HC Deb 06 July 1992 vol 211 cc119-44 10.14 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd)

I beg to move, That the draft Criminal Justice Act 1991 (Contracted Out Prisons) Order 1992, which was laid before this House on 21st February, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved. This short but rather technical order is simple in its purpose. It extends the power in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 to contract out the management of a prison to new prisons holding sentenced prisoners. At present the Act is confined to new prisons holding an unsentenced population.

The greater flexibility to contract out provided by this order was the result of a Back-Bench amendment to the then Bill which the Government were persuaded to accept. I am delighted to see that its original sponsor, my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), is in his place tonight. The occasion to exercise that greater flexibility has now arisen.

On 5 December 1991 the Government announced that competitive tenders would be sought from the private sector for the management of Blakenhurst prison, currently under construction near Redditch, subject to the approval of Parliament and the receipt of satisfactory tenders.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary announced on 15 June 1992 that work on the operational specification for Blakenhurst had been completed and that it had been issued to potential contractors. Copies of the operational and training specifications were placed in the Library of the House. These, I am sure, will have helped to inform this evening's debate, giving, as they do, a clear indication of the standards and safeguards the Government are looking to achieve and which they confidently expect will be capable of delivery by the private sector.

The decision to invite tenders for Blakenhurst followed the successful tendering exercise at Wolds. When Wolds opened in April, it became the first privately operated prison in the country. The exercise showed that the private sector had much to offer. Many of the proposals put forward then demonstrated imagination and insight into the complex issues involved.

Prisoners at Wolds are able to spend 15 hours a day out of their cells within the secure confines of the prison and with the opportunity to participate in a programme consistent with the needs of a remand population. They have full access to legal assistance and generous opportunities for visits, telephone calls and letters. The Government believe that the benefits accruing to the remand population at Wolds should be more widely available to other sections of the prison population notably sentenced prisoners.

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)

As the Minister knows. I represent a Leeds constituency. Armley prison is situated in Leeds. So that we can have a comparison of the weekly subsidy from the Government, can the Minister tell me how much it costs a week, at current rates, to keep a prisoner at Wolds compared with how much it costs a week to keep a prisoner in Armley prison?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot compare the cost of Wolds with the prison mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, different prisons have different regimes and buildings of different sizes. Therefore, the costs are different. However, the tender for Wolds was no higher than the prison service estimated that it would be if it were to provide the manning for that prison. As the hon. Gentleman is so interested in comparisons, he may be interested in what I shall say later. Therefore, I hope that he will continue to pay attention to my remarks, as he has done so far.

To deliver benefits more widely in the prison service we have invited tenders for Blakenhurst, which will be a local prison with a capacity of 649 prisoners. It will hold remand, convicted and sentenced adult men. It will thus deepen and extend prison service experience of private management. The Blakenhurst specification extends to convicted and sentenced prisoners many of the regime improvements that the Wolds prison has brought to its remand population.

Contractors are invited to structure regimes on the premise that prisoners will be out of their cells from first unlock in the morning to final lock-up at night. An absolute minimum cell-free period of 12 hours a day must be achieved. All prisoners will be offered an initial education assessment and thereafter be entitled to a minimum of six hours education a week. Similar provision will be made for physical education, and great care has been taken to ensure that high standards are achieved in providing medical and suicide screening, including the involvement of such voluntary agencies as the Samaritans.

In addition, the sentenced prisoner's time in prison will be structured by a compact agreement. This will set out an understanding between the prisoner and the establishment on the likely profile of activities and goals and the level and timing of commitment that both parties have agreed to make the prison sentence positive and constructive.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

We all welcome what the Minister said about introducing the Samaritans into prisons, but is he aware that valuable research was undertaken in an American prison 10 years ago that involved inmates in reducing suicide among prisoners? Sadly, although I brought that information to the attention of one of his colleagues, it was not available in this country because the prison had been privatised and the information was copyright. Is not that the unacceptable face of privatised prisons that we shall have here as well?

Mr. Lloyd

If the information was copyright, those who hold the copyright have the power to release it. That has nothing to do with private prisons. I am puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I think that he is confused, but if he will write to me I shall reply to him more thoughtfully.

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)

Does my hon. Friend agree that his description of the regime for a local prison will be the envy of many other local prisons such as Horfield, which is on the edge of my constituency? When will the tendering process that he has described for Blakenhurst be extended to other prisons?

Mr. Lloyd

Contractors will make bids and we shall see whether they can supply the regimes that we are seeking. Such a regime will not be widely available in the prison service, although many of its characteristics have been developed in various prison service prisons. The order will not extend tendering to prisons already operating in the prison service; it deals specifically with brand new prisons. We are merely extending tendering from remand prisons to those that take sentenced prisoners.

The opportunity for prisoners to engage in productive activity for at least seven hours a day is an important feature of the specification. Contractors are invited to consider the extent to which local, commercial and industrial interests might become involved in order that prisoners can be paid the going rate for the job and from which deductions might be made to offset the cost of board and lodgings, family support and victims' reparation. The impact of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, in terms of preparing prisoners for release and the development of open reporting, will also be fully integrated into the regime. Most importantly. provision will also be made for the management of special category prisoners, including the treatment of sex offenders.

As at Wolds, prisoners at Blakenhurst will have the option of wearing their own clothing or, if their own clothes are unsuitable, of more frequent changes of prison clothing than is at present achievable in the public sector. They will he free to send as many letters as they wish, limited only by their own decision as to how much of their prison earnings they choose to spend on postage. Letters will be checked to prevent any illicit enclosure but will not otherwise be examined or read, except when there is reason to believe that it is necessary.

Visiting entitlement for convicted and sentenced prisoners will be set at a minimum of one visit a week of one hour's duration, twice the current statutory entitlement. Contractors will be invited to improve on that where possible. Facilities for evening visits from legal representatives and other professionals will also be made.

The Government recognise that the prison service currently does a very difficult job, often in unpleasant environments. Following the report by Lord Justice Woolf, the prison service has made strenuous efforts to set new standards for itself and is making great progress towards implementing them. However, the Government believe that the element of competition provided by the private sector in bringing new ideas and, more importantly, new managerial methods to the running of prisons can provide additional benefits to the prison service and the prisoners.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

This is the first time in the 30 years that I have been a Member of the House that I have asked a question about prisons, partly for personal reasons. However, having listened to "The World at One", and having read about the issue, I have become more and more uncomfortable. The Minister talks about competition, but we are dealing with people whose freedoms have been taken away. I should like an answer to a simple question: is it proper for anyone other than the state to deal with people whose freedoms have been removed by the state? Is it proper to talk about competition in that context?

Mr. Lloyd

What is not proper is to stand in the way of the introduction of more positive, demanding and humane regimes such as that at the Wolds and that which is intended at Blakenhurst because of some prejudice—ideological or otherwise—to the private sector being part of it. Of course, the prisons will still be part of the prison service, as is the Wolds. They will take prisoners sentenced by the courts. The Home Office controller will be on duty.

