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The Earl of Longford: My Lords, why is it necessary to cut the Probation Service and education service to produce greater efficiency?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the services have not been cut at all. The functions that were carried out by some of those members of the Probation Service are being carried out by the Prison Service. The governor has thought this plan through carefully. Through-care work, both in prison and beyond prison, is an important aspect of prison life and sentence planning. Again, I have talked at length with the governor about this. I believe that the plans he has put in place are effective. I have come clean about why the cuts are necessary; namely, because we believe that the peak of efficiency has not been reached and that more can be done, and we shall continue to pursue that. I would ask the noble Earl whether he would like to pose his question to his colleagues in another place who are not promising any more money for any services whatsoever. That is a pertinent question for members of his party. The Prison Service cannot be exempt from efficiency improvements. The public expenditure settlement for the Prison Service for 1996-97, and beyond, reflects the level of efficiency savings which the Government believe it is reasonable to expect. Extra money has been made available to the Prison Service for extra places and for security.

Much has been said about provision in Wandsworth Prison. It is important to put on record the range of facilities that are available there. There are photography classes and a brass band supported by the London Symphony Orchestra. NACRO runs a gym and power lifting courses. There are 15 computers for 10 sessions a week accommodating up to 150 people. Those courses are run by NACRO. In the main prison there are another 10 computers for nine sessions a week with a capacity of 90 places. The vulnerable prisoners' unit has seven computers for eight sessions a week and provides 56 places. In addition there are basic literacy and numeracy courses and a range of other subjects which can offer fairly high level qualifications. Noble Lords who are familiar with this prison will know that it is a local prison and many of its prisoners are referred to other prisons. If a prisoner arrives at the prison who is already doing an Open University course, provision is made for that. National vocational qualifications are being gained by many of the people who pass through Wandsworth Prison. There are carpentry workshops and work is provided making brushes, and in tailoring, laundry, catering and gardening. A great deal is going on in the prison. In addition, the voluntary sector works within Wandsworth Prison. I refer to NACRO, the Samaritans, the Prisoner Listeners Service, the Bourne Trust, the Prison Reform Trust, SOVA,

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Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, the Prisoners Resource Service, the Rehabilitation of Addictive Prisoners' Trust--

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, I hope the Minister will be good enough to give way for a moment. She has listed a large number of voluntary agencies doing work and people who are providing what are clearly important contributions to prison life. However, is there really any substitute for properly trained people to do a job? I have in mind page 25 of the board's report. The board comments in relation to the loss of a probation officer for the healthcare centre:

    "The loss of a Probation Officer is causing concern; much of the work is being done by nurses which is unacceptable to the Board. Future provision appears bleak".
Are the Government going to do anything about deficits such as that?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there will be a full reply from the Prison Service to the board of governors on the specific points that it has raised. Of course the noble Baroness is absolutely right. There is a place for the professional, and the professional will provide services. In terms of the through-care programme, it is possible for prison officers to become involved in that work, just as it is possible for probation officers to do so. Indeed many probation officers become prison officer staff and certainly prison officers work with the professionals to provide the services. The first range of provision I referred to is provided by professionals. I do not wish to decry the important contribution that the voluntary sector makes to the Prison Service. I believe that most prisons work with the voluntary sector in a complementary way to the benefit of prisoners.

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I shall complete the list. There is the Rehabilitation of Addictive Prisoners' Trust, Fujalto, a service to foreign prisoners, the Visitors' Centre where the CAB provides a regular surgery, and St. George's Drug Advice and Rehabilitation Service Programme.

There is also an innovative programme called the Koestler Award System. It is an award given for works of art. That is co-ordinated from Wandsworth Prison. In 1994 there were 2,000 entries from prisoners; by 1995 the figure had risen to 2,800; in 1996 it has risen to 3,000. That is a patchwork of work undertaken in prisons to ensure that people are profitably spending their time there.

It is also worth noting that when the present governor came to this prison there was no association time. This prison has come a very long way since then. It has met all its targets for times out of cell for prisoners. Even with the budget reduction this year, that is not expected to change; it will remain the same. The prison intends this year to meet its targets for hours out of cell for prisoners.

More generally, Wandsworth Prison performed more than creditably when measured against the Prison Service's key performance indicators. In 1995 there were no escapes from the establishment. On average more than 24 hours a week of constructive activity was provided for prisoners. On average prisoners spent around 10 hours a day out of their cells. This is not a picture of doom and gloom but a good performance from a prison whose staff and management are doing excellent work. I pay tribute to those staff and that management.

        House adjourned at nineteen minutes before eight o'clock.

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