EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES (Questions 60-79)
TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2001
60. Does that include an area manager?
(Mr Narey) Yes. I have to say I would be extremely
cautious of appointing somebody directly from outside to be either
a governor or an area manager because institutional experience
is very, very important. But yes, I have entire freedom in terms
of appointments. As Chief Executive of an Agency I have almost
61. The Home Office do not tell you what to
do the whole time. You are pretty much a free agent.
(Mr Narey) I have to abide by normal rules of Civil
Service competition. I have to have open and fair competition.
62. Taking your governors as a whole and senior
managers, using the phrase survivors and leaders, how high a proportion
of them all would you say are really potential leaders? A high
(Mr Narey) Yes, I believe so. We have been through
a painful couple of years where a not insignificant number of
individuals have been moved on from particular jobs. We inherited
a situation where we had some people who had been promoted into
jobs which did not suit them. They were the wrong sort of person
for the job and we had to move some people on. We moved some people
to other jobs in the Service, some people we have moved out of
the Service and they have left us. In two years more than half
our area managers have changed and I would say there has been
some criticism of the very fast turnover of governors. That is
part explained by the fact that we have been trying, particularly
in the most difficult places, to get the very best people in there.
The stock of governors we are left with and area managers is very
63. You made some pretty praiseworthy reference
in your speech last week to the Chief Inspector of Prisons. Have
you had a good relationship with him?
(Mr Narey) Yes. Sir David and I frequently disagree.
We argue over the detail of almost every report, but in terms
of having the same view about how prisoners should be treated,
we are very much at one.
64. You said that he had a devastating critique
at the time of Scrubs prison in which he capturedand I
am using your wordsthe atmosphere of neglect and intimidation
(Mr Narey) That is correct.
65. There is a feelingI do not know how
far you wish to commentthat Sir David is being told in
effect that he is not going to be able to have his contract renewed
because he has been such a nuisance, be it to the previous Government
or the present Government.
(Mr Narey) That is not something on which I can possibly
comment. All I can say is that both with Judge Tumin and Sir David
and whoever his successor is I acknowledge entirely the need for
a very critical and effective inspectorate. Without that then
some of the levers I have to effect change would not be there.
66. Would it not be rightand in no way
reflecting on your speech last week or why you did not make such
comments earlier, nothing of the kindto say that it is
precisely the sort of reports and public comments which Sir David
has made since his appointment as Chief Inspector which have spotlighted
what you yourself described last week as disgraceful or hell-hole
(Mr Narey) He has made an immense contribution in
doing that and I regret the situation which Mr Wheatley and I
inherited, that sometimes, because of ineffectiveness of some
area managers and some governors, the first that Richard Tilt,
for example, sometimes knew about a place being pretty awful is
when he heard it from the Chief Inspector. One of the things which
has happened more recently, not least because Sir David and I
do have a very close working relationship, is that I know in advance
which places are awful. There is going to be an awful report on
Birmingham, but Mr Wheatley and I knew about that. We have been
doing things about that and I share with Sir David my concerns
about some establishments. He inspected Brinsford last year and
issued a very critical report and he inspected it because I told
him I was very concerned about it; indeed his report has been
very useful for the new governor whom Mr Wheatley appointed to
Brinsford in terms of improving it.
67. Would you say that Sir David, and his predecessor
incidentally who also had a very distinguished record, tended
to be seen in Whitehall as irritants?
(Mr Narey) I can only speak for how it is seen in
the Prison Service. Yes, sure, sometimes they are seen as irritants.
Sometimes Sir David frustrates me, sometimes I think his criticisms
are unfair. We sometimes have very extensive discussions about
the nature of them. I would obviously argue that it is much easier
to prescribe what needs to be done in prisons than to do it. I
have no doubt about Sir David's commitment and I know that the
sort of Prison Service he and I want is the same Prison Service.
68. Obviously it is not up to you, but would
you like to see Sir David continue in his present position?
(Mr Narey) It is positively not up to me to comment
69. Of course it is not up to you and I already
prefaced my question by saying it is not up to you, but would
you like to see him continue in his present position?
(Mr Narey) I have no role whatsoever in the identity
of the Chief Inspector. I look forward to the continuation of
the Chief Inspector, whoever he or she is, being entirely independent
of me and properly critical when necessary.
70. Would you agree that if there is to be a
successor to Sir David and it appears that is to be the position,
that person so appointed would not be doing his job if he or she
showed less courage and independence of mind than the present
occupant of that position?
