Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 1-19)




  1. Good afternoon, gentlemen, and welcome. This is a fairly general session. As you know, we have it once a year with the Permanent Secretary and his colleagues. Mr Gieve, in the Chancellor's spending announcement the other day we were told that the budget would go up from £10.7 billion to £13.5 billion by 2005-06. What is that in real terms?
  (Mr Gieve) The increase in the total Home Office programme over the current year is around 6.5 per cent a year real growth.

  2. Next year it will be 6.5 per cent higher than this year?

  (Mr Gieve) Year on year, it averages 6.5 per cent but over the last year—that is, what we spent last year—it is about 3.5 per cent real growth. The difference arises because our current budget for the current year has a much lower figure for spending on asylum and immigration than we spent last year. We are still negotiating over this year's budget. The figure I would use is about 3.5 per cent real growth per year over the period from outturn last year.

  3. Would the Chancellor give the same answer if we were to ask him or would he say 6.5 per cent?
  (Mr Gieve) These are agreed with the Treasury.

  4. Where are you going to spend it all?
  (Mr Gieve) I am going to have to be a bit general on that because we have not entirely decided where to spend it.

  5. Presumably you had some idea when you requested it?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes, and there are certain specific allocations. For example, we have announced that the budget for police will be £1.5 billion higher in the final year than it is this year. That is where some of it is going to go. We also have a commitment to £600 million on IT in the criminal justice system which runs from the police end right through to the prisons. That is specific. We have said we are going to expand the drugs programme substantially. That is specific, but I cannot take it much further than that other than to say that around £700 million a year has been allocated specifically for the asylum and immigration budget which is going to be converted into a new ring fenced budget, including the money that the Lord Chancellor's Department spends on legal aid and appeals. That has not happened yet but the contribution to that is £700 million a year.

  6. Any idea what that is in real terms increase over the period we are talking about?
  (Mr Gieve) Excluding asylum, we are talking about a 4.5 per cent real increase a year over the four years 2001-02 to 2005-06.

  7. It is asylum I was talking about.
  (Mr Gieve) The provision is broadly flat in real terms from last year to the end of the period.

  8. When you were going to the Chancellor to negotiate these big increases, what were you saying to him your main pressure points were? Asylum? Police? What else?
  (Mr Gieve) As you know, we have plans to improve on practically every front but the key areas in the Home Office budget are the police, corrections and asylum. Those are the three big budgets.

  9. Corrections? You mean prisons?
  (Mr Gieve) I mean prisons, probation and the YJB. As you will have seen yesterday from the White Paper, there are lots of things we want to do in that area as well as on crime reduction and police.

  10. Hopefully, some of the things in the White Paper will result in reduced spending as greater efficiency kicks in, or am I being naive?
  (Mr Gieve) I would not accuse you of being naive. But yes, ultimately, if we can reduce crime, we will get savings down the system and obviously as a process matter we are looking for efficiency savings in the way the criminal justice system handles cases.

  11. I was not just thinking of reducing crime; I was thinking of reducing the delays in the court system and the number of failed trials.
  (Mr Gieve) The investment in CJSIT, for example, is intended to bring greater efficiency, speed, timeliness and savings in paper handling.

  12. Mr Narey, how have you done out of all this?
  (Mr Narey) I do not know yet. I hope to have a picture in the next few days.

  13. What did you tell the Chancellor you needed, because yours is the part of the system where there is the most pressure, given the huge rises in prison numbers.
  (Mr Narey) My priorities were to pay for the expansion of prison places which we started this year following the budget. We are providing for 2,400 new places over the next couple of years. On top of things like inflation, things to carry on running the service, things to expand what we have been trying to do in the last few years about resettling prisoners, education, drug treatment, behaviour programmes and getting prisoners into jobs.

  14. Are you satisfied you are going to be able to do that?
  (Mr Narey) I genuinely do not know yet. Although it is a significant settlement, I am aware there are a lot of other pressures around the Home Office in addition to mine.

  15. Supposing you benefited by this 3.5 per cent in real terms a year. Would that be sufficient?
  (Mr Narey) I could do dramatically more if I got that sort of settlement.

  16. What do you anticipate the prison population will be in four years' time?
  (Mr Narey) I think it is almost impossible to say. The statistical projections for the prison population, which are no more than projections very much on a straight line, suggest that the population could hurtle to 80,000 and beyond. I am not quite sure whether that is the case. I hope I am not being too optimistic, but I think the growth in the population is showing some signs of slowing down right now. It will certainly slow down in August anyway, but there has been some tailing off following a very significant rise in the last 12 months or so.

  17. If it did cross the 80,000 mark, you would have to go back and ask for more money, would you not?
  (Mr Narey) I would need many more places to accommodate that sort of population.

David Winnick

  18. At the moment, the prisons are absolutely full, are they not?
  (Mr Narey) Yes.

  19. What is the situation? Do you have to find other places than ordinary prisons for those who have been sentenced?
  (Mr Narey) At the moment, we are about a couple of hundred away from our usable, operational capacity and we have some prisoners in police cells, although not many, about 111 this morning. What I hope will help us to manage our way through that is the fact that it would be very unusual if the population did not start to fall in the next couple of weeks as we went into August and should not grow in September. By October, I will have about 1,000 new places coming on stream which we started building for some time ago and that should begin to give us some headroom and I hope get us out of police cells.

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