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Prisons: Carter Review

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 5 December 2007

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on the report on the prisons review carried out by my noble friend Lord Carter of Coles.

“Lord Carter was asked in early June of this year to undertake his inquiry jointly by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, as Chancellor, and my predecessor as Lord Chancellor, my right honourable and noble friend Lord Falconer. I am extremely grateful to Lord Carter and his team for all their time, expertise and professionalism.

“Lord Carter’s report proposes a large increase in prison building. It says that there is urgent need for an improved long-term mechanism for better balancing supply and demand for prison places. It puts forward far-reaching proposals for a judiciary-led sentencing commission and for efficiency and organisational changes.

“Mr Speaker, let me first give the context of the review. For half a century—from the end of the war—crime rose inexorably. As each successive Government left office, crime was higher than when they came in—significantly higher in the case of the 1979 to 1997 Administration. In sharp contrast, this is the first Government since the war under whom crime has not risen, but has fallen by a third. Violent crime is down, burglary and vehicle crime are down, and the chance of being a victim of crime is now lower than at any time since 1981.

“These improvements are due to many factors: the police; local communities; local authorities; industry; stronger powers to deal with disorder; substantial youth justice reform; and greatly increased investment in law enforcement, with 14,000 more police. In turn, these improvements have led to many more serious, persistent and violent offenders being brought to justice—60 per cent more—and being sentenced for longer. The result has been a very rapid growth in the prison population, up by one-third since 1997, from 60,000 to 81,500 last Friday.

“During the same period, reoffending rates have improved, while the physical condition of prison has been transformed, as has security. Here I would like to pay particular tribute to prison officers, probation officers and staff at all levels. They do a difficult job in often difficult circumstances.

“The whole House is agreed that, wherever appropriate, offenders should be punished in the community. Overall, investment in probation services is up 72 per cent in real terms over the last 10 years. We shall be extending the testing of intensive alternatives to custody, providing sentencers with more rigorous non-custodial regimes. But, of course, the House and the country are clear that prison has to be used for violent, serious persistent and dangerous offenders.

“With so many factors in play, forecasting the future trend of the prison population has always been complex and uncertain. Predictions for this summer over the previous seven years have put the prison population 20,000 above and 12,000 below its actual level of 80,600. But there is no doubt that the prison population will continue to rise over the next few years, given the increasing effectiveness of the system in bringing more offenders to justice. To meet previously anticipated demand, a programme for 9,500 extra places is already under way. An extra 1,600 new places have come on stream this year, as will a further 2,300 next.

“In the light of Lord Carter’s recommendations, I can now announce that, to secure the long-term availability of prison places, I have agreed with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor additional funding of £1.2 billion on top of the £1.5 billion already committed, to deliver a further and extended building programme that will bring an additional 10,500 places on stream by 2014.

“We will act on Lord Carter’s recommendation to build up to three large ‘Titan’ prisons, housing around 2,500 prisoners each. The extra capacity will help to modernise the prison estate, close some of the older inefficient prisons on a ‘new-for-old’ basis and reconfigure some of the smaller sites to accommodate female or juvenile offenders. This building and modernisation programme is aimed to bring overall net capacity to just over 96,000 places by 2014.

“To provide additional capacity in the short-to-medium term, we intend to convert a former Ministry of Defence site at Coltishall in Norfolk into a category C prison, provide further places through expansion on existing prison sites, convert Her Majesty’s Prison Wealstun into a closed prison and bring forward projects from the building reserve list. My department is also actively looking at securing a prison ship.

“On women in prison, my right honourable friend the Minister for Prisons will tomorrow publish the Government’s detailed response to the report of my noble friend Lady Corston. Also, I have today asked my noble friend Lord Bradley to carry out a review, reporting jointly to the Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice, into diverting more offenders with severe mental health problems away from prison into more appropriate accommodation.

“Lord Carter has made important recommendations about the operation of NOMS and the Prison Service to improve the focus on service delivery and offender management. We will streamline corporate services costs in headquarters and regional offices in NOMS and the Prison Service and establish a programme of performance testing.

“Contrary to myth, there have in fact been fewer criminal justice Bills in the last 10 years than in the preceding decade. However, it is inevitable that in this field measures have to be kept under constant review. Indeterminate sentences of imprisonment for public protection introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 have proved an effective way of dealing with the most serious and dangerous offenders. However, as my right honourable friend the Member for Sheffield Brightside has confirmed to me, these sentences were never intended to target those who would have received tariffs of less than two years. Notwithstanding this, the drafting of the legislation has meant that they have been used for very short tariffs—in one case as short as 28 days.

