Skip to main content

Prisoner Skills Development

Volume 728: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2023

We are delivering a new prison education service. The first prisoner apprentices have now started on highway maintenance for Kier and hospitality for Greene King. We are launching an employability innovation fund to bring more businesses into prisons.

MMC Homebuilding Ltd in Hardwicke is working with inmates from Leyhill Prison to build affordable homes quickly. I have met some of the lads, and they have mastered the skills needed to create thousands of homes for key workers, but there are daft barriers in place, particularly in relation to the acquisition of public land. What is the Ministry of Justice doing, with the Department of Health and Social Care, the Home Office and the Treasury, to unlock those issues so that win-win schemes such as this one can build thousands of key worker homes and allow prisoner rehabilitation at the same time?

I thank my hon. Friend; she is championing a brilliant project in her constituency. Getting more prisoners into work is absolutely vital for them, but also for reducing reoffending. Training prisoners in modern methods of construction is one of the ways we can equip them with the skills to deliver. As a former Housing Minister, I am very conscious of the need to release more surplus land for those purposes and I will speak to my colleagues in the way she asks.

Last month, the chief inspector of prisons wrote a paper on why prison education is so poor. He said it is not a priority, prisoners are not taken to classes, there is an inadequate curriculum and there is no accountability from the MOJ. Does the Secretary of State agree with all that, and if so, what is he doing about it?

The hon. Gentleman is right to refer to the problem. In relation to covid, it has been more difficult. What I can tell him is that: first, through the use of in-cell technology; secondly, with vocational skills and apprenticeships; and thirdly, when I became Justice Secretary I applied a whole set of key performance indicators and lifted up the waiting for both study in prison and getting offenders into work. That is having a dramatic effect.