|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: I am sorry to intervene again, but perhaps the Minister can help me with the following point. Noble Lords will see that in Clause 47 the mayor is under quite a specific statutory duty to answer questions put to him by assembly members. I am perfectly content to see that in the statute, but what I do not understand is that, when we get to either the "State of London debate" or to "Question Time" under Clauses 39 and 40, no obligation is imposed on the mayor to participate in the debate or to answer any questions put to him.
Lord Whitty: All I can say is that we are talking about new events, standing orders for which will no doubt evolve. As regards the idea that the mayor of London should have a major, high publicity, high profile
As to the timing, I can tell the Committee that the reason for this timing is that it will be shortly after the production of the annual report. I understand that there are some arguments for having further information available later in the year, but the main point about producing the annual report was that it should be current, that it should contain full information on what has happened in the past financial year and that not only the assembly but Londoners more widely should have the opportunity to react. That is the reason for the timing and I would defend it. It would become less current and more decisions would be set in concrete if we were to wait until six months after the report had been published. Therefore, it is sensible for the mayor to engage with the public in London rapidly after the production of the report.
I hope that I have expressed my indignation at what I think is an attack on a major advance for democracy; it is not a pure gimmick, as noble Lords opposite seem to regard it. In fact, it is a genuine move to try to involve far more members of the public than has historically been the case within our capital. I believe that noble Lords should appreciate that.
Lord Tope: We have had a most entertaining debate, if somewhat unexpected, the consequences of which, I fear, will be that we shall see more government amendments on Report to make this provision even more prescriptive. The purpose of our amendment was not to suggest that there should not be a debate--indeed, we do not question that at all--but that we should not prescribe in legislation what it should be called.
In his reply, the Minister's only comment was that he rather liked the title, "State of London debate". That is fine. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, will probably tell us in a minute that she quite likes the title "Greater London debate". However, the question that I should like to address to the Minister and, if I may, to the noble Baroness is: why do they feel unable to trust the mayor to make such a major decision for herself or himself as to what to call the debate? Why does the Minister not trust the mayor to decide whether to call it a "State of London debate", a "Greater London debate", or any other sort of debate? Why do the Government feel that they cannot even trust the mayor that much that they have to prescribe in legislation what the name shall be? I hope that the Minister can answer that question.
Lord Whitty: Leaving aside that aspect of it, I believe that the noble Lord referred to it as the "mayor's debate". However, it is not the mayor's debate; it is the people of London's debate, which Parliament, as part of this reform of the way in which London is governed, is laying down that Londoners should have. If we regard it as the mayor's debate, we will miss the whole point. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will take that point on board and accept that it is reasonable for us not only to prescribe that event but to do so in a way that Londoners, who are outside the normal political classes, will actually recognise and accept as an important event in the political calendar.
Lord Tope: I do not want to go on and on about this, but I do not see why I should let the Minister off the hook so easily. All right, it is the people's debate. However, we are requiring the mayor to call the debate and, when he does so, he will have to call it something. My question to the Minister, which he keeps failing to answer, is: why is he not prepared to trust the mayor to decide what he is going to call this debate when he calls it? Does he have the answer yet?
Lord Whitty: I may now have a new answer here, but I shall stick to the old one. The Government believe that we should give a clear steer to the people of London as to what kind of debate we are expecting. Therefore, it is not up to the mayor--or, indeed, the mayor and the assembly together--to describe or define how that meeting operates. They are required to call it so that the people of London can participate. I think that that might be regarded with some favour by people outside these walls. The Liberal Democrat Benches are usually open and inclusive about these matters and want to inform people what event they are being invited to. The noble Lord has intervened frequently in this debate but I regret that for once he is on the wrong tack and we are on the right one.
Baroness Hamwee: If that is so, I am on the wrong tack with him. Throughout this debate we have made it entirely clear that we do not object to the holding of a debate--indeed quite the contrary--but we object to the Government prescribing the title of the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, proudly told us of the debate held in his borough. We applaud that as an exercise. I do not want to put words into the noble Lord's mouth, but if he were told by central government that he had to call that the state of Haringey debate I wonder whether he might not feel a little insulted at the suggestion that he could not work out an appropriate title for his borough.
