I thank all noble Lords who took part in this interesting and short debate. I query one statistic that the Minister used: he spoke about a 35% increase in sentences between six and 12 months during the six-month period after the introduction of the increased sentencing powers for magistrates’ courts. That seems a high figure. The SLSC report projected an increase of perhaps 500 prisoners over a two-year period because of that increase in sentencing. To me, that sounds a lot less than 35%, but, nevertheless, I take the Minister’s broader point.
In the Minister’s conclusion, he described the Government’s course of action as the lesser of two evils, but there are many more than just two evils. A number of evils leading to the increase in the prison population have been identified in this debate. The whole point of the debate is that we do not know the proportion of those evils which are leading to the increase in the prison population by 4,000. The Minister has not given any extra information so that we can judge whether the course of action taken by the Government has addressed the more serious of the various evils leading to the increase in the prison population. The point of the SLSC report was that the Government used a cruder mechanism when using the sentencing powers of the magistrates’ courts as a sort of valve for regulating this, when so many other factors are leading to the increase in the prison population. Nevertheless, it has been an interesting debate, and I hope that the Government will look at the data in the round and review this decision again in the coming months. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.