HL Deb 30 June 2003 vol 650 cc53-5WA
Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are their plans for reducing the size of the prison population in England and Wales [HL3192]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

It is for the courts to decide in individual cases whether a prison sentence is appropriate. Where imprisonment is the most appropriate punishment, it should be applied and we should, and are, developing our capacity to meet demand.

The Criminal Justice Bill will provide sentencers with a more flexible range of sentences to deal with offenders as effectively as possible. The introduction of two intermediate sanctions—"custody minus" and "intermittent custody", allowing offenders to retain employment and family contact during the week while being held in custody at weekends—will provide options short of full-time custody. The introduction of a generic community sentence to replace the current series of standardised orders will also provide sentencers with the flexibility to impose a package of requirements at any level of seriousness.

We are also introducing tough new community sentences such as the intensive control and change programme (ICCP) which is designed to cut offending by 18 to 20 year-olds. ICCP, which was launched as a pilot in April, will keep offenders off the streets, tackle their offending behaviour, aid rehabilitation and provide an effective alternative to prison for non-violent and non-sexual offenders.

We are also extending home detention curfew (HDC) to four and a half months. The HDC scheme is proving successful. There are currently more than 3,000 prisoners on HDC each week and 90 per cent of the 70,000-plus prisoners released on HDC since the scheme began in January 1999 have completed their curfew period without any problems at all.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are their plans to meet any gap between the capacity of Her Majesty's prisons to detain inmates in humane and acceptable conditions and any rise in the prison population in excess of that capacity. [HL3300]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

The Government continue to keep under review the demand on prison places and the capacity of the Prison Service to accommodate, in humane conditions, those prisoners sent to it by the courts.

We are committing significant funding to increasing the capacity of the prison estate. Funding from the May 2002 budget provided for 2,320 places to be delivered over the following 12 months. We have already announced that an additional £60 million has been made available to provide 740 places by March 2004, together with funding for 450 places at Birmingham Prison, which are currently scheduled to open by April 2004. A further f138 million from the capital modernisation fund was announced in the 2003 Budget, and will be used to provide around 1,000 places over the period 2004–06.

The useable operational capacity of the Prison Service estate was 55,300 in April 1996 compared to the 74,300 in June this year, an increase of 19,000. With the building programmes in progress, the useable capacity will continue to increase, providing a total useable capacity for the Prison Service estate of around 78,700 places by 2006, some 23,400 places more than in 1996.