Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading
Friday 2nd December 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act 2023 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Damian Hinds Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Damian Hinds)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell) on bringing forward this important Bill. It is a simple change, but the measure he has brought before the House today will, through its passage through this place, be a landmark reform. He spoke powerfully and made a very effective case by talking of real people and their case studies. He has been so effective that I have scored through large parts of my speech, in which I intended to illustrate a number of those points, so I thank him doubly. I also acknowledge and thank our hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) for the role that he has played in bringing the Bill to this place.

The Bill will ensure that those most at risk of reoffending will no longer need to be released on a Friday, or the day before a bank holiday. It will do so by providing the Secretary of State for Justice—in practice, the governor or director of a prison, or the appropriate equivalent officer in a youth establishment—with a discretionary power to bring forward the release date by up to two eligible working days. That will mean that certain offenders will no longer face the race against the clock that my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness so evocatively set out to find accommodation and access to medication and financial support before those services close for the weekend. That, of course, can be particularly problematic for those with multiple complex needs, such as drug dependency and mental health issues. He described it as a fleeting window of opportunity. I think that sets out the issue very well.

By removing the barriers that a Friday release can create, we can maintain public protection by ensuring custody leavers have a better chance to access the support they need to reintegrate and turn their backs on a life of crime. Ultimately, it will result in fewer victims and less crime. The Bill applies to both adults and children sentenced to detention. Despite the various safeguards and legal duties that exist for children leaving custody, it is still the case that being released on a Friday would mean going at least two days without meaningful contact with a supervising officer when they are at their most vulnerable.

I want to respond to the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi). It might come as a surprise to many to discover that Members, certainly those on the Government Benches, are only supposed to turn up in Parliament if they disagree with something, but she asked me to clarify the statistics on reoffending and I am pleased to be able to do so. This Government have made tangible progress in tackling the still huge £18 billion annual cost of reoffending and protecting the public. Data show that, over the past 10 years, the overall proven reoffending rate has decreased from 30.9% in 2009-10 to 25.6% in 2019-20. Of course, that is still too high and we must drive it down further by tackling the drivers of reoffending, strengthening the supervision and monitoring of offenders in the community and protecting the public from becoming victims.

The Government are, of course, investing substantial sums in doing so. It begins with helping prisoners to get off drugs, supporting them to maintain or rebuild family ties and providing quality education and training to get them job-ready for release. We know that getting prison leavers into jobs can reduce the chance of reoffending very significantly, with those who get jobs within a year of being released up to nine percentage points less likely to reoffend. This means that individuals can not only support themselves and their families, but start to repay society by contributing to our economy, which is another important reason to support my hon. Friend’s Bill. We want ex-offenders to get into the rhythm of job search straightaway, which will be much easier if prison leavers do not have to cram all their appointments, including their first visit to Jobcentre Plus, into a Friday afternoon.

I am pleased to say that the proportion of prison leavers employed six months after release has seen a marked positive trend over the last year. With the number of vacancies that we have in the country now—around 1.25 million—an increase in prison leavers getting jobs is also good news for our economy as a whole, but there is more to be done, including through the New Futures Network, the Prison Service’s network of employment brokers that works with 400 organisations to get prison leavers into work. I commend all the employers and companies engaged in that programme.

I was delighted to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Tom Randall) that he and our hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards) will be attending the employment advisory board in Nottingham. Of course, all of us as MPs can play an important role in creating and promoting some of the links with business which are so important for our whole community.

We are recruiting new banking and identity administrators to ensure that when prisoners leave custody they have a bank account and ID, so that they are ready to work. The work on those administrative requirements will be complemented by the Bill to smooth out somewhat the leaving pattern of prisoners engaged in those administrative activities.

We are also making significant investments in improving prison leavers’ access to accommodation. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness used the word “paramount” in referring to accommodation; it was also referred to effectively by our hon. Friends the Members for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) and for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt). A settled place to live is key to reducing reoffending, and probation practitioners are much better able to robustly supervise an offender if they know where they are living. That is one of the reasons why last July we launched the transitional accommodation service in five probation regions, providing up to 12 weeks’ accommodation on release, with support to move on to settled accommodation.

