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Prison Chaplains

Volume 580: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2014

We strongly support a vibrant and flourishing prison chaplaincy. Chaplaincy teams facilitate religious practice across the faith traditions, providing pastoral care to prisoners and staff, religious teaching and courses. Chaplaincy contributes to the deradicalisation, resettlement and rehabilitation agendas.

Will the Minister join me in thanking all prison chaplains for the important work they do in restorative and rehabilitative justice? Will he also commit today to write to all prison governors in both the private and public sectors to remind them that the Government are committed to the chaplaincy service and that chaplains should have unfettered access to prisoners?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question and I know that he takes a considerable interest in this matter. I shall certainly consider including a reference to the chaplaincy in one of our regular communications to governors. He will know that there are in the order of 350 employed prison chaplains and many hundreds more who attend on a sessional basis. I know that they will appreciate his support and that of many other Members of this House.

I know that the Minister understands the important part that chaplaincies play in the provision of music education in prisons. I thank him for undertaking to meet Billy Bragg and me to talk about some of the unintended consequences, perhaps, of the new restrictions that are being put in place. Has he had a chance to look at the recent Westminster Hall debate on this subject?

I have, and I apologise again to the hon. Gentleman that I was not able to attend the debate myself. I look forward to meeting him. He, of course, is concerned about a specific issue with regard to the types of instrument that can be kept in a prisoner’s cell, but he is right to refer to the music that is made in communal settings, including as part of religious services, which—and I entirely agree with him—contributes to rehabilitation.