(Mr Narey) I would agree with that.
71. You make the point very forcefully in your
speech, that the increased funding for the Prison Service, although
it is still far from enough, has in a sense removed the alibi
of the Prison Service for lack of resources as the catchall explanation
for problems in the Prison Service. It has exposed, as you very
clearly put, the need really to look at what makes prisons succeed
or fail. I just wondered whether you could elaborate on this question
of failing prisons. What do you think is the main reason? Is the
main reason the governorship? Obviously there have been quite
a few changes of governorship here. Is it inadequacies of middle
management which is a problem area? Is it more deeply in the kind
of recruitment you have to the Prison Service? Do you think it
is basically an attitudinal thing?
(Mr Narey) It can be many of those things, but the
one I would pick out as being the key element in reforming and
improving a prison is the identity of the governing governor.
Governing governors not only have to be very sophisticated managers,
they also have to be leaders. They have to set a moral tone for
an establishment. They have to be extremely resilient. They have
to cope with a sometimes very difficult trade union. The key to
improving and sustaining change in an establishment is getting
the right people in the right place. For example, in Birmingham
which I describe as a place which worries me greatly, we have
given very considerable thought to the person we put in charge.
In fact for the first time in two years I have had to order the
governor to take the posting at Birmingham. I had a number of
volunteers, but I did not think any of them were suitable for
the mammoth task which we faced. That individual now, supported
by a very good deputy governor and other staff is beginning to
make significant inroads into the prison and will effect great
72. You mentioned Birmingham but has there not
been a series of governors even at Birmingham who have come in
with a promise of improving it and not been able to do it? There
must be occasions when you feel a job is probably almost too big
for a governor to accomplish?
(Mr Narey) I believed on Birmingham that the job was
so difficult that I could not leave it to the vagaries of simply
a competition with people applying to go to work at a particular
prison. Mr Wheatley and I discussed this at some length and identified
someone we knew had done a very similar capable job at another
very large local prison, who we knew was extremely resilient,
who would not be deflected by pressures from staff or from unions
and would start to reform Birmingham. Birmingham will get some
extra resources next year but one of its main problems at the
moment is that the current resources are not spent as effectively
as they might be. The shift systems suit the staff rather more
than the needs of the regime. It takes a very, very capable and
resilient manager to put that right when they have been like that
for very many years.
73. When you refer to the inadequacies of middle
management, are you thinking there of area managers or are you
thinking within the individual prisons?
(Mr Narey) It is below governing governor level where
we sometimes do not have sufficient talent to spread around.
(Mr Wheatley) It is principal officer and senior officer
level where in establishments which are not working well those
working at that level can begin to identify with the people they
should be managing and want to do things which keep the place
running sweetly as far as staff are concerned rather than think
about what they are trying to achieve. To change that needs determined
senior management, governor, deputy governor in the prison to
drive that process and actually to enliven people who are probably
quite good. There is nothing wrong with the people: they have
been put in a position where they have not learned to manage well
and under pressure they have decided the easy way is to avoid
confrontation. We need to change things and that means a degree
74. Do you think there is also a problem at
the recruitment level, including people who are in themselves
able but maybe do not have the kind of motivation you want? McKays
rather than Barracloughs.
(Mr Wheatley) In recruitment terms we are currently
recruiting good prison officers, our basic entry point for those
who are working closely with prisoners. We do not recruit especially
good ones for especially good places and especially bad ones for
places which are not working well. We make them out of the places.
The power of the culture in the prisons, the way things are always
done, is what very much gets hold of people and changes them.
It probably happens to MPs: as you arrive in the Commons you will
learn from other people, you will adjust to the culture. Prisons
have very powerful cultures, so we take good people in and if
we have a prison which is not working well we will damage them,
which is one of the other reasons why it is very important we
sort out the basic culture, the leadership of the place, quickly
in order to make sure we are not damaging good staff who can give
a good contribution if properly led, working in a way where they
are supported in working well.
75. You talk about the value of institutional
experience, but you have also talked about the problems of bonus
payments. Is there not an argument that institutional experience
can be a limiting factor in somebody's horizons and they can see
the job too narrowly? Do you see these bonus payments as a way
of attracting people from outside, from other walks of life, into
the Prison Service?