“As recommended by Lord Carter and by the chairman of the Parole Board, Sir Duncan Nichol, we will therefore table amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill to introduce a minimum tariff of two years below which IPPs and extended sentences cannot be given. I want to make a particular point here about sentences for rape. It is very rare for rape offences to receive less than two years’ tariff, and any sentence for a serious offence effectively below a two-year tariff would be open to appeal by the Attorney-General on grounds of undue leniency. All of that will ensure that IPPs are focused on the most serious and dangerous offenders.

“In addition, we are accepting Lord Carter’s other recommendations to align release mechanisms for offenders sentenced under the 1991 Criminal Justice Act with those for offenders sentenced under the 2003 Act. Offenders sentenced for non-sexual, non-violent offences committed since April 2005 are now eligible for release at the half-way point of their sentence, remaining on licence to the end of their sentence, rather than being eligible for parole at the half-way point and automatic release at two-thirds, being on licence to three-quarters only. We propose to introduce a similar regime for prisoners sentenced for non-sexual, non-violent offences under previous legislation.

“Decisions about the sentence to be handed down in a particular case must be a matter of judgment for the trial judge or magistrates. Respecting the independence of sentencers to pass the sentence that they believe appropriate in individual cases is fundamental to the integrity of the judiciary in a free society. However, Parliament has a critical role to play in setting the framework for sentencing and in deciding on the taxpayers’ money to pay for the prison places and probation services that arise from that framework.

“During the past decade, much progress has been made to develop a more coherent and transparent sentencing framework, with the Sentencing Advisory Panel in 1999 and the Sentencing Guidelines Council in 2004. Lord Carter now highlights the need for a mechanism—a sentencing commission—that will allow for the drivers behind the prison population to be addressed and managed in a transparent, consistent and predictable manner through the provision of an indicative set of sentencing ranges. Such a commission would have an ongoing role in monitoring the prison population and reporting on the impacts on the prison population and penal resources of all national policy proposals and system changes. I emphasise that the proposal has nothing to do with linking individual sentences to the availability of correctional resources. The debate relates to the linking of resources to the overall sentencing framework.

“I am pleased to accept Lord Carter’s recommendation to establish a working group to consider the advantages, disadvantages and feasibility of a sentencing commission, which will lead and inform the public debate on these issues.

“Prison is, and will remain, the right place for the most serious offenders. Custodial sentences, and therefore prison places, must also be available for less serious offenders when other measures have failed or are inappropriate, and we must have in place a rigorous and effective framework of community penalties where they are the right course.

“The measures that I have announced today will fulfil our aims in this important area. They will bring many more prison places on stream with agreed funding and a delivery programme. They will allow for a rational debate on sentencing that recognises that, as with any other public service, resources are finite. Above all, they will fulfil our commitment to provide a modernised prisons system that protects the public from the most serious offenders. I commend the Statement to the House.”

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. I echo his remarks about those who work in the Prison Service, probation officers and all others concerned in the field. I also offer my congratulations to his department on getting copies of the Statement to the Opposition in reasonable time and on letting us see the Carter report itself in a timely manner. Obviously we will have to have a proper debate on the Carter report in due course, given the mess that the Government have got themselves into in this field. I hope that the Minister will lend his voice to mine and others’ when his noble friend the Chief Whip and the usual channels are approached about ensuring that we get a proper debate on the report, because merely debating a Statement on it will not be enough.

I should also offer my congratulations to the Minister on his sheer bravado in repeating claims about the fall in crime, and violent crime at that, since his party came to office. Can he really say with his hand on his heart that knife crime and gun crime are down, or has his department, the new Ministry of Justice, having taken over from the Home Office, dreamt up new definitions of these crimes that allow them to be conveniently massaged downwards? I would very much welcome a response from the Minister in due course. More important, can he again say honestly with his hand on his heart that fear of crime, which is as important as crime itself, is down since May 1997? Again, I doubt it very much.

