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Paul Maynard
Blackpool North
& Cleveleys
 
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Cleveleys and Blackpool North
John Reid's Incompetence

John Reid's Incompetence

If anything is going to do for this Government, it will be their incompetence. The ongoing crisis in the Home Office, in which John Reid is left thrashing about, is a case in point – but let’s not forget other highlights such as the Child Support Agency, Single Farm Payments, hospital infections, the railways, the Dome … need I go on? The most amazing thing in this whole affair is that had they been governing astutely, they would have seen the problem long ago – and done something about it.

If anything is going to do for this Government, it will be their incompetence. The ongoing crisis in the Home Office, in which John Reid is left thrashing about, is a case in point – but let’s not forget other highlights such as the Child Support Agency, Single Farm Payments, hospital infections, the railways, the Dome … need I go on?

The most amazing thing in this whole affair is that had they been governing astutely, they would have seen the problem long ago – and done something about it. The prison population has risen from 50,000 to 80,000 since Labour came to power – surely a sign, in itself, of a law and order problem. Yet they waited till it hit 80,000 – and full capacity – before considering how that capacity might be expanded. They have only themselves to blame – and it’s no use saying that there are now more foreign prisoners, as they to, since there are only about 1300 of them.

The overcrowding has a number of negative impacts. Foremost in my view is the effect on rehabilitation. Prisons are there to punish, by depriving people of their liberty for the crimes they commit. They are there to give satisfaction to communities for wrongs done to them by malefactors. But prisoners are also in prison so that they can be rehabilitated – not just for their own sake, but to protect the community from those individuals reoffending.

Yet reoffending rates are over 50% - whether that it is a community or a prison sentence. As prisoners get shuffled round the system in the quest for a spare cell, they either cannot complete, or never start, rehabilitation programmes. Yet today, some seventy per cent of the prison population has a mental health or drug problem, or in so many cases, both. Where once we hid our mentally ill in asylums, we now, unwittingly, locate many in our prisons. Prison suicides are scandalously high, particularly amongst young offenders.

I make no apologies for being angry about conditions in our prison system. I believe in trying to rehabilitate offenders so that the community is protected from further offences. I also believe that there is such a thing as ‘evil’ however, and not every crime has ‘social causes’.

More importantly still, I believe that competency is more important in the Home Office than a Home Secretary’s showmanship.