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Prison Service Management And Organisation

Volume 300: debated on Monday 10 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Director General's review of management and organisation of the Prison Service. [15642]

The Director General has now completed an internal review of the management and organisation of the Prison Service.The review has recommended, and I have endorsed, a programme of action with the following key elements:(i) measures to assert and reinforce Ministerial responsibility for the Prison Service. The Government have already made clear their commitment to taking proper Ministerial responsibility for the Prison Service. Parliamentary Questions are now answered by Ministers and not by the Director General. Further measures to be taken in the light of this review are as follows:

from 1 January Ministers will chair quarterly meetings to review formally the performance and plans of the Prison Service. The report concludes, and I agree, that in the circumstances of the Prison Service such an arrangement better supports the Government's approach to Ministerial oversight than any form of separate Advisory Board;
the Agency Framework Document will be updated and reissued with a new Ministerial preface when the Comprehensive Spending Review is further advanced;
the Prison Service will take action to develop a greater sensitivity to the nature and demands of Ministerial responsibility for the Service at all levels in the Agency. This will be reflected in specific training programmes and in key documentation.

(ii) a new focus on the delivery of effective prison regimes and preparation for the release of prisoners. The Government are committed to the development of constructive prison regimes which address offending behaviour. Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons has drawn attention to, and been critical of, the wide variation in standard levels of performance between prisons of the same type. The review concludes that an improvement

in performance in this area is required; and that the top management of the Prison Service is not, at present, organised in such a way as to deliver the necessary leadership and direction required to secure an improvement. The Prison Service will, therefore:

plan for and seek substantial improvements in the effectiveness of regimes and the preparation of prisoners for release, while continuing to maintain its performance in relation to security and control; and
create a stronger capacity within Headquarters to develop regime standards and polices for all prisoner groups and to support the operational line in monitoring performance and spreading best practice. This will be provided by a Director of Regimes at Prisons Board level, supported by Assistant Directors with separate, specific responsibility for: young offenders; women; adult males, lifers and parole; and prisoner administration.

(iii) a major programme of change to improve the managerial effectiveness of the organisation. This reflects the need for:

the Prisons Board itself to operate more strategically and effectively. Responsibilities will be clarified at Board level, with separate policy Directors of Regimes, Security and Healthcare. One policy Director will be designated as Deputy Director General and will deputise for the Director General in his absence and ensure effective co-ordination of the day day to work of the Service;
more effective standard-setting and performance management systems. A clear set of core standards will be formulated, supported by a set of functional standards for different types of prisoner and prison. The contact between the Governor and the Area Manager will be used as the key business management tool of the Prison Service; and in the longer term the Service will move towards the replacement of contracts with more formal service level agreements, providing a form of internal purchaser/provider arrangement;
a major investment in management development and training will be taken forward when the Prison Service can identify efficiency savings. The net for recruiting managers to all levels in the Prison Service will also be widened.

I welcome the outcome of this review—not least because it is the product of an internal, rather than externally imposed, analysis. None of the proposals to be implemented is intended to pre-empt the outcome of the wider review of the Prison and Probation Services which I announced in reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Dr. Naysmith). Official Report, column 172, or the Comprehensive Spending Review, which are proceeding in parallel. The action proposed will, however, help to position the Prison Service for whatever changes may emerge from these reviews and make improvements which are needed in their own right. The Review will be taken forward within existing Prison Services resources.

I am placing copies of the Review in the Library.