I will accept one statistic that the Minister gave in the Statement that he had the honour of repeating—the statistic on prison numbers, which he said were up from some 60,000 to 81,500. We all know that prisons are bursting at the seams and that the numbers are greater than the actual capacity of the prisons. As he knows—this is far more important than the numbers in prison—that means that the prisons cannot do the job that they are supposed to do. We discussed only recently the whole question of meaningful work and training in prisons. The Minister knows full well that it is very difficult for prisons to offer any meaningful work, training or education when they are as full as they are now. If they cannot manage that, I very much doubt that they can hope to play their part—I appreciate that others have a part to play here, too—in preventing reoffending and encouraging those who are inside to go straight when they come out.

I have several questions to put to the Minister and no doubt a great many others will come from the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, who will speak from the Liberal Benches, and from others in this House who know far more about prison matters. I will put just a number of these questions to the Minister. My first question is a repeat of my earlier request that there should be a debate, in government time, as soon as possible on this report and on the whole question of prison numbers and sentencing.

Secondly, the Minister tells us that there will be more places. He mentioned some 10,500 more places. I think that the Government already offered 9,500 places in earlier announcements; no doubt these places will be announced time and again in due course in the manner in which this Government manage to announce their figures again and again. That makes some 20,000 new places on offer from the Government. Is that figure gross or net? How many places are likely to disappear? I think that the Minister talked about there being some 96,000 places in the end, so he seemed to be implying that there would be some 16,000 new places.

That leads us to my third question, which is about overcrowding. I am told that some 17,000 prisoners double up. Will they still do so after these 16,000 net places or 20,000 gross places come in? If the Minister is talking about a total of 96,000 places and prisoners will still double up, that seems to imply that we will not really go forward at all. Perhaps he can assist me. Perhaps I have misunderstood his explanation.

Fourthly, overcrowding is important. What does the Minister think of the recommendation made by the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, on the scope for increasing overcrowding? Overcrowding is already at a fairly horrendous rate. I mentioned the figure of 17,000. In fact, the prisons are beyond capacity, but the noble Lord, Lord Carter, seems to think that there is scope to increase overcrowding. I hope to hear more on that from the Minister in due course.

Fifthly, what does the Minister propose to do about prisoners with severe mental illness? The Statement says that the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, will conduct a review. What will be the terms of reference and the scope of that review? How long will it be? When will we be likely to get the report of that review? The Statement refers to diverting more prisoners from prisons. I am tempted to ask whether that is another means of massaging the prison figures down and adjusting the number of people who are allegedly in prison.

Sixthly, on Titan prisons, the report refers to three new prisons taking in the order of 2,500 prisoners each. We all know that this Government believe that biggest is best, but I ask the noble Lord to look at the case for going the other way and having more smaller prisons. What is the positive gain of larger and larger prisons? Prisoners will be increasingly more remote from their families and, therefore, have less chance of maintaining family ties during their time in prison. Presumably, while they are on remand, going to court and so on, they will be more remote from the courts that are serving them; there would be the danger of yet more time being taken up processing them in and out of prison for going to court, as well as more travelling time. Perhaps the Minister and the Government could look at the possibility of more smaller, local prisons, whose long-term advantages might include saving money rather than incurring greater expense.

Seventhly, we are told that around 11,000 prisoners have been released early during the past four months. What are the Government’s plans for further early release of prisoners as their desperate attempts to manage prison numbers and reduce them by fair means or foul continue?

I have put a number of questions to the Minister and I could go on, but I should like to ask him more generally about sentencing. We had something of an assurance that there would be no plans to tell judges or magistrates that prison capacity should be taken into account in making individual sentences. We would all like to hear that again, and possibly again. We would be grateful if the Minister could develop that a little more when he responds to me and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner.

There is much in this Statement on the report. As I said, I could go on, but I do not think that today would be the appropriate moment. I shall restrain myself until further occasions. I look forward to those further occasions, when I shall certainly go on.

My Lords, from these Benches, we, too, thank the Minister for the Statement and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Carter, on his indefatigable efforts in these causes. We look forward to reading the report in greater detail. While broadly welcoming its general thrust, we have some notable concerns.

There are two or three big print issues which stand out in the Government’s thinking on this report. The first and most serious point is the admission of either panic or defeat; namely, that building more prisons and locking up yet more people is the answer. The admission illustrates the paucity of imagination which leads us as a nation to intern more people than any equivalent country in the European Union. France locks up 40,000 fewer people than we do. Even Germany, with a population of 20 million more than the UK, incarcerates significantly fewer people than us.

There is a paucity of imagination, too, in a Statement which calls for a “rational debate” on sentencing yet does not mention the word “rehabilitation” once in the text. While the Lord Chancellor in the other place made much this morning of how the headline crime rate is going down due to locking up more people for much longer, his solution is for yet another body, a sentencing commission, which will provide for indicative sentencing ranges.

