Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)
MP, MR MARTIN
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001
140. So there will be two new ones coming on
(Mr Narey) Yes.
141. Have any that were privately managed reverted
to the public sector?
(Mr Narey) Two prisons, Buckley Hall managed by Group
4 and Blakenhurst managed by UKDS. We market tested those prisons
and on both those occasions the in-house bid, the public sector
bid, beat the private sector bid on both quality and price and
they are now under public sector management once again.
142. What are the main lessons that have been
learned from introducing the private sector into the prison system?
(Mr Narey) Speaking as someone who some years ago
was fiercely opposed to the introduction of the private sector
into the Prison Service, it has introduced competition, it has
introduced better standards of working, a transformation in culture,
in getting new staff in, and it has had a big role, I think, in
helping me to persuade trades unions, but particularly the POA,
to take a different attitude towards the care and custody of prisoners.
The sorts of regimes which we are running at Buckley Hall, for
example, which has been back in the public sector for 18 months
and where the past Chief Inspector thought the prison was in some
respects better than it had been in the private sector, it is
inconceivable that I would have been able to deliver those changes
so quickly without the impetus of competition.
143. Take one particular lesson: the private
sector was fairly successful in introducing women officers who
have, generally speaking, a civilising impact on prison regimes.
(Mr Narey) Yes, it was, not least because it recruited
all its staff at once. I think our public sector recruitment of
women officers and, indeed, of those from minority ethnic groups
is extremely encouraging at the moment but the problem is it is
against a workforce of 44,000 which is traditionally male and
144. And you are still meeting stiff resistance?
(Mr Narey) In terms of recruitment of
145. In terms of women. For example, I did hear
one POA representative in one of our London prisons say that women
would only be allowed in over his dead body, which I thought could
be arranged if necessary.
(Mr Narey) That is certainly not the case. I can remember
that. I can remember working many years ago in a prison in the
north east, Frankland, a dispersal prison, where it was thought
to be very nearly the end of the world when we introduced the
first female officer on a wing. It is a long time since I have
heard that, particularly in the case of male prisoners. A good
proportion of women officers have a tremendously civilising effect
and certainly conflict and violence as a result of their presence
is significantly reduced.
146. Are you confident that the lessons learned
in the private sector have been transferred successfully to the
(Mr Narey) I think that I can best give proof of that
by demonstrating that we have had three competitions where we
have competed, the public sector against the private sector, for
Manchester, which was in the private sector, and the two prisons
I mentioned. The public sector won all three by some margin. Where
we have just had a market test at Brixton Prison no one in the
private sector decided to compete against the in-house bid, which
I regret actually. Where we have not yet caught up in the public
sector, and I am not sure that we will, is we do not remotely
have the expertise of the private sector in building prisons.
The fact that I can pay for private sector built prisons over
25 years means that in terms of providing decent accommodation,
for example safer cells, I can do it much more quickly through
the PFI route than I could ever do by building conventionally.
147. If the private sector intervention has
been so successful, why not increase it a bit more than just the
two you are proposing?
(Mr Narey) I do not anticipate, and I have had initial
discussions with both the Minister and the Home Secretary on this,
that in the foreseeable future we will build a new prison in the
public sector. What the Home Secretary has indicated we may do,
however, to try to keep competition afloat is get the private
sector to design, construct and finance prisons but compete for
the management of those prisons once built. I am very close to
coming to a decision on the management of The Wolds Prison, a
Group 4 prison in Humberside, and one of the interesting things
that I am quite convinced has happened is that since the public
sector started to regain jobs the private sector has increased
its performance and the quality of the bids I have had in that
competition from both the public and the private sector have been
very significantly improved.
Chairman: Good. Thank you.
148. Mr Narey, you described the Prison Service
famously as an institutionally racist organisation and in your
annual report and accounts 2000-01 you referred to "pockets
of blatant and malicious racism within the Service".
(Mr Narey) Yes.
149. Could you describe how you deal with these?
(Mr Narey) By demonstrating absolute intolerance of
either violence against prisoners, which I think the Prison Service
put its head in the sand about for many years, the prevalence
of that, and by demonstrating the same intolerance in terms of
racist behaviour, making it very clear to governors that I expect
either of those behaviours, if proven, to be punished by dismissal,
by dismissing staff when it comes to their attention. We have
not dismissed many staff for racist behaviour but we have dismissed,
I think, five or six in the past year in circumstances where some
years ago their behaviour might have been, not exactly tolerated
but would not have resulted in their leaving the Service.
150. Would you say that most of the incidents
are concentrated within a small number of people rather than a
general code of racist behaviour over all staff?
