Ministry of Justice Questions 31/01/2012

Nick takes Oral Questions in the House of Commons as Minister of State for Criminal Justice

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked-

Community Projects (Kettering)

1. Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): How many offenders served part or all of their sentence working on community projects in Kettering constituency in 2011; and for which organisations work was carried out. [92471]

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): Four hundred and five offenders completed all or some of their compulsory unpaid work or community payback in Kettering last year. Twelve organisations benefited, including the local wildlife trust, St Mary's church, Mind and the British Heart Foundation.

Mr Hollobone: It is clearly beneficial for offenders and the local community for offenders to do constructive work in the community, but will my right hon. Friend agree to visit Kettering with me to see some of those offenders in action so that we can really see whether they are putting their backs to the wheel and doing this work properly?

Nick Herbert: I am happy to accept my hon. Friend's invitation to visit Kettering and to see a scheme with him. It is important that community sentences are punitive and that they are properly enforced. We are increasing the maximum length of curfew requirements and making community payback more rigorous and demanding. We want to go further by seeing a clear punitive element in every sentence, and we are consulting about that.

Several hon. Members rose -

Mr Speaker: Order. This question is about Kettering, from which Carshalton and Wallington and Manchester are a long way away.

Greater Manchester Intensive Alternative to Custody Project 

18. Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Greater Manchester intensive alternative to custody project in reducing reoffending and the use of short-term prison sentences. [92490]

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): We are currently considering the feasibility of an evaluation of intensive alternative to custody projects by comparing reoffending rates with those for similar offenders receiving custodial sentences.

Paul Goggins: I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. As he knows, the Manchester project is aimed at 18 to 25-year-olds who would otherwise go to prison. Those offenders have a reoffending rate of 18%, whereas the rate for offenders of a similar age who go to prison, which costs 10 times more, is 58%. Will he bear that evidence in mind and, as a Minister who believes in payment by results, make sure that funding goes to such projects as a priority?

Nick Herbert: I accept the force of the right hon. Gentleman's comments and I have visited those responsible for running the scheme in Manchester as he knows-indeed, I think it was at his instigation. It is important that we evaluate these projects properly, and our general position is that we want to have more punitive community sentences, which are effective and combine rehabilitation with a punitive element. If possible, we want such schemes to be mainstreamed so that they can be taken beyond their pilots.

Mr Speaker: With reference to alternative to custody projects, Mr Paul Maynard.

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): Thank you Mr Speaker, and indeed it is. If we are to increase public confidence in more intensive forms of community sentencing, we clearly need to link them, as we have just heard, to evidence showing how they reduce reoffending. In the commendable analysis of the pilot in Manchester published in July 2011 by the Ministry of Justice, the difficulty of calculating reoffending statistics is made clear. Will the Minister reassure me that he will do all he can to square this circle so that we can persuade members of the public that this is the way forward?

Nick Herbert: Yes, my hon. Friend makes a good point. There have been difficulties, which is why we are assessing the feasibility of evaluation. We need the data for the reasons he gives: it is important that the public know how effective the disposals are and, in the future, that will be important for proposals on payment by results. Where they are successful and reduce reoffending, which we have had great difficulty delivering through short-term custodial sentences, such measures should be considered.

Topical Questions 

T9. [92504] Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): This splendid Conservative-led coalition Government have done much in the fight against human trafficking. The poor women who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and who are then rescued go into the national referral mechanism, but what happens to them after 45 days? Are they thrown out if they do not qualify?

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): No, I am happy to reassure my hon. Friend that that is certainly not the case. There is an ongoing process of assessment and support during the 45-day period, after which victims continue to receive support as necessary in Salvation Army outreach centres or from mainstream services. We are determined to improve the service provided to victims of these appalling crimes and have protected funding in order to do so.

Nick Herbert