He is responsible for investigating any complaints that the prisoners might have and for ensuring that the prison is run according to the contract and in the manner that the Home Secretary and the House expect. It is merely prejudice to deny opportunities to prisoners such as those at the Wolds by saying that the private sector cannot properly be involved. If the private sector can produce superior regimes, it is improper that it should not be involved.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Will the Minister allow the same sums of money to Armley, for example, as are to be allowed to the Wolds?

Mr. Lloyd

Yes. The whole point is that where there is no in-house competition the tendering process will not be met unless the tenders at least make a better offer than the usual prison service estimate of the costs of opening the prison. Of course, the prison service must make an estimate of what the opening of a prison will cost. It must decide on normal manning levels, according to the usual processes. We do not necessarily expect to save money with private management, but we expect to get very much better value for the money that is spent.

As I said, the order empowers the Government to contract out the management of new prisons. Naturally, the occasion is Blakenhurst and I have concentrated on our plans for that establishment. However, I want to make it clear that we expect to invite private sector tenders for each new prison that opens after Blakenhurst.

We also want to see the prison service in due course mount in-house bids for new prisons in competition with the private sector. There is at all levels in the prison service a huge reservoir of dedication, experience and managerial skills, which need to be brought together effectively.

I am sure the stimulus that private management is now starting to bring to the prison system will help to achieve the Government's overriding objective: to bring improved regimes—positive and constructive regimes, which everyone wants to see, and which Lord Justice Woolf catalogued in his report; regimes which are designed to address systematically the particular offending behaviour of each prisoner and which help to fit that prisoner, as far as practicable, to resume his place in society, with a better chance of leading a useful and law-abiding life, and to do so as cost-effectively as possible.

I commend the order to the House.

10.30 pm
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

It seems that the Minister and I have been locked in Front-Bench home affairs issues—one side or the other—for quite a long time. I am sure that we have reached the stage of being regarded as trusties in respect of these matters. I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his brief in the Home Office. I believe that this is the first time we have met in these circumstances. The hon. Gentleman was not involved in the passage of the long Criminal Justice Act 1991. During the debates on that legislation we discussed these matters in some detail. The hon. Gentleman said that the Government had given in to pressure from their Back Benchers by expanding the scope of that Act to embrace the privatisation not only of the remand sector but of institutions for sentenced prisoners. At the Committee stage we fought that very strongly and bitterly, and we continue to do so because we believe that that direction is wrong [wrong in principle, and wrong in terms of practicalities.

I have referred to the Minister's long service in the Home Office team. I do not remember exactly when he came to office, but I know that he has covered the whole gamut of opinion on privatisation. The right hon. Gentleman who is now Foreign Secretary set his face absolutely against privatisation. In July 1987 he said that there was no case at all for privatisation of the prisons, that there was not case at all for handing the business of keeping prisoners safe to anyone other than Government servants. I believe that the Minister who introduced this order was a member of the team of that Home Secretary in those days. Since then he has been led by various valleys —Ribble Valley, Mole Valley—and we have seen the changes in that time. Conveniently the hon. Gentleman has changed his tune with the arrival of each new boss.

His current boss is not from a valley, but he wants to push this even further. This boss has brought some baggage with him. It is not ideological baggage; it is a kind of trick that he sets down in each department. He says, "Here we have a very interesting trick. It is called 'opt out'. It does wonders for the health service and the education service." And now we are told that it will do wonders for the prison service. It is very interesting that before the chickens come home to roost in any of these Departments, off goes the right hon. and learned Gentleman for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) to new pastures. We have seen what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has wrought in other Departments, and we fear the worst for the prison service.

We have debated private prisons on several occasions. Each time the Opposition have made clear their profound concern about the whole notion of privatising penal establishments. Indeed, many Conservative Members have shared our concern. The two parties are not always wholly divided on this. I know that hon. Members on both sides have deep misgivings about the trend of Government actions in this area.

The key arguments against privatisation are those that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) encapsulated so well: it is wrong that anyone but the state should deprive men or women of their liberty or be directly responsible for prisoners throughout their sentences. The deprivation of liberty is the worst punishment that can be imposed on a person in this country. Certainly, the judiciary metes out the sentence, but once the sentence is given more is involved than just locking up a prisoner and educating and exercising him—although such activities should take place in a good prison. There is also the assessment of a prisoner's fitness to be released. That is done not by the judiciary but by the men and women who supervise prisoners.

We believe that decisions about the fitness of an individual to be released should be made by servants of the state.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

In that case, I am surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman—he has held his responsibility for some time now—saying that the state does not make such decisions. Such assessments are carried out first by the Parole Board and, secondly, on the advice of the probation service, both of which will remain in the state sector.

Mr. Sheerman

The hon. Gentleman must know that the officers who run our prisons carry out day-to-day assessments of how prisoners obey the rules and how they fit into prison life—all of which feeds into the information on which the probation service and the Parole Board make their decisions. The relationship is highly complex.

Imprisonment is a sensitive and often dangerous task. Ministers have underestimated its dangers. At Strangeways the bravery and resolute behaviour and reactions of the prison officers and the governor came into play. As we shall argue this evening, special circumstances obtain in prisons—circumstances to be found nowhere else.

It is repugnant that private companies should make a profit out of those whom the state decides to imprison.

Mr. Battle

The parallel with opted-out hospitals looms large. Members of Parliament cannot interrogate Ministers about these budgets. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow was right: we will not be able to know by how much these prisons are being subsidised, or to compare their budgets with those of prisons in the public sector such as Armley. We will know neither the profits nor the subsidies of private prisons.

Mr. Sheerman

My hon. Friend is right. Conservative Members have yet to learn that after every other privatisation accountability has been diminished. Already we cannot find out what is going on in Wolds prison. We are told that these matters are the subject of commercial confidentiality. The Minister came out with some fine words, but he did not say how much subsidy that prison receives; neither would he tell us the costs associated with taking remand prisoners in the public prisons sector—at Armley and other gaols. The Minister would not provide a figure and compare it with the figure for the Wolds. Whenever I have asked the Minister or his predecessor how much subsidy is available to the Wolds I have been told that we have no right to know and the Government would not give us any figures.

The accountability of the House for the prison service has begun to slip away and it will continue to do that. That is a serious condemnation of the Government. However, at the end of the day, they do not care about democratic government or accountability. They do not care about that in Europe or in this House. The Government are so used to Executive power that they would love this place to disappear as an effective scrutinising and checking body.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman really is mistaken. There is a contract with the Wolds which details the expected outputs from the prison. He knows more about what is required from that prison than about any other prison in the prison service. That is infinitely clearer.

With regard to the costs, it is impossible to say that there is no subsidy in respect of the Wolds. Every penny is a subsidy paid by the state to the organisation to manage the prison. The figure is no more than the prison service estimated that it would have to spend to run that prison. However, the regimes are more extensive and positive than the prison service believes that it could provide for that money.

