HL Deb 28 October 1997 vol 582 cc233-5WA
Lord Hardy of Wath

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will publish the Business Plan for the Prison Service for 1997–98.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

We are publishing today the Prison Service's Business Plan for 1997–98, including the key performance targets I have set.

We recognise the pressure under which the service is now operating. The audit of resources which we published on 25 July made it clear that the key assumptions on which the service had been planning for the current year, particularly the size of the prison population, have already been overtaken. We announced on 24 July an increase in Prison Service funding this year and next year to help meet these pressures. At the same time, work under way as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the study of ways of closer working between the Probation and Prison Services which we announced on 16 July, and other policy developments in the criminal justice field, will all have long term implications for the service, which makes long term planning difficult.

For these resons, we have decided to publish a three-year Corporate plan this year. Instead we are publishing a Business Plan which sets out clear targets and priorities for this year but does not significantly change the longer term objectives previously set for the service and focuses on the need to accommodate the prison population safely while maintaining balanced, positive regimes so far as possible. We will shortly discuss with the Director General the priorities and direction for the service for the next three years, which will be reflected in the Corporate Plan for 1998–2001.

The plan includes the performance targets against which the service has been operating so far this year. The majority will require some improvement on last year's performance, but we recognise that the further rapid rise in prisoner numbers so far this year, well ahead of the assumptions made when the plan was drafted, will have an impact on performance.

The targets are:

  • escapes:
  • to ensure no Category A prisoners escape;
  • to ensure that the number of escapes from prisons and from escorts, expressed as a proportion of the prison population, is lower than in 1996–97;
  • assaults:
  • to ensure that the number of assaults on staff, prisoners and others, expressed as a proportion of the average population, is lower than 9 per cent.;
  • drugs:
  • to ensure that the rate of positive testing for drugs (the number of random drug tests that prove positive expressed as a proportion of the total number of random tests carried out) is lower than in 1996–97;
  • overcrowding:
  • to ensure that the percentage of the prison population above the uncrowded capacity of the estate is no more than 13 per cent.;
  • time unlocked:
  • to ensure that by 31 March 1998 at least 60 per cent. of prisoners are held in establishments which normally unlock all prisoners on the standard or enhanced regime for at least 10 hours per week day;
  • offending behaviour programmes:
  • to ensure that there are at least 2,200 completions by prisoners of programmes accredited as being effective in reducing re-offending, of which 670 should be completions of the Sex Offender Treatment Programmes;
  • cost per place:
  • to achieve at least a 1.3 per cent. reduction in real terms in cost per place compared to 1996–97, ensuring that the average cost of a prison place does not exceed £24,610;
  • staff training:
  • to ensure that on average, staff spend at least six days in training.

We have also set a target on purposeful activity, to ensure that prisoners spend on average at least 22.5 hours per week engaged in purposeful activity. This target takes account of work to improve the accuracy of these figures. Because of this, this year's target is not directly comparable with performance in previous years, but is intended to maintain performance at the level delivered last year. We regard it as extremely important that prisons provide a full day's constructive and challenging activity for prisoners, and we shall be asking the Director General to consider how he can improve on this target in the years ahead. But we do recognise that the population pressures facing the service make it unrealistic to set a higher target in 1997–98.