Justice Questions: Probation Service
Andrew Bridgen calls on the Secretary of State for Justice to outline his plans for role of the probation service in light of the anticipated increase in workload that will result from policies outlined in the Green Paper.
Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): With the Government's announcement of the Green Paper, and their intention to cut prison numbers and strengthen community sentences, will the Minister outline to the House his plans for the role of the probation service and probation trusts, given that those two organisations are likely to have a vastly increased work load as a result of the policy?
Mr Kenneth Clarke: First, let me emphasise that the Green Paper does not set out an intention to cut prison numbers and to substitute with community sentences and so on. We have given our best estimate of what we think the consequences of the Green Paper will be. However, the number of people who will go to prison will depend on the courts and their decisions. We expect that the number may be reduced by about 3,000 over the next few years. We are looking in particular at community payback, and at how we can introduce more competition in that-which the previous Government were contemplating-and diversify the way in which it is provided. We need to make community sentences more effective, but the key thing about them, as with everything else, is that they must be appropriate punishments for the crimes that the people concerned have committed.