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Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire): I happen to have Sir John's speech in front of me and what he said was:

Is the hon. Gentleman claiming that Sir John was telling an untruth?

Geraint Davies: Not for a moment, but the issue is what we should do about the problem. Should Sir John look over the shoulder of every judge and magistrate and insist that they lock everybody up? If mistakes are being made by judges and magistrates, we need to confront that, but it is not for politicians to prescribe that no one should be granted bail. [Interruption.] I am sure that there are many anecdotal examples, but we should not interfere with the granting of bail. We should provide enough room in jails and analyse why people are there.

The figures show that 75 per cent. of people in British prisons have previously been permanently excluded from school. Those people who are troublemakers in the classroom are thrown out, perhaps to keep standards up or to prevent the disruption of classes—a good reason—and end up on the street after five hours of education. What do they do? Is it a surprise that a proportion of them shoplift or steal mobile phones? When they try to return to school, having found it difficult to have their behaviour controlled, they cannot catch up and are excluded again. Ultimately, they end up in jail. They serve a year or two and, within two years of their release, 76 per cent. of males reoffend and are sent back to jail. The overall average is 58 per cent. Those people enter the university of crime—our prison system—learn some new tricks and find it even more difficult to break out of that vicious circle.

Such people need proper, intensive, full-time education in small classes. They need to be forced to learn to read and write. It costs £34,000 a year to keep someone in jail. Would not that money be better spent giving them a proper education, which would keep them off the streets and prevent them from ending up as serial offenders?

Other problems have to do with ethnic composition. For reasons that include social exclusion, there is a greater probability, other things being equal, that people from ethnic minorities—and especially young Afro-Caribbean men—will be excluded from school. That ethnic

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composition is reflected in the numbers of people in prison, and it is echoed in the difficulties that people face in society when they come out of prison. The problem involves the denial of a person's opportunities and human rights, and it will only grow bigger for everyone unless we confront its causes.

The Government have decided to invest in pupil referral units from September. Instead of being permanently excluded from school, pupils will go to the referral units and receive intensive education. I should prefer the units to be called something else, as at present they sound a bit like borstals. They should represent an alternative schooling system, with intensive education.

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I have taken part in interviews with the head of our prison service, Mr. Narey. What he has to say is of special interest to people involved in the debate about crime in London.

People reoffend for three reasons. The first is that they do not have a home to go to on release. Forty per cent. of people leaving prison are homeless, so it is no surprise that they go back to offending. Secondly, their social networks have been disrupted. Some 25,000 inmates are placed in prisons situated more than 50 miles from their homes, while another 10,000 are in prisons more than 100 miles away. It is therefore no surprise that their links with spouses and families are broken. The absence of that communication also leads to serial offending.

The third reason for reoffending is that people leaving prison cannot find employment. Why can they not get work? In part it is because they have been in prison, but the main reason is that they are not educated. Ten per cent. of the total number of people targeted by the Government's numeracy and literacy strategies are prison inmates. They have no opportunities, and I hope and expect that the Government will turn the problem around at its cause.

Finally, I repeat that prisons contain a number of people who would not be dangerous to others on the street.

I turn briefly to the problem of graffiti, which is of great concern to people, in Croydon and elsewhere.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am sure that his thoughts on graffiti will be as profound as his thoughts on everything else, but does he recall the conversation that we had only last week, when he was unfortunate enough to be the only hon. Member to be squeezed out of a debate? Will he bear in mind the remarks made on that occasion as he frames and times the rest of his contribution, given that many Opposition Members would like to contribute to the debate?

Geraint Davies: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who refers to the debate on the police last Friday, in which many hon. Members wanted to speak. I sat for three and a half or four hours, but remained the only hon. Member not called to speak. The hon. Gentleman said at the time, helpfully, that I should not worry, as I could always give the speech on another occasion. This is that other occasion, and I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for his help.

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The problem of graffiti is difficult. In Croydon, we are making some headway through the use of closed circuit television. A strategy of "bang 'em down and lock 'em up" is not always appropriate. By ensuring that the youth service and the police service work hand in hand, we can take a CCTV video of a youth spraying graffiti to his parents. We can then say, "Here's Johnny, doing this. Unless you get him to clean that off, with the council, we'll take him to court." We do not want to force people into the judicial system and the university of crime. We want them to face up to the consequences of their mischief and clean up the graffiti. That is happening, and it is working.

Drug use is a massive cause of crime and a massive problem in prison. Croydon is running a treatment and testing pilot scheme. Instead of going to jail, people given treatment and testing orders have training and education for five days a week and are tested for drugs. If they are not clean, they go to prison. Most of these people have been in prison and know how awful it is. The scheme is keeping people out of prison and helping them to stop their habit. In prison they would continue taking drugs because it is easy to get them. The scheme is working very well.

I understand that in Birmingham, intensive supervision and surveillance programmes that are an alternative to prison are working remarkably well. They give people back their self-esteem by investing in education, giving them work habits and getting them back into normal life. We should be considering that sort of programme.

Mr. Cameron: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has just referred to Birmingham. Is that not outside the ambit of the debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is a matter of debate, not a matter for the Chair.

Geraint Davies: Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point is that London can learn things from Birmingham and Birmingham can learn things from London. We must be open-minded.

The final area that Sir John Stevens considered was witness protection. That is a key issue. If witnesses are too scared to go to the trial because they will be intimidated or beaten up, we must deal with that. Section 68 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 provides protection for children under 17, people with mental illness and rape victims. They can give evidence behind screens, there can be video links, evidence can be given in private and witnesses can be interviewed by intermediaries. Will the Government consider extending those provisions to violent offences and wherever it is believed that there is the prospect of significant witness intimidation? This is a serious issue and we know, empirically, that there is a problem. We have the means at our disposal and we should move forward. I am interested in what my right hon. Friend the Minister has to say about that.

Sir John suggested that witnesses and others using the criminal justice system were badly treated. Again, he has a point. People turn up at court as witnesses and defendants to find on the day of the trial that the case has been adjourned or dismissed. These are not lawyers; they go in fear to the court, after building up their courage, only to be told to come back next week. That is appalling.

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Witnesses must be kept informed of the progress of the case. They need to know about the people who have committed the crime—where they live, for instance, otherwise witnesses can be intimidated. We need a system under which witnesses are welcomed, and that is being introduced in Croydon.

I am aware of the time, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] I have promised to keep my comments to a bare minimum of absolute quality. In short, school standards in London are up, waiting lists are down, jobs are up and take-home pay is up by 10 per cent. We have more police and the number is increasing faster than ever. We are on the up—things are getting better. There are challenges in transport and elsewhere, and more investment is being made. However, the people of London know that things will get better under Labour and that they would be a darn sight worse under the other lot.

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