A Liberal Democrat justice minister in the United Kingdom has broken ranks and criticised government prison policy as kneejerk and unsuccessful.
Simon Hughes, minister of state for justice and civil liberties, told the Independent he believed the prison system was in crisis, something the Conservative justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has persistently denied.
Hughes said the Tory-led coalition’s response amounted to a “sticking plaster”, describing prisons as a revolving door with many criminals re-offending shortly after being released.
The latest Ministry of Justice statistics show that the re-offending rate for adults released from prison between January and December 2012 was 45.2%, while for those who had served less than 12 months in custody the figure rose to 57.6%.
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One of the most powerful engines in GP is curiosity. It is curiosity that will motivate a student to find out what is happening not only in Singapore, but in Japan, or Argentina, or Sierra Leone, or in this case Britain as well. To seek not only to read an article, but to find out the background to it. Because just like in a compre passage, one cannot understand anything properly without understanding its context.
Allow me to share some of the contextual knowledge that is necessary to comprehending this article:
- The UK is governed by a coalition government, which is one made up of more than one party. This is necessary when no single party is able to win a majority of seats in the legislature (which is known as Parliament in Britain). In this case, two or more parties will have to form a coalition or alliance. Other countries ruled by a coalition government include Malaysia and Germany.
- The coalition government in Britain is composed of two parties: the Conservatives (also known as the Tories) and the Liberal Democrats.
- The Conservative Party is the senior partner in the coalition as it holds many more seats in Parliament, while the Liberal Democrats (or ‘Lib Dems’) are the junior partner with much fewer seats.
- Cabinet posts are shared between the constituent parties in the coalition. For instance, Prime Minister David Cameron is from the Conservative Party while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is a Lib Dem.
- A minister of state is a junior minister, but not a member of the Cabinet. Hence Simon Hughes, Minister of State for Justice, is not a Cabinet member but justice secretary Chris Grayling is (in the UK, they call their minister of justice ‘the justice secretary’).
- One advantage of a coalition government is that it usually represents a wider range of interests in society and there are stronger checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power by a single party. Issues are also likely to be more vigorously debated before policies are made.
- A drawback of a coalition government is that the decision-making process is typically slowed down as the coalition partners need to find a consensus on thorny issues, which can take considerable time especially if the partners hold widely differing views on the matter at hand. This is evident in the article above. Compare it with the situation in Singapore, where one party holds 80 out of 87 seats in Parliament.
How did I know all this? I was curious. I took an interest. I have been reading newspapers daily since I was in Primary 5. By the time I did my A-levels, I had been reading newspapers daily for eight years. I asked my dad a million questions about everything from British politics to car engines. You teenagers today are lucky in that you can ask Google. The Internet had not been made available to the public when I was in JC. It was still a closely-guarded technology used by the US Department of Defence.
In the subject about everything called General Paper, curiosity is the engine that will drive you to learn the multitude of facts and insights that will empower you to excel. Please don’t tell me you don’t have time to read newspapers and pursue your curiosity on Google. You might as well tell me you don’t have time to do your Math worksheet or prepare for your Economics test. The fact is, GP is one of your subjects and you need to allocate time to each and every one of them. Decide on a reasonable time allocation, and stick to it.
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