Edward Leigh: Prisons are a grim necessity

Prisons are a grim necessity of society. They fulfil two very important functions: first, to punish criminals for their wrongdoing, and second, to remove dangerous, threatening people from society.

There is always a danger that prisons will become universities of crime, where those incarcerated for smaller offenses learn from their cellmates worse and higher forms of illicit and illegal behaviours. Re-offending is a huge problem for both the victims of crime and the taxpayer, who foots the bill for further trials and incarceration.

Rehabilitation is not a matter of ‘touch-feely liberalism’ but an essential component of any sensible justice system. The government’s new plans for prisoners should help save £15 billion of public money, by helping to train prisoners to find further employment once their sentences are finished.

Currently only 17% of prisoners are in PAYE employment within a year of their release. Soon, governors will be put in control of their prisoners’ education, with the aim of tailoring training to prisoners needs as well as to meet local labour market requirements.

At Justice questions recently, I asked what assessment the ministry had made of participation in sporting activity on re-offending. The reply from the minister revealed a strong correlation between sport or physical activity and wellbeing; both amongst current prisoners and amongst ex-offenders. A well-rounded approach to help rehabilitation and stop reoffending is at the very heart of the government’s plans for prisoners.

Regular readers of this site will have seen that I have been actively engaged with the various ideas and issues around local rail services.

The return of regular services to Gainsborough Central later this year is a good example of steps in the right direction. I am committed to pressing the case for direct rail links from the Humber south bank to London. This could include a stop at Market Rasen and I will be pressing my case with the Transport Secretary, now that the East Coast service is being brought back into public ownership and as progress is made to re-franchise the East Coast Main Line.

I have also been very interested in suggestions from the local branch of Railfuture about a rail-based part and ride scheme, centred on Lincoln. This could lead to the return of a station at Langworth or the addition of a station at Cherry Willingham.

The list of criticisms that can be levelled at Tony Blair’s premiership are considerable. Amongst them is the case of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Bouchar.

The government was inherently complicit in the two individuals being kidnapped by agents of the Gaddafi regime and forcibly taken to Libya. Mr. Belhaj was imprisoned and tortured. It later emerged that it was British Intelligence that had tipped Gaddafi’s regime off to their location.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has quite rightly, issued a full apology to Mr. Belhaj and his wife. Hopefully going some way to make amends for this travesty. I pointed out in the House that it was Mr. Blair who should be issuing an apology, but I doubt any will be forthcoming.

I was privileged to attend the recent awards for the county’s ‘snow-heroes’. Local people really stepped up during the bad weather we experience over the winter months. Some drivers were stuck on the A46 for a whole day, whilst other trekked in severe conditions to make sure that vulnerable people and animals were looked after.

Police, fire and rescue personnel, ambulance workers, nurses, carers, emergency service workers and members of the public performed brilliantly during the crisis. It was totally right that their efforts should be recognised at the Lincolnshire Resilience Forums’ awards.