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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The next review will start in the autumn and is due to be completed by April 2001. It will be conducted under the terms of guidance for reviewing Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPB) included in the Government's Modernising Government White Paper. The review, which will be carried out by external consultants, is in two stages, in which the organisational options are considered first. Then, if NDPB status is confirmed, a forward-looking examination will be undertaken as to how to help develop and improve performance. An announcement of the results of stage one will also be made to Parliament. The senior official responsible for the review will be the head of the Government's Active Community Unit, based in the Home Office.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government value very highly the important role boards of visitors undertake as the watchdog of the Secretary of State and the independent and impartial advice they are able to provide on the standards of fairness and humanity with which those placed in custody by the courts are treated. The majority of boards work very effectively and provide a good service to Ministers and the public. However, in the light of changes within the Prison Service since the last major review of the role of the boards of visitors five years ago, we have decided that the time is right for a further review of the boards' role and we are pleased to announce that Sir Peter Lloyd has agreed to chair a Working Group to take the review forward. Sir Peter is currenty the Chairman of New Bridge, a charity which recruits and trains volunteers to visit prisoners and provides an employment service for ex-offenders.
A board of visitors is a body created by statute, and there is one attached to every Prison Service establishment in England and Wales. Board members are lay people appointed by the Secretary of State, who are empowered under the Prison Act 1952:
|Helen Edwards||National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders|
|Barbara Stowe||Office of the Prisons' Ombudsman|
|Professor Michael Marland||Former Head Teacher, North Westminster Community School|
|Dr Rennie Porteous||Chairman, National Advisory Council|
|Tom Weisselberg||Member, Wormwood Scrubs Board of Visitors|
|Steve Wagstaffe||Governor, HM Prison Hull|
Lord Bassam of Brighton: In accordance with the requirement of the Police Act 1997, I have received, from the Police Information Technology Organisation, a report on the discharge of its functions during the year 1999-2000. I am arranging for copies to be laid before Parliament and placed in the Library.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary wants to open the debate on what the future inspection arrangements should be. He intends to publish a consultation paper setting out a choice of options for drawing the work of the two inspectorates closer together. He would expect to reach a decision before the end of the year, taking full account of the consultation exercise.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Agreement has been reached to set up a Pay Review Body to make independent recommendations to the Government on the pay of prison governors, prison officers and related grades for the Prison Service in England and Wales. This review body would operate on the lines of the five existing review bodies, which deal with 1.3 million public sector employees. Like the existing review bodies, it would have a secretariat from the independent Office of Manpower Economics.
It is also my right honourable friend the Home Secretary's intention, when parliamentary time allows, to replace Section 127 with a reserve statutory power and a voluntary industrial relations agreement. Section 127, as it stands, makes it unlawful for officers of a prison to take industrial action. The voluntary agreement, which has been accepted by the Prison Governors' Association (PGA), the Prison Officers' Association (POA) and the National Executive Committee (NEC), will be put to a special POA delegates conference in August. This will mean that they have agreed not to induce, support or authorise industrial action. In recognition of this, we will provide them with a new disputes procedure which will include independent arbitration. The voluntary agreement, which will be legally binding, will give my right honourable friend the Home Secretary the power to seek injunctive relief.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary intends to use the provisions of the voluntary agreement instead of those in Section 127, while awaiting parliamentary time to effect the changes in legislation. However, it is clear on all sides that Section 127 would be used in the event of a breakdown of the agreement.
Together, we hope these measures will create a new climate for industrial relations in the Service. They clear the way for more constructive dialogue on a wide range of issues by modernising the way that this key group of public sector workers deal with their employer.
The remit of the Pay Review Body would also have the scope to make an independent determination in relation to the pay of prison governors, prison officers, night patrol officers and prison auxiliaries in the Northern Ireland Prison Service based on submissions made to it by that Service.
The implementaton of this agreement and the delivery of the intentions we have outlined above are dependent on our being satisfied that the state of industrial relations within prisons is such as to enable the effective and efficient management of the Service.
Such a state cannot be said to have been attained in the light of the current withdrawal of goodwill by the POA, but I will keep the situation under constant review.
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