HL Deb 01 February 1999 vol 596 c183WA
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in the Quinquennial Review of the Prison Service which was announced on 31 July 1998. [HL824]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The first two stages of the Quinquennial Review of the Prison Service have now been concluded and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today placed in the Library copies of the Evaluation of Performance and the Prior Options Report. A revised Framework Document is being finalised and will be published shortly.

The Evaluation of Performance concludes that since becoming an agency, and during a period of rising prison population, the Prison Service has achieved a remarkable turnaround in performance, to which agency status has contributed for the following reasons:

  • the delegated freedoms and flexibilities to the Director General;
  • a focus on agreed outputs and targets for which the Director General is personally responsible to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary;
  • a more cohesive organisation with a more visible Director General enables him to provide clearer leadership and to communicate with the organisation more effectively and to speak publicly for the Prison Service.

The Prior Options Report reviews agency and other organisational options for the Prison Service and concludes that continued agency status offers the most appropriate and cost effective means of achieving Home Office aims. It notes and endorses the major agenda of work already in progress or planned as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Prison Probation Review. It notes the need for further work in the next period of agency status on contractorisation issues, taking into account experience with tighter "contracts" between headquarters and individual prisons and the overall contribution of the private sector to prison services.

In the light of these findings, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary accepts the recommendation of the Prior Options Report that agency status should be reconfirmed.