(Mr Narey) I think it is a small minority of people
but I have described that minority as a cancer, and it is a minority
that I am determined to drive out of the Service.
151. There has been quite a significant growth
in the number of Muslim prisoners, presumably because of the growth
in the Muslim population.
(Mr Narey) About 4,000 prisoners are Muslim now.
152. You are trying to give provision for Muslim
prisoners equivalent to that given to Christian prisoners. Does
that provide logistical or practical problems?
(Mr Narey) It does provide some practical problems,
not least in the provision of prayer rooms. One of the things
which characterises the 4,000 or so Muslims in our care is generally
speaking they are more devout, many more of them want to attend
Friday Prayers than do Christians want to attend Sunday Services.
The Muslim population in many prisons has outgrown the small prayer
rooms they have. We have appointed a new (Anglican) Chaplain General
this year and for the first time he has wider responsibilities
than just the Christian community. He is working very, very co-operatively
with Maqsood Ahmed, my Muslim adviser. With the agreement of Bishops
locally chapels now are being frequently used for Muslim services
on a Friday and for Christian services on a Sunday.
153. Is there a demand from other religious
groups, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, many other world religions?
(Mr Narey) There is indeed and at a conference last
week I was taken to task by a Sikh minister who thought that in
Belmarsh he was not getting sufficient hours to deal with the
growing number of Sikhs in prison. The numbers of the other religions
are still very small indeed. We have an Advisory Group on Race,
chaired by Mr Sutton, which involves the leaders of all of those
faiths, Buddhists and Sikhs particularly. We are endeavouring
to make our provision much more reflective of the prisoner population
that we have.
154. So would the trigger point for providing
special facilities for any one group depend upon a minimum number?
(Mr Narey) In practical terms, yes. It is difficult
to have dedicated facilities in a prison when you might just have
a handful of prisoners. In a number of prisons we do, for example,
have Buddha Groves despite the fact that the population there
is very small. Angalimala (Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Organisation)
has been a great supporter of diversity, and got a great deal
of help from the Thai community to provide and fund those Buddha
Groves. There is a particularly active and popular one in Springhill
Prison. If we can allow the very small number of Buddhist prisoners
to end their sentences there, we do.
155. Do you see the number of racist incidents
reducing? Are you optimistic that over a period of time you can
(Mr Narey) I said when I got this job that I would
consider I was getting somewhere in securing the confidence of
black and Asian prisoners and staff if the number of racist incidents
that we recorded increased. They doubled last year and they will
double again this year, and I think that is a mark of progress.
There is a growing belief, we are not there yet, on the part of
prisoners particularly that we are taking this seriously. The
introduction of a new complaints procedure, which will allow prisoners'
complaints to get to the Ombudsman within about six weeks rather
than, frequently, six months is an important sign of our wish
for their complaints to be treated independently and honestly.
156. Are prisoners able to make their complaints
easily without others knowing that they are doing it?
(Mr Narey) In the new complaints procedure which we
are rolling out this year it will be much easier. For example,
we will have dispensers on the wings with forms, prisoners can
have confidential access to the governor if they wish, there is
a simple tick box on the complaint form if they believe that their
grievance has a racial origin. I think we are making it much easier
for prisoners to make complaints. Of course, prisoners already,
as I am sure you all know, use the opportunity of writing to MPs
and solicitors. I have a very, very large postbox dealing with
individual cases from Members of both Houses.
157. Can I just ask you briefly about the success
of the drugs policy in prisons, Mr Narey. Am I right in thinking
that the number of positive tests has halved?
(Mr Narey) It has more than halved. In the first year
we tested the whole of the population, which was ending April
1999, the figure was 25 per cent. Pilot testing before that had
indicated much higher levels. It is currently running at about
11 per cent.
158. Is that because prisoners have got more
skilled at outwitting the system or is it because there are less
drugs in prison?
(Mr Narey) I would be naive to suggest that some prisoners
cannot outwit the system, and women prisoners can certainly outwit
the system. I am entirely convinced that it is because we have
got significantly fewer drugs in prison than ever before due in
part to security requirements, in part to the testing regime and
in part to the huge investment I have been able to put into drug
159. You still have drug free wings, do you,
with an enhanced regime?
(Mr Narey) I have got about 30,000 prisoners signed
up to living in enhanced regimes on voluntary testing units. We
do not call them "drug free" because sometimes we know
they are not always. Thirty thousand or so prisoners last year
signed up to be tested on a voluntary basis as frequently as the
staff might require them so to be tested.