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Prison Service Agency: Quinquennial Review

Volume 592: debated on Thursday 30 July 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have to conduct a quinquennial review of the Prison Service Agency. [HL3209]

The Prison Service was established as a Next Steps Executive Agency on 1 April 1993. Since then there have been a number of changes to the relationship between the service and the main Home Office. Most importantly, as promised in the Labour Party manifesto, since the general election the Government have acted to take proper ministerial responsibility for the service. Against this background, and taking the opportunity of the quinquennial review of Next Steps Agencies which is now due, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is today announcing an evaluation of the performance of the agency, reconsideration of Prior Options relating to Agency Status and, if appropriate, a review of the existing framework document.The terms of reference for the review are as follows:

  • to conduct an evaluation of the performance of the agency since its inception;
  • in the light of this evaluation to consider whether, among the available options, agency status remains the most cost effective way of achieving Home Office aims within the context of proper ministerial responsibility; and
  • if the review concludes that the Prison Service should continue to function as an executive agency, to consider what changes, if any, are required to the framework document and financial memorandum in light of the findings of the review and the changes we have made to the arrangements for ministerial responsibility for the service. If, however, the review concludes otherwise, to recommend the transitional arrangements necessary to facilitate transformation of the service from executive agency to another organisational entity.

The review will be conducted by officials from the main Home Office working with officials in the Prison Service. It will draw on and take account of other relevant work, for example, the Prison Service Review which was published earlier in the year and the Prison-Probation Review.

We welcome the views of all interested parties and, in particular, the review team will seek the views of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Probation, the Parole Board and the Prison Ombudsman. I am today writing to the Chairman of the Boards of Visitors National Advisory Council, the Home Office Trade Union Side, the Prison Service Trade Union Side, the Prison Officers' Association, the Prison Governor's Association, the Secretary of the Prison Service Joint Industrial Council, the Association of Chief Probation Officers, the National Association of Probation Officers, the Central Probation Council and the Directors of the Prison Reform Trust, the Howard League for Penal Reform and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, inviting their views. We shall also be seeking the views of the Criminal Justice Consultative Council and organisations associated with it.

It is hoped to publish the outcome of the review around the end of the year.