Criminals who cannot pay fines imposed by courts should instead be made to work for charities to pay off the fine, a bill introduced to parliament yesterday proposes.
In a Ten Minute Rule bill, John Glen, the Conservative MP for Salisbury, said local authorities and voluntary organisations should be given the power to supervise "unpaid work orders" whereby people who could not pay cash for a court fine instead paid it off with their labour, at a designated hourly rate.
Ten Minute Rule bills are seen as an opportunity for MPs to introduce ideas they hope that government will consider, but rarely become law.
In a speech introducing the bill, Glen said there were 1.68 million fines outstanding, worth a total of £593m, and that a means for them to be paid had to be found.
The power for the justice secretary to introduce unpaid work orders into law was contained in the Courts Act 2003. A pilot project was conducted from 2004 to 2009, but unpaid work orders have not been permanently introduced.
"The bill would provide for another pilot scheme to take place, but with some differences from the first," Glen told parliament. "One problem with the first pilot scheme was that the supervisory role was given solely to the probation service, a stretched organisation that has a heavy burden.
"The bill would therefore allow local authorities and charities to share the supervisory role. Many charities would be willing to supervise an individual if that meant they could benefit from a number of hours of work that are of real benefit to a local community."
Glen was given permission to continue with the bill, but has no plans to do so because the Ministry of Justice has specifically said it has no plans to introduce unpaid work orders.