In July this year, my predecessor the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) announced that Ministers had decided to implement the recommendations of the independent review of the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody, 21 July 2008, Official Report, column 75 WS. The review itself was made public in February of this year.
The review made recommendations for significant reforms to the existing structures. Its central recommendation was the establishment of a three tier body, the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody. A ministerial board, which I will chair jointly with ministerial colleagues from Department of Health and Home Office, will include the heads of key agencies and will form the first of the three-tiers. The Board’s principal source of advice and recommendations will be an independent advisory panel on deaths in custody, which will form the second tier. The panel will be independently chaired and made up of experts in relevant fields.
Following a recruitment process conducted in line with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, I am pleased to announce the appointment of my noble Friend Lord Harris of Haringey as the first chair of the panel. Lord Harris has considerable experience of the criminal justice system and other areas of public service. The panel will play an important role in helping to shape Government policy in the area of deaths in custody. As panel chair, Lord Harris will be influential in setting the panel’s objectives, its programme of work and the tone for its relationships with other stakeholders. The new ministerial council will become operational from April 2009. Lord Harris will undertake some early work to ensure a smooth transition from current arrangements. I look forward to working with him.