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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I believe that we have had an exchange on this matter previously. I recollect that some weeks after having made some extraordinary statements Greenpeace on that occasion at least had the good grace to offer up something of a sotto voce apology. I regret that on this occasion we have had no apology, sotto voce or otherwise.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is not the noble and learned Lord aware that it is he who should apologise? He has clearly not received a letter, a copy of which I received by hand today, from Lord Melchett, totally refuting the arguments which the noble and learned Lord has been putting forward here, and making it absolutely clear that any misleading that has been done in this matter has been done by the noble and learned Lord.
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will reflect on those words. He might look to that letter. As he will know, because I sent a copy of the letter to him, I invited Lord Melchett to indicate the respects in which the Observer article--
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: --inaccurately reported what had been provided by Greenpeace in terms of its press release and briefing. Lord Melchett has singularly failed to take the opportunity to do that.
The Minister of State, Home Office, (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced the appointment of Richard Tilt as Director General of the Prison Service on 1st April.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. But is she aware that some of us are very disturbed by the delay which occurred in making that appointment, a delay of six months between the sacking of Mr. Lewis and the appointment of Mr. Tilt? Is the Minister further aware that many of us welcome the appointment of Mr. Tilt, an experienced former governor, to run the Prison Service and that it will be greeted with great pleasure by prison governors, who have considerable confidence in Mr. Tilt?
However, on the point about delay, may I ask the Minister whether she recalls her words on 19th February? When asked about the delay, the noble Baroness indicated that an attempt was being made to find out who may be the appropriate person to appoint, and said:
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, this is a very sensitive and important post. I welcome what the noble Lord has said about the appointment of Mr. Richard Tilt. During that delay, which was unfortunate, Mr. Tilt was at the head of the Prison Service and performed excellently. On balance, he is considered to be the best person for the job. The noble Lord is wrong in his assumption that nobody was interested in the post. People were interested in the post. Consideration was given to the possibility of employing somebody from outside the service, but it was the view of my right honourable friend that Mr. Richard Tilt was the person for the job. He was appointed, and we wish him well in that post.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I ask the noble Baroness whether, apart from the level of remuneration, the terms and conditions of employment are the same for Mr. Tilt as they were for Mr. Lewis. Is it conceded that the Home Secretary behaved unlawfully in the
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, my right honourable friend was not found to have acted unlawfully in this matter. The costs to which the noble Lord refers are a matter for negotiation. Therefore, it would be quite wrong for me to give any information at this stage about remuneration. It is true that Mr. Lewis left his post with immediate effect. Therefore, compensation for that was always a matter for negotiation. It would be inappropriate for me to enter into any debate on the terms. As to the terms of the appointment, he is a member of the Civil Service and will be paid consistent with the band of salaries for the appropriate post.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, will the noble Baroness tell the House whether there is a significant difference in the salary paid to the present director general? If so, what is the reason for it? In particular, does it affect the scope and responsibility of the position?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the scope and responsibility of the position remain exactly the same. The range of salary is between £67,500 and £98,000. I cannot say at precisely what point in that range Mr. Tilt is being paid; nor can I make a comparison between his remuneration and that of Mr. Lewis when he left the post. I will let the noble and learned Lord have that information.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind that one of the difficulties that arose in relation to the previous incumbent was, we understand, the day-to-day interference in his job by the Home Secretary, can the noble Baroness say what undertakings the Home Secretary has given to the present incumbent to ensure that he will not interfere on that basis?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite wrong in what he says. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary commissioned the Learmont Report, which found fault with the management of the service right up to board level. It was on the basis of that criticism that Mr. Lewis was asked to leave his post. I do not agree with the underlying presumption in the question put by the noble Lord.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, no liability was admitted in the course of that matter. The judgment was consented to by the Home Office and the defendants' lawyers, but liability for dismissal was not admitted.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, will the noble Baroness indicate whether or not Mr. Tilt has been made aware of the Home Secretary's expectations as far as concerns operational and policy issues? Has Mr. Tilt been made aware of his direct responsibilities as to operational issues? Has it been made clear to him that
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, Mr. Tilt is fully aware of his responsibilities as Director General of the Prison Service. It is also true--it will continue to be the case--that there may be times when any Home Secretary has to take a very close interest in what is happening on a day-to-day basis in the Prison Service, but that does not detract from the responsibility of the director general. He has accountability to the Home Secretary, who in turn is accountable to Parliament for the effective running of the Prison Service. To that extent, that is the case. My right honourable friend is appointing an advisory board. That proposition has come almost directly from the Learmont Report. It will be helpful to have an advisory board to look at the operational performance of the service and to advise on policy and performance indicators to the Home Secretary.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we are committed to keeping Westminster informed about the Intergovernmental Conference. We shall report, by reply to Parliamentary Questions, the outcome of each ministerial meeting and shall continue regularly to give evidence to the European Communities Committee.
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