The sentencing commission is based on a proposition that guidelines be changed on the basis of capacity; that is, supposedly, variations according to the day of the week. Where there is an issue of confidence in the criminal justice system, it seems that this will serve only to reduce that confidence, not enhance it. As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said so eloquently, we know that judges prefer greater discretion in sentencing, with fewer centrally imposed targets. Will the Minister give a reassurance that the working party which is expected to review this will indeed be mindful of the need to remove any perceived arbitrariness as to whether a sentence is given down on a Monday versus a Friday and the term which will go along with it?

On prison overcrowding, we welcome the expansion of prison places through the building programme. But the emphasis on Titan prisons housing 2,500 prisoners is worrying. When the trend should be towards smaller, more widely dispersed prisons so that, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, families are nearer prisoners, three super prisons will serve only to distance people from what precious few support networks they might have in the communities. Will the Minister explain why the emphasis is on these large units, given that prison inspectors say that smaller prisons work better? Many on these Benches will touch on that issue but it would be helpful if the Minister enlightened us as to why the Government have gone for those models rather than for the model that we know from research the trend favours.

We welcome,

“a rigorous and effective framework of community penalties”,

which the Statement calls for. However, for a long time much of the research has shown that not only is prison ineffective for short-term sentences but when communities are involved in the debate about community sentences and local solutions, greater awareness of the way in which community sentences work results in a change in attitude among those communities and those involved in rehabilitation. My noble friend Lady Linklater has demonstrated such schemes to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and I pay tribute to her energy and commitment to this issue.

Finally, there is the issue of knowledge and awareness. While we will respond more fully to the contents of the report in due course, will the Government accept the need for greater awareness of the many successful community penalty schemes which are found around the country? Will the Minister confirm that they should be better supported and expanded to address the long-term rehabilitation of offenders so that they can return to meaningful lives within their communities?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, for their welcome of the Statement and report, and I thank my noble friend Lord Carter for his magnificent work in this area. I am glad that the report and Statement were produced in reasonable time; we need to ensure that that happens in the future.

On the request from the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for a debate, that is, of course, a matter for the usual channels, but I would certainly welcome an early debate on this issue. I am sure that would be extremely helpful both to noble Lords and to my department in taking forward the proposals and decisions relayed in the Statement.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, that I know comparisons can be drawn between the number of prison places in this country and those in other countries, but there is a very mixed picture internationally. Some countries—the US, for example—have a much higher prison population than we do. In general, there seems to be a pattern of an increase in prison populations. I agree, though, that alongside the need for prison and the need to deal with existing issues and projections for the future, we need to have proper, rational debates about prison policy. I am sure that the arrangements that have been announced today will help us towards that. If a sentencing commission is eventually set up in the light of the work done by the working group, I have no doubt it will be able to play an important part.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that there is no doubt about the figures, and crime is an issue. There are elements of criminal activity about which we are all concerned. However, the figures show overall reductions. The fear of crime is a matter that we have to tackle—and that is being done in various ways, not least through more effective community policing, which is one way that the public can be assured—but we should not underestimate the successes that have been achieved.

The noble Lord and the noble Baroness mentioned rehabilitation. The structured sentencing framework that is provided for, recommended by my noble friend Lord Carter, the assurance that we will get the match right between the sentencing framework and the actual provision of prison places, and dealing with the current issues amount to a good foundation for developing programmes of rehabilitation. We should not underestimate some of the good things that are being done in our prisons, such as the trebling of the offender learning budget and the increase in resources, on which I frequently comment, for the prison health service put in by the National Health Service. We wish to continue to build on those successes.

I am tempted to say I will write to the noble Lord about the number of places. He is right that there will be an increase of 20,000 places, but we will expect a reduction of 5,000 places due to the closure of inefficient old prisons, giving a net addition of 15,000, bringing the figure to 96,000. I am happy to set that out in further detail, but that is the rough order of figures.

On the role of judges in dealing with individual cases, I shall respond to the challenge set by the noble Lord. There is no question of fettering individual judges at all. I am sure the working group will pick up on the noble Baroness’s point. The sentencing framework mechanism that my noble friend has proposed will allow the total impact of sentencing decisions to be pulled together within prison and probation resources, but I reiterate that there is no intent to fetter the individual decisions of judges. A working group, led by a member of the judiciary, will take this forward.

