Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has set out details of his scheme to set up factories in prisons. The idea is apparently to get criminals into “lawful constructive employment.”
Shadow Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan and the GMB union leader Paul Kenny have both expressed fears for the future of employment for law-abiding citizens in light of these plans, but I think they may be missing the bigger picture. It’s quite possible that the jobs market may suffer in the short-term but, surely, if we have the capability to make people work long hours for well below minimum wage in incarcerated conditions in order to produce goods for big-name companies, then the reduction in production costs is bound to be a boost to UK industry which will increase exports and get us out of recession. It is our import trade that is going to suffer.
I recall that, a couple of years ago, David Cameron was meeting with a trade delegation when he said that Britain could learn a great deal from China. Could it be that Capitalism had actually expressed an admiration for Communism? It seemed incongruous at the time. It’s clear now that what he actually found inspirational was China’s lack of employment rights and worker protection – after all, subjugation of the workforce is the ultimate capitalist’s dream.
On the other hand, I can see a problem with the idea of giving jobs to convicted felons, cheats, fraudsters and confidence-tricksters – after all, we can only be expected to support so many Houses of Parliament.
Rather distressingly, of course, it is starting to seem that the only way one might get onto an apprenticeship scheme in Britain these days may be to get sent to prison. Mind you, given the comparative truancy figures, it’s possible that jail could actually represent a more efficient education system than many of our schools are currently able to offer.