Lord Harris of Haringey: When we instituted that tradition a few years ago I devoted my address to the assembled councillors of the London borough of Haringey and the three people in the gallery to the subject of the evils of the then--I believe--about
Baroness Hamwee: The authority's remit includes sustainable development in the UK. That is the extent of its remit outside London. Therefore I believe that the mayor would have some difficulty in holding a debate on the state of the universe, interesting as that might be.
There is a significant point here. I am quite prepared to accept that the Government have no answer to Amendment No. 149. As I say, we are concerned about the extraordinary degree of prescription here. As regards Amendment No. 150 on the timing of the debate, and more particularly how it fits into the budget cycle, that is a matter to which we shall return. It is with some regret that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I come to the terms of this Question, I would like to say two things. First, I wish to acknowledge the debt of gratitude we all owe to the recently retired Director-General of the Prison Service, Richard Tilt. He led the service during one of its most difficult periods. He was there during those unhappy days when Mr Howard told the country that "prison works", a view that prison governors knew to be nonsensical; when numbers in custody escalated month after month; and there was a mood of near despair among many of the most responsible members of the Prison Service. Mr Tilt led the service with dedication and good humour and was rightly greatly admired by his colleagues. We wish him well in his retirement. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of
Secondly, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will recognise that debates on prisons of this character inevitably tend to take place when things have gone badly rather than well. We all know the considerable amount of admirable work that is carried out day by day by members of the Prison Service. Often the chief inspector's reports recognise this, but the one we are discussing today unhappily tells a very different story. It is right that when serious failings have been identified--as they have been in this report--Parliament discusses the issues involved.
The regime in the in-patient area was, said Sir David, very deprived, partly due to gross shortage of staff. There was no confidence that patients would always get their medication on time, nor that basic nursing observations would be completed. The average time unlocked each day was no more than four hours instead of the 12 hours required and was often nil at weekends. Staff said that the mental health of in-patients was at risk of deterioration because of the prolonged periods locked in and the poor levels of nursing. Let us be clear
As is unhappily the case in a number of establishments, industrial relations seem to be poor--indeed, very poor. When efforts were made to improve conditions and there were consultations with the staff, there were constant "failures to agree"--that is a term of art--and progress was stopped dead in its tracks. The report said that managers and staff trying to improve the poor conditions and treatment of these young people were constantly thwarted by the time it took to achieve any form of agreement.
I have no interest in matters of this kind of simply blaming the Prison Officers Association for these problems at Feltham. In many cases it is clearly not its responsibility. In any event, there are large numbers of decent, conscientious prison officers working in our prisons. Unhappily, as we all know--the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will certainly know--a number of branches of the Prison Officers Association are not prepared to co-operate with management when it attempts to establish more civilised conditions in our prisons. To take a more recent example, there is such a branch at Wormwood Scrubs prison.
I hope that by the time we have another report on Feltham we will be told that there has been a significant improvement in industrial relations there. I shall welcome anything that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, can say to reassure us that there has already been such an improvement. In the meantime, I was encouraged to read of the chief inspector's comment that there had been a swift response to his report by the Minister for Prisons--presumably the noble Lord, Lord Williams, himself--and by the director-general. That at least is good news. But I hope that we shall not be compelled to read many more reports such as this.
Another folly related to a group of teenagers, whose homes were in London, being sent off to Yorkshire just a few weeks before their discharge. There has sometimes been a gloomy sense of inevitability within the service that it has just got to put up with a good thumping from the chief inspector every now and then. The Feltham report is far more than a good thumping; it is a brutally frank report about a deplorable situation which was allowed to develop in one of our prison establishments.
I look forward to what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, can tell us. I hope that he will be able to reassure us that dramatic changes have been put in hand at Feltham. When the chief inspector next reports on another, perhaps unannounced, inspection, which is what we want--hopefully it will take place before too long--I hope that we will then be able to read of a very different situation obtaining at Feltham.
Perhaps I should start with a disclaimer. I am no expert on prison reform. What I hope to contribute is a view of the issues facing management, having myself been in management for some 40 years in both the public and private sectors. I shall proceed with some caution because of the complex management task which faces the senior management at Feltham.
I am encouraged by the fact that the chief inspector's two reports--the first in 1996 and the second at the end of 1988--both address the issue of the roles of the Prison Board and of the senior management. There is no doubt that they have a very difficult task. As Feltham is large and is both a young offender institution and a remand centre, they have many variables with which to deal. The depth and spread of the necessary professional skills is formidable.
