Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con): I have been a Member of Parliament for a year, but I do not think that I have ever smelt such rank political hypocrisy as that which is emanating from the Opposition Benches. I practised as a criminal barrister for 16 years, just a little longer than the tenure of the last Government. During those 16 years, and particularly during my 13 years at the criminal Bar, I saw almost daily the harsh reality of their sentencing policy, a policy which led to the present chaotic state of our prisons and which neither added up nor delivered all that they claimed it would do.
As Members may recall, Labour claimed to be tough on crime. They used to say that they were turning the key on the prison gates and bars in order to secure someone, but at the same time they could not push people out too quickly. That is why we saw the release schemes enjoyed by so many people during their time in office, and why I asked the shadow Secretary of State about overcrowding. That is the last Government’s legacy, and that is the reality of Britain’s prisons today.
What has the policy of the last Government meant in the real world in which some of us worked before we came to this place? I had clients aged 18 and 19 who were on remand, which meant that they were innocent, in adult prisons because there were no places for them in young offenders’ institutions. I had clients who, when I asked them whether they been to see their drug worker, said that they had been unable to arrange an appointment because of the overcrowding. I had clients—as I now have constituents—who were willing to go on courses in order to be rehabilitated and educated, and who could not obtain places on those courses. That is the legacy of the Labour party. It is an absolute disgrace, and it is even more disgraceful that they are in denial about it.
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