Justice Questions: Early Release Scheme

Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): Can the Minister confirm that on four occasions-in 1984, 1987, 1991 and 1996-the previous Conservative Government released prisoners earlier and with far fewer safeguards? Let me also ask him about the early release of prisoners convicted of violent offences. He mentioned that those serving an IPP sentence will be released early. Exactly how many of the 6,000 prisoners currently serving an IPP sentence will be released early, and what criteria will be used?

Nick Herbert: I am happy to confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that none will be released early and all will continue to be risk-assessed.

Sadiq Khan: Let me ask the Minister to answer this question accurately then. Can he confirm that, as a direct consequence of the cuts that his Department has accepted from the Treasury, there are now fewer programmes for those on an IPP sentence, which means a longer delay before they go on a programme? Can he also confirm that the consequence of the cuts in front-line probation and prison officers will be less rehabilitation while in prison, and that another consequence of the cuts that he has accepted will be cuts to the Parole Board, which will mean a double whammy of more prisoners being released prematurely and less rehabilitation in prison?

Nick Herbert: The right hon. Gentleman has to get his attack right. One moment he seemed to be saying that we were about to release too many IPP prisoners; now he seems to be saying that we will release too few. Which is it? The fact is that there has been a growth in the number of IPP prisoners. Everybody accepts that IPP sentences have become de facto life sentences and that we have to address that, but there will continue to be a proper risk-assessment of any prisoner released from an indeterminate public protection sentence.


Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): In this Saturday's excellent Mary Riddell interview in The Daily Telegraph, the Lord Chancellor said:

"I slightly expect that some crimes will go up".

I remind the House that in times of both growth and recession between 1997 and 2010 the level of crime consistently went down. I know that he is neither sloppy nor complacent, so can he tell the House what crimes he thinks will go up, why he thinks they will go up and what he is going to do about it?

Mr Kenneth Clarke: During the period of the Labour Government, to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, acquisitive crimes against property fell particularly sharply. That was because of the growth of the economy and the boom, among other matters; these things are not too simple. The biggest fall in crime achieved when Labour was in office was on vehicle crimes, because the vehicle manufacturers greatly improved the security of the vehicles and made this more difficult. In this contentious and not simple area of what causes crime and what does not, I have always been inclined to believe that in times of recession the level of crime against property is likely to rise and in times of growth it tends to fall. That is why I have to be prepared to accommodate however many people are sent to us by the courts. What we are doing about it is making what I hope is a more effective system of preventing crime and of diverting people out of crime but punishing severely those who commit it.


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