An added difficulty is created by the public and political context within which the management works. There is no--at least I suspect no helpful--public consensus on the ways in which young sentenced and unsentenced people should be treated. Voters do not always support those who are thought to be soft on crime. Yet those involved in the service will always be striving to implement regimes which will reduce recidivism--a task with its own great difficulties since, whatever else we can modernise we cannot modernise human nature.
Yet management needs to be accountable. It is often said--I think with accuracy--that one cannot manage what one cannot measure. Recidivism may be the best long-term surrogate for the more complex list of performance indicators, which is itself the subject of criticism by the chief inspector in his annual report.
In these difficult circumstances, senior management needs to find strategic direction; it needs to set out its own position and aspirations clearly and needs, where possible, to have its task simplified. Using this last test, one positive step would be success in reducing the average remand time from 142 days to 71 days, which is the Government's target for March 2002. Can the Minister tell us what progress is being made towards this target?
Remembering the dual capacity of Feltham and looking at the management organisation in the reports, it might well be a useful simplification to create a more formal split of responsibilities between the young offender institution and the remand centre. The agreed objectives for each will have great differences between them, the needs of the one being different to those of the other, and the measurement of managerial progress in each is probably best carried out in differing ways. It may well be easier for management and staff to cohere around a simplified set of objectives, one for the young offenders and one for those on remand.
No doubt other ways can be found to improve management's ability to make progress, which, in the chief inspector's view, has eluded it in the period between his two reviews. Nevertheless, I am left with
"I find it quite inappropriate that Industrial Relations procedures should inflict such a severe impact on the treatment and condition of prisoners".
Surprisingly, in the many pages of recorded opinion--apart from the one senior manager referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Harris--the senior management's views are not included. I wonder if this is Government policy. If it is, is it wise? I cannot believe that the Prison Board and the senior management would agree with every detailed comment, nor with every one of the 187 recommendations in the first report. But we have no means of knowing if they stay almost wholly silent. Perhaps the Minister will comment. It seems unlikely that much progress will be made between the inspectorate's second and third reports if there is no coming together by senior management and staff under the direction of the Prisons Board to achieve consensus.
One area that clearly needs such consensus and agreement is staffing. Is the staffing, to the greatest extent possible within the changes and chances of this life, adequate to the task in hand? There is in reality no room for continued disagreement and debate on this issue if everyone is to give of his or her best--and particularly not if it has become an article of faith that, "We are always short of staff". In the old days, the 1950s, I was told in the steel foundry which I managed that we were always short of work at Christmas. When I said, "Not this Christmas", they looked at me pityingly, with a look that said, "He's young. He will find out, hard though he may try". The Prison Officers' Association seems to be in something of a similar bind. Its members probably believe that senior management try, but do not have any faith in their ability to succeed.
Admittedly, it is hard to change endemic cultures. But if they lead to low expectations, they will usually be self-fulfilling, and thus entirely inappropriate to the complex and professional task to be done at Feltham. It seems certain that Feltham needs cultural change in the relationships between the senior management and the staff. How do the Government propose to assist the Prisons Board to achieve that change?
Finally, while it is both helpful and necessary to have reports from the inspectorate and, as a result of due diligence, from the Board of Visitors also, would it not also be helpful if the Prisons Board and the senior management, led by the governor, were to respond in writing and in the public domain? That step would show leadership and a commitment, which will not be satisfied either by the Feltham vision or by administrative instructions. Nor are frequent changes of governor likely to be helpful.
At any one time there are 800 young people whose future depends in large measure on their experience at Feltham. It is a grave and risky, but I would say exhilarating, responsibility to be discharged in the public interest. I am sure that there are many at Feltham who are determined to assist in convincing your Lordships that progress can and will be made in the next two years. I hope that the Minister can be similarly convincing.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for bringing this subject before the House. I am rather less warm in my thanks for being allowed to read the document. It is one of the most depressing I have ever read. The description of the physical conditions in which these young men, indeed boys, are living reminds me more of an extract from Solzhenitsyn than something happening in our own society. It is incredibly depressing--the idea that people are restricted in terms of access to light, exercise and indeed food.
