§ Mr. George Howarth
The statistical information about contracted-out prison costs shown on page 56 of the Prison Service Annual Report for 1997–98 was calculated by dividing the "net operating costs" by either the "average baseline certified normal accommodation" or the "average prisoner population". The data shown for individual prisons listed—Blakenhurst, Buckley Hall, Doncaster, and The Wolds—are correct. Unfortunately, the summary figures shown have been distorted by including the average Certified Normal Accommodation and average prisoner population data for the contracted prisons—Altcourse, Parc, and Lowdham Grange—which opened towards the end of the operational year. This error has also carried forward into the summary table shown on page 55 of the Report. I have arranged for corrected copies of these tables to be placed in the Library.
Despite these errors, the contracted-out prisons continue to provide good value for money. But, perhaps more importantly, the figures shown that the gap between the contracted-out prisons' costs and public sector prisons' costs continues to reduce.