Dr Julian Lewis: I thank the Minister for giving way. Obviously it sends a good signal to society when a maximum sentence is doubled in the way that he has described, but am I right in thinking that people will still be released halfway through that doubled sentence? Are we not giving with one hand and taking away with the other? On the one hand, we are sending the message to society that we will be tough, but on the other we are letting people out halfway through the sentence, and that negates the message that we are trying to send.

[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Mr Vernon Coaker): According to our understanding, people are released halfway through the sentence if they present no danger. The problem at present is not so much the one that he describes; the fact is that very few people receive the maximum sentence of four years, irrespective of the argument that he puts forward. I do not want inappropriate sentencing, but it has to be said that the courts need to consider the four-year sentence available to them when making sentencing decisions.]