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The Earl of Longford: My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the right reverend Prelate. No doubt he will tell us: it has been given a new name.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, indeed it has been given a new name. Nevertheless, it is the same wing. Since the report was published, new staff have been assigned to the unit. They were obviously proud of the changes which have been made. I emphasise that they were not expecting my visit.

I visited five of the prisoners in the unit, whom I chose at random, and, unlike the members of the inquiry team, I saw each of them alone in their cells without a prison officer being present. They ranged from one prisoner who had been put on the wing that day to those who had been there six months because they were reluctant to return to the landings. Each one told me that they felt safer in the segregation unit than on the landings. This would suggest that there is now

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no brutality in the segregation unit but leaves open the question of whether or not there is bullying or a harsh regime on the landings.

There were no complaints about the frequency of showers, but it is quite obvious that the granting of exercise is still a privilege not a right, and it is a privilege that the prisoners are sure will not be granted if they make a nuisance of themselves. This was the only evidence of any remnant of the Wandsworth way that I discerned in the segregation unit.

Judging from this unannounced visit, changes are in hand. I should caution against merely going through the report's recommendations and ticking off the changes. This "tick box" mentality underestimates the task that is necessary to tackle the deeper issues of exercising authority in a tough gaol in a civilised and civilising way.

Prison officers will only pay more than lip service to change if they are confident that they are not losing control of their environment. There is the feeling among many long-serving prison officers that demanding prisoners are best controlled by locking them in their cells for long periods of time. The best penal practice to which the report points knows that this is not so. Assaults upon prison officers and other prisoners are more of a problem when the pent up anger, developed through long periods of confinement, boils over when the door is ultimately opened. That is when assaults take place. The best regime is created where relatively small numbers of prison officers feel confident in supervising a moderate number of prisoners in association or work. This can be done, and is being done in some of the better regimes. To develop such a regime at Wandsworth prison will take time. It will take firm management by the new governor. It will take clear action against unacceptable behaviour on behalf of prison officers or prisoners and it will take constant monitoring.

I did not expect to be at all impressed during my visit last night. But, to my surprise, I was. I hope that Sir David, when he pays a return visit to Wandsworth, will also see signs of clear progress. I certainly intend to pay unannounced visits from time to time because I believe that this type of public accountability is the best way of encouraging Wandsworth forward. Perhaps we will see developed another kind of Wandsworth way, the way of moving an elderly local prison forward in the most enlightened fashion. It will take time, but it is not impossible. I believe that a good start has been made.

9.1 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I am privileged to follow the right reverend Prelate because he gives that for which we all look; that is, hope and salvation arising out of the report.

The debate tonight has been called for by my friend Lord Longford, who is well known for his interest in penal matters. We congratulate him.

I share the concern expressed by many. In my notes I call the report a disturbing report. It did disturb me. I have visited Wandsworth prison more than once in the past. It is right that parliamentary time should be given

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to debating the report. One of the values of a debate such as this is that all sides of the argument can be put, not only that in the inspector's report, but comments from outside parties on the inspector's report. It was put to me that the report rested very much on feelings: it was felt this and it was felt that. I thought of Charles Aznavour who had a hit song called "Feelings". We ought to base ourselves on something more substantial than feelings.

Many strictures in the report are well founded, and I do not dispute them. Earlier this evening I met with members of the Prison Officers' Association and prison officers from Wandsworth. They recognise that there is a major job to be done, and that the first issue to be tackled is that of leadership. For six months before the report visit, the governor was going about his proper business; he was then seconded as area manager, and did not have hands-on control. That of itself would be a major factor in a general malaise that might have existed in the prison.

We now have the heartening news of a new governor who has impressed those he has met. That is a good sign because the prison officers to whom I spoke told me that, in a difficult situation, they are working very closely and very well with the new governor on addressing the problems with which they can themselves deal.

There are a number of ameliorating and extenuating factors that ought to receive attention: for example, race relations. Race relations was singled out as a stricture: the presence of and the lack of attention to race relations. I am told that there is now a positive policy and a training package in which the Prison Officers' Association has played a full part. At the annual meeting of the POA this year--which I have attended in the past and addressed many times--the major discussion or debate will be to do with race relations and equal opportunities. The POA does not run away from criticisms either of itself or its members. The record should show that it recognises the problem and it is trying to deal with it.