Mr. Sheerman


Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. Before the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) continues, I remind the Minister that he, too, must observe the formula for an intervention, not a speech.

Mr. Sheerman

I am happy that the Minister made that point. He is avoiding explaining why there has been no real comparison. The comparison that he gave was simply an estimate made by the Home Office. The prison service was never able to make an internal bid. That would have been the crucial cost evaluation. If the prison service had been able to bid for the Wolds, we would have seen the kind of subsidy given to the private security industry and, in particular, to Group 4.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with the process if in-house bids are invited for new prisons at the same time that tenders are invited from outside.

Mr. Sheerman

We would be more content in terms of accountability and evaluation. However, that does not overcome the fact that we object to the privatisation of prisons in principle.

Let us continue with the argument in terms of principle. We believe that it is highly dangerous to build up a penal industrial complex whose members have a vested interest in keeping the prison population high —

Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham)

A penal industrial complex?

Mr. Sheerman

The hon. Member may laugh. It is interesting to note that another comedian has joined the Conservative Benches. I had thought that there was an oversupply of that kind of talent on the Government Benches.

I was making the serious point that if we pursue the privatisation of prisons, a large industry will develop. Over the past two or three years many hon. Members have been lobbied by the private prison groups. They are already organised and are paying political consultants and lobbying companies. Some of them have paid Conservative Members—not Labour Members [to lobby for private prisons.

The prison industrial complex already existed and Conservative Members were taking the King's shilling years ago in respect of that professional lobby. That lobby will not go away. It will continue in respect of keeping the number of prisoners at a level that will ensure profits for the private security companies.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid Kent)

The hon. Gentleman is making a case which depends entirely on the nature of the contract. If, in time, the nature of the contract were to be so arranged that companies were paid in terms of the success with which they released into the community prisoners who did not reoffend, that part of his argument would fall.

Mr. Sheerman

We object to the principle of the private security industry acting in that way.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)


Mr. Sheerman

Let me develop the argument further. Conservative Members who ask why were not members of the Standing Committee which considered the Bill. Time and again, we came back to the heart of our reservations, and that is that the private security industry is unregulated.

At present, it cannot be held to any account in a regulatory sense. That means that there are a host of private security companies, some of them made up of cowboy operators employing people with criminal records. Some of the management have criminal records. There is no control of the private security industry.

We do not know what kind of private security company will bid. I am not talking only about blue chip companies being allowed to tender for the early two contracts. Later, as the lowest price becomes the objective of the Government, we shall see all kinds of middle, lower and smaller groups of companies bidding for the contracts when there is no regulation. The Minister will know that the Association of Chief Police Officers is desperately worried about the increase in cowboy private security operators, desperately worried that the Government will not introduce any regulation in the industry, and desperately worried that very sensitive matters of policing and prison administration will go to uncontrolled and uncheckable operators.

Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that, when we considered the Criminal Justice Bill in Committee, we gave many undertakings that the people who were to be employed both in contracted-out prisons and, when it came to it, contracted-out services for transporting prisoners backwards and forwards, would be fully trained and fully answerable to the Home Office and the Home Secretary.

Mr. Sheerman

I shall refer to the right hon. Lady's performance and her words in Committee in a few moments. If she will hold her fire just for a moment, I shall remind her not only of her comments in Committee but of some others as well. We shall see whether she wants to intervene then.

We still believe that, despite criticisms by the Government, right hon. and hon. Members agreed on some objectives of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. The objectives were that we should try to keep in prison only people who should be in prison—that is, people who have committed such crimes that they have had to be locked up. In Committee, the right hon. Lady and I agreed on many objectives. We recognised the importance of ensuring that imprisonment is used only for those who have committed serious offences. What concerns us is that that attitude, which had all-party support and which moved in that fairly liberal direction, could be put into reverse by pressures, which the Government would underrate and ridicule, to increase the number of prisoners. One has only to look at the United States of America and Australia to see some of the problems that are emerging in the private sector.

Conservative Members do not believe that such lobbying does not take place or that the private security industry will lobby, not only for an increased share of the market but to make sure that the market exists. That will be an important part of its technique, and we are concerned that that might become dangerous.

Mr. Peter Butler (Milton Keynes, North-East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Sheerman

Not for a moment.

We believe that the Government display a cavalier attitude to public safety by relying on the private security industry, with its appalling record. We are also gravely worried that control of security may be seriously compromised by the inexperienced employees of the private security industry.

We already have reports of problems at Wolds prison. The Minister skated over them.

Mr. Stern

The hon. Gentleman enjoys every such incident.

Mr. Sheerman

The hon. Gentleman says that, but no Opposition Member wants problems in any part of our prison system. The last thing that we want is for people to be hurt or damage to be caused in any of our prison institutions.

When we hear that there have been problems at the Wolds, we are able to say to the Government, "We told you that the training and the staff that you employ are inadequate for the task." Indeed, as someone said in The Independent on the same day as the Home Secretary made his visionary call for expansion in the private sector, the prisoners in the Wolds have far more experience of a prison regime than anyone running the prison. That is the problem.

When the two incidents occurred at the Wolds it was with deep regret that we reminded the Government that we had said that such problems would arise.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Has the hon. Gentleman managed to get out of the Government any more specific admission about what has happened at the Wolds than many of us seem to have obtained so far? Does he believe that the troubles extend to a high rate of staff turnover and the exclusion of legitimate press inquiries into what is happening?

Mr. Sheerman

The hon. Gentleman is right. I am not sure whether he was here when I referred to the mountain of security which was put round the Wolds prison when people sought to find out what was happening. It is a cause for anxiety that Members of Parliament cannot hold the Minister accountable for what happens at the Wolds. We get the brush off when we ask about its financing and its running. If there is a disturbance at the Wolds it seems that there is a cloak of secrecy. We hear that all the staff have been sworn to secrecy and that the governor is not allowed to make public comment. The lid is put on any publicity about what is happening in the Wolds.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

Quite the reverse. The director of the Wolds tells the press about problems that have occurred. He made a particular point of doing so, knowing the untrue rumours that had been put around.

There have been three substantial incidents at the Wolds. That is about average for most prisons. Prisons are places where problems arise. The interesting thing about the Wolds is that each of those difficulties was settled with great skill and competence. That has given extra confidence to the staff. It has given the Home Secretary extra confidence in them. None of the incidents involved any violence whatever.

Mr. Sheerman

It is obvious that the Minister has better information than us. The point that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and I make is that the House should have the information that the Minister has. We want to know what is going on in the Wolds. We want to know how things are going. We want to know whether the staff are coping in a prison which, I remind the Minister, has only a third of its complement of prisoners. Already there have been three incidents. I thought that there had been only two disturbances but he says that there have been three. That is three disturbances when only a third of the complement of prisoners are there.