That said, the physical conditions merely contribute to what else is going on. I refer to the fact that in many cases any process of rehabilitation seems to be stopped before it has started. The only aspect that seems totally to receive a rubber stamp of approval in the report is voluntary service. My interest in Feltham is totally down to the fact that many years ago--too many years ago now to be reflected by anything in the report--I was part of a voluntary unit, the Apex Trust, working at Feltham on pre-release courses.
Much of what was said then is exactly the same as I read in the report. It was said that members of staff had bad attitudes. Certain people were renowned for being bad, for provoking assaults with which they could not be connected, for making sure that people could not get out of their cell and for being very "anti" to the idea of being able to have access to showers, soap and clean clothes.
I thought that most of the complaints would turn out to be whingeing. Those of us who work in any of the voluntary groups involved in prisons hear and experience the fact that certain units within the Prison Service are very "anti" such groups. Indeed, that is stated in some parts of the report. The idea is mentioned that such people think there is too much access to volunteers, that volunteers are messing up the system, that there is too much criticism. But the report accords with much of what I heard from inmates and those working within the voluntary group. It is a confirmation of all that I heard that was negative about the whole process.
It should be borne in mind exactly what that means. These young people are probably at their lowest in terms of self-esteem. It is a time when they probably have the greatest number of doubts about themselves. After all, what is a teenager except a mass of doubts covered in spots? Basically, that is what we have here--young people who are having to look at themselves for the first time, having been told by society that they have failed. They are in prison. One way of dealing with that is to develop a hide like a rhino; one tries to get through to them. They are faced with these kinds of conditions. There are the problems of getting people into education units, and of people being transferred out. I shall mention the inappropriateness of the education courses shortly. There is the additional idea that people must turn up dirty, smelling bad and hungry. If we want to create a background that is going to reinforce failure, I suggest that we have taken a damn good step forward.
As to the education and the rehabilitation courses within them--for want of a better expression--the report states that many people work well but that those under school age (I shall not attempt to use the acronym) seem to "burn up" most of the time. It also mentions something that is no surprise to anyone; namely, that large numbers of those under the age of 16 find themselves placed back in classroom situations in which, almost by definition, they will have failed--thus reinforcing the idea of failure. The staff believe that it is inappropriate to place them back in that situation and that something more creative should be done. The report also states that courses such as cookery achieve more, and there is less disruption. That is no surprise to anyone who deals in this sector. If we reinforce failure with more failure, the result will be resentment.
The report also mentions that there is no initial assessment of such problems as dyslexia. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will not be at all surprised that I raise the point again. He is well aware of this matter and has given it his attention. It is suspected that up to half the prison population suffer from dyslexia. They have a condition which is a disability. They are entitled to some support under the education Acts passed under this Government and their predecessors. Unless there is some process included in the induction procedure to find out who those people are, a major opportunity to help them is being missed, one which may well be able to remove them from the cycle of re-offending and being such failures educationally and thus difficult to employ.
In the modern world the cycle of re-offending is universally recognised. People fail educationally. They come from a social background where crime is thought to be a real option, at least by their peer group. They are sucked into a life of crime. Dyslexia contributes in that process. It is not a decisive factor; social conditions are probably more important. It is said that a "thick" middle-class child is often labelled dyslexic. It is to be hoped that we are now moving on. But in a working-class background, when someone is under-achieving and feels frustrated, that may well be happening.
The Prison Service has the opportunity to do something about it. Effectively, it has the most captive audience that anyone can ever have, and there is time. Unless the rest of the system supports the idea, we shall not be able to take the opportunity to improve the situation, to improve the lot of the individual and to remove people from the cycle of re-offending.
If we can try to reinforce positive aspects, there may be a way forward. As the report stands, the only comment made that receives universal praise concerns the few weeks with voluntary groups before the offender leaves. When talking about young offenders, that is probably the most damning condemnation of an institution or part of an institution we will ever get. None of it works properly until they are about to leave.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I wish to speak briefly in the gap. Listening to the debate this evening I was much reminded of my own experience, regularly speaking to traumatised young people who had had unhappy experiences in their families or had no parents at all. I spoke to the professionals who work with these young people. Low self-esteem is infectious. The other day I talked to the director of a unit who remarked how she woke up in the morning finding herself depressed, with no confidence in herself; she felt that everything she did was lacking. She asked herself why she felt that way. Then she realised it was exactly how the young people felt with whom her workers dealt directly. The feeling had passed to the workers and on to her.
