Skip to main content

Prison Reform

Volume 618: debated on Tuesday 6 December 2016

5. What plans the Government have to increase the autonomy of prison governors to enable them to make reforms. (907678)

We will turn around offenders’ lives only if governors have the levers they need over education, work and health in prison. That is why our reforms devolve power over budgets and services to governors.

Procurement is a complicated business. What guidance and training are governors being given to ensure that they can complete the procurement process properly, be that for the provision of mental health services or even the recruitment of the dogs that bark at drones?

It sounds like my hon. Friend is asking for some of those patrol dogs at her local prison, HMP Bullingdon, which I am delighted to say will be one of the 30 prisons that will be recruiting locally to build up a local cadre of staff, starting next January. The answer is that we will be setting up a What Works network to help governors gain the expertise they need to take those decisions and make those things happen locally.

Government Front Benchers seem to be doing a bit of sleepwalking this morning. I know that it is nearly Christmas, but can I ask them to wake up to the dangers of empowering governors too much? When the former Select Committee that I chaired looked at prison education all those years ago, we found that one real danger was that a very good system of education and training in a prison could suddenly be wiped out by a new governor who wanted nothing to do with it. We need common standards across all prisons. Is that not right?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We are being very specific about what we are asking governors to achieve in raising education standards, getting prisoners into apprenticeships and work, and improving health standards. We are specifying the what, but giving governors much more freedom over the how, because they are the people with the expertise. The officers on the landing are the ones who talk to the prisoners, and they need that freedom to be able to turn people’s lives around.