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Lord Burnham: My Lords, I do not feel that it is frivolous to ask by what name this new privatised body is to be known. If it continues to be Her Majesty's Stationery Office, it will enjoy the privileges and conditions relating to the printing of parliamentary documents that it enjoys today. However, if, as I suspect, it is to be thrown into the commercial maw and jungle of the printing industry, life will be very different. It will find it extremely difficult, on commercial, price and other grounds, to continue to give the service that we receive from the Stationery Office today. Can my noble friend give any assurance that, even if it is in the commercial printing world, standards will remain the same as they are today?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, first, I cannot see any difference in principle. I do not see at all why the private sector cannot provide a quality service. Certainly, if we have the safeguards of having a well drawn up specification, legally enforceable, we can demand the quality of service that we specify. Also, it is worth knowing that HMSO at this moment contracts out to the private sector. Quite a portion of its work is contracted out to commercial companies and is done to the specification of HMSO on behalf of the Government. The title HMSO will remain in the public sector because the residual body will continue to use it. But I cannot say, and it is very unlikely, that the title HMSO will continue beyond that point. The Government's contract, whether Crown or Parliament, is very prestigious. That will mean a great deal to any company outside Whitehall.
Lord Richard: My Lords, perhaps I may ask one very simple question. If the object of the exercise is, as the noble Baroness just told us, that the new Stationery Office can go out and seek new markets, why not give the existing Stationery Office precisely that power now?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there is something improper in the taxpayer supporting a commercial company. It would be very unfair. There would not be a level playing field with the rest of the private sector if the taxpayer underpinned the interest of a commercial company.
Baroness Blatch: There is no reason whatever why this very efficient service cannot stand on its own two feet in the private sector and seek the custom of the Government in all its forms, whether through the Crown or through Parliament. The principle (perhaps the noble
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank rose to call attention to the Learmont Review of Prison Service Security in England and Wales (Cm. 3020), and to the case for a clear statement of government policy on the administration of Her Majesty's Prison Service; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am sorry that we cannot give the Minister a little peace after the rough ride that she has just had on the future of HMSO, but at the end of the debate on prison escapes and related matters in this House on 25th January last, initiated from these Benches, I said that we should return at a future date to the matters that we then discussed. Today, we are keeping that promise. This debate will also give the Minister, if she chooses, an opportunity to report to the House before Christmas on three linked matters: first, the Learmont Report, which is plainly referred to in our Motion; secondly, the organisation and reorganisation of the Prison Service, discussed briefly last January, and again briefly following the dismissal of Mr. Derek Lewis; thirdly, and more generally, the prisons policy of Her Majesty's Government into which Learmont and the Prison Service clearly fit. I gave the Minister notice of some of the points that I want to raise.
I take as my text the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, to whose 1991 report Members on all sides of the House paid appropriate tribute in our January debate. The noble and learned Lord said that the escapes from Whitemoor and Parkhurst should not have occurred, but that events should be kept in proportion. He advised what he called,
Over a number of years one of the means of maintaining that balance has been the activities and reports of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, Judge Stephen Tumim. All credit to the then Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, who appointed him and regret that the present Home Secretary, Michael Howard, saw fit not to persuade him to continue. I am sure that the Minister will wish to join noble Lords in all parts of the House in paying tribute to all that Judge Tumim did during his years in office. Our Prison Service is more efficient and more humane as a result of his efforts; he deserves to be remembered and recognised for all that he did.
A new inspector has now been appointed. He has apparently been asked to widen his brief to include security, though I am not aware that any new terms of reference have been published. If that is the case, and the new inspector is to be required to give much fuller
Will the Minister also clarify a point that is puzzling me, though the fault may be mine. The Corporate Plan for the Prison Service 1995-98, published in May, says that the Home Secretary asked Sir John Learmont to report to him by this month on progress in implementing the Woodcock Report on Whitemoor. Is that a separate report that we are still awaiting?
As for the existing Learmont Report, I mainly want to ask the Minister questions that arise directly from the Home Secretary's Statement in another place on 16th October, which the Minister kindly repeated here. First, the Home Secretary said that he would come back to Parliament in due course with what he called "a full response" to Learmont. When is that to be and what form will it take? For example, are we to expect a White Paper?
On the question of dispersal and the alternative of one maximum security prison--"supermax"--the Home Secretary said that he would welcome comments. Has any formal procedure been set up for consultation? I ask that because the Home Secretary said that he expected the results of a feasibility study by the spring, when a decision will be taken.