Mr. Lloyd

I am sorry to keep interrupting the hon. Gentleman. He will know, because he has examined the prison service from the outside for several years, that one of the most vulnerable times for a prison is when it is building up its initial complement. The staff is new, the prisoners come in. They have not bedded down. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the experience in new prisons run by the prison service he will see that that is a particularly vulnerable time.

Mr. Sheerman

We want to know the turnover of staff and what are the problems. We want an analysis. If the Government can be judged by the arguments that they made in Committee, this was to be an experiment for learning about how the system works. It is an interesting experiment from which only the Government can learn because the public and public representatives are excluded from proper knowledge. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. There are too many seated interventions, and not just from one side of the House.

Mr. Devlin

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Sheerman

Not now, but I will later.

Let us quickly look at the American experience. In Committee, we were often told that this was the model for privatisation. However, it has been a failure there. The US now imprisons 1 million people. Given that, it is hard to say why the Government feel that there is any merit in copying their ideas. Out of that huge population, only between 15,000 and 20,000 prisoners are in private prisons —15,000 according to the Department of Justice's "Private Corrections Adult Secure Facility Census of 1990". The experience in the US would appear to be going sour, according to the Washington Post, which said in November last year: Once hailed as a quick fix for the nation's overcrowded prisons privatisation is turning into a quicksand for the companies and the communities involved. That is the experience of America, which the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) mentioned so often in Committee.

There are other concerns about the Government's decision to extend privatisation from the remand facility at the Wolds to include sentenced prisoners at Blakenhurst. The arguments against such a move have been put extremely well, and I hope Conservative Members will listen to them. They include: Because of the different purpose of remand, as opposed to the sentence of imprisonment, and the character of the remand regime, the running of a remand centre by a private company would raise fewer difficult operational questions or issues of principle. An important feature of the system for sentenced prisoners which does not apply to remand prisoners is that the length of time for which a sentenced prisoner occupies a place in the prison is, in the case of those eligible for parole, influenced by the reports and assessment of staff … There is understandable unease that such decisions should he taken with the involvement of private contractors and their staff. Moreover, the regime for remand prisoners as unconvicted inmates is more amenable to the involvement of private contractors because of its different purpose and character. That quote comes not from the present Home Secretary but from the Goverment's Green Paper of July 1988, entitled "Private Sector Involvement in the Remand System". If these arguments were valid then, what has happened to make the Goverment change their mind? Further, because the Government launched their proposals for privatisation solely —

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

The purpose of a Green Paper is to provide a basis for consultation. It is not to set something in concrete.

Mr. Sheerman

Let us go on from the Green Paper. The Government launched their proposals for privatisation solely in relation to the remand system. It is a serious criticism of the Government that there has been no proper consultation of this extension of privatisation to this sector of the prison population. No formal consultation has taken place on this major new direction of policy.

Moreover, the Government have misled the House on this issue. When we discussed amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, now the 1991 Act, designed to extend the scope of privatisation, the then Minister, the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, said: If, and only if. the contracted-out remand centre proves to be a success might we move towards privatisation of other parts of the prison service."—Official Report. 25 February 1991; Vol. 186, c. 720.] The clear implication of those remarks and others made by the right hon. Lady was that the Wolds was to be seen as an experiment. If successful, it would be extended to other parts of the prison service. Yet in December 1991, before the experiment had even begun, and the prison at the Wolds opened, we learnt that the Government were intending to extend privatisation to Blakenhurst, a prison that can also hold sentenced offenders.

The Wolds experiment must be the shortest on record —by my reckoning, minus four months. Even in terms of a degree of pragmatism, surely it would have been better for the Government to evaluate what was going on there, to take on board the concerns, to consult properly on the extension of privatisation while the experiment was monitored, and then to take decisions on the basis of that experience.

In an interview in The Guardian last week the Home Secretary made it clear that he was considering privatising existing prisons, too. If dogma dictates, clearly experience is irrelevant.

Mr. Stern

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This debate is timed for one and a half hours. My hon. Friend the Minister in opening the debate confined his remarks to 15 minutes. The hon. Gentleman has already been on his feet for half an hour and still has two pages to go. Is not that an abuse of the House when he still has the right of reply?

Madam Deputy Speaker

In the particular circumstances, the Chair has no power over the length of individual speeches.

Mr. Sheerman

I have given way many times in the debate. It is an important debate and I hope that hon. Members will have a chance to intervene and ask questions —

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

We want to make speeches.

Mr. Sheerman

We have an hour and a half and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has time to get in. It is important to get on the record what the Labour Front Bench believes about this important measure.

Although the Wolds has been open only since April, it is already holding one third of the prisoners that it will hold at full capacity. There have already been major problems, about which we know little because of the cloak of secrecy. If the incidents that occurred there did so while it was only one third full, one wonders what will happen when it reaches capacity. It is important to remember that the prisoners at the Wolds are far more experienced in prison life than the staff, as the officers know. Had the Government bothered to wait to see what happened at the Wolds, as they promised, we would be able to judge how effectively the private security company is coping.

I have already mentioned the problem of secrecy. Members of the House and the public have the right to know whether the Crown controller, installed to monitor the performance of the Wolds, will publish an annual report. I hope that the Minister will tell us in his reply. Will there be a published annual report? Will it tell us how much it costs a year to run the Wolds? We have a right to that information. It ill befits the Government with all their recent talk of open government to fob off important questions on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

Finally, we have long argued that the current obsession with privatisation is having a corrosive effect on morale in existing prisons. Here I come to the nub of the argument.

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Sheerman

No. In two seconds I will.

Prison governors, prison officers, probation officers, prison teachers, prison chaplains, prison administrative staff and all the major prison reform groups are against privatisation. I wonder why. The Government had a unique opportunity—Interruptionl Perhaps hon. Gentlemen do not want to hear this—after the tragic events at Strangeways, with the Woolf report, which has been enthusiastically endorsed by all those working in the field, to make real changes in policy and produce an appeals system that did what people wanted. Yes, let us provide prisons where people can repay their debt to society and spend their sentence, but prisons that do not demean and dehumanise them. Let us provide prisons where people are given the chance to rebuild their lives and become decent citizens again. That is an objective that I thought nearly all hon. Members would agree with. That opportunity, post-Strangeways, of the Woolf inquiry report has been thrown aside. Privatisation is merely a piece of ideological baggage that the Government will not put down.

We are angry at what is happening, and we represent enlightened opinion on penal matters. That opinion says that the Strangeways riot and the Woolf report provided an opportunity to rebuild anew our rotten prison system. Producing one or two or even a dozen prisons with good conditions avoids the hard job of modernising our prison system and giving governors, prison officers and the people who have kept the lid on our prison system, as Woolf said. for 30 or 50 years, a chance to do the job. At present only a few are being given that opportunity in places such as the Wolds and Blakenhurst.

There is a real challenge for a reforming Government to invest in the prison system and in all the men and women who work in it. We oppose the order because it is doctrinaire and avoids the opportunities presented by Woolf and takes us down a narrow, miserable path.

