(1 year, 6 months ago)Read Full debate
I think that is something we share across the Benches. Both sides of the House share a common desire: to reduce crime and reoffending, and turn around people’s lives. It is a terrible waste that nearly 40% of our prison population have been in care, that nearly 50% have been excluded from school, and that the literacy level of nearly 50% is lower than that of an 11-year-old. The rates of reoffending have been stubbornly high for 40 or 50 years.
We need to work together to crack these problems. Decent, clean, well run and well managed prisons are part of the key. Another part is getting cross-party consensus on the difficult and brave political choices required to begin to reduce the prison population and protect the public through a reduction in reoffending.
The right hon. Gentleman has enormous experience of the issue, having been the prisons Minister responsible for managing private prisons. He is therefore aware that one reason we can stand up in front of the House and say we are confident we can do this is that we have been doing it for 25 years.
Some 14 private sector prisons are operating, with good reports from the inspectors. We have a lot of experience of how this is done. This is not a new area of Government activity; the right hon. Gentleman himself managed exactly these prisons. The key is balancing proper competition, which brings in diversity and innovation, with the right key performance indicators to make sure that we stay on top of that performance.