In relation to the organisation of the Prison Service, Sir John Learmont, in his covering letter to the Home Secretary dated 27th September printed with his report, drew attention to his recommendation that a further study be carried out,
But in paragraph 3.87 of his report he gave a different emphasis--it is more than a gloss--to this important matter by recommending an in-depth study of the "relationship" (his word) between the Home Office and the Prison Service,
I therefore ask the Minister precisely what is her understanding of the purpose of the in-depth study. Is it, as Sir John recommended, to give the Prison Service "greater operational independence"? Or has that part of Sir John's recommendation been dropped? As she will appreciate, if the Home Secretary has adopted the recommendation as a whole, the Government have already committed themselves to the outcome they seek. On the other hand, if the abbreviated form of the recommendation used by the Home Secretary on 16th October is an amendment to Sir John's recommendation, the Home Secretary should have told Parliament and, in turn, with respect to the Minister, she would have done
In the debate on the humble Address, I expressed my concern about the in-depth study being conducted by Miss Kate Jenkins, the chief author of the report which led to the creation of the agency concept in 1987. I said in the debate that it seemed odd that the person who devised the system in the first place was being asked to consider whether her original advice was correct. I did not doubt her talent and integrity. But that did not seem to be the best way to obtain the right answers and a system that would last.
The Minister's reply was to say that Miss Jenkins' knowledge and experience were to be welcomed rather than criticised. I do welcome them, but that does not affect the issue as to whether she should be asked to sit in judgment on a system she helped to create.
Be that as it may, I have two questions for the Minister. Are her terms of reference precisely those recommended by Sir John Learmont, or the abbreviated form used by the Home Secretary--I am returning to what I asked a moment ago--or, for that matter, the Minister herself on 20th November? Secondly--this is a further point--will Miss Jenkins' report be published? I assume that it will because the organisation of government is of proper concern to us all; it is not the property of the Government of any one time. When it is published, we shall be able to debate more thoroughly than we can today how these difficult matters--I readily concede that they are difficult--of accountability can best be handled. I hope that we will obtain advice from Members on all Benches, including those who are wise in the ways of Whitehall and to whom we all listen with great respect.
The idea of "a structured stand-off" will only work if there is a clear line of demarcation between the responsibilities of the Home Secretary and his advisers and the Director General of the Prison Service. The Home Secretary is bound to be concerned in large issues that affect Parliament and the public. But it is intolerable if the Home Secretary regards the Director General as a kind of superior office boy, to be summoned into his master's presence on almost every day of the week to take instructions and to be leaned upon.
Paragraph 3.83 of the Learmont Report is an important one. It says that the Director General needs minimum spending involvement--by which Sir John means interference--in the day-to-day operation of the Prison Service. It describes how Sir John Learmont and his colleagues asked the Prison Service to produce
If we want to discover the origin of the events that led to Mr. Derek Lewis's dismissal and the failure so far to find a permanent replacement for him we need only to reflect on that paragraph. It is a powerful condemnation of how the Home Secretary and his immediate officials strangled the prisons agency with paper.
On the face of it, that is just what we do not want. It is a formula for more paperwork, more demands on the Prison Service and more interference. Perhaps the Minister can tell us today whether this unit still exists and, if it does, how many officials and of what seniority now staff it and to whom they report. Where do they fit into the current organisation of the Home Office, as shown in Annex D to Part I of the department's senior management review published in May. I hope she will say categorically that they are not there to counter-brief the Home Secretary in competition with the advice of the director general.
The Minister did not like that because she thought that I was ridiculing the system and casting doubt on its effectiveness. But I ask her to listen to Sir John Learmont in paragraph 6.6 of his report:
So Sir John Learmont says, in his report to the Home Secretary, precisely what we said in January to the Minister's disapproval. As the Home Secretary clearly takes more notice of what is said by Sir John than views expressed in your Lordships' House, I assume that, almost a year later, we shall have no more doublespeak of this kind and, I hope, fewer glossy documents.
There are two of Sir John Learmont's recommendations that the Home Secretary did not accept, two issues on which he said he disagreed with Sir John. They were concerned with in-cell television and home leave. Sir John said that television in cells,
Again, his recommendation was concerned, like his report as a whole, with security. Why did the Home Secretary reject those recommendations--simply because they ran counter to his own declared political agenda. I regret to say that when it suits the Home Secretary he is much less concerned with evidence, ideas and practical solutions to problems than with public perceptions. In this case he prefers the good opinion of the Sun and the Daily Mail to the advice of Sir John Learmont.