I endorse what the noble Baroness said about community sentencing. We need to do more to publicise the successes that have come about through the community sentencing options.

Prisons are crowded to make best use of estates in time of tight capacity. Operational capacity decisions are made by area managers. They base them on an assessment of safety and the impact of overcrowding on a prison establishment. In public prisons, the current target for crowded conditions is for the number of prisoners held in accommodation units intended for fewer prisoners not to exceed the average population by 24 per cent. The average rate of overcrowding in public sector prisons for 2006-07 was 23.8 per cent. If the noble Lord, Lord Henley, thinks back to the prisons of the 1980s and the amount of doubling-up that took place, he might acknowledge some of the improvements that have been made. The new provision programme will certainly release some of the pressure and therefore have a positive impact on crowding.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness were concerned that the Titan prisons would be very large and remote institutions. My noble friend has said that it is possible to build large prisons and then to split them into units, perhaps five units of 500 prisoners. However, they will draw on the best of design, new technology and support service, thereby allowing us to get the best of both worlds. It is rather like your Lordships’ House and the House of Commons being together on one estate, and the undoubted benefits of sharing resources. I am sure that I will not live that one down—I wish I hadn’t gone there.

I understand the point about local prisons being close to the local community. It is a matter of concern, particularly with the current level of the prison population, but it will be possible to site Titans in areas of particular concern—London, the West Midlands and the north-west—and therefore deal with the very problem that noble Lords raised.

We are watching the figures on ECL very carefully, but 11,100 early releases have freed up 1,300 spaces, and only 3 per cent of released prisoners have been recalled for failure to comply, and 1 per cent noted as reoffending, which was less than the original target figures.

Diverting prisoners with mental health problems is not a way of massaging the figures, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, suggested. We debated this matter consistently when discussing the Mental Health Act. It is clear that prisoners with severe and other mental health problems present enormous challenges. I am delighted that my noble friend has accepted the challenge to lead the review. Its significance is that it is a joint report, both to my department and the Department of Health. Through it, we will be able to get a much more co-ordinated and effective response.

My Lords, given that when I was Minister for prisons there was a day on which we had only 11 spare places left in the entire system, I extend warm good wishes to the present Minister in the formidable task which he faces. We are of course glad to see the large number of new places—they will assist rehabilitation—but whether one should call something which is very big and supposed to be unsinkable anything that sounds remotely like “Titanic”, I doubt. I wonder whether the Government have taken into consideration not only the advantages to the prison population of smaller prisons, but also the enormous difficulty in recovering control of Liverpool prison, for instance, when there was a riot. How much greater will be the problem if control is lost of the Titans?

I want to talk about the elephant in the room that nobody mentions. Carter reveals that almost 80 per cent of the HMP budget now goes on pay of prison staff. He also says that the system is on a sort of escalator, meaning that it will be more than 90 per cent by 2010. Huge savings can be made there, but the Statement is silent about how they are to be achieved. The report indicates that what is needed boils down, in effect, to a system of staff management that is fit-for-service and purpose, which it is not now. That immensely difficult task has been attempted and failed by numerous predecessors. I hope that the Government will say something on that.

My final point, which I have so often made, is that if but 10 per cent of that money—a few hundred million pounds—could be spent on seeing that children had reasonable and interesting things to do in the summer holidays; that children excluded from school were provided for individually; and that voluntary agencies were set up specifically to keep children evidently at risk of getting into crime out of it, by the time those children were 15, this problem would start becoming much smaller.

My Lords, I welcome the general remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. He has considerable experience in this area, and we need to listen to the points that he raises. I particularly take his point about children during the summer holidays. I know of some good initiatives on that—over the years, I have seen some in Birmingham—but I certainly agree that more could be done, and that we ought to encourage more.

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, mentioned the workforce and was right to point out that the report by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, refers to the size or proportion of the Prison Service budget that is spent on staff wages and salaries. Like the health service, which I know much better than the Prison Service, one is dependent on the staff. Whatever the challenges, some of which we have seen recently, in managing that workforce, it would be remiss of me not to say that we are extremely grateful to the staff for the fantastic job that they do. While the debates in your Lordships’ House are often critical of some regimes in our custodial settings, the fact is that those are very challenging places to work.

