BUSINESS QUESTION – SENTENCING POLICY – 30 March 2006

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Leader of the House agree that one group who will not be enjoying Easter are the families of people murdered by criminals released after serving only half their sentence under the Government's early release scheme? Is he aware of the reports last weekend that people sentenced to life imprisonment are in fact being released after serving only a fraction of their sentence, and will he review his policy of brushing aside repeated requests for a debate on honesty in sentencing, which should not be left to half-hour Adjournment Debates such as that secured yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies).

[Geoff Hoon: This is not the first time that the hon. Gentleman has raised the question of early release; in the past, he has also complained about probation arrangements. The issue is straightforward. Everyone sympathises with anyone who has been the victim of a serious crime, such as he describes, because a criminal was released early, but those measures have been in place for a long time and, as he is aware, they are a necessary part of managing our prison population. They were examined under the last Government, so when the hon. Gentleman refers to this Government's early release scheme he knows full well that it was also his Government's early release scheme. Such arrangements have been a constant feature of penal policy for a long time, and having looked at them the last Conservative Government came to the conclusion that any change along the lines advocated by the hon. Gentleman would be damaging to the maintenance of good order in our prisons.]