To support prison leavers with substance misuse and health needs, we are recruiting 50 health and justice partnership co-ordinators across England and Wales. The co-ordinators will liaise between prisons, probation, local authorities and health partners, improving links between services and supporting continuity of care for prison leavers with health and substance misuse needs.

I turn briefly to some of the other contributions to what has been a high-quality debate, with colleagues drawing on their personal experiences and constituency experiences, including the brilliant work by voluntary and third-sector organisations in our constituencies in support of this important Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes) spoke effectively about the impact of distance—whatever else you may have to do, first, you have to get there. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey) spoke about the challenges facing children, and my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mark Eastwood) spoke about women. Of course, they are absolutely right. There has been great success in reducing the number of women in custody and, even more so, children in custody, but there are relatively few places around the country, which means that the average distances for those people, who may have particular vulnerabilities, is even greater. That makes the Bill all the more important.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury summed up the issue, and what we are all here for, well: we need to give people all the chance we can. If what is getting in the way boils down to a day of the week, it really ought to be relatively straightforward to address. Of course, it will not address everything, but it is an important enabler.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Anna Firth) talked about the fact that this is about correcting unintended consequences, and our hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Jane Hunt) encapsulated the situation well by saying that people must do their punishment, but then we must try to give them the maximum chance. She also made an important point when she talked about the effect on staff of knowing that somebody released on a certain day of the week would perhaps have a lesser chance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South accurately enumerated all the different things that need to be in place, and my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (James Grundy) reminded us that it is not just a question of turning up and doing something straightforward, because in some cases the issues for individuals will be particularly complex. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West spoke about how for many prisoners, even those who have not been in prison that long, the world may have changed, thinking about technology and so on. Closer to home, my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye spoke about how people’s family circumstances and the home itself may have changed.

The measures I have outlined, and many more that there is not time to cover, should help to improve resettlement opportunities for all offenders and reduce reoffending. However, they cannot fully address all the practical challenges, especially for those released on a Friday. Through this Bill, we have an opportunity to provide such offenders with the best possible chance of living law-abiding, productive lives in the community and hence an opportunity to cut crime, making our streets safer and protecting constituents.

In closing, I reiterate my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness for bringing this Bill before the House, and to everyone who has made this such a rich and productive debate. I confirm with pleasure that the Government will be supporting the Bill, and I look forward to seeing its passage through this House.

Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
3rd reading
Friday 3rd March 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act 2023 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Damian Hinds Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Damian Hinds)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell) for his excellent work bringing this important Bill to the House and navigating it through to this stage. It is a great credit to him that there is such support for this legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) has played an important role in this Bill to date. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Aylesbury (Rob Butler), for Loughborough (Jane Hunt), for North West Norfolk (James Wild), for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) and for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), who spoke passionately about their local communities and the great work carried out by the voluntary and charitable sector, and with particular insight as local representatives. I also thank the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), who speaks for the Opposition, for the manner and content of his remarks in welcoming the Bill. It is a good and positive thing when we have legislation coming forward with wide support from different parties in the House and different perspectives and traditions to do something sensible in the interests of our society.

As the House has heard, the Bill ensures that offenders who have resettlement needs will no longer need to be released on a Friday or the day before a bank or public holiday. It will do that by enabling a release date to be brought forward by up to two eligible working days, so these offenders will be released earlier in the week. In practice, this means that offenders with resettlement needs will no longer face that race against the clock, which my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness set out, to find accommodation, access medication and access finance support all before services close for the weekend. As he outlined, that is particularly challenging for people with more complex needs, of whom there are many, such as drug dependency or mental health illness, and, crucially, for those with a long distance to travel before they can access those services. The Bill will achieve that by tackling the practical challenges that Friday releases can create. It will address the issues that can lead to an increased risk of reoffending by ensuring that custody leavers have a better chance to access the support they need to reintegrate into the community and to turn their back on a life of crime.

