"On the last morning of every month the Ministry of Justice publishes details of how many prisoners have been released early the previous month.
This morning the Ministry of Justice published every set of data scheduled to be released – EXCEPT the early release figures. Given that this was due to show that over 4,000 violent prisoners / almost 25,000 prisoners had been released early onto our streets, will you invite the Justice Secretary to reassure the House that these figures will be published immediately and that this was not a shabby attempt to bury bad news on the eve of the local elections?"
The Speaker did not permit Straw to reply, but this afternoon the figures have suddenly been published after all! Mr Herbert gave us this statement:
"The Government’s failed attempt to deal with overcrowding has now seen more than 23,000 prisoners released early, including almost 4,500 violent offenders, and the rate of increase is accelerating. By ignoring every warning and failing to provide enough jail capacity, they have put the public at risk and undermined confidence in the criminal justice system. No wonder Ministers tried to delay publishing these figures this morning in a desperate bid to prevent voters from seeing the latest evidence of Labour’s incompetence."
It’s worth noting that over 2000 of the prisoners released early were from London prisons. By delaying publication until 2.22pm the Government may have sought to prevent the Evening Standard et al from running the figures. If Nick Herbert hadn’t thought to raise the issue in the Commons, they may well have tried to delay it even more.