Low self-esteem, misery, despair are infectious. The people who work with traumatised young people need support to cope with it. On the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, about the division, the house divided unto itself, there needs to be support all the way up. The people at the top need to listen to those beneath them. In a sense they must be a strong parent or father, supporting the younger members of the family as they deal with the youngest and most difficult members.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I too wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for initiating this debate and to associate ourselves with the thanks from this side of the House to Mr Tilt. I would be grateful if the Minister could pass them on to him.
This is a most disturbing report. We have had the benefit of four significant speeches, with the masterly summary by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, of the report. My noble friend Lord Eccles made some constructive proposals about future management. We also had the unexpected and welcome personal experiences of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, in connection with the problem.
As my noble friend Lord Eccles pointed out, Feltham is a remand centre as well as a young offender institution. The remand population is sadly growing and it is a highly transient one. It is a major impediment to the building up of a settled regime and, in the case of Feltham, the drain on resources by the remand side, at the expense of the youth offender institution, is marked. So this is another major problem for the Home Office to address.
Running through the report is a constant complaint about lack of resources, but on more than one occasion one feels that that has been used as a convenient excuse for shortcomings in the regime which better management might have addressed. Nevertheless, an undoubted problem it is.
Moving on to more specific criticisms of Feltham, we find the bald statement that there is a failure on the part of management to understand the needs of the patients, which is disturbing. Indeed, the overall conclusion that staff morale is low is a cause of great worry, which, moreover, cannot fail to affect staff relations with inmates. Relations between management and staff clearly leave a lot to be desired and the high staff turnover tells its own story.
Incidentally, there is an instance of a good idea which is possibly spoilt in its implementation. The accelerated promotion scheme is clearly to be welcomed, attracting candidates of ability with good career prospects. But staff complain that too many are in that category at Feltham who are perceived to have their own personal agenda. Because their stay is limited and known to be limited, it leads to an uncaring situation on their part. We would welcome the Minister's view on the subject.
The report had serious criticisms of basic prisoner amenities; for example, inadequate washing and shower facilities, dirty clothing and bedding and lack of exercise periods--blamed on staff shortages in many cases. However, in the case of dirty clothing and bedding, the presence of clean bedding in adjacent lockers invites an explanation.
The section relating to healthcare at the institution makes bad reading. It has been more than covered by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I understand that Feltham provides medical services for several other prison establishments and the resulting staffing demand which necessitates transfer from other departments is unsettling and one of the most vigorous of the staff's complaints. I also note that indifference to the shortcomings of the Feltham healthcare regime appears to have extended up the scale to area managers.
One of the most welcome and interesting features of Sir David's report is the admittedly small and isolated pockets where he found good practice. The contrast between Partridge and Swallow units is salutary and disturbing. In the latter, the report refers to,
"Staff interacted positively with [the young prisoners]". One must also compliment those in Quail unit for the information and support for young prisoners facing potential life sentences for murder. That was praised by the inspector. This uneven performance must surely point to a failure in consistent management. But sadly, in the case of Feltham, it must also highlight the fact of good staff delivering high standards in spite of, rather than thanks to, the managerial environment.
The report is a hard-hitting one, and I find no evidence that it is unfair. We have had a constructive debate. Some of the criticisms are outside the control of management and can be laid at the feet of senior levels of the Prison Service. On the other hand, some problems are properly within the responsibility of Feltham management to address and rectify.
The report notes that the Minister for Prisons, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and the Director-General gave a swift response to Sir David's concerns. I should like to echo the thanks and congratulations of the noble
We from these Benches appreciate that neither manpower nor material resources grow on trees, but these problems, particularly overcrowding, will not go away. We look to the Government to ensure that these problems are addressed vigorously.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, this is a bleak report, and it will not be the last one in that category. We are determined to improve and change the Prison Service. It is a great advantage to look at the recent Honours List to which the noble Lord referred. I absolutely echo, and am grateful for, the congratulations offered to Sir Richard Tilt. Usha Prashar, chairman of the Parole Board, is on that list, as is Vivien Stern--long overdue--for her work with NACRO. Helen Reeves of Victim Support is also on that list, as is Mrs Mary Blackburn of the Boards of Visitors. That is an indication, but no more, of the importance we attach to the work of those engaged in the penal and criminal justice system generally.