11.7 pm

Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak in support of the order. It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), who spoke more concentrated claptrap than I have heard for a long time. Moreover, it was ideological claptrap, which made it even less interesting.

It is important to extend privatisation from the Wolds to other new prisons and, I hope, to existing prisons. The argument adduced by the hon. Member for Huddersfield for allowing prisons to be managed only by the state does not stand up to scrutiny. It is skating on thin ice to argue for subsidy and for the state to manage these institutions simply because they are part of the state. Such arguments are based on ideology and not on fact.

The Wolds has shown the practicality of allowing the private sector to manage prisons. It contains people who have been sentenced as well as those who have not been for trial. It is important to extend that to Blakenhurst and to other prisons with sentenced populations. As my hon. Friend the Minister will know, the most difficult part of the prison population with which to deal is the remand section. The Wolds has managed its affairs slowly and there have been one or two disturbances, but the governor and controller of that prison and many of the employees have been in the prison service for a long time, and know precisely what they are doing. That cuts across the point implied by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, that the private sector has no people with experience in the prison service.

As my hon. Friend the Minister said, the difficulty that the Wolds' employees face is in introducing prisoners into a new prison. There have been great disturbances in new prisons in the public sector, not least earlier this year in Moorlands, where there were some outrageous disturbances by some of the young offenders. They had not been there more than a few weeks before a wing was demolished. That was a disgraceful event that we hope will not be repeated.

It is important to recognise that the staff in the Wolds are no less well trained and experienced than many of those in the public sector.

Mr. Steinberg

Does the right hon. Lady believe that the Prison Officers Association has any role to play in the privatised prisons?

Dame Angela Rumbold

I have never had any problems with the Prison Officers Association. It seems that it can live alongside the private sector; it is up to the private contractors to negotiate with the prison officers if they wish to serve in those prisons. Nobody has ever suggested that they would be prevented from doing so. An arrangement already exists in the Wolds between the trade unions and the staff so that their affairs can be managed under the system currently operated by prison officers in some of the state prisons. It is important to extend the programme to sentenced prisoners because it will not be as difficult to manage a sentenced prison population as it is to manage a remand prison population.

The Wolds and private prisons have better regimes. My hon. Friend the Minister frequently mentioned in his opening speech the extended number of hours that prisoners spent outside their cells. He spoke of the better regimes and treatment and of the greater opportunities that exist for remand prisoners in the Wolds and, one hopes, for those in Blakenhurst. It is exceedingly important that the work carried out in the contracted-out prisons should be repeated and seen to be successful in prisons such as Armley, Wormwood Scrubs and Wandsworth. It has been seen that it is possible for the contracted-out prisons to take in difficult prisoners who have no reason to behave them Mselves, but do so because the regime is better and more sensitive to their needs and provides them with something more constructive to do.

When I was a Home Office Minister, it was always the Government's intention [I am sure that it is still the intention of my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary—to improve the regimes within our prison system following the Woolf report and the undertakings that we made in the White Paper published last summer. We cannot improve prison regimes overnight, but that improvement will occur much more speedily if it is demonstrated clearly, as it is through the private prisons of the Wolds and Blakenhurst. That will act as a spur to those in the existing prison system to manage their prisons better and undertake to allow the prisoners to have better regimes. That is a good reason to support the order.

11.14 pm
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

It is a little surprising to hear the former Minister with responsibility for prisons, the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), speaking so coolly about the experience of the state sector and, by implication, overlooking the good work that is being done in the public sector to improve the state's handling of prisoners. It was also surprising to hear her suggest that something as modest as the Wolds experiment can teach those who have been in the business for generations anything of great importance.

I know that the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden has visited many prisons in her time, and I am sure that she has seen prisons of different sorts and qualities. I can only think that dogmatism leads the right hon. Lady to suggest that there is a great deal to be learned from Wolds. I share the surprise expressed in the intervention earlier by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) that it should be thought almost unpatriotic among Conservative Members to suggest that, if the state sentences a person to the deprivation of his liberties, the state has a responsibility—whether exercised directly or indirectly—to ensure that custody is properly effected.

Many people assume, probably rightly, that that is the direct responsibility of the state, the Government, and the House—just as they assume that the defence of the realm will be handled by officers of the realm. We would no more think of sending a brigade of mercenaries to teach the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines how to do their job than we would of expecting the private sector to tell the prison service how to run its affairs. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. There are too many seated interventions. It is becoming difficult for me to hear the hon. Member.

Mr. Maclennan

The Wolds is rather like a beauty spot on a rather nastily pock-marked face. It is designed to distract attention from the reality of the ugliness of today's prison system. It seems to have had some success in respect of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), for he focused a speech of 35 minutes on that little beauty spot. I am not as informed as even the hon. Gentleman about the Wolds, and few of us would feel confident about passing judgment on it at this stage. In any event, it would probably be premature to form a view about the Wolds.

Mr. Battle

We cannot get the information.

Mr. Maclennan

We certainly cannot, and there are certain difficulties in having questions on the subject answered in the House, which is rather deplorable. I hope that the National Audit Office will have full access, and will be able to bring any uncertainties that it has before the Public Accounts Committee—which will, no doubt, have an opportunity in due course to consider whether the public are getting value for money.

I regret that the Government did not take the opportunity provided by this debate to declare their hand as to how far they intend to go with the experiment. Do they seriously intend to solve the problems outlined by Lord Justice Woolf and Judge Tumim by going down the privatisation route full scale? Is it intended—as was suggested at the weekend—to deal with top security prisoners in that way?

The Home Office does not usually leak the kind of stones that have been circulating among the national press without the intention of following through. It would have been better if the Government had told the House tonight what are their intentions. The reports that have appeared will give rise to great anxiety in the prison service, and to great uncertainty in sectors where a little settling down after the excitements of the last year or two might be a very good thing.

Mr. Dickens

Is the hon. Gentleman really telling the House that the Government ought to publicise prison incidents? Would that not encourage the copycat effect all over England, thereby inciting others in custody to commit similar offences in their prisons? I think it far better for the House of Commons to be satisfied with not knowing exactly what is going on, thus preventing similar events from happening in prisons throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Maclennan

In many ways the hon. Gentleman is a rather better publicist than I am, and I suspect that he is better at grabbing the headlines in regard to prisons than I could ever be. I have no intention of pouring oil on the flames of prison disputes and other troubles, but I believe that it ought to be possible for the hon. Gentleman to find out whether disturbances have taken place in a prison. The Minister made it plain that such disturbances had taken place, and he has made no attempt at a cover-up.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

That is an important point. I agree with the hon. Gentleman rather than with my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens). If disturbances take place in a prison, the House should have an opportunity to ask questions and learn from the answers. Let me make it absolutely clear that hon. Members can ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary about any disturbance in the Wolds, just as they can ask about disturbances in any other prison for which he is responsible.

