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Prisons: Action Plans and Special Measures

Volume 788: debated on Wednesday 24 January 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many prisons have been given action plans, or are in special measures, following inspection reports.

My Lords, all prisons are required to develop comprehensive action plans following Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ inspections. Special measures is a separate internal performance and assurance process for identifying, managing and improving underperforming prisons through agreed and time-bound performance improvement plans. There are currently 10 prisons subject to special measure arrangements.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very disturbing Answer. I have two further questions. First, in view of the dreadful situation that the Minister has outlined—the chief executive of the Prison and Probation Service has blamed it on his budget being cut by 40% since 2010, despite the increase in the numbers of prisoners—the dropping of the prisons part of the Prisons and Courts Bill and the recent appointment of the fourth Justice Secretary and third Prisons Minister since the 2015 election, how high does prison reform feature in the Prime Minister’s list of priorities?

Secondly, when the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asked a Question about Liverpool prison before Christmas, I asked the Minister who in Prison Service headquarters was responsible and accountable for the prison. Understandably, he refused to name names. I now ask the question that I have been asking since 1995: is there anyone in Prison Service headquarters who is responsible for any prison or group of prisons, with the exception of high-security prisons, to whom governors who have either special measures or action plans can go to for advice and help?

Clearly, our prisons remain a priority for this Government. There have been challenging issues, which we need to address and we will address. As regards special measures, when prisons go into special measures, they are provided with central support, which can potentially cover a number of areas, including expert advice, provision—in some instances—of further capital, and direction to the governor and staff of the individual prison.

My Lords, one of the most disturbing features of the crisis in the Prison Service, highlighted at HMP Liverpool, has been shockingly inadequate healthcare. What discussions have taken place between the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health to improve this situation? Will the Government encourage local authorities, which have responsibility for scrutinising health services, to exercise that function in relation to the provision of healthcare within custodial institutions in their area? I refer to my interest as a member of Newcastle City Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee.

My Lords, the provision of healthcare within prisons is generally carried out by way of partnership between the prison and the health service. It is on that basis that it is continued. There are ongoing issues over the review of such partnerships.

My Lords, while endorsing the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, may I suggest that the Ministry of Justice formulates its own action plan to address the continuing incarceration of prisoners held on IPP? Part of that action plan should include releasing those prisoners who have served their minimum term, unless there is some overarching concern about public safety.

I am obliged to my noble friend. The matter of IPP prisoners is under consideration by the Ministry at the present time. It has of course been highlighted by the recent case of Worboys, which should not be seen, I would suggest, as an indication that we have dropped this matter. We are concerned with the issue of IPP prisoners.

My Lords, all parliamentarians should be sent a copy of the chief inspector’s devastating report on HM Prison Liverpool, showing that half the prisoners were locked in cells during the working day and 37% were drug-positive. The prison had hundreds of broken windows, with cockroach infestation and piles of rubbish, and over 2,000 maintenance tasks were outstanding. How many local, regional and national managers have been dismissed following this shocking indictment?

My Lords, the conditions the inspectors found at Liverpool prison were unacceptable. Effective measures should have been taken to deal with the issues at a much earlier stage. A full review of all cell accommodation is under way. A programme of window replacement has been approved and in the region of £100,000 worth of toilets and sinks have been ordered for installation. The governor, deputy governor and the director of health services of Liverpool prison have been replaced. We are taking steps to address the situation, but I do not seek to suggest that it should not have been done earlier.

My Lords, during the coalition and up to 2016, 7,000 full-time prison officer posts were abolished. As a result of my freedom of information request, the Government have revealed that the cost of riots since then—due, no doubt, to inadequate staffing—runs to £9,363,964. The contract was with Carillion. Would it not have been better to have kept those prison staff on?

My Lords, we are halfway to the target of recruiting 2,500 extra prison officers. Reference is made to the past. We, as a Government, learn from the past but we plan for the future.

My Lords, bishops go into prison more often than most Members of your Lordships’ House. There are two prisons in my diocese. The Liverpool prison report is an absolute scandal, so far as I can judge. However, does the Minister agree that many prisons are functioning rather well in the circumstances they face and that there is a good deal that can be celebrated alongside the horror stories, which are indeed dreadful?

I accept that there have been horror stories and we cannot but be concerned by that. As I indicated, 10 prisons are subject to special measures and receive support but others are functioning effectively. We are taking urgent steps to improve the prison estate.