It is customary to thank the noble Lord for securing the debate. Very often it is cosmetic, but this evening it is not. The one regret that I have is that so few noble Lords are here to participate in the debate. We see once again where the balance of values lies between a packed House agog to deal with the question of club rights and something that falls into a fundamentally different moral category.
These are very worrying problems. The report was published on 26th March. It is particularly critical--I accept that--of the fact that many, many of the first report's recommendations remained unactioned. Personally, I found aspects of the report quite shocking. I well understand the anger and concern expressed by noble Lords because I share those sentiments. I can tell noble Lords about a number of events that have taken place. The new governor, Mr Clifford, took up post on 19th April. To pick up the noble Viscount's last point, a new area manager, Mr Peter Atherton, is responsible for Feltham. They are determined to turn matters around.
There are good staff who have worked in difficult conditions and have had successes. I am grateful for the comments of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. As examples, I refer to the Nightingale pre-release course and the Quail murder charge project. Referring to a slightly different aspect of what is, by and large, a gloomy history, both of those activities received Butler Trust awards recently. Those awards are not lightly handed out, as noble Lords will be aware.
To give some history, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, to whom I pay ready tribute--I have frequently said in his presence on public occasions that the more of an irritant he is to me the better I am pleased--came to see me on 11th December of last year to tell me of his deep concerns and preliminary findings. I immediately contacted the then Director-General, Sir Richard Tilt. Having spoken to Sir Richard, I had a joint meeting on 16th December with him and Sir David Ramsbotham. By that time--only a matter of days later--the director had been to Feltham and had immediately instituted a task force to report back to a steering group as a matter of urgency. We were approaching Christmas, but it was heartening to me that Sir Richard said that that task force was to go in on 23rd December.
The task force was to identify issues for immediate action and chart a plan for improvement to be implemented over the next six months. I intend to go to Feltham myself when those six months are up, or a little longer, to satisfy myself about what has happened. If any noble Lords wish to join me on that occasion I shall be more than happy to make arrangements. It is critical that we define objectives and then castigate ourselves if we have not achieved the overwhelming majority of them. In this context, and perhaps in others to follow in the next few days, if Sir David returns and finds in a sensible period of time--perhaps 12 months or so--that the overwhelming bulk of his recommendations have not been put into effect, people will have to reconsider their positions with great care.
I will deal with some specific matters. The task force, which has worked very quickly and in a focused way, identified 39 issues for immediate action. Thirty-three have been implemented and the remaining six are well in hand. I shall give some examples which have been referred to by noble Lords in particular contexts. One is to make significant inroads into the transit camp problem (as Sir David described it) by ending the use of Kestrel as a daily discharge unit and the use of Osprey for allocation purposes. Another is a reduction of the capacity of Feltham by 72 to reduce overcrowding and to allow refurbishment of two units to start.
A further recommendation, which was a particular point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, is an increase in the quality of healthcare by a move into a fully refurbished healthcare unit and the provision of eight officers on detached duty from other establishments to offset the staff shortages to which the noble Lord referred. Another recommendation is to increase PE from two to five classes in both the morning and afternoon sessions and to increase the numbers attending education by 30. A further recommendation is to secure another £2 million funding to develop a separate regime for the under 18 year-olds which will include 12 hours out of cell each day and 30 hours purposeful activity each week, for which a further £3.4 million capital investment is to be made to provide separate reception and education facilities.
These are only beginnings. I want to deal with the specific question about the new establishment to which the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, referred. The number of prisoners has already been reduced. That is in part to facilitate the opening of the new healthcare
We must draw together many aspects. I slot in the fact that I have invited the Chief Inspector to conduct a thematic review, starting later this year, of how we deal with remand prisoners in the whole of the prison estate. That is another review which I believe is long overdue. It is undoubted that the presence in the general prison regime of a large body of remand prisoners causes a distortion in what should be the fundamental work of the prison system in dealing with prisoners of whatever age group.
If I may trespass without reproof into the Lord Chancellor's Department's area, with great respect, I believe it is incumbent on every person in judicial authority who is remanding in custody as opposed to bail to ponder a very long time before taking that decision, and also to ponder upon whether they know the conditions that remand prisoners have to tolerate. That is a much wider problem than Feltham, but I do not think we shall get anywhere in terms of prison reform without dealing with these matters on a general spectrum basis.