As my hon. Friend said, the Bill also applies to children sentenced to detention. It will ensure that the release provisions relating to Friday, bank and public holiday, and weekend releases exist in respect of all youth settings, including the recently created secure 16 to 19 school. Despite the various safeguards and legal duties that exist for children leaving custody, being released on a Friday still means that a child would go for at least two days with no meaningful contact with their youth justice worker exactly when they are at their most vulnerable.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the impact on young people and children is accentuated by the tremendous success there has been in reducing the number of children in custody from around 3,000 in 2007 to around 400 today? That means there are fewer secure settings for children, so they are frequently further from home and it takes them much longer on the day they are released to get to where they need to be.

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is spot on and speaks from great personal experience and expertise. It is true that far fewer children are being locked up than in 2010. We know that being incarcerated at a young age means people risk becoming more criminal and it exposes them to a whole range of different risks. Of course, sometimes that is exactly what we have to do—we must be able to imprison people where necessary—but where it is possible to avoid it, that is often better for the individual and for wider society. An effect of that, and this exists for women prisoners as well, is that a person is much more likely to be far away from home. Because there are fewer of these institutions, they are more spread out, so access to services, which my hon. Friend identifies is an issue, can be particularly acute for younger people.

In practice, it will be for heads of establishments to apply the power in bringing forward an offender’s release data. Aided by policy guidance, they can allow an offender additional time to resettle where it will support their reintegration into the community and reduce their risk of reoffending. As the House will be aware, the Government have made significant progress in tackling the £18 billion annual cost of reoffending and protecting the public.

Data show that the overall proven reoffending rate for adults decreased from 30.9% in 2009-10 to 25.6% in 2019-20, which is truly significant. The rate is still too high, however, and we have to do all we can to bring it down further. We are investing substantial sums to achieve that, including in prison leavers’ access to accommodation, about which several hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken; and in building stronger links with employers through dedicated prison employment leads and prison employment advisory boards where business leaders can interface with their local prisons.

We have also seen encouraging improvements in employment rates for prisoners on release, which is an area where hon. Members can play an important role through their discussions with local employers by putting them in touch with this opportunity. We are also investing in offering more prisoners the chance to work while inside prison; developing the prison education service to raise the skills of offenders, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury also spoke; and increasing access to drugs rehabilitation through the recruitment of health and justice partnership co-ordinators to better link up services for offenders inside and beyond the prison perimeter. The hon. Member for Hammersmith was exactly right to identify that we need to think of it as a holistic process that starts inside and continues outside; it must be as linked up as possible.

We are also making large investments into youth justice to tackle offending by children. As my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough said, there is a lot that the Government and the Prison Service can do, but charities and voluntary organisations, including the four that she mentioned in her constituency, are an absolutely irreplaceable and fundamental part of that fabric.

Those interventions should improve resettlement opportunities for all offenders and help to reduce reoffending, but they cannot fully address all the practicalities that are presented by being released on a Friday. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East vividly illustrated that journey to the House. This common-sense Bill will help to achieve that. I reiterate my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness for bringing this important Bill before the House and I confirm again, with great pleasure, that the Government support it. I wish it all the best in its progress through the other place.

Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading
Friday 21st April 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act 2023 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Lord Bellamy Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bellamy) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, first, I warmly thank the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for a characteristically compelling and very moving speech on this issue. I also thank him for the work he is doing—in particular, in encouraging his contacts in Brixton to work with prisoners to obtain jobs on their release, particularly from Brixton prison. This is a very positive development, and it has been a great pleasure to work with him on this issue. I am grateful for the very broad support the Bill has received, both in the other place and in this House, and to all those who have worked on it, particularly Simon Fell MP. I am also grateful for the input of Nacro and other interested parties. It is a great pleasure, for once, to be able to say that we are all more or less on the same page, working in the same direction.

As far as the Government are concerned, the direction of travel is indeed towards rejuvenation, to use the word of the noble Lord, Lord Bird, and rehabilitation generally. I was particularly pleased about and grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, for recounting the positive developments at Berwyn prison in particular, which seems to be setting a good example of the work that can be done and what can be achieved with targeted resettlement and rehabilitation efforts, particularly concentrating on employment—local possibilities with local employers—and accommodation and related matters. I take the opportunity to say that that was very much driven by my right honourable friend the late Secretary of State for Justice, who resigned today but who has very much led the direction of travel for rehabilitation and resettlement of prisoners.

