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Volume 711: debated on Tuesday 9 June 2009


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government who is responsible for monitoring the enforcement of Prison Service orders.

My Lords, Prison Service orders contain both mandatory actions and guidance. Compliance with the mandatory requirements is included in the establishments’ service level agreements, or contracts in the case of contracted prisons, and is monitored by directors of offender management, who are accountable to the chief operating officer.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. As I understand it, Prison Service orders carry responsibility for the management and governance of prisons. What is their legal status and do they require ministerial clearance before they are issued?

My Lords, like Prison Service instructions, Prison Service orders are not in themselves legally binding, though of course some of them are mandatory instructions and have to comply with prison rules and other legislation. Prison rules are legally binding; they are made up of statutory instruments. Prison Service orders are not themselves legally binding, just as any organisation’s internal instructions are not legally binding, although I believe that Prison Service orders go through Ministers.

My Lords, can the Minister clarify whether PSOs cover secure training centres, which come under the Prison Service and take children as young as 12? Several reports have shown an inordinate and unacceptable amount of restraint being used in those centres. There is a Prison Service order, PSO 4950, which covers juveniles, but I am not aware of one covering secure training centres.

My Lords, nor am I, I am afraid, but I shall try to find out whether one does. If it does, I shall of course write to the noble Baroness at once.

My Lords, which official body writes and implements these Prison Service orders and how often are they reviewed? I have in mind the order concerning prisoners with disabilities, which on one occasion, following the unannounced visit by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, revealed that some disabled prisoners were unable to shower, one for more than a year.

My Lords, in answer to the noble Baroness’s first question, PSOs are written by a range of policy leads in the headquarters of the National Offender Management Service and are issued on the authority of that service’s agency management board. So far as concerns the reports of the treatment of prisoners with disabilities—I think that she is referring to Parkhurst—that particular PSO is currently under review as part of the work following the publication of the NOMS single equality scheme. The review of the PSO predates the publication of the report on Parkhurst by Her Majesty’s inspector but is ongoing so that the issues raised by the inspector’s report can be taken into account during the review process.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that giving prisoners one hour a day in the open air is a fairly uncontroversial basic entitlement? If he were imprisoned, which is quite unimaginable, would he not feel it reasonable to ask for at least one hour a day in which to breathe the fresh air? Prison Service Order 4275 requires that prisoners have time in the open air every day; yet the Chief Inspector of Prisons regularly reports that prisoners are sometimes out only twice a week, if that. So, is Prison Service Order 4275 an order? If not, what exactly is it?

My Lords, it is a statutory requirement that prisoners have time in the open air every day subject to weather and, of course, the need to maintain order and discipline. No amount of time is specified. The core day, as the noble Baroness knows, was introduced in June 2008 and is intended to provide greater consistency in access to activities by ensuring that adequate staff are available at the times when activities are scheduled. The figures for 2008-09 show an increase of 2 per cent in physical education over the previous year. PSO 4275 is, as I understand it, an ordinary PSO, and if it is breached, the prison governor is accountable.

My Lords, do the PSOs distinguish between the private sector and government-run establishments, and are they enforced in the same way?

As I understand it, my Lords, the answer is yes. They are enforced in the same way in both instances and the prison governor is the first person held responsible if they have not been enforced properly.

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House whether PSO 1900, on certified prisoner accommodation, is constantly reviewed in the light of the problem of overcrowding of prisons?

My Lords, I know that this refers to a Prison Service instruction but the Minister has referred to instructions as well as orders. Can he tell us how governors are practically measuring and recording the reviews of what are described as “responsible members of the public” in relation to the programmes they are required to introduce for the rehabilitation of offenders?

My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord the detail that I think his question requires. Perhaps I may take it back and write to him.