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The inspectorates have also agreed to review the use of resources and back office support to identify any efficiency gains which can be redeployed to joint working. They have agreed to report quarterly on the progress of those arrangements to Ministers. Those proposals have
24 Oct 2006 : Column 1484
convinced the Government that we can achieve our objectives in relation to the criminal justice system more quickly by focusing our efforts on strengthening and improving joint working across the inspectorates, rather than on proposals for organisational merger at this time. That is underpinned by the clear commitments of each of the chief inspectors to deliver real improvements in joint working.

The two Opposition amendments were tabled in the context of the original part 4 of the Bill which laid out an enforced merger, rather than a voluntary process—a dispute we have just had in relation to police forces. Because of pressure from the inspectorates, we have reflected and agree that a voluntary arrangement is more likely to achieve the policy outcomes that we both desire. We have removed the compulsory dimension.

We have assurances from the five inspectorates about the way in which they will achieve those policy outcomes voluntarily, and therefore the amendments are not necessary. We have withdrawn the bulk of part 4 of the Bill. In its place we have applied to each of the existing inspectorates the provisions in part 4 for delegation of functions, inspection programmes and frameworks, “gatekeeping” in respect of inspections by other inspectorates, co-operation, joint action and assistance for other public authorities.

The bulk of our amendments provide the statutory underpinning for the more efficient and effective joint working to which the inspectorates are committed. They do not change the existing remits of the respective inspectors, but the additional responsibilities originally provided for in the Bill no longer obtain. The amendments simply provide ways for each inspector to exercise his current functions more co-operatively and flexibly. There can be no doubt that that is a desirable aim, and it is shared by the inspectorates and the Government.

The other Government amendments in this group simply fine tune those processes. I accept that serious concerns have been expressed about the prisons inspectorate, and to a lesser extent the HMIC, but it has been accepted that the three criminal justice inspectorates could come together and work better. The Government are not aiming to pursue the enforced route originally laid out in the Bill; instead, we have listened to the inspectorates and both Houses and come up with a compromise. That compromise, which has been commended by the inspectorates involved, achieves our ultimate policy aim to secure greater working efficiencies in the five inspectorates, but in a way that is both voluntary and faster.

I urge the House to accept the Government amendments.

Mr. Garnier: The Minister is, as ever, disarming. He said that he had listened to both Houses of Parliament, but this House has not had an opportunity to say anything. My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) tells me that the inspectorate question was barely discussed in Committee because of the guillotine and you, Mr. Speaker, will recall that it was not reached on Report or Third Reading in this House. As a result, we had to rely on the unelected House to do our work of scrutinising the Government’s policy on the inspectorate.

I am happy to say that, just the other day—on 10 October—the other place defeated by 109 votes the
24 Oct 2006 : Column 1485
Government’s proposal to create a mega-inspectorate. None of the speakers in that debate supported the Government, and members of the Government—whom I will not identify—told me in private conversation that they considered the proposals to be dreadful. They were ashamed of them and could not understand why they had been pushed through. Luckily, Lord Ramsbotham was able to have his way and persuade the other place that an independent inspectorate was essential and that the Government’s proposals were wrong.

That was fine, but something else happened on 18 October. Just five minutes before the end of the time in which amendments could be tabled for the Third Reading debate in the other place, the Government tabled 20 pages of them. That is not a sensible way to construct legislation, and it is certainly not likely to convince this House of the Government’s ability to produce well-thought-out proposals.

The Minister has just spoken for eight minutes, which leaves the rest of us about 10 minutes before the guillotine comes down. It is an example of the sort of constitutional outrage that the Opposition have to face. The Government appeared to concede the case put forward by Lord Ramsbotham and Lady Anelay in respect of separate inspectorates but, in a way that I consider to be cynical and intellectually and politically dishonest, at the last moment they inserted the 20 pages of amendments to which I have referred. Those amendments completely destroyed the value of the concession made by Lady Scotland on behalf of the Government.

Of course, the Government now say that there will be an independent prisons inspectorate, but those 20 pages of amendments make it clear that the chief inspector of prisons will be under ministerial direction. So they promise to give us something with one hand, but they take it away with the other and then give us only 10 minutes to complain about it.

