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.
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.
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.
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.