CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

BUSINESS QUESTION – SENTENCING POLICY – 16 March 2006

[Philip Davies: The Leader of the House may not be aware of the case of Stephen Ayre, a convicted murderer who was let out of prison early and who then abducted and raped a young boy in my constituency. Given that 7,000 crimes have been committed by people out of prison on tags and that 1,600 crimes have been committed since 1997 by people out on parole, will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate on sentencing? Many people in my constituency are angry that people sent to prison are let out early to commit crimes such as the one that I have described. People want prisoners to serve their sentences in full. Can we have debate on this issue?

Geoff Hoon: This issue is regularly discussed when Home Office affairs are dealt with on the Floor of the House. As someone responsible for managing the Government's legislative programme, I know that we have the opportunity in the House very frequently to discuss Home Office matters as part of the significant programme of legislation that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has brought forward in this Session and, I anticipate, will do in future Sessions.

It is easy to talk about the problems that arise when prisoners are released early. Leaving aside the individual case that clearly we all must look at very seriously, I would be more understanding of the hon. Gentleman's concern if he were able to place his criticism in the context of what he believes should be an appropriate solution to the problem. Simply highlighting the particular case does not help to take the debate forward. … ]

Dr Julian Lewis: On 16 February, the Leader of the House dismissed my request for a debate on honesty in sentencing, and today he was equally dismissive of the same request from my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), saying that he had focused on one case. John Monckton was murdered in his own home by someone who was released five years early from his sentence, and yesterday, we read about Robert Symons, who was murdered in his own home by someone who was released nearly three years early from his third sentence for burglary. Is it not the case that people are being killed because there is a policy to get offenders out of prison when they ought to remain there? Is not the solution to supply enough capacity in prisons to keep them there?

[Mr Hoon: I am not in any way dismissing perfectly proper concern and anger about that case, which no one would take lightly. I am not suggesting for a moment that anyone has done so. However, this is not a new issue or a recent problem for the penal system. The Government have adjusted the rules significantly to provide more clarity about the length of sentence that is actually served. Leaving that aside, the hon. Gentleman must set out to the House more clearly his proposed solution. If he is suggesting that everyone should serve precisely the term set out by the judge at the time of sentencing, he should say so.

Hon. Members: Yes!][Philip Davies: The Leader of the House may not be aware of the case of Stephen Ayre, a convicted murderer who was let out of prison early and who then abducted and raped a young boy in my constituency. Given that 7,000 crimes have been committed by people out of prison on tags and that 1,600 crimes have been committed since 1997 by people out on parole, will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate on sentencing? Many people in my constituency are angry that people sent to prison are let out early to commit crimes such as the one that I have described. People want prisoners to serve their sentences in full. Can we have debate on this issue?

Geoff Hoon: This issue is regularly discussed when Home Office affairs are dealt with on the Floor of the House. As someone responsible for managing the Government's legislative programme, I know that we have the opportunity in the House very frequently to discuss Home Office matters as part of the significant programme of legislation that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has brought forward in this Session and, I anticipate, will do in future Sessions.

It is easy to talk about the problems that arise when prisoners are released early. Leaving aside the individual case that clearly we all must look at very seriously, I would be more understanding of the hon. Gentleman's concern if he were able to place his criticism in the context of what he believes should be an appropriate solution to the problem. Simply highlighting the particular case does not help to take the debate forward. … ]

Dr Julian Lewis: On 16 February, the Leader of the House dismissed my request for a debate on honesty in sentencing, and today he was equally dismissive of the same request from my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), saying that he had focused on one case. John Monckton was murdered in his own home by someone who was released five years early from his sentence, and yesterday, we read about Robert Symons, who was murdered in his own home by someone who was released nearly three years early from his third sentence for burglary. Is it not the case that people are being killed because there is a policy to get offenders out of prison when they ought to remain there? Is not the solution to supply enough capacity in prisons to keep them there?

[Mr Hoon: I am not in any way dismissing perfectly proper concern and anger about that case, which no one would take lightly. I am not suggesting for a moment that anyone has done so. However, this is not a new issue or a recent problem for the penal system. The Government have adjusted the rules significantly to provide more clarity about the length of sentence that is actually served. Leaving that aside, the hon. Gentleman must set out to the House more clearly his proposed solution. If he is suggesting that everyone should serve precisely the term set out by the judge at the time of sentencing, he should say so.

Hon. Members: Yes!]