Mr. Maclennan

I am grateful for the Minister's intervention, although I think that there is still some uncertainty about whether it is possible to table questions that will enable those issues to be raised. I have no doubt that they can be raised on the margins of other questions, but that involves problems.

Mr. Battle

As one who has tried to put questions about the matter, I feel that the position is the same as that applying to social security benefit agencies. We are told that such agencies are—like private prisons—at one remove from the Government, and that they are therefore not subject to direct question from the House of Commons. We are told to write to the governors and the heads of the organisations concerned, and that means that we may not be able to question the answers that we receive.

Mr. Lloyd


Mr. Maclennan

I am sure that you would not approve of an intervention on an intervention, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps the Minister will be prepared to hold himself back until the end of the debate.

So far, alas, the debate has been remarkably unrevealing. The Government have chosen to focus attention on the modest little experiment at the Wolds, almost as if they were providing a lightning conductor; but it is too soon to judge. I think that we would do better to put our criticisms of the Wolds on hold until more information is available, and to press the Minister to be more revealing about the Government's medium-term intentions in regard to the extension of privatisation.

I strongly suspect that the motion is directed at the Prison Officers Association at least as much as it is directed at the House. There has been considerable criticism of the association in Government circles on the ground that it has stood in the way of reform. It is not possible for outsiders to judge the merits of the argument; but I doubt that they, or anyone else, will be overly impressed by what has happened to date.

The Liberal Democrats consider it necessary to go a great deal further in implementing the Woolf report than the changes in the prison system contained in the modest order that we are discussing. In particular, we recommend the establishment of a separate prison agency, managed by people with experience of the prison service. That, we think, would enable us to move much faster in the direction recommended by Woolf.

Our prisons are now full to bursting, and conditions in many community prisons are worse than they were when those prisons were built over 100 years ago. The prison suicide rate is causing many people to worry greatly about our capacity to deal with prisoners, particularly those on remand. I do not think that we are focusing on the real, important issues tonight, and I regret that.

11.24 pm
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said that private sector involvement in the prison service was wrong in principle. It seems to me that what is wrong in principle is the Labour party's blind ideological refusal to accept that the private sector has any role to play in the improvement of our prison service. Week in, week out, many incidents occur in state prisons. Therefore, I welcome the progress that the Government have made in introducing the order.

It is worth recalling the progress that has been made. When the Criminal Justice Bill was considered in Standing Committee, there was originally a clause that provided for only one prison to be run by the private sector—Wolds prison. Some of us thought that that was a wicked waste of parliamentary time and that at the very least we should extend that provision to allow for a widening of the experiment in years to come. That is why a number of my hon. Friends and I tabled a new clause, which the Government gratefully accepted.

The point has already been made in the debate—I believe during an intervention by my hon. Friend the Minister—that the fact that in many respects remand prisoners are more difficult to handle than sentenced prisoners was a matter that some of us had in mind when we suggested that the private sector should be involved in the provision of prisons for sentenced prisoners.

We should be discussing not ideology but two simple questions. The first relates to the best management structure for the prison service. One has just to read not the detailed reports but the summaries of Judge Tumim's visits to many of our prisons to realise that there is a lot wrong with our prision service. I believe that the management structure needs to be changed. If we are to change the management structure, we should do so in a way that allows for public and private sector involvement. That is why I am an enthusiastic supporter of the order. It allows for private sector involvement.

Secondly, we should address the question of standards. Some hon. Members have referred to that question. How can standards be raised? The Woolf report into the Strangeways riot made a number of recommendations. The Government are to be commended for embracing its key recommendations and trying to bring some parts of our prison estate up to sratch. However, just as we modernise our Victorian prisons, so, too, must we modernise the management structure of our prisons. That is the key issue. The need is urgent.

Even if we approve the order, as I hope we shall, it will still be 12 months before this further experiment comes to fruition. We are not exactly running at a hare's pace. However, this is a welcome development.

The House must ask itself a final question: where will all this lead? To put on the private sector a proper contractual obligation for the way in which prisons should be run suggests to tne that this will lead to a prison regime under which each prison in this country, whether it is in the public or the private sector, follows a properly defined set of standards and criteria. In time, they will have to publish their own reports—

Mr. Enright

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Greenway

No; I shall not give way because there are only 15 minutes left, and I am not about to finish my speech.

A prison will have to publish its own report and accounts to show how it has used public money, whether it is in the private sector, receiving fees for handling prisoners, or in the public sector, as now. [Interruption.] We can open up to proper scrutiny all that is going on in our prison service. What has been happening in Armley gaol in the past few years, about which the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) is as concerned as I am, is an absolute scandal. Interruption.] Our prison service is a disgrace. We need to bring the private sector into play.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Some of the interventions from the Labour Benches are quite unacceptable to me. Will hon. Members please keep quiet?

Mr. Greenway

I believe that much of our prison service is an absolute disgrace. It must be improved, but blind ideology and dogma mean that people refuse to accept that the private sector has a role to play in achieving that improvement.

11.30 pm
Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North)

Despite everything that the Minister said, privatised prisons will reduce parliamentary scrutiny. The Minister said that the cost difference between private and public prisons is minimal. Privatisation will only reduce hon. Members' ability to scrutinise how a prison is run.

Standards will not rise. In the United States, the first privatised prisons provided excellent conditions, but they were show-piece prisons and loss leaders. Evidence suggests that their successors, free from the glare of press publicity, got down to the real task of privatised prisons —making profits for shareholders. Standards began to fall accordingly. The Wolds will try to create a superior prison environment because Group 4 wants to ensure that it is awarded future contracts and will loss-lead to make it successful. The Government will then claim that privatised prisons deliver higher standards, but that will not be true. As in America, standards will fall as profits are squeezed by the Government seeking to impose cheaper contracts on prisons. Shareholders will receive state subsidised dividends to ensure that managers keep their jobs. That is unacceptable when Government deprive people of their liberty.

The Government say that standards will be maintained through enforceable contracts, but the effective policing of standards in prisons is notoriously difficult. It depends on prisoners reporting breaches, which is a very unreliable method, or on an inspectorate, and the inspectorate needed effectively and constantly to police all the terms of the contracts will he enormous and expensive. In other words, it will not be properly enforceable at all.

Do not the Government apply double standards? They have been anxious to insist on standards in the private contracts for the Wolds, yet the Home Office went to the European Court to fight attempts to secure the same standards in state gaols. Is not it unreasonable for the Government to argue that higher standards should be achieved in private prisons while insisting on lower standards for state prisons? Rather than subjecting prisoners' care to market forces, money should be spent on bringing state prisons up to the standards of the Wolds and to other private standards that we are seeking to enforce.

The clear moral question is whether it is right that money should be made out of a person who has been sentenced to imprisonment. Having been deprived of their liberty, it is wrong for prisoners to be put at the mercy of market forces. It is wrong that if the profit margins of private prisons are squeezed, as the Government will seek to do, the prisoner deprived of his liberty should see his conditions squeezed to maintain shareholders' profits.

