HC Deb 22 May 1996 vol 278 c245W
Mr. Steinberg

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reasons the governor of Her Majesty's prison, Durham is debarred from tendering for the courts and escorts service for the area covered by Durham prison in July 1997. [29855]

Miss Widdecombe

Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Richard Tilt to Mr. Gerry Steinberg, dated 22 May 1996: The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question asking why the governor at Durham prison has not been allowed to tender for the provision of the court and escort services for the area covered by Durham prison in July 1997. Invitations to tender for the work—which covers the north of England rather than just the Durham area—were issued at the end of April. It is intended to award the contract in October or November this year and for phased implementation to commence in April 1997. The contract will cover work currently undertaken both by the police and the Prison Service. It involves taking prisoners to and from court and their custody while at court. It does not constitute a part of the core duties and responsibilities of either police or prison officers, however, and has in the past often either been under resourced or has drawn valuable and highly trained personnel away from their core tasks. Contracting-out the work has led to higher standards of service to the courts and to lower costs. In-house bids are time consuming and costly to mount, and would therefore only be undertaken if there was a reasonable prospect of achieving better value for money than contracting-out. This would be difficult to achieve in the case of court escorts. The geographic make-up of the contract area is intended both to stimulate and maintain private sector interest and offer the potential for economies of scale. Durham prison could therefore neither bid solely for its own catchment area nor the work that it currently performs. Any proposal would also need to incorporate police input to the activity. In view of all these considerations, the decision was taken at the outset to exclude in-house bids and to contract out the work.