Appointment of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons - Justice Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. Pre-appointment hearings were recommended in the Liaison's Committee's report, Shifting the Balance Sheet: Select Committees and the Executive, published in 2000. Although initially rejected by the Government, the Governance of Britain green paper of 2007 proposed scrutiny of prospective appointments as follows: "…the hearing would be non-binding, but in the light of the report from [a] committee the Minister would decide whether to proceed. The hearings would cover issues such as the candidate's suitability for the role, his or her key priorities, and the process used in selection…". We note the recent review of this process by the Liaison Committee.[1]

2. A list of posts proposed by the Government as suitable for pre-appointment scrutiny was published (without endorsement) by the Liaison Committee in 2008. The appointments from that list under the aegis of the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General's Office are set out in Annex A and include HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. We recommend that our successors, early in the next Parliament, examine this list against all the public appointments made by the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General's Office with a view to making recommendations as to whether any other post should be included.

3. On 3 March 2010, the Secretary of State for Justice announced that Mr Nicholas Hardwick, Chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, was his preferred candidate for the post of Chief Inspector of Prisons and he invited us to report on Mr Hardwick's suitability for the role. The Secretary of State described the process as follows:

    The preferred candidate for the post is subject to scrutiny by Parliamentary select committee prior to appointment. Such hearings will be non-binding but the Government will consider the committee's conclusions before deciding whether to proceed with the appointment.[2]

4. This appointment is the fourth we have scrutinized under this initiative: the first was the Chair of the Office of Legal Complaints, then a new Information Commissioner and then a new Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service.[3]

5. This request was timely as we had recently published our findings in relation to: the role of the prison officer (which involved consideration of the objectives of the use of custody overall); and "justice reinvestment" (a broader look at potential contributions to the reduction of offending and re-offending from preventative measures outside the criminal justice system, and non-custodial sentences within it, in the light of planned spending on prison-building).[4]

6. In preparation for the hearing, we took oral evidence from the current Chief Inspector, Dame Anne Owers DBE, on 2 February 2010 and subsequently conducted a pre-appointment hearing with Mr Hardwick on 10 March 2010. This evidence is published with this report.

7. The Ministry of Justice submitted the information supplied to applicants in respect of the role. The background material is used throughout our report and the person specification and terms and conditions are summarised in Annex B.

1   Liaison Committee, Second Report, 2009-10, The work of Committees in Session 2008-09, HC 426 Back

2   Applicants pack, post of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Ministry of Justice, January 2010 Back

3   Seventh Report, 2007-08, Appointment of the Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints, HC 1122; Third Report, 2008-09, The work of the Information Commissioner: appointment of a new Commissioner, HC 146; Third Report, 2009-10, Appointment of HM CPS Chief Inspector, HC 244. Back

4   Twelfth Report, 2008-09, Role of the Prison Officer, HC361; and First Report, 2009-10, Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94 Back

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Prepared 18 March 2010