I have no doubt that the key to improving efficiency is to work hard with the workforce, and we will clearly have to look at what my noble friend Lord Carter has said. We want a system that really does recognise and reward the excellence of staff, yet is somewhat more in tune with modern HR practice than has perhaps traditionally been the case within the Prison Service.

My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on conducting a review on the need to divert people with mental health problems away from the prisons. However, I ask him to think again about accepting the assertion in the Statement that,

“there is no doubt that the prison population will continue to rise over the next few years”.

That is the core of the problem. On the Minister’s own definition of persistent and violent offending, less than one-third of those presently locked up need to be in prison. Most of the other two-thirds, some of whom I accept should be in prison, could properly be punished in the community. On the point about the staff, will the Minister pledge now to involve the Prison Officers’ Association in all of the changes foreseen in this Statement?

First, my Lords, on mental health, the main thing that I learnt from the passage of the Mental Health Act through your Lordships’ House was the importance of the relationship between the Prison Service and health service, and the need for so many offenders to have effective mental health treatment. My noble friend Lord Bradley has taken on an extremely important responsibility here, and we await the results of his review with great anticipation.

On the prison population numbers, my noble friend has looked very carefully into current and future projections to ensure that we do not have overcrowding but that instead we have equilibrium, which will allow us to focus much more effectively on rehabilitation, reoffending and dealing with the prevention-of-reoffending programmes. I accept that there is a debate to be had on penal policy generally, but the implementation of these proposals will give us a much better foundation on which to have that.

As for the staff, I would welcome the constructive engagement of the Prison Officers’ Association.

My Lords, I join those who have welcomed the Statement and thank the Minister for repeating it and enabling us to see the report in time. I realise that this is not the time for debate, but I shall welcome the debate, and I hope that it marks a new approach to such studies. The last Carter report was marked by a total lack of consultation with people, with the result that we are living with the disaster of an inappropriately introduced system called NOMS, which has cost a great deal of money and indeed wasted a great deal of money that should be spent on prisoners.

I take all the points that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, and particularly their points about Titans. I hate Titans and hate the thought of them. The last time they came in they were called “techno-prisons”; they were impersonal, because all locking was done electronically, which broke down the one thing that you need in prisons—the relationship between prisoner and staff. I see that all that electronic whiz-kiddery is mentioned in the Carter report. I hope that we will not have Titans, as they are the complete reversal of what everyone has been talking about, which is to place offenders near to the community from which they come so the community can be involved in their rehabilitation.

My Lords, many noble Lords are interested in this subject and would like to make their comments and ask questions. I know that the noble Lord is an expert on this subject, but I wonder if he could ask his question shortly.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that. I am coming to my question—that was my introduction.

My concern is the lack of resources. In particular, when the Minister refers to the production of operational specifications for each type of prison, will he include the proper, responsible and accountable management structure for each type of prison? When studying the existing structure of NOMS with the Prison Service, will he include the Probation Service as well, so that there is proper management of offenders and not the continuation of the present rather isolated system?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments. I, too, would welcome a debate in your Lordships' House and the noble Lord’s input into further consideration of these matters would be very welcome. That is how we want to go forward. The establishment of a working group led by a member of the judiciary signals our wish to take people with us.

I have noted the noble Lord’s comments in relation to Titans. However, it is not really a question of whether a 2,500-place Titan is necessarily bad or a small unit is necessarily good. What it really depends on is the essential ingredient of leadership. I thought that the Carter report was pretty persuasive in stating that in the establishment of large sites, it is possible to get the economy of scale and the design that would enable prisons to be managed as effectively as possible, by having smaller units within the larger site. I would welcome further discussion with the noble Lord on that matter.

The noble Lord raised an issue dear to his heart—the regional management structures and the different structures between different elements to the service. I am happy to debate that matter with him. He will have noted from the Statement that the regional and headquarters costs will have to be considered as well. If what he is really getting at is the need for an integrated approach at the senior management level across the various disciplines, I certainly agree with him.

My Lords, the Minister may remember that, from the very start, the Lord Chief Justice expressed grave concern that the effect of the new Ministry of Justice would be that spending on new prisons would impinge on expenditure on the court services. Will he give a categoric assurance that neither the capital expenditure nor the higher income expenditure that will obviously be necessary on warders and so forth will impinge on the courts budget?