I was given a note, which I should like to mention in the debate, about the fine work put in by prison officers. Safe Ground is a charity that provides positive training and skills to inmates regarding parental skills. This training is based on drama and film. Another charity is Fine Cell Work. A prison officer has received an award from the governor for producing this work. Then one looks at the laundry workshop that is part of the estate. The prison industry's award went to the laundry at Wandsworth for the best workshop in the Prison Service for 1999-2000. The CoSLA award was presented for the second year running to the prison magazine that was produced by the staff. The gymnasium at Wandsworth is used not only by the inmates; local blind children are brought into the prison and use the gymnasium under the guidance of prison officers.

Drugs now, as in the past, play a major part. I am told that positive results in random tests are one-third of the national average and have been for the past three years. People who know the culture of drugs in

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our society, let alone in the prisons, realise that that must be a tremendous achievement. It is only done by positive work, understanding and determination by the prison officers.

Tonight, we have a major opportunity to act. Even though the report and the situation are bleak, one ought to make a number of comments. For instance, the chief inspector said:

    "Unfortunately, the good work of many of the staff in HMP Wandsworth is being overshadowed by a pervasive culture of fear ... Prison Service management, the Governor and his staff, must all share some blame, as it was quite obvious to the inspection team from the outset that Wandsworth was far behind the vast majority of other prisons in civilising the treatment of and conditions for prisoners".

That is not down to the prison officers or the POA but to a whole range of people. Those accused in part of some dereliction ought not to be offended.

The chief inspector also said:

    "The time to dispense with 'The Wandsworth Way' is long overdue. The silver lining to this particularly dark cloud is that I believe the majority of staff have the skills and capabilities to help move the prison out of its current malaise".

Martin Narey, Director General of the Prison Service, who has my utmost respect, said:

    "I am afraid that the vast majority of the staff at Wandsworth and more significantly those who know the prison well, including the Board of Visitors and outside groups who work with the prison, will not recognise much of this report. The drug strategy, excellent offending behaviour courses, healthcare and the imaginative use of the voluntary sector in, for example, parenting courses for fathers are praised by all who see them".

The Minister, Mr Paul Boateng, said:

    "There is good practice at Wandsworth. Good staff must not see their work undermined by bad attitudes. The drugs strategy, healthcare and the successful offending behaviour courses ... are to be admired".

Finally, Mark Healey, Chairman of the Prison Officers' Association said that it was unfair to criticise prison officers for conditions which stemmed from staff and funding cutbacks.The enormous overcrowding and tight budgets have a lot to do with the situation. Mark told me:

    "Our members are assaulted every day of the year. Staffing levels are paramount for the POA and it is no good asking for an enhanced regime if the resources are not there".

I was told that the number of assaults on prison officers and inmates doubled in the three months surrounding Christmas. There is a feeling that the prisoners think they are winning. The morale of the staff is crucial and that is why I welcome the positive remarks which are attributed to the new governor.

In conclusion, I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us that this can be seen as an opportunity not only for the Minister but also for the Director General, the POA and everyone concerned. Unless it is recognised that one of the most valuable assets in the penal estate is the training and dedication of the prison officers, we shall lose out. Society sends to prison people convicted of a crime, many of whom are illiterate, inadequate, vicious and violent. It locks the doors and says to the prison officers, "Look after them

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on our behalf". What prison officers need is encouragement and support, and I hope that the Minister can provide that tonight.

9.11 p.m.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for introducing the debate. No one can be surprised that the chief inspector's report on Wandsworth has generated so much concern.

When a person is sentenced to custody, the state takes over the responsibility for his welfare. We therefore expect the highest standards of prison institutions in the way they treat inmates. The courts rightly pass the sentence and no one has the right to develop a culture which further penalises inmates.

Immediately before the debate we approved an order relating to the census. It takes place every 10 years and gives a measurement of the progress we are making in our social policies. Like the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I decided to look back 10 years to when Judge Tumim was the Chief Inspector of Prisons. I shall not go into detail, but I picked up headlines such as that in October 1989,

    "Shake-up called for in prison regime".

That was about Wandsworth. Also,

    "Prison lacking a reforming regime",


    "Jail conditions at Wandsworth 'lack humanity'".

That was the starting point in examining Sir David Ramsbotham's report. But what Judge Tumim said 10 years ago was very worrying. He went on to say,

    "staff treated inmates with disdain and operated a 'thoroughly institutionalising regime'".

