July 2007 Monthly Archives

Penal System

July 24, 2007

During a debate about reoffending, Nick Hurd calls for the Government to examine and learn from the excellent work of the ‘Blue Sky’ initiative in Hillingdon.

7.3 pm

Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): I am conscious of the fact that the Front Benchers wish to speak. I wish to add one small point to the debate and to take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert). He pointed out that 50 per cent. of crime comes from reoffending. The evidence shows clearly that some basic things need to be provided to support people to turn away from that path. One is some accommodation to go to; another is some family support to tap into and the third is a job and some prospect of meaningful employment.

I recommend to the Minister that he takes some time to look at an initiative in my constituency introduced by Blue Sky. That initiative was set up by Mick May in partnership with Groundwork locally and it is supported by Hillingdon council. It is the only company in the country that insists on someone having a criminal record before entering its employment. It employs ex-cons basically to clean up and to green Hillingdon and to look after the parks. They are highly visible, making a contribution to the community. If the Minister were to talk to the people on that scheme, he would recognise how crucial to their lives those six months at Blue Sky are. One young man travels two hours a day to take part because he sees it as his lifeline at that crucial moment after he exited prison.

Innovative voluntary projects such as that are making a huge difference, but the Government and the Prison Service, and the culture of “Not invented here” seem to be so resistant. We have to open our minds.

7.4 pm


Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way when he is pressed for time. I could not agree more with the emphasis that he is placing on such activities. Does he share my complete bemusement as to why, given the importance of that agenda, the Government have dropped purposeful activity of a modest 24 hours a week in prison as a key performance indicator, a target that was met only once in eight years?

Mr. Malins: I agree. It is such a shame.

There we are: those people are locked up for most of the day, with virtually no sport, and very little education. It is a miracle that not everyone who comes out reoffends the next day and reoffends more. Lest I be thought to be a softie, I am not a softie because I can pass a tough sentence when I need to, but I am trying to be constructive, too.