I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to his similar Question on 18th November last and to what was said by my right hon. Friend during the Supply Day debate on 27th January and by myself in replying to the debate on prisons on the motion of the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) on Friday 18th March.
Will my hon. Friend consider some sort of radical alternative to imprisonment? In view of his encouragement earlier on the question of community service orders, will he consider their extension in future, since it now costs up to £100 a week—about £5,000 a year—to keep someone in prison and there should be a more positive way in which people who have committed crimes against society can repay their debts by doing something constructive?
Of course, we are always willing to consider non-custodial sentences. What I have said shows that. But I ask my hon. Friend not to fall into the trap of believing that non-custodial methods of treatment are available free. They themselves cost money and the prisons will still demand a substantial amount of expenditure, unless we get the prison population down so low that we can actually close a prison or two.
Will the Minister accept that an alternative to imprisonment is to deprive the offender of his liberty at the weekends by means of attendance centres, for instance? However, whereas, as his right hon. Friend said just now, there are 60 attendance centres for juniors, there are only two for older offenders. Will he reconsider the Home Office attitude to extending this system for older offenders?
The phasing out of attendance centres for the older prisoners is known, but we are extending other forms of non-custodial treatment because we believe that the prison population is too high and that non-custodial methods will better rehabilitate the majority of criminals.