live when they come out.

Does the Minister agree that we need to retain the Human Rights Act as part of a programme established to deal with reoffending, in order to ensure that proper standards of human rights are adhered to in prisons?

This country has led on human rights for centuries, and it will be no different when we introduce the legislation to ensure that this Parliament decides exactly what goes on, rather than a foreign court.

Schemes such as that offered by National Grid get young offenders into a job and a routine and back on the right path. What assessment has the Minister made of such opportunities for the future?

I reiterate what the Secretary of State said earlier. Companies such as National Grid, Timpson and Greggs are doing a wonderful job for the community as well as for the individuals involved. Getting people back into work is by far the best way of giving them the self-esteem that they need and ensuring that they do not commit crimes.

Reconviction rates double for prisoners who report using drugs in the four weeks before custody. If the Minister and his many colleagues do just one thing, will they please ensure that they reduce access to drugs in prison?

I was responsible for drugs while I was at the Home Office as well, and I shall be responsible for taking the relevant legislation through the House when it arrives here from the other place. This matter is taken enormously seriously, and I am sure that the prisons Minister is doing everything he possibly can to ensure that drugs do not get into our prisons.

I am glad to hear that the Minister is taking the matter seriously—and so he should—but he might want to look at what is actually happening on the ground. Just this morning, the chief inspector of prisons published a report on Pentonville prison in which, among his many criticisms, he observed that there was no detailed drug supply strategy. How many other prisons do not have a detailed drug supply strategy?

I shall write to the hon. Lady on the exact question she has asked. The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 has given prisons additional powers to test specifically for controlled drugs. I take this seriously, and I have stood outside prisons on patrol with the police and seen individuals pinging drugs across the fences. That is the sort of thing we need to address, making sure those people get penalised exactly like those who are taking the drugs.