Memorandum submitted by the Rt Hon David
Blunkett, Secretary of State for the Home Department
Following my evidence session before your committee
on 11 September I undertook to write on a number of issues that
couldn't be resolved at the time.
At the start of the meeting I undertook to write
to Ann Widdecombe regarding the alleged break out of asylum detainees
from the Immigration Removal Centre in Dover and the issue of
illegal working in King's Lynn. Beverley Hughes wrote to you on
these matters on 20 October ahead of her evidence session before
the Committee the following day and I will not repeat them here.
Bob Russell raised the issue of suicides in
prison and the apparent reduction in the installation of safer
cells from 2,700 last year to 800 this. Hilary Benn's Written
Answer to Bob Russell of 20 January last year confirmed, "To
date installations have been carried out to provide 2,100 adult
male and 610 juvenile and young offender safer cells. In addition
a further 880 adult male safer cells are planned to come on line
in 2003-04". This was in answer to his Question covering
deaths over the previous five years. The very small reduction
in suicides in the last 12 months indicates a stabilising of the
situation but we accept there is much more to be done.
To place in context the numbers of safer cells
being introduced across the prisons estate, this needs to be seen
in the light of the Prison Service's strategy to develop new policies
and practices to reduce prisoner suicide and manage self-harm
in prisons. Safer cells can complement, but not replace, a regime
providing care for at risk prisoners. Increasing the number of
safer cells and making safer cell and reduced risk cell furniture
more easily available to establishments should be seen as useful
tools to support at-risk prisoners, rather than policy objectives
Over the past few months the emerging policies
have been reviewed in consultation with partner organisations
and agencies, taking into account pilot project evaluations and
research findings, including the results of an independent review
of safer cells by the Jill Dando Institute (JDI). The Prison Service
Investment Board, who considered the JDI report, has recommended
that the use of safer cells remains valid and investment in them
should continue as previously planned.
In the meantime, the number of safer cells planned
for installation during the next 12 months remains as 122, with
a further approximate 1,100 due for installation in 2005 as part
of the construction of the new prisons at Peterborough and Ashford.
You asked us to compare the growth in the number
of policy officials, administrators and so on, with the growth
in numbers of front line police officers or other people doing
front line jobs in the service.
Staff numbers for the Home Office Group are
published annually in the Annual Report (tables 6(i) and 6(ii)
in the 2003 report), but these do not distinguish between those
carrying out policy, administrative, front line, or indeed other
functions, for example inspection. We also collect data on staff
on a regional basis, but the number in the central London headquarters
has only been collected through ad hoc exercises. The data is,
therefore, insufficient to provide a precise answer to the committee;
however, we can supply the following:
In 1996-97 the central Home Office (excluding
IND) numbered some 4,100 full-time equivalent staff, including
secondees and agency staff. A review conducted in September last
year identified that there were 4,715 staff on the same basis.
During that time there has been considerable change within those
totals, with machinery of Government changes and a focus on front-line
delivery to reflect policy developments such as the creation of
the National Probation Directorate.
The Immigration and Nationality Department grew
from 5,330 to some 15,000 in June last year. This is because of
the transfer of responsibility to the Home Office of asylum support
and Work Permits UK, the expansion of managed migration policies
and the increase in the number of asylum seekers. You will know
we had to considerably increase the number of caseworkers employed
by IND to deal with the failure of the computer system and the
backlog we inherited from the previous Conservative government.
I am pleased we have now done this so the backlog is the lowest
for a decade and 80% of new initial decisions are now reached
within two months, compared to 20 months in 1997.
Over the same period, the Prison Service grew
from 38,420 to 45,500. This reflects the growth in the prison
population from (55,250 to over 74,000). At the same time, we
have carried out a sustained programme of investment in the Probation
Service to develop far more effective community punishments and
reduce re-offending. We inherited a Probation Service that was
grossly understaffed for the vital function it performs for the
public and have increased its staff by 4,300 (from 14,700 in 1997-98
to 19,000 in 2003-04). Of course, with regards to the central
prison and probation staff in London we are examining decentralisation
as part of the Government's overall approach to devolving staffing
to the regions and localities as I announced in my statement to
the House on 6 January this year.
Finally, as you will know, we have substantially
increased police numbers from 127,160 in 1997 to a record 136,390
officers at the end of August 2003. This increase has been widely
welcomed and supported. This does not include an additional 2,000
community support officers, recruitment for which commenced in
The committee also asked about how far the number
of Home Office staff exceeds the figure that 2 Marsham Street
was planned to accommodate. When Best and Final Offers were invited
in 1998, the number of staff in the non-IND Home Office in central
London and the Prison Service headquarters was expected to reduce
to 2,920 by 2001. Marsham Street will now accommodate some 3,450
staff. In September there were some 3,750 Home Office headquarters
staff in central London, including the National Probation Directorate,
and 1,330 staff in the Prison Service headquarters. As indicated
in my statement to the House referred to above, the creation of
a unified National Offender Management Service will allow us to
substantially slim down headquarters' functions and where appropriate
The final outstanding issue relates to the analysis
of Sections included in Home Office legislation but not enacted.
You stated that you believed there to be about 250 Sections not
implemented in legislation passed since 1997. Research from our
Department Library and Legal Advisors has shown 197 sections.
Although I do not have access to the methodology you used, I assume
the discrepancy is most probably an outcome of trying to simplify
a very complex answer, such as whether a Schedule is counted as
one even if it has, for example, six paragraphs not in force.
In evidence to the Committee I stated that seven parts of Bills
had not been implemented. I would like to clarify that the figure
I gave referred specifically to key Parts within the five main
Criminal Justice Legislation Acts passed since 1997 and not to
all Bills passed since that date.
There are, of course, good reasons why not all
legislation is put in use immediately; I am keen that wherever
possible, legislation looks ahead to problems that need to be
addressed and that through consultation and proper planning, we
implement laws in the most effective way.
For instance S.64(1) of the Criminal Justice
and Police Act 2001 that extends police powers in certain respects
will not be implemented until High Court Rules governing the Section
have been made. As you know, there are also sections of the Police
Reform Act 2002 which are not yet in force concerning the establishment
of the new Independent Police Complaints Commission which will
begin operating in April this year. The relevant sections of the
Act will come into force on 1 April. There are some further important
sections of the Act not yet in force concerning powers to suspend
chief officers which are presently subject to negotiations on
a protocol with the Chief Police Officers Staff Association, a
provision you agreed during the passage of the Act.
Equally, sometimes powers are held in reserve
until certain situations arise. An example in this respect is
in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 where there
is a provision to penalise the newspaper industry if they reveal
the identity of a juvenile offenderas this event has not
occurred the power has not been used.
Occasionally there are unintended consequences
within Acts that, despite extensive scrutiny, were not anticipated.
For example S.38 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 was
intended to bring the law up to date and to allow the police to
deal more effectively with crackhouses. Subsequently the Government
carried out a consultation exercise and many respondents from
the homeless and treatment sectors felt they would be liable to
prosecution if Section 38 was implemented, Ministers and officials
worked closely with colleagues in other government departments
in finding a practical way forward. The result is the new powers
in Part 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 which grant the
police the power to close premises being used for the unlawful
supply, use or production of Class A drugs where there is associated
nuisance or disorder. Following commencement, the use of the anti-social
behaviour powers shall be considered and if necessary Section
7 January 2004