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Chief Inspector of Prisons

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will (a) review his decision to abolish the post of Chief Inspector of Prisons and (b) retain the present incumbent in post. (85302)

Part 4 of the Police and Justice Bill, currently before Parliament, will replace the existing five Chief Inspectors for the justice sector (police, Crown Prosecution Service, courts administration, prisons and probation) with a single Chief Inspector for Justice, Community Safety and Custody. We consider this reform essential to reflect recent reforms in the services inspected and to provide an inspection regime that is able to look more effectively at the system as a whole, especially at the joins where activities of agencies interface.

We recognise the special nature and importance of prisons inspection in safeguarding human rights. We have therefore placed a special and separate duty on the new Chief Inspector to inspect prisons and other similar forms of custody and report to the responsible Ministers on the treatment of prisoners and the conditions in prisons. This duty continues and enhances the present statutory role of the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Transitional arrangements will ensure that the new Chief Inspector will not take over the prisons inspection duty from the Chief Inspector of Prisons until Ministers are quite satisfied that he or she is ready to do so effectively. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has recently extended the appointment of the present Chief Inspector of Prisons until April 2008.

We have, however, acknowledged concerns raised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and expect to table some amendments to the Bill to address them.