The importance of the Bill is shown by the widespread and consistent support it has received. It is a simple measure, as has been said, but it is likely to have a strong and positive impact on the rehabilitation of offenders leaving custody and it is clear that it commands widespread public support. I am sure that it will particularly help the repeat offenders referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, and I hope that it will reduce that “very lonely place” to which the noble Lord, Lord McNally, rightly referred. It will be particularly important, as has been mentioned, for youth offenders, who were underlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. Because we now have relatively fewer youth offenders in custody, youth offending establishments can be quite far away from home, so youth offenders who are released face enormous difficulties if they do not have a support system. This will enable much better support for that particular category of prisoners, including those who have been in the recently created secure 16 to 19 year-old schools, and will mean that they will experience no delay in contacting their youth justice worker and can be properly protected. I compliment and thank the Youth Justice Board for all its work in this general area.

I fully accept the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that there is a great deal more to be done, but I venture to suggest that we are beginning to make progress in these areas with the various initiatives that have rightly been mentioned. In that connection, the noble Lord asked what has changed since the Government’s previous position. As I understand it, there was a consultation on the Prisons Strategy White Paper which produced a lot of responses. It enabled further discussion to be had, particularly with policy officials, prison staff and third parties in the community as to how we should manage all this. The Secretary of State will now delegate the decision to prison governors and the equivalent but will give some guidance as to how it is going to work, so that you give priority to certain people and make sure that, as it were, it is staged down through Wednesday and Thursday as well as Friday. There will still be some residual prisoners who are released on Friday; there is no particular reason why those who have homes to go to, such as the white collar offender, should have particular priority, but that enables you to give priority to the people who need it most.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked why we need an Act of Parliament. We need one because—I think I am right about this; I will write to the noble Lord if I am wrong—if Parliament says you should serve a sentence of so much, you have to serve that sentence. Only Parliament can authorise people to be released just short—in this case, a couple of days short—of serving that sentence. Although it is only a couple of days, one needs legislative authority to do it. I think that is the answer, but I will check in case I have it wrong.

I hope I have covered the various points that were made. This is perhaps not the occasion to discuss sentencing policy. I entirely accept the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that these matters, including whether we should use prison in a slightly different way and whether we should avoid shorter sentences, need to be reviewed continually. These are important issues but I venture to suggest that they are not for today.

I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds for his contribution, in particular in relation to the female estate. I know that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester is particularly concerned about that. As has been pointed out, we have the same problem with the female estate because it has relatively few offenders so there are not that many female establishments, meaning that offenders are often far from home; they can also be very vulnerable when they are released. This problem needs particular planning; I hope this Bill will give us an opportunity to ameliorate it.

Following what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, was kind enough to tell us, I can say that the Government have taken significant steps in improving prison leavers’ accommodation; in building stronger links with employers through dedicated prison employment leads, so that there are now people in the prisons who are responsible for finding employment and prison employment advisory boards through which, as the noble Lord illustrated, local business leaders can come into local prisons; in offering more work within prison; in delivering and improving a prisoner education service; in increasing access to drugs rehabilitation; and in other actions.

The reoffending rate is slowly coming down, from 31% in 2009-10 to 25.6% in 2019-20, and the Government are further investing in driving it down. These are important interventions. The Bill will be an important support for all the things that are going on and will ensure that the offenders most in need of help will be given a full opportunity to access support before a service is in effect closed for the weekend. We will develop policy guidelines to help heads of establishment or the appropriate officials in youth establishments to target exactly the offenders most in need and support them to make decisions that allow offenders who need it time to resettle and reintegrate into their community.

This is a simple and proportionate Bill. I think I have covered most of the points that were raised. I can only reiterate my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, and everyone who has helped to support the Bill. I commend it to the House.

Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
3rd reading
Friday 16th June 2023

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act 2023 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Lord Bellamy Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bellamy) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Bill passed.