There are many questions to do with the growth of the prison population which must concern this House. The figures published by the Home Office and by the Prison Service indicate a much faster growth in the prison population than is provided for, according to published documents, in the building programme. The Home Office has rightly said that there have been some considerable improvements in targets and results. Those are impressive as far as they go. But is the House being asked to believe that, given the growth of the prison population and the fact that overall the Home Office budget will fall by £300 million at 1994-95 prices between this year and 1998-99, this trend of improvement will continue?
I return to what I said about balancing security, care and justice. We all recognise that the maintenance of law and order means that some men and fewer women will go to prison. We all believe that prisons must be made secure. But in a civilised society we must treat those in prison humanely or we will be corrupted by our own inhumanity. As much to the point, those who go to prison as criminals will come out as criminals. Far from prison working, the public will have been cheated into believing that the world is becoming safer.
Many prisoners are young, have no proper family and are illiterate. Prison must offer them education, experience of work, some sense of belonging and hope. Contained within the Prison Service must be the idea of redemption and of preventing the first-time prisoner becoming hardened into an on-and-off inmate for the rest of his life. The Home Secretary may have been right to endorse the Learmont Report as far as it goes, but that does not absolve him from responsibility for ensuring that care and justice have their place in the prison system too.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, in introducing in the wake of the Learmont Report this debate on the security aspect of the Prison Service administration, to
The ambit of the noble Lord's Motion extends beyond the past and the present to include future policy. As to the polices in place, there was no criticism in the Learmont Report; there was no suggestion that such policies warranted clarification. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is in no way to be condemned, as was suggested by the noble Lord. Criticisms in the report stopped dead short at prison board level. The report condemned the Prison Service for muddle, inaction and lax security constituting a recipe for inevitable disaster. It is not understood why in this regard any statement by way of clarification of my right honourable friend's past policies is requisite.
As regards security, no statement of policy of general application to all prisoners could ever afford any viable resolution. In every prison there is, and has to be, an indigenous community ethos, a subculture, which reflects the type of prisoner, the type of prison officer, the type of regime and the character of the governor.
As regards future policy, there are two suggestions which I wish respectfully to make. A maximum security prison should be set up for the most dangerous prisoners, as proposed by the Mountbatten Inquiry some 30 years ago and approved by the then Home Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. Special prisons with a lower level of security should be set up drawing on the experience of Grendon Underwood and akin to the borstal system, to contain this rampant new age menace of teenage gang barbarism, whose members terrorise, murder, rob and rape at knifepoint, defy the police, ram police cars and indulge in inter-tribal mayhem, drug dealing, street robberies and extortion. A modernised secure regime should be instituted in which they may be punished and disciplined, and, in the interests of rehabilitation, educated, trained for a trade and taught some respect for human dignity and some sense of responsibility towards society.
A maximum security prison for the most dangerous prisoners or those dedicated to escape--a very small minority of the prison population--would operate and would have to operate, under a regime which would be wholly inappropriate for the vast majority of prisoners, for whom every attempt must be made to retain the correct balance between punishment and rehabilitation, with only a relatively low level of security.
The effect of such a regime is all too well understood by those of us who served five years of an indeterminate life sentence in a maximum security prison during the war, the only hope of release being by armed intervention. The frustrations of long-term prisoners and those who guard them, and the resort to subcultures to bend and break security by exploiting lax and regular routine as an aid to escape were part and parcel of our
As regards the lapses in security at Whitemoor and Parkhurst, it is the Prison Service under the leadership of Mr. Derek Lewis, appointed Director-General in 1993, which has to bear the full responsibility. The division of responsibility as between my right honourable friend for his policy and the Prison Service as to implementation, would not appear to have been understood by those who maintained that my right honourable friend is "answerable to Parliament" for all matters concerning the Prison Service and for whom the concept of divided authority has no meaning.
The plain fact of the matter is that matters of implementation of policy cannot and do not lie within the province of the Home Office to administer on any day-to-day basis. Mr. Derek Lewis, who acknowledges that he removed Mr. Marriott, the governor of Parkhurst, was offered the opportunity to make representations on the criticism of his conduct in the report. He made such representations, they were considered by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and he concluded that the position of Mr. Lewis was untenable and decided that the service required a change of leadership.
That was a lawful administrative decision taken in the due exercise of his ministerial duties and in the due discharge of his discretion. As such it is not open to challenge, but it was also a reasonable decision fairly taken with total propriety. It was not a policy decision, but a decision taken on the facts of a matter concerning the Prison Service for which my right honourable friend is accountable to Parliament. He has already accounted in another place.
