Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)



  80. I am talking about over 18s.
  (Mr Narey) The other side is relatively impoverished. I managed to find some money this year to try to pump-prime what I hope will be the significant investment coming from the manifesto commitment for 18s to 20s, and the amount of purposeful activity has been rising steadily since then. I may possibly have under-estimated it, and I will tell you if I have.[13] I would like the levels to be very similar to those for 15, 16 and 17 year olds but I do not have the resources to provide those levels at the moment.

  81. With the resources you could do it?
  (Mr Narey) I certainly could.

  82. This is Government not giving you the resources?
  (Mr Narey) I am not going to attack the Government—

  83. No, but it is not me giving you the money, I have not got the money, it is the Government.
  (Mr Narey) I have been hugely grateful for the support I have had from Government in terms of giving me investment for the things we have described today. Certainly in terms of the outputs, in terms of offending behaviour and all the other things, I think the service has undergone a transformation from the days when the message to the service was "decent but austere".

  84. How many hours a day does a 19 or 20 year old at Feltham spend in his cell?[14]

  (Mr Narey) During the day or over a 24 hour period?

  85. Over a 24 hour period.
  (Mr Narey) Typically I would think about 16 regrettably.

  86. That is a disgrace.
  (Mr Narey) It is certainly regrettable.

  87. No, let's not mince our words. Are you not ashamed? A 19 year old in his cell 16 hours a day?
  (Mr Narey) I am not ashamed. On the contrary, I am quite proud of the improvements which have been made from a very, very poor base line, but clearly I desperately would like there to be more—

  88. Money?
  (Mr Narey)—both there and in other prisons.
  (Beverley Hughes) Chairman, could I make a comment on this? I think what Committee members will understand, whilst the figures that the Director General has just given out in terms of the period of time an 18 to 20 year old in Feltham is spending in a cell is unacceptable—everybody accepts it is unacceptable—it reflects a very, very low base in terms of both investment and, I have to say, political interest in what was actually happening in prisons generally and young offender institutions prior to 1997.

  89. I have been questioning this for five years, Minister.
  (Beverley Hughes) If I may finish the point. As with any Government programme, we have to start with priorities. The investment the Government has made since 1997 generally in the Prison Service, generally in terms of offending, has been substantial. We have started with the juveniles because that seemed to be the most important thing to do, and one of the things we have to hold on to is that we can now see as a result of real, new investment a substantial improvement in what the Prison Service is able to do with young people under the age of 18. It is right that was a priority.

  90. My question was about 18-plus.
  (Beverley Hughes) We have the evidence that when we have put the investment in, as we have done, we can improve the quality of life and the life chances of young people. We are going on now to repeat that with 18 to 20 year olds. It is a very big mountain to climb but the mountain was there when we took control in 1997.

  Chairman: We are going to turn now to one particular issue that has exercised the Committee in the past, and that is the situation at Blantyre House Prison. Mr Malins is going to lead off on that.

Mr Malins

  91. I am sure you all remember we produced a report about Blantyre House which was very critical in very many respects. One of our views was that Blantyre House should be classified as a resettlement prison for long-term prisoners, and we were very firm about that. Now I hear rumours that it is being considered for a young persons institute or some sort of asylum settlement. Can you give us a firm answer about the future of Blantyre House?
  (Mr Narey) I am not aware of any proposal to use Blantyre House as a young offenders institute or for asylum seekers. It was the case some years ago I was considering it for use as part of the new juvenile estate, when the Youth Justice Board was introduced, but we decided not to do that. We have fulfilled the Home Affairs Committee's advice that Blantyre should be reclassified as a resettlement prison with a security status between a Category C Prison and an open prison; we have done that.

  92. So that sort of stability and certainty is now effectively in concrete as far as we are concerned?
  (Mr Narey) Absolutely.

  93. That is helpful to know. Thank you very much. If you take the year up to March 2000, there was something in the order of 43 hours of purposeful activity for each prisoner per week. What is the current position?

  (Mr Narey) I do not have the particular figures. I can get those for you.[15] I would consider it likely to be very similar.

  94. Is it not right though that the education budget has been halved?
  (Mr Narey) The budget which is being spent within the prison is being reduced, although it is still and will be at a level significantly higher than any other resettlement prison.

  95. Why is it being reduced?
  (Mr Narey) Because we are concentrating education there into half the day, concentrating on basic skills and using the money to allow prisoners, for example, to have a job club at Blantyre House and crucially to allow prisoners to go out to study in further education colleges, which is exactly what we do at Latchmere House and Kirklevington Grange. The budget for education, even when reduced at Blantyre, will be nearly ten times more than the budget at Latchmere House.

  96. Is it true that some staff have been so concerned about this they have resigned?
  (Mr Narey) There have been some resignations from the education staff at Blantyre House, yes, as there have been from other prisons. But I am entirely confident that the education programme we are introducing there is based on a careful analysis of what the prisoner population needs. It has been done in conjunction with the Prisoners Learning and Skills Unit in the Department for Education, and I think it now addresses the needs of the population in terms of making them employable rather than having quite such an emphasis on recreational activity, which did not increase employment.

  97. Have there been cuts in family visits?
  (Mr Narey) I believe family visits have just been increased.

  98. They have?
  (Mr Narey) I believe they have, I can check on that. I think family visits have just been introduced on a regular basis.

  99. Had they earlier been cut?
  (Mr Narey) There had been a reduction in family visits, yes, and they have been reinstalled.

13   Ibid. Back

14   Ibid. Back

15   Ibid. Back

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