HC Deb 01 February 1995 vol 253 cc684-5W
Sir Ivan Lawrence

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what are his proposals for reviewing the role of boards of visitors at prison establishments.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I am currently setting up a review of the role of boards of visitors.

The Prisons Act 1952 provides for a board of visitors to be appointed to every prison and young offender institution. Members of boards are lay volunteers drawn from the local community. I value the work of boards and the participation of the local community, and I am keen to maintain this involvement of lay people in the prison system. My objective for the review is to strengthen the role of boards and help them undertake their duties more effectively. With this background the review is asked to make recommendations with particular respect to:

  • how this role should be redefined or clarified;
  • the interface between boards of visitors, HM Chief Inspector of Prison and the prison ombudsman;
  • the recruitment and appointment of boards of visitors members;
  • the training of boards of visitors members;
  • the national representation of boards of visitors;
  • the administrative support at national and local level funding of the work of boards visitors;
  • an appropriate title for boards of visitors;

I shall be helped in the work of the review by Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons; a small number of hoard members; representatives of their national organisations and a co-opted prison governor. We will be supported by a small team of Home Office officials.

Board members and groups with an interest in penal affairs are being invited to submit representations to the review group by 3 March. I would also welcome any representations from hon. Members. I hope to reach conclusions by the beginning of April and will announce these to the House.