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Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the fire insurance problems facing new privately funded prisons. [59446]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 24 May 2002]: The new privately managed prisons to be built at Ashford, Middlesex and at Peterborough are facing problems in securing insurance cover for fire. These problems are being addressed both by the consortium that is to build and operate the prisons and by the Prison Service and the Home Office.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department with which companies the Prison Service have contracts for the transport of prisoners to court; if he will place the terms of their contracts in the Library; what assessment he has made of the effect of transport delays on the operation of courts and the associated costs to public funds; how many times penalty clauses have been invoked against each company, with the sums involved in each case; and if he will make a statement. [62599]

Hilary Benn: The Prison Service has entered into eight contracts with private sector companies for the movement of prisoners from prisons and police stations to court. These are set out in the table.

Contract areaCompany
South West England and South WalesReliance Custodial Services
South and South East EnglandPremier Prison Services
LondonSecuricor Custodial Services
East AngliaGroup 4 Court Services
East MidlandsGroup 4 Court Services
West Midlands and Mid WalesPremier Prison Services
Greater Manchester, Merseyside and North WalesGroup 4 Court Services
Northern EnglandGroup 4 Court Services

Contract documentation, excluding those parts which contain price sensitive information, are available in the Library.

Contractors, prisons and the police are all aware of the effect of late deliveries to court and the potential cost to public funds. Each contract is monitored by a team of Prison Service staff against a series of performance measures. These cover a range of issues including delivery to court. Failures against the performance measures result in the application of penalty points and if these exceed a prescribed total in any single year they result in the application of a financial remedy.

Financial remedies have been applied on six occasions since 1999 and have affected all contractors. The total sum recovered or withheld is approximately £621,000. This is made up as follows.

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CompanyOccasionsTotal value (£)
Group 4 Court Services160,000
Premier Prison Services136,000
Securicor Custodial Services2500,000
Reliance Custodial Services225,000

The £500,000 in financial remedies imposed upon Securicor related to performance shortfalls during the years 1999–2000 and 2000–01, when shortages of staff contributed to a number of failures to meet the requirements of the contract, including the timely delivery of prisoners to court. The situation was the subject of discussion between Home Office Ministers and members of Securicor's senior management, as a result of which an improvement plan was produced by the company. This has now been implemented and there are indications that it is beginning to achieve positive results.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish his response to the joint thematic report "Through the Prison Gate" published by the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Chief Inspector of Probation. [66650]

Hilary Benn: "Through the Prison Gate" was the first joint thematic report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Probation on the theme of resettlement. The two chief inspectors have provided an authoritative and thoughtful analysis of what the prison and probation services are doing together to reintegrate offenders back into the community and so reduce re-offending, and of what more both services need to do. I am very grateful to them for this analysis, much of which is reinforced in the report "Reducing re-offending by Ex-Prisoners" published today by the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU).

Both of these reports recognise the importance of identifying the factors which need to be addressed for individual offenders if the risks of them re-offending are to be reduced. They also recognise the importance of developing an integrated approach to the management of offenders throughout their sentence.

The chief inspectors' report makes recommendations on the need for:

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Many of these issues are also picked up in the SEU report. The Government will now be producing an action plan setting out our proposals for taking forward the recommendations. In drawing up that action plan we will also take account of the recommendations made by the chief inspectors.

As the chief inspectors acknowledge, the Prison and Probation Services have made progress in developing and co-ordinating their resettlement policies under the what works approach. However, there is a need for greater overall strategic direction including greater sharing of good practice and performance targets.

We have already taken steps to provide greater strategic direction by making arrangements for the establishment of the Correctional Services Board, which will bring together the heads of the Prison and Probation Services and the chair of the Youth Justice Board. Outside experience and skills will be provided by non-executive members. Early priorities for the board will include the development of a strategic plan for the correctional services, with a particular focus, as the report recommends, on improving provision for those sentenced to less than 12 months, and, in particular, 18 to 20 year old offenders.

In taking forward both the chief inspectors' and the SEU reports we will also be developing a national resettlement strategy. Details will be set out in the action plan which will now be developed.

That action plan will also include proposals for developing and piloting a case management approach, as recommended by the chief inspectors, building upon the pilot schemes which the Prison and Probation Services are already running.

"Through the Prison Gate" draws attention to the benefits of keeping prisoners closer to their homes in the months before release and to the benefits of home detention curfew in helping prisoners prepare for release. We believe that HDC can play an important part in helping offenders to settle back into the community in a controlled way.

We also recognise the advantages for resettlement of prisoners being able to serve their sentences closer to home. Although the increasing prison population makes it difficult to achieve this we will continue to explore both nationally and regionally what more can be done to minimise the number of prisoners held outside their home area.

The importance of tackling drug and alcohol problems is highlighted in both "Through the Prison Gate" and the SEU report. A good deal of investment has been made by both services in this area, but there is clearly more to be done, particularly in ensuring continuity of care and of provision in the community. We will be addressing this issue further as we take forward the planning and implementation of our resettlement strategy.

"Through the Prison Gate" also highlights the importance for a national public protection policy of the assessment and management of risk in all cases. The effective management of dangerous offenders is a priority for both the Prison and Probation Services. Both services have a detailed programme of work in support of their public protection objectives, and are represented on the

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Home Office Dangerous Offenders Advisory Group. The establishment of multi agency public protection panels has placed a statutory duty on police and probation services to make joint arrangements for the assessment and management of sexual, violent and other offenders who may cause serious harm. These panels work closely with the prison service and other agencies in managing the risk presented by such offenders. In addition the National Probation Service is working with the Police Information Technology Organisation on the development of a joint police/probation database, which will cover all offenders falling under the public protection duty placed on the police and the National Probation Service by the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.

Both services are also working together with the Parole Board to develop revised guidance on the setting of licence conditions to ensure a more consistent approach and are piloting the use of electronic monitoring as a licence condition, focusing in particular on dangerous offenders.

A detailed commentary on all the recommendations contained in the inspectorates' report describing work currently in hand by the Prison Service and the National Probation Service has been placed in the Library.

"Through the Prison Gate" together with the SEU report, has set out a challenging set of tasks and the new Correctional Services Board. We will in due course be publishing an action plan setting out our detailed proposals in response to the SEU report, and the recommendations of the chief inspectors.

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