Spotlight on jobs-crime link

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THE LINK between unemployment and crime, long denied by the Government but secretly admitted in an internal Home Office study, looks certain to be the subject of a high-profile investigation by the Commons Select Committee on Employment.

Greville Janner MP, chairman of the committee, will this week recommend an inquiry into the issue, following disclosure in the Independent of a suppressed official report which concedes that Treasury economic policies have encouraged the rise in crime.

'The Government must recognise and admit that joblessness and deprivation are major causes of people getting into trouble with the law,' he said yesterday. 'I shall refer this to the select committee when we meet on Tuesday. I will suggest that we have a special session devoted to the issue, and open an inquiry into crime and joblessness.'

If, as seems likely, the Tory- dominated employment committee takes up Mr Janner's proposal, the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, and the Secretary of State for Employment, David Hunt, would be among those called to give evidence and be cross-examined.

MPs would also summon the Home Office civil servants who last month wrote the internal briefing paper which said that government policies had created a greater sense of 'relative deprivation' between the poor and the well-off, and produced a class of person for whom 'a real job or even the prospect of a real job has been absent in all the crucial formative years'.

Mr Howard insisted at last year's Tory party conference that 'prison works', but his officials are privately arguing for a much wider debate. They say research studies of young offenders show that 'the single most effective form of intervention was the provision of employment'.

Extracts from the confidential briefing paper, written by crime policy division officials for Sir Clive Whitmore, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, were published in the Independent last week. These will be made available to members of the select committee.

Mr Janner accused the Government of 'stuffing the prisons with people and turning them into Victorian hells'. Leicester jail, in his constituency, was designed to house 194 inmates; at present, it was holding 350, forcing inmates to double-up in cells.

'Ministers don't recognise that the cost of keeping people in these Vicorian hells is very much greater than putting them into work,' he said. 'And with unemployment in real terms running at nearly four million, who is going to give a job to an ex-con when he comes out?'

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