17.In the short time that has been available to us to produce this report, since the Government’s announcement of a general election on 8 June, it has not been possible for us to produce a detailed analysis of the evidence we received nor to reach final conclusions. We have not completed our planned programme of evidence and visits, and in particular we have not had the opportunity to hear from Ministers their response to the arguments of other witnesses.10 However, we wish to put on record the details of some specific measures which we believe should be incorporated into law.
18.During the inquiry the Government introduced its Prisons and Courts Bill, which received Second Reading in the House of Commons on 20 March 2017. We thought that the Bill would provide a legislative opportunity to give effect to certain recommendations related to our inquiry which required primary legislation. We wrote to the Government on 30 March asking, amongst other things, how it proposes to make a number of specific improvements to the legal framework.11 We asked for a response by 13 April but had not received one by the time the House of Commons agreed to the Dissolution of Parliament on 19 April. We had planned that the Chair of the Committee would table, on our behalf, a number of amendments to this effect at Commons Report Stage, which we understand had been scheduled to begin in late May.
19.These amendments would have sought to make the following specific improvements to the legal framework:
20.In addition, we intended to propose an amendment to the purpose clause in the Bill to make explicit that one of the aims of prison is to treat prisoners with humanity, fairness and respect for their dignity.
21.Tabling amendments to add these provisions to the Bill would have enabled parliamentarians to engage with the Government over how best to achieve improvements about whose desirability there is widespread agreement, either through primary legislation or by changes to the Prison Rules. If the Prisons and Courts Bill or similar legislation is reintroduced in the new Parliament, we hope that similar amendments will be tabled, even if the Committee has not yet been re-established by the time that the Bill resumes its passage, to allow progress to be made on this urgent matter.
10 A further evidence session had been scheduled for 10 May 2017, at which we had expected to hear from Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons; Paul Tarbuck, Head of Healthcare Inspection, HMIP; Nigel Newcomen, Prisons and Probation Ombudsman; and David Strang, Steering group member of the National Preventive Mechanism (also Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland). The theme of this session would have been how lessons can be better learnt following deaths in custody. Preparations were also underway for the Committee to visit HMP/YOI Isis and HMP Thameside on 4 May; and to take evidence from Ministers on 7 June.
11 Letter from Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the Committee, to Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, regarding the Prison and Courts Bill, dated 30 March 2017
29 April 2017