(Mr Narey) No. I mentioned last week that I intended
to pay some bonus payments to governors simply to reward people
for what I believe has been quite exceptional effort. Governors
would argue that with the complexity of their jobs, running institutions
with budgets of £25 million not untypically, with the challenges
they have, the hours they work, they are not particularly well
rewarded. For those who made real achievements, it is simply a
recognition of that. I would be very willing to look more at bringing
in outside people if I thought that the quality of people I was
getting into the Service now at the bottom was not good enough,
but it is very good. The Prison Service is quite a difficult organisation
to market. Nobody grows up wanting to work in a Prison Service,
they would be very odd if they did. You have to be pretty imaginative
in attracting people. For example, some of the material we send
out to universities is very, very imaginative indeed, very eye-catching
and it does take the interest. Prisons themselves are captivating
places. Generally speaking if you get people once involved, once
going to visit a prison, they very frequently will find it hugely
challenging, hugely stimulating. We are getting very, very good
76. I am sorry, we cannot lock out The Sun.
They will be getting quotes of the week about prisons being captivating
places. You were on about what you call the identity of the governor.
There is bound to be some tension, is there not? You, and the
public for that matter, putting increasing amounts of resources
into prisons want to know what they are getting for it. There
is all this pressure on performance measurement. The other side
of that is that anybody doing a big management job like the governing
governor of a big prison, needs some elbow room. He or she wants
to feel that within those parameters they have the scope to manage
in their way. How do you try to resolve that tension? It touches
back on the point Mr Linton was just making. If you get an area
manager who wants to run things more by the book than somebody
coming in new to this job and having ideas and just needing elbow
room, how do you resolve that one?
(Mr Narey) What we try to do, what I have said in
a previous speech to prison governors, because I have heard governors
say to me for example that they have lost a bit of elbow room,
they have lost the opportunity to be imaginative, is that is not
the case. What we are trying to say to governors is that there
are some minimum things they must do, things are not optional.
Governors traditionally, certainly when I joined the service,
possibly even more so when Mr Wheatley did, were barons in their
own territory, they did very much what they wanted. We are saying
to governors that there are things they must do: the push on basic
education, on mandatory drug testing, on drug treatment. These
are not options, they must be done. There is loads of evidence
from around the estate of those things being done and individual
governors doing far more as well. The governor of Huntercombe
has put so much of himself into that establishment, far more than
we ever required of him. The governor of Brockhill, a female prison,
similarly. I can think of countless numbers of institutions where
governors have done much more. For the first time, and this has
proved difficult for some governors, Mr Wheatley is making area
managers work effectively and make sure that governors are doing
what the Government have asked us to do. Sometimes that has been
difficult. The response overwhelmingly has been terrific.
77. I wanted to follow on a couple of questions
Mr Singh was asking on suicide. I was very interested in that
whole line of questioning. I think you said there were 81 suicides
last year in prisons and eight have been committed so far this
year. Can you give any numbers for attempted suicides?
(Mr Narey) I cannot give figures for attempted suicides
because it is very difficult to discriminate between various levels
of self harm. I can give figures for levels of self harm which
run into the thousands, something like 7,000 or more instances
of serious self harm, but I will check on the figure and let you
78. I just wanted an order of magnitude. Has
any research been done into why people do that? Is it simply the
deprivation? Is it the question of the deprivation of liberty
or are there other reasons? I am wondering whether there is a
bullying culture in prisons?
(Mr Narey) It is impossible to give one answer. We
know that most suicides happen in local prisons or remand centres
and happen within a week or so of reception, but crucially not
first reception on a sentence and not first reception into prison.
Our growth in suicides is not in young people experiencing custody
for the first time and not coping. The big expansion is in those
aged 30 to 39. If I were to offer a view, I think some of that
is people coming back to custody for the fourth, fifth time and
thinking this is it, this is me again and despairing of that.
I do not think there are any really easy answers to explain why
this is happening. Bullying could on occasion contribute to that,
I acknowledge, but through a system we have of having prisoners
trained by the Samaritanswe call them Listenersthere
is much more support from other prisoners than there is in terms
of behaviour which might encourage someone
79. Are we still holding prisoners on remand
in primitive conditions?
(Mr Narey) Yes, we are on some occasions.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed Mr Narey
and Mr Wheatley for making the time to come. We were very taken
with how forthright you were in that speech in Nottingham and
we wish you well in what you are trying to do with the resources
you now have in the Prison Service. As you observed and certainly
from this side of the table as well, there are no votes in this
but that does not mean to say it is not important. We have to
be able to run a regime, in Mr Wheatley's words, which is founded
on decency. Nobody can tolerate anything which gets in the way
of that. Thank you very much indeed.
4 See Annex. Back