My Lords, I thank Simon Fell, MP for Barrow and Furness, for his wonderful work on getting the Bill off the ground.
What is so interesting about the Bill is that we invest a vast amount of money in putting people in prison and if, at the end of that period, they are released on a Friday and have no family support, friendships or relationships and cannot go to Citizens Advice, the local authority or any of the other support services, they often fall homeless over the weekend. We know that homeless people who have been let out of prison have the temptation and possibility of falling back into the crisis of poverty and the crisis of crime.
Therefore, I am pleased that we are making this wonderful little nugget of change to help us consider that there are a lot of other things to do. Is it not wonderful that we can say, “If we make that investment in somebody’s life, let’s make sure that, when they get out, they don’t fall back into grief”? I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bird, described the Bill as a “nugget of change”; that is a modest thing for him to say.
Although the scope of the Bill is narrow and specific, it will make demonstrable change. There have been attempts to make this change in other, larger Bills in the past, which have fallen by the wayside, so I congratulate him, as a relatively new Member of this House, on getting through this significant addition to the way we manage people who come out of prison. As he said, this is a very vulnerable group of people who are very likely to reoffend, particularly if they are released on a Friday, so every step, however little, matters to try to reduce reoffending. I congratulate the noble Lord.
My Lords, I too add my thanks and congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for persevering in taking this Bill through the House and for continuing the good work of the honourable Member for Barrow and Furness, Mr Simon Fell, in the other place.
This is a simple yet effective Bill that will play an important role in supporting the Government’s drive to reduce reoffending and protect the public. It will ensure that custody leavers have a better chance to access the support they need to reintegrate into the community and turn their backs on a life of crime. The Bill achieves that by enabling the offender’s release date, where it would have fallen on a Friday or the day before a public or bank holiday, to be brought forward by up to two eligible days, so that they will be released earlier in the week. Offenders with resettlement needs will no longer need to try to access these services, under what may well be very challenging circumstances, as the weekend begins and services and support stop or fade away.
The Bill applies to both adults and children sentenced to detention. It will ensure that the relevant release provisions exist and apply in all youth settings, including the recently created secure 16-to-19 schools.
I am very grateful to the Members, Lords and officials who have worked so diligently to bring forward the Bill, and to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and his colleagues for their support and encouragement. I am once again very pleased to reiterate the Government’s support, and very much look forward to seeing the Bill on the statute book.