'Captive market' Dominic Raab suggests ex-convicts could ease Britain's labour shortages

Dominic Raab, 47, has said companies suffering from shortages could opt to employ thousands of “reliable” ex-convicts. Britain sets free around 45,000 working-age offenders every year.

Despite the potentially large labour market, the Road Haulage Association estimates there is a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK’s haulage industry alone.

Speaking to the Times, the Deputy Prime Minister added: “To those employers who are saying they have short-term issues, I’m saying you’ve got a captive market here and these people are probably better than you think.

“If you’ve got shortages — and we know there are some — there is a captive audience there with some skills and not the wrong kind of attitude but in many cases the right kind of attitude that those employers want.

“There’s a great added bonus to society too as well as dealing with any temporary shortages that you may have.”

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Mr Raab, who accused businesses of being “too reliant on cheap labour from abroad”, went to promote the hiring of ex-offenders at Stuart Lyons Haulage in Bognor Regis.

Lyons Haulage is currently training eight prisoners from HMP Ford.

The Esher and Walton MP, who was demoted from Foreign Secretary to the Justice Department in last month’s Cabinet reshuffle, promised a “quantum” leap in offender employment rates.

According to the Times, only one in seven people find work within six months of leaving prison.

In comparison, the Ministry of Justice estimates the proven reoffending rate is just shy of three in 10.

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While Mr Raab said he sympathised with people concerned about ex-prisoners delivering goods to their homes, he also claimed they were potentially the most “reliable” workers.

He went on to claim: “We had one employer say you have less sick days, more motivation, harder work and they’re easier not just to employ but to promote.”

Mr Raab also spoke to Dean, a man serving a 20-year sentence for drug smuggling, about his job prospects after leaving prison.

The Justice Secretary said Dean, who will leave prison in April to serve the remaining half of his sentence on licence, “clearly had a deep sense of regret for what he’d done”.

“But more importantly it gives him something to prove.

“He was saying he was paying off his debts.

“He took some pride in telling me he’d paid some taxes.”

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The ex-Brexit Secretary also told the broadsheet he wants a majority of ex-offenders to walk straight into employment after leaving prison within the next three years.

“That should be the vision, certainly over the longer term,” he said.

“Ultimately my vision is that work is the presumption and default for all prison inmates and ex-offenders on release.”

Mr Raab said he will start this process by hiring 130 ex-prisoners to work in the Ministry of Justice.

He has set the civil service a total target of 1,000.

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