In conclusion, perhaps it may be mentioned that, according to the report on a totally free remit, the lapses of security were in no way attributable to private sector prisons as compared with public sector prisons. I do not regard this as a party matter. I certainly have no interest to declare save the common interest of all your Lordships and the interests of our own society.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I am happy to take part in any debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and wound up by my noble friend Lady Mallalieu who has had varied experience for someone who, I may say, is quite young. She has had very varied and worthwhile experience and has become highly esteemed here.
I shall reply briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. This is a free country. He justifies Mr. Howard's decision to remove Mr. Lewis. I regard that as a contemptible decision. He was made a scapegoat. I highly respect the noble Lord, Lord
What is the present position? We have read in the papers that a successor to Mr. Lewis cannot be found. A Home Office source was quoted in the newspapers yesterday as saying that no one would touch the job with a barge pole because they know what they might be in for. I tried to obtain confirmation of that from the Home Office but it was unable to help me. Perhaps the noble Baroness will tell the House whether a successor has been found to Mr. Lewis and, if not, is that not very strange?
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, must have been abroad, or doing something else, when the governors came out against the Home Secretary. The whole Prison Service is against him--does not the noble Lord realise that? I go to a prison each week and in the holidays sometimes to more than one. The noble Lord will find it difficult to get one prison officer to say a good word for Mr. Howard. That is the situation and one important aspect of the matter.
We are talking about security. In the end that depends on the intelligent, devoted activity of the prison staff. What is the present attitude of the prison staff to what they are compelled to do? Not so long ago I was in a prison and a senior prison officer said to me, "We are all aware that Mr. Howard would be unhappy if he saw a smile on a prisoner's face. It sounds all right at the Home Office, but think of the people who have to administer the regime? We have had to withdraw privileges from prisoners, and some of them are quite dangerous and violent men serving long sentences. We have to explain to them that 40 per cent. of home leave is to be cut". What effect will that have on their relationship with the prisoners? But we expect them to maintain security.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, particularly on the ideal that he expressed at the end of his speech. However, if I may say so, he was a bit too kind to the Learmont Report. I do not think that that report will stand up well in the light of history. If anyone wonders what right I have to say that, although I have been visiting prisons for half a century, I direct them to the comments of Judge Tumim. Has any noble Lord read what Judge Tumim said about the Learmont Report? He regarded it as disastrous. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, will deal with all of these matters extremely well because no one in this House, and few outside it, have done as much for penal reform as the noble Lord. Anybody who has considered these matters at all carefully knows that the Learmont Report is regarded as disastrous. Judge Tumim said that in a broadcast as well as in an article in The Times. He said that it is wrong to make security an absolute priority. Those were Judge Tumim's words--I hesitate because I was not sure whether the noble Lord was going to attack me. No, he is not moving this way, but I look to my noble friend Lord Graham to provide total security on these Benches. The noble Lord has put me off my stroke, but not for long.
The simple fact is that Judge Tumim said that the Learmont Report, with its emphasis on security at all costs, will undo much of the good work which has been done in prisons in recent years. Frankly, therefore, I do not attach all that much importance to its findings. Of course, Learmont was a great soldier. He had a quick look around the prisons and one must note his contribution, among others.
Let us look at the whole thing more widely. We know by now about Howardism--the idea that prison works. We know that, in the code of Howardism, life is to be made as unpleasant for prisoners as possible. I have visited Whitemoor several times this year. In order to buy a cup of tea for a prisoner you now have to go to a building away from the prison to get a ticket. Leaving all your money behind, you re-enter and are then searched four times, the last search being assisted by a sniffer dog. That is what happens before you can enter the prison. I said to a prison officer,"This is making things a bit difficult for prison visitors", and he replied, "But nothing like as difficult as it is making life for us". That is the relationship that is being established in our prisons now by Howardism.
Let us make no mistake about it. Such attitudes will make good security very difficult to achieve. By and large, I think that prison staff are devoted, but one is asking for heroism beyond the call of duty if one calls on them to carry out a regime which they detest and which they find difficult to recommend to the prisoners.
I need not go on because I have said all this before and I will say it again. Let us make no mistake about it. We will not get security in prisons unless we attract the fullest loyalty and devotion from the staff. At the present time, the Home Secretary is going in the opposite direction.
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln: My Lords, I speak as Bishop to Prisons, whose sentence has just been extended for a further five years. I want to draw your Lordships' attention to some important points in the Learmont Report. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham will speak on the balance between security and other considerations and our concern as Christian ministers.