What sort of companies would want to run Britain's prisons? With honourable exceptions, most of the security industry has an appalling record of low-paid staff, long hours, poor training and of employing persons often of dubious character and sometimes ex-criminals. As a criminal lawyer, I remember representing a person who was employed by Group 4, no less. He had previous convictions and was subsequently convicted of another offence but continued to work for Group 4 and, for all I know, probably still does—although not, I hope, at the Wolds.

While at the Home Office, the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) said: I don't want to foist an idea on a system without having sufficient caution to say that I am not going headlong down that route. I am going to take it step by step so that we can test it properly. Test it properly? It has been open only since April. This is not a step-by-step approach. The order represents a headlong rush. Instead of having a measured assessment of how privatisation is going at the Wolds, the Government are hell bent on advancing nothing but political dogma.

The order is a shallow attempt to shift the debate away from the appalling state of our prisons, as reported by Judge Tumim, and from the Government's disgraceful record on prisons. It is an attempt to shift the debate to a peripheral argument about privatisation.

The Home Office has said that it will train and screen workers for private prisons, but for how long will it do that before it decides to privatise training? I am not the only one who dislikes the idea of Group 4 or any other company being told whether applicants are of good character. Group 4 is not an official body, and it has no right to information about a person's character from police files.

The Howard League has done the only significant independent research into the management of private detention centres. Its conclusions are very interesting because they reveal obsessive secrecy, poor staff in-service training, racist stereotyping by staff and no tangible commitment to justice.

It is the state which rightly reserves unto itself the right to take a person's liberty and the state should take responsibility for all that flows from that. It is directly responsible for the care of prisoners and should not abdicate its responsibilities to others. Its responsibilities include the right to use force to subjugate prisoners in certain circumstances and also, as we heard earlier, in certain circumstances to open and read prisoners' mail. That is not something that should be privatised and given to persons who are not directly answerable to the House.

The real problem is that we have too many bad prisons and too many people in them and a Government who have allowed crime to rise and prisons to become degraded. Privatisation will not deal with the real problems as identified by Lord Justice Woolf after the disturbances at Strangeways; nor will it deal with the failings of the prison service outlined in Judge Tumim's report. The order is a camouflage for what is happening in the prison service, which is why we shall vote against it.

11.37 pm
Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

One would think that the prisons in this country were an outstanding success, that they were beautiful places in which people could be properly rehabilitated, where those who are likely to offend could be deterred from offending again and where prison officers would be proud and happy to work. In fact, they are a disgrace.

They are a disgrace despite a massive expenditure of public money—£1 billion—on building more and more prisons. They are also a disgrace despite the dynamic activities of the chief inspector of prisons. Judge Tumim, and they are a disgrace despite the Woolf investigation. inquiry and recommendations. They will continue to be a disgrace as long as they are in the type of buildings that they are in, as long as we are subject to the existing old-fashioned practices, and, unless someone takes an initiative to move the prison service away from the circumstances which is has endured for far too long, prisons will go on being disgraceful places. letting down our society as much as they do.

The Government are proposing a new initiative. But one would think that Labour Members did not wish prisoners to spend less time in their cells, did not wish to see cleaner accommodation, the changing of bed linen and clothing, greater access to telephones and the more respectable approach of educating people in prisons.

One would think that Opposition Members were happy to maintain the situation without any improvement or change. I simply do not believe that any Opposition Members are really content with the present situation. Nevertheless, once again their spokesman, in a knee-jerk reaction, has attacked any move towards privatisation or rationalisation of the system. Have not they learnt the lesson that, broadly, the privatisations that have been undertaken so far have been an outstanding success? Have not they learnt the lesson that every time they speak for the trade union movement—for old-fashioned unions like the Prison Officers Association, which wishes to maintain the old operative system that have so let down the prison system—they make the mselves absolutely incapable of winning any general election?

Mr. Battle

The Prison Officers Association is not affiliated to the Labour party.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I have warned Members before about seated interventions of that nature.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

This is one of the ways in which the Labour party has continued to make itself incapable of winning general elections. It sides with the unions that adopt old-fashioned practices. When Labour Members have managed to control their obsession with maintaining the last vestiges of the abuse of trade union power and have given privatisation a chance as it begins to show signs of great achievement in the Wolds—and it will continue to demonstrate great achievement—they will realise that the prison system is being improved.

Many of the objections that have been voiced are absolute nonsense. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said that he would deal immediately with the point about vetting those who run the prisons, but he did not come to it at all. He cannot face up to the Government's clear undertaking that they will continue to ensure that there is proper vetting by the Home Office—the Home Secretary, the directorate of prisons, and the institutions that will monitor the private prison undertakings as they have monitored the state institutions and will reveal anything that has gone wrong.

Let Opposition Members get a grip of themselves and give this initiative a chance. I have no doubt that if it appears to be failing the Government will change their mind, as they have done in the past. All Governments change their mind. Equally, I hope that, for the first time, the Opposition will change their mind. Actually I do not mean that. The Opposition have changed their mind over the sale of council houses; they have changed their mind over unilateral disarmament; they have changed their mind over a number of nationalisation issues. And I predict that when the new privatised system, introduced experimentally in some prisons, begins to work, they will change their mind about that too.

11.42 pm
Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow)

I listened very carefully to the Minister's introductory speech. Everybody agrees that we want improvements in conditions. Nobody has any complaint about good conditions in the Wolds, but we want to know why that matter is connected with privatisation. Why cannot we have similar investment in the other prisons that have been mentioned? What is at issue is the extension of privatisation from new remand prisons to institutions for convicted prisoners. Regardless of what has been said by Conservative Members, this move is fundamentally different from what was talked about when the legislation was passed last year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) referred to the then Minister's comment that only if the contracted-out remand centre proved to be a success might we move towards privatisation of other parts of the service. Well, has it proved to be a success? When points about incidents at the Wolds were being raised, the Minister said that the system was still in the process of bedding down. If so, how can it be proved a success?

What evidence is there of adequate staff training? We have heard assertions about that, but no evidence. What evidence is there of correct recruitment policies? I have asked about staff recruited at the Wolds. Not a single member of staff there has an ethnic minority background.

If the case is not proven now, will it ever be? And what about accountability? We do not know the costs of employing Group 4 at the Wolds. The Minister would not tell us. We do not know what profits it will make; the Minister would not tell us. We are told that that is a commercial consideration.

We have been told that five of the eight —

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted Business):

The House divided: Ayes 251, Noes 200.