It is utterly absurd—indeed, it is worse than absurd, it is dangerous—to make legislation on such an important matter in this way. I urge the Government not to treat the issue lightly. Our amendments restore, in some small measure, the independence of action and discretion of the chief inspector. Without our amendments, the Government, who have made a concession and cynically withdrawn it, will have destroyed a day’s work in the other place and will have undermined all that the noble Lords did. That is appalling.

I have nothing further to say, other than to express the hope that not only my right hon. and hon. Friends but Labour Members will consider carefully what they are doing. Are Labour Members prepared to allow themselves to be sucked into the Government Lobby on a false prospectus, which is designed to demonstrate that the Government are giving back to the chief inspector of prisons complete independence and discretion of action, when in fact by turning down our amendments they will be removing it?

Tony Baldry: The Minister seemed to give the House the impression that the so-called compromise, or stitch-up, had the approval of the inspectors. Does my hon. and learned Friend know the view of Lord Ramsbotham on what the Government are now proposing?

24 Oct 2006 : Column 1486

Mr. Garnier: Unfortunately, I do not because I have not had an opportunity to speak to him. However, I know what he said in the other place on 10 October; we can read in the Official Report. Lord Ramsbotham was pleading with the Minister—he used the words “I beg”. This is a retired four-star general, not a man who is much in the business of begging. This is the former chief inspector of prisons, a man of great integrity and experience, yet he begged Baroness Scotland to think again. She did, but somebody got hold of her and made her think yet further, to the detriment of the Bill.

Mr. Hogg: I was a prisons Minister for two years and I placed enormous weight on the independence of the inspector of prisons. None of us has access to independent advice about the conditions in prisons, other than what comes from the prisons inspectorate. If we lose that independence, we shall all be uninformed about what is happening in prisons, which is often scandalous.

Mr. Garnier: I entirely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. I trust that those who read the report of what little we have been able to do tonight will note his intervention and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury. Those points will inform their lordships House when they reconsider this matter—if they do so.

The Government are attempting by sleight of hand—by procedural shenanigans—to micro-manage the inspectorate. That is constitutionally wrong; it is immoral and it ought to be rejected. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends and other people of good will to vote with us to support the amendment.

Lynne Featherstone: The proposal to merge the prisons inspectorate and create a combined inspectorate rightly caused great furore. My noble Friends in the other place made a cogent case against the proposal, which we have not been allowed to do in this place because the Government prevented debate by not allowing adequate time on Report. That was a shameful avoidance of proper scrutiny in the House. The Government are clearly without scruples about the democratic process.

Were it not for the Lords amendment, we would be faced with an unscrutinised and damaging programme for a combined, slapped-together inspectorate, steamrollered through. It is typical of the Government to try to use their brute strength of numbers rather than force of argument to get their way. Their seriously misguided proposal was, thankfully, averted, except that, as the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) said, despite the Government’s apparent volte face we are now presented with a restoration of power to the Secretary of State.

It cannot be right for the Secretary of State to be able, by order, to specify the form that inspection programmes or inspection frameworks are to take. That goes against the necessary independent nature of the inspection regime and its purpose. Neither should the chief inspector have to consult the Secretary of State before preparing such a regime. Each of the amendments that changes the word “shall” to “may” puts back independence—

24 Oct 2006 : Column 1487

It being Ten o’clock, Mr. speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day].

The House proceeded to a Division; but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, Mr. Speaker declared that the Ayes had it.

Government amendment (c) agreed to.

It being after Ten o’clock, Mr. Speaker put the remaining Questions required to be put at that hour.

Government amendments (d) to (f) agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment, as amended.— [Mr. McNulty.]

The House divided: Ayes 302, Noes 216.
Division No. 324]
[10.3 pm


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger

Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, Edward
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan

Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Ussher, Kitty
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Ian Cawsey and
Steve McCabe

Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine

Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jones, Mr. David
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Key, Robert
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Price, Adam
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Evennett and
Mr. Henry Bellingham

Question accordingly agreed to.
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