HOME AFFAIRS – SENTENCING POLICY – 19 July 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: I welcome what the Home Secretary [Jacqui Smith] has said about doubling the maximum sentence from two to four years for people who carry knives. Will she take it from me, however, that whatever the truth behind the various figures, one reason why public confidence is low is that the policy adopted by the Government of routinely releasing people halfway through their sentence means that someone who receives a four-year sentence knows that they will be out in two years, or sometimes two years minus the time that they have spent on remand? Would it not be better to get back to imposing sentences that mean what they say, while acknowledging – I understand the position on this – that there should be a modest reduction for people who behave well in prison?

[The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): First, let me be completely clear that people who are dangerous are not released. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the length of sentences. In fact, on the whole, the length of sentences has increased since 1997. His words would have more resonance with me and others had his party not voted against the indeterminate sentences that we proposed.]