HL Deb 30 April 2001 vol 625 cc433-5

2.44 p.m.

Lord Quirk asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the Chief Inspector of Prisons' report on young offender institution Swinfen Hall, published on 3rd April.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton)

My Lords, the Chief Inspector described Swinfen Hall as a centre of excellence and a healthy prison in which young prisoners can mature as people and are given the opportunity to address both their offending behaviour and their educational, work and social skills shortcomings. There is an excellent "Moving Out" course to prepare young prisoners for their release. The Chief Inspector's excellent report is a great credit to the governor and her staff.

Lord Quirk

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. As Swinfen Hall is in general a welcome example of good practice—unlike Stoke Heath, for example, on which Sir David also recently reported—would it not be a good idea for this report to be required reading at every institution in the Prison Service? Might not that result in a bit more focused attention on education issues, which some of us have grown old reiterating, such as the point made in paragraph 5.09 about the transfer of education records?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, the noble Lord has made a number of useful points. I am sure that the report ought to be required reading. I know that inspection reports are widely circulated in the Prison Service. They are certainly filleted for good practice. The inspector drew attention to 14 areas of good practice. There is much sense in recommendation 5.09. No doubt it will be dwelt on. It is essential when planning educational courses for young individuals that their educational records are easily transferred. Let us hope that we can do that using the best of new technology in the future.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, may I ask the Leader of the House why the Front Benches should pre-empt the Back Benches, contrary to the erstwhile traditions of this House?

Lord Acton

My Lords, reverting to the Question, does my noble friend agree that we read a great deal about reports on prisons and offender institutions where things are far from well? Are the Government making any great effort to publicise this report and good reports in general?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, we always make strenuous efforts to publicise good reports, but unfortunately good reports attract far less attention. This one deserves to attract a great deal of attention. Sir David Ramsbotham said that he was taking a unique step in his time as Chief Inspector of Prisons by declaring Her Majesty's Young Offender Institution Swinfen Hall to be a centre of excellence. We should be proud and celebrate that fact and congratulate the staff at Swinfen Hall, who are obviously doing a very good job. Their work on improving the establishment over the past five or six years should be more widely known about publicly, particularly in the Prison Service.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow

My Lords, does the Minister agree that Sir David's report on Swinfen Hall shows his willingness to be critical when prisons are bad and to praise when they are good? Is it not another example of what an excellent Chief Inspector of Prisons he has been? Has a decision been made about his future?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, as I am sure that the noble Lord knows, we are in the process of appointing a new Chief Inspector of Prisons. Sir David has done an excellent job. I met him and his inspection team last week. They assured me that Swinfen Hall was not the only establishment that they had praised over their years of looking—quite rightly critically—at the prison estate. They said that there is much good practice across the prison estate. We need to draw more from that to ensure that standards generally are raised.