Female Offender Strategy

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons on 13th November 2018.

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Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

What recent steps he has taken to implement the female offender strategy.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Our female offender strategy, which was published in June, is clear that, while custody should always be an option when the severity of the crime justifies it, we wish to see fewer women sentenced to prison for short periods, and we set out a plan to deliver robust and effective alternatives to custody. Last week, the Secretary of State and I announced the allocation of the first tranche of funding, totalling £3.3 million, to organisations around the country doing great work to further drive forward the implementation of the strategy.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

Today’s Guardian reports research by Dr Laura Abbott, a specialist midwife and senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, who found that some female offenders give birth in prison cells and do not have access to midwives, even when babies are born prematurely or breech. I am sure the Minister agrees that that is a serious flaw in the medical treatment female offenders receive. If we are to get female offending right and improve outcomes, we must start with very basic maternity services.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the report by Dr Abbott referred to in The Guardian, which I read about this morning. I reassure him that our key focus is ensuring that all prisoners, female and other, have access to the medical services they need.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

I say to the hon. Gentleman in all courtesy that it is almost always a great pleasure to listen to his mellifluous tones; however, there is a very strong convention in this place that a Member does not ask two questions in the substantive section. As soon as he started bobbing in hopeful expectation of being called a second time, the Clerk not only consulted his scholarly cranium to advise me that he should not be called, but swivelled round with a speed that would put to shame most professional athletes. My advice to the hon. Gentleman is that if he wants to get in again, he should try his luck at topical questions, to which we now come.