I am coming to the question of the new young offender establishment. A planning application to build a young offender establishment to serve east London and Essex is being taken forward. It is unlikely that that establishment will be open before late 2002 at the earliest. That is the answer that I am able to give.
Those are some particular questions which were raised and some particular steps that have been taken. I can personally tell your Lordships, because I have involved myself closely, that the area manager, who is new, and the governor, who is new, are entirely determined to change things at Feltham. We are extremely fortunate to have a successor Director-General of the Prison Service of the quality of Martin Narey to follow Sir Richard Tilt, an extremely difficult act to follow, as they say. I am not saying this in a flippant way. He is determined that when these questions are raised there will be no sheltering, there will be no shuffling off of responsibility. He is prepared to accept the responsibility, as I am.
There was a particular question about accelerated promotion schemes. The Governor of Feltham is happy with his staff, which includes a Governor Grade 5 currently in the accelerated promotion scheme, and the current Deputy Governor is in fact a graduate of that scheme. What I have seen of it at work in the Prison Service is encouraging; indeed I have--I must spare her blushes--an excellent graduate of that scheme seconded from the Prison Service, indeed seconded from Feltham, to work in my private office as an Assistant Private Secretary. That is an extremely useful and important cross-fertilisation between Prison Service headquarters, the Home Office and the prison regime itself.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, raised questions about mentally disordered offenders. On 18th May eight were waiting at Feltham for admission to hospitals under Part 3 of the Mental Health Act of 1983. This is wider than Feltham but I ought to tell your Lordships what we are doing in the context of more sensible co-operation between the National Health Service and the Prison Service. It has been lamentably bad in the past years. In fact, I would not have described it as co-operative working at all. I have had very close contacts with my colleague, my noble friend Lady Hayman. We are instituting much closer workings. We will have a health policy unit and a health task force in place by the autumn and the winter of this year respectively. I went to a most heartening conference this morning, the first of its type, with professionals from the health service and the Prison Service, 500 of them in the Queen Elizabeth Centre, all eager to deliver what we can deliver: much better outcomes in terms of prisoner care.
The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, claimed to be a non-expert. We could do with rather more non-experts in your Lordships' House because he asked extremely interesting questions, if I may say so without appearing to be over-pompous. He asked about questions of management in a more general sense. I can answer him in what the Home Secretary has approved. The Home Secretary, the new Director-General and myself came to the conclusion that we ought to organise the management of the prison system in a different way. We now have two boards. One is a management board, chaired by Martin Narey as the new Director-General, and the other is the strategy board, which I chair, which is designed to take a long term view, not simply to respond, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said, to the immediate disaster of the moment. I believe that is the proper way to manage a reformed, invigorated, modern Prison Service.
The noble Viscount also raised the question of what happens in terms of response to reports which are frequently damning, often critical and sometimes extremely positive. I have to say, the world being what it is, that when one has excellent reports on particular institutions, I detect no publicity for them. I ought to say that young offender institutions can be made to work. I was at Huntercombe recently, which is a great success story, dealing with offenders who are just as difficult as those at Feltham, an excellent staff, excellent members of the Prison Officers' Association, a first-rate governor, and, interestingly, very good donations and assistance from the private sector, Nissan and Kwik-Fit to mention but two. It can be made to work given the determination.
The noble Viscount raised a very important question which I have discussed on several occasions with the new Director-General, namely the vice which many boards of visitors identify of a governor who starts to succeed and is in post for far too short a time. It is a frequent refrain from boards of visitors and we have taken that very much on board so that we should be looking to new circumstances where governors do not, having turned round an institution and made it a success, find themselves transferred to another institution.
The other important tool that we have is that all the annual boards of visitors' report come to me. I do read them. Obviously I have to take advice and I try to respond as fully as I possibly can to each set of criticisms or recommendations.
On speeding up court procedures, the noble Viscount and I are in absolute agreement. We have to speed them up. Curiously, it was Mr Martin Narey who devised the scheme for speeding up juvenile court cases. The pilot schemes are working well and I believe we can get remand times down. First of all, we ought to because it pollutes the court process, and, secondly, we must because it distorts and disturbs the true purpose of the prison regime.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page