My Lords, I welcome the question because it allows me to pay tribute to my noble and learned friend, the former Lord Chancellor, who sitteth behind me. I pay tribute to the contribution that he made to the Carter review and to the creation of the Ministry of Justice. The noble Lord will know that there has been engaging and lively conversation between the Lord Chancellor and the judiciary on that point. I should have thought that the fact that today we have announced more than £1 billion extra to help with the expansion of prisons shows that we have not eaten into any other aspect of the Ministry of Justice's budget, but that new money has been created to deal with this challenge.

My Lords, having announced the £1.2 billion—and we welcome that extra expenditure—has a figure been attached to the extra expenditure on restoration, education and training programmes? Obviously, the success of penal policy is measured in the end by the number of people who go to prison only once, and that depends very much on education and training programmes in the prison.

My Lords, I certainly agree with the right reverend Prelate about the importance of training programmes. We have debated a couple of times recently the whole question of restorative justice. On that, there will be a fourth research report looking at the cost-effectiveness of restorative justice, which will help us plan for the future. There will have to be careful consideration of how this programme is to develop and of the budget, but I assure the right reverend Prelate that matters of education, health, restorative justice and rehabilitation are all germane to taking forward a much more rational approach to prisons and sentencing, which is what the Carter review is designed to achieve.

My Lords, I express my support for what the Minister said about prisons and I express my admiration for what my noble friend Lord Carter has done. He has selflessly devoted himself to a whole series of public policy issues and has produced reports that show real perception. This report is one of them. I also pay tribute to the Prison Service led by Phil Wheatley. The impression given by some of the questioners is that there is a decline in decency and security in our prisons because of “overcrowding”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Decency and security have improved over the years and we should pay tribute to that.

I strongly welcome my noble friend Lord Bradley being asked to investigate the mental health issues that urgently need investigation and I can think of nobody better than my noble friend Lord Bradley to do that.

I also raise a question on the critical issue. Since 1987, as my noble friend Lord Carter pointed out, the Executive have repeatedly got wrong how many prison places are needed as against how many people the judges are sending to prison. I express strong support for the solution proposed by my noble friend Lord Carter. Will the Minister confirm that the lead principle will be to make the punishment fit the crime? However, inevitably and rightly, resources will also have to be taken into account because there must be justice for every other part of government. There are only finite resources for prisons.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend. I agree with his analysis of the improvements that have taken place within the Prison Service. Yes, there are many challenges, but I know from my recent visits compared with visits that I undertook as a health Minister seven or eight years ago that there have been some real improvements. I pay tribute to the Prison Service and its partners, such as the National Health Service, for what has happened.

My noble and learned friend is right about the forecast. I am somewhat of a connoisseur, having tried to forecast the number of junior doctors required. I would not claim conspicuous success on that. It is a very difficult task. That is why my noble friend Lord Carter has so eloquently and excellently suggested the structured sentencing framework. It may well be, and I am sure it is, the best way to have greater certainty about future projections. I very much agree with what my noble and learned friend said. These matters cannot be considered in a vacuum; there will always be finite resources. I go back again to what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Henley. There is no question of any fettering of the individual decisions of individual members of the judiciary. I am very happy to reaffirm that.

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in welcoming this further insight into government penal policy. I shall welcome even more the Statement, which I believe comes out tomorrow, on the Corston report and how that will fit in. However, I will not ask about that now. Like everyone else, I am concerned about resources and the large amount of the current budget that, probably rightly, will be going on pay. Given the importance of stopping the reoffending of the young offender and the clear pattern of resources and support from voluntary and other sectors that could be used in that respect, I hope that this aspect will not be downgraded in the Government’s thinking.

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister for Prisons will issue a Statement tomorrow on the Government’s response to the report by my noble friend Lady Corston, which will be very important.

On the question of reoffending and rehabilitation programmes, the implementation of the report of my noble friend Lord Carter in the way that we have outlined will give us the best foundation for ensuring the best use of resources, making sure that the money for running prisons is spent as effectively as possible and also having the resources to invest in the very programmes that the noble Baroness is keen, as I am, to see developed. The greater the stability and certainty about being able to provide the right number of prison places, the better the foundation for doing all the other things that we want to do to improve the outcome for prisoners.

My Lords, will the review of the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, also encompass the resources available to the courts when sentencing people to give light on the mental situation of the offender? That is a very important aspect of the remit that has been given to the noble Lord.

My Lords, that was very much a point that arose from our debates on the Mental Health Bill. My noble friend is working with my ministry and the Department of Health on the details of the review. I do not want to commit myself to responding to the noble and learned Lord today, but I will make sure that his point is taken into account.