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Offender Management and Treatment - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:12 pm on 3rd October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Woolf Lord Woolf Crossbench 3:12 pm, 3rd October 2019

My Lords, this debate has been of excellent quality. We have all learned a great deal from what has been said in the speeches that preceded mine. That I, on this occasion, speak after the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillips, is quite a novel experience for me because, throughout our respective legal careers, he has followed me, rather than my following him. I very much have in mind what was said by another of my noble and learned friends, Lord Judge, in an intervention before the debate: if you agree with everything, there is something to be said for sitting down and not detaining people merely by repetition. I will bear that in mind in the remarks I make.

I draw attention to my entries in register. I have been much involved in the prison scene since the noble Lord, Lord Baker—who has here a while ago—received my report into Strangeways prison. I made substantial recommendations in that report. One recommendation was not, unlike the majority, accepted by the Government. It was that there should be a limit on the number of people in prison. The reason I think it most unfortunate that that or a similar recommendation was not accepted was that nothing is more likely to undermine the workings of a prison system than overcrowding, which has been a scourge of the prison system shortly after my report and ever since. It explains why many of the things we have heard today have happened. This clearly indicates that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, on this as on many other occasions, was profoundly right to have identified the problem of a lack of strategy within the prison service. I hope that, on this occasion, the noble Lord will be taken more seriously than he has been on too many occasions in the past. We require a Government who are prepared to do what is needed to deal with the problem of which we all should be ashamed.

I am going to leave my address at this stage and not add to it. I hope that what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said about the need for a strategy is taken up by the Government. That strategy has to be carefully thought out and not delivered on the hoof by those who may not have the knowledge they should have before making an announcement.