Division No. 52] [11.45 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Bates, Michael
Aitken, Jonathan Batiste, Spencer
Alexander, Richard Bendall, Vivian
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Beresford, Sir Paul
Amess, David Blackburn, Dr John G.
Ancram, Michael Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Arbuthnot, James Booth, Hartley
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Boswell, Tim
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Ashby, David Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Aspinwall, Jack Bowis, John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Baldry, Tony Brandreth, Gyles
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Brazier, Julian
Bright, Graham Hicks, Robert
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Burns, Simon Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Burt, Alistair Horam, John
Butler, Peter Hordern, Sir Peter
Butterfill, John Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Carrington, Matthew Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Carttiss, Michael Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cash, William Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hunter, Andrew
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Jack, Michael
Clappison, James Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Jenkin, Bernard
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Jessel, Toby
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Coe, Sebastian Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Colvin, Michael Jones, Robert B. (W H'frdshire)
Congdon, David Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Kilfedder, Sir James
Cran, James Kirkhope, Timothy
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Knapman, Roger
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Day, Stephen Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Knox, David
Devlin, Tim Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Dickens, Geoffrey Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Dover, Den Legg, Barry
Duncan, Alan Leigh, Edward
Duncan-Smith, Iain Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Durant, Sir Anthony Lidington, David
Eggar, Tim Lightbown, David
Elletson, Harold Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lord, Michael
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Luff, Peter
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Evennett, David MacKay, Andrew
Faber, David Maclean, David
Fabricant, Michael McLoughlin, Patrick
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fenner, Dame Peggy Maitland, Lady Olga
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Malone, Gerald
Fishburn, John Dudley Marland, Paul
Forman, Nigel Marlow, Tony
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Forth, Eric Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Merchant, Piers
Freeman, Roger Milligan, Stephen
French, Douglas Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gale, Roger Moate, Roger
Gallie, Phil Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Gardiner, Sir George Moss, Malcolm
Garnier, Edward Needham, Richard
Gill, Christopher Neubert, Sir Michael
Gillan, Ms Cheryl Nicholls, Patrick
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Gorst, John Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Norris, Steve
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Page, Richard
Grylls, Sir Michael Paice, James
Hague, William Patnick, Irvine
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hampson, Dr Keith Pawsey, James
Hargreaves, Andrew Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Harris, David Pickles, Eric
Haselhurst, Alan Porter, David (Waveney)
Hawkins, Nicholas Powell, William (Corby)
Hawksley, Warren Rathbone, Tim
Hayes, Jerry Redwood, John
Heald, Oliver Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Heathcoat-Amory, David Richards, Rod
Hendry, Charles Riddick, Graham
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Robathan, Andrew Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Thurnham, Peter
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Tracey, Richard
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Tredinnick, David
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Trend, Michael
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Trotter, Neville
Sackville, Tom Twinn, Dr Ian
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Viggers, Peter
Shaw, David (Dover) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Waller, Gary
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sims, Roger Waterson, Nigel
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Watts, John
Speed, Sir Keith Wells, Bowen
Spencer, Sir Derek Wheeler, Sir John
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Whitney, Ray
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Whittingdale, John
Spink, Dr Robert Widdecombe, Ann
Spring, Richard Wilkinson, John
Sproat, Iain Willetts, David
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Steen, Anthony Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Stephen, Michael Wolfson, Mark
Stern, Michael Wood, Timothy
Sumberg, David Yeo, Tim
Sweeney, Walter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Mr. Sydney Chapman
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) and Mr. Nicholas Baker.
Thomason, Roy
Abbott, Ms Diane Coffey, Ms Ann
Adams, Mrs Irene Cohen, Harry
Ainger, Nicholas Connarty, Michael
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Cousins, Jim
Armstrong, Hilary Cox, Tom
Austin-Walker, John Cryer, Bob
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cummings, John
Barron, Kevin Cunliffe, Lawrence
Battle, John Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Bayley, Hugh Dalyell, Tam
Beckett, Margaret Darling, Alistair
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Davidson, Ian
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Bennett, Andrew F. Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Benton, Joe Denham, John
Bermingham, Gerald Dixon, Don
Berry, Roger Donohoe, Brian
Boyce, Jimmy Dowd, Jim
Boyes, Roland Dunnachie, Jimmy
Bradley, Keith Eagle, Ms Angela
Burden, Richard Enright, Derek
Byers, Stephen Etherington, William
Caborn, Richard Evans, John (St Helens N)
Callaghan, Jim Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Campbell, Ms Anne (C'bridge) Fatchett, Derek
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Flynn, Paul
Campbell, Ronald (Blyth V) Foster, Derek (B 'p Auckland)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Foulkes, George
Cann, James Fyfe, Maria
Chisholm, Malcolm Gapes, Michael
Clapham, Michael George, Bruce
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Gerrard, Neil
Clelland, David Godman, Dr Norman A.
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Golding, Mrs Llin
Graham, Thomas Mullin, Chris
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Murphy, Paul
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Gunnell, John O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hain, Peter O'Hara, Edward
Hall, Mike O'Neill, Martin
Hanson, David Patchett, Terry
Hardy, Peter Pendry, Tom
Harman, Ms Harriet Pickthall, Colin
Henderson, Doug Pike, Peter L.
Heppell, John Pope, Greg
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hinchliffe, David Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Home Robertson, John Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hood, Jimmy Prescott, John
Hoon, Geoff Primarolo, Dawn
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Purchase, Ken
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Quin, Ms Joyce
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Raynsford, Nick
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Redmond, Martin
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Reid, Dr John
Hutton, John Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Jackson, Ms Glenda (H'stead) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Jackson, Ms Helen (Shef'ld, H) Roche, Ms Barbara
Jamieson, David Rogers, Allan
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Rooker, Jeff
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Rooney, Terry
Jones, Ms Lynne (B'ham S O) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Ruddock, Joan
Jowell, Ms Tessa Salmond, Alex
Keen, Alan Sheerman, Barry
Kennedy, Ms Jane (L'p'l Br'g'n) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Khabra, Piara Short, Clare
Kilfoyle, Peter Simpson, Alan
Leighton, Ron Skinner, Dennis
Lewis, Terry Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Litherland, Robert Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Livingstone, Ken Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Snape, Peter
Lynne, Ms Liz Soley, Clive
McAllion, John Spearing, Nigel
McAvoy, Thomas Steinberg, Gerry
McCartney, Ian Stevenson, George
MacDonald, Calum Strang, Gavin
McKelvey, William Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mackinlay, Andrew Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Maclennan, Robert Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
McMaster, Gordon Tipping, Paddy
McWilliam, John Turner, Dennis
Madden, Max Tyler, Paul
Mahon, Alice Vaz, Keith
Mandelson, Peter Wallace, James
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Wareing, Robert N
Martlew, Eric Watson, Mike
Meale, Alan Welsh, Andrew
Michael, Alun Wicks, Malcolm
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Milburn, Alan Wise, Audrey
Miller, Andrew Worthington, Tony
Morgan, Rhodri Wright, Tony
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Tellers for the Noes:
Mowlam, Marjorie Mr. Eric Illsley and
Mudie, George Mr. Ken Eastham.

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the draft Criminal Justice Act 1991 (Contracted Out Prisons) Order 1992, which was laid before this House on 21st February, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.

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