I visited one of the prisons in my own diocese only last week. The deputy governor told me that, in his judgment, good progress had been made by the prison service since 1987. He felt that the introduction of mandatory drug testing and the incentive scheme for prisoners were the most important changes on the ground since the Fresh Start initiative some seven years ago. However, he pleaded for a period of stability in the service and for an opportunity to consolidate so that those improvements, as he saw them, in the management of prisoners could work their way through the system. Richard Tilt, the acting director general of the Prison Service, comments in the latest Prison Service News:
My second point is to remind your Lordships that I am constantly struck when visiting prisons by the idealism and commitment of prison staff. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred to the importance of that. My concern is that that staff morale should be sustained at the very highest level and that Learmont's comments should be heeded in that regard. It is important that senior appointments within the service are filled by professionals with long experience in that service.
Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that people are always an expensive resource, but, if the prison service is to move to being a people-oriented organisation rather than a paper-oriented organisation, as Learmont recommends, the money has to be found to sustain present staffing levels and even to improve them, rather than being diverted into other projects. Good security, as the noble Earl reminded us, and as Learmont echoes, depends as much on routine tasks being performed well as on sophisticated equipment--not to mention sniffer dogs. A very large part of the day-to-day work of establishments is carried out by non-officer grades such as education staff, workshop supervisors, administrative staff, psychologists and chaplains. Those people are in regular contact with prisoners. Their expertise is critical to successfully managing and running those establishments. I want to make a plea that those significant groups are remembered as important contributors to the Prison Service. If that service is to be a people-oriented organisation, their role deserves to be taken very seriously. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure the House on that point.
Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge: My Lords, I am particularly interested to follow the right reverend Prelate because the main thrust of his speech dealt with prison service staff. If I have time, that is what I hope to cover also.
I have been complaining about the state of our prisons for some 35 years now. Some things have improved; others have got worse. The leader in The Times of five years ago, in 1990, opened with the statement:
I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to paragraphs 541 to 552 of the Learmont Report which deal with a single prison for uncontrollable prisoners. Everybody has referred to it, but detail is given in those paragraphs. That is something that could be taken up and done in its entirety without another two years' discussion of it. I hope that the Government will think about that.
The root cause of the trouble was, is, and probably always will be, overcrowding. There was 5 per cent. overcrowding in the prisons 35 years ago, and there still is today. That average figure of 5 per cent. for all prisons conceals the fact that there are always more prisoners in local prisons. At the moment eight or 10 local prisons
I wish to change the subject a little to try to throw another light on the matter: 21 years ago I was sent by the British Council to Thailand in response to a request it had received for some advice on the aftercare of prisoners. I was chairman of NACRO at the time, and I selfishly appointed myself to go. I returned a real lover of those delightful people. I am pleased to say that I have a granddaughter who this very day is staying with an old friend of mine in Bangkok.
I went for a happy month. I was shown all Thailand's prisons and talked to many of the prisoners through an interpreter. Their hospitality is generous. They are determined to treat everything as a party. One had to be careful not to be carried away and respond too easily.
The second in command of the prison service met me. He told me that they found it difficult to obtain any money from the government to ease conditions on release. "What our people want", he said, "is to catch the criminals and never hear of them again". It might have been our Home Secretary speaking.
Prisons in Thailand are seriously overcrowded. It is partly for that reason that the Department for Correction gave my visit such a warm welcome. It wanted change, but public opinion is apathetic. The public do not want to hear about the problems. We have heard a good deal about them today so if they read what has been said they will know a bit more about what is happening in this country. There were over 15,000 prisoners serving sentences of 10 years or more in a country with a considerably smaller population than ours. At that time we had 1,200 prisoners serving similar sentences. The Home Secretary might say that we want longer sentences. They had them, or at least they did 20 years ago.
There was no probation service in Thailand--again something that the Home Secretary would like--although something was done for juveniles. Prison conditions were harsh, but not dreadful. There was no corporal punishment. There was capital punishment by shooting, with the firer hidden by a sheet. However, the elegant death dance has been dropped for some time. It was a serious and awful occasion. There were 20 to 30 executions a year. I do not know how that has changed, if at all, in the past 20 years.
I saw a score of condemned men, all fettered, and without occupation of any kind. The conditions were accepted apparently with placidity. All the prisoners are kept working. They are not fed until they have done the work, which means that very little supervision is necessary. They are allowed to keep one third of the sale price of the goods they make. There were always a
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