He also spoke of the culture of the prison officers. I simply reiterate that to a great extent the inference behind that report was that it was the prison officers who determined how the prison was to be run.

At the time, my noble friend the Chief Whip for our Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said that the conclusions of Judge Tumim's report were utterly disturbing and the prison was itself decaying. Ten years ago, HMI said that the prison failed to meet even,

    "basic standards of humanity and decency".

It called for a phased but fundamental shake-up of a regime which was primitive and "thoroughly institutionalising".

Perhaps I may return to 1999. When the chief inspector's report on Wandsworth was published on 18th December 1999, it was the third highly critical report to come from the inspectorate, as has been pointed out by my noble friend Lord Avebury. It followed poor reports on Feltham in March and Wormwood Scrubs in June. The latest report still makes disturbing reading, but I should like to pick out, as did the noble Lord, Lord Graham, some important improvements. We should not back away from the good points and I do not wish to be accused of only picking out the bad elements.

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The report of the chief inspector was not uniformly critical of Wandsworth. It acknowledged that the accommodation had become cleaner and more modern since the previous inspection; that thoroughcare practice was more advanced than at many training prisons; and that specialist agencies were running positive drug treatment programmes, as has been pointed out by a number of noble Lords. Furthermore, all departments included enthusiastic and dedicated staff who were trying hard to overcome Wandsworth's problems. Let us not forget that we are not talking about all the staff; we are simply pointing out that some staff give a bad name to all those who do good work.

I am chair of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders--NACRO. I am particularly pleased that some 250 staff at Wandsworth have undertaken race relations training devised by NACRO, which aims to cover all the staff over a three-year period. I have a vested interest in this because I believe that a proper race relations strategy forms an important part of prison policy.

I wish to concentrate on five problems identified by the chief inspector and mentioned in many other contributions to the debate tonight. The first problem is that we constantly return to the culture at Wandsworth. It is a culture that has been described as "The Wandsworth way" and is summed up in Sir David's report as follows:

    "HMP Wandsworth has always had, and some staff have prided themselves upon the reputation of being a 'hard' prison ... Over the years, prisoners have been encouraged to think that they have been sent there as a punishment, with which many hardened ones have been happy to collude".

The result is that many prisoners consider the best way to survive is to keep your head down and be as anonymous as possible, as was rightly pointed out in an example given by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark.

Other prisoners respond by constantly behaving in a hard manner to show that they are not intimidated. Some ex-prisoners who have had experience of more constructive regimes in other prisons--for example, at Latchmere House resettlement prison--have said that they could tell which prisoners had been transferred from Wandsworth because they showed a hard, "macho" attitude and found it much more difficult to engage positively with opportunities for rehabilitation and to make constructive relationships with staff. This means that the traditional "Wandsworth way" is the opposite of the way in which we should be acting if we want to divert prisoners from reoffending.

The second issue I wish to raise is the high proportion of prisoners at Wandsworth--14 per cent--who claimed in questionnaires returned to the inspectorate to have been assaulted by a member of the staff. While prisoners can of course exaggerate such claims, they were more widespread than the inspectorate found in other prisons. Some ex-prisoners from Wandsworth spoke of verbal and physical aggression by a minority of staff.

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Are we powerless to identify culprits among the prison staff? Assault and aggression are unacceptable. Do we not have the technology to identify such officers? The police have successfully introduced ways to apprehend corrupt officers. Is there a lesson to be learnt from the police service in this area?

The most effective way of minimising the risk of misbehaviour is partly by the effective supervision of staff and partly by promoting a strong ethos of rehabilitation. However, at the time of the inspection, the population of the prison had been increased by 50 per cent from 921 to 1,294 but simultaneously was required to make cuts in its budget. How does one operate when the number of prisoners is doubled but there is no more money to look after them effectively?

Another problem that crops up time and again in reports by the chief inspector is the length of time which often elapses before a governor who leaves is replaced. That has been pointed out by a number of Ministers. Could we not devise a practice whereby we have the best possible people for the worst possible prison? Those people should not be taken away from that situation until the situation has been turned around.

Finally, I draw attention to the particular problems faced by the large number of foreign national prisoners at Wandsworth--some 250 at the time of the inspection--whose special needs were largely ignored. I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to tell us of a firm and effective way to tackle those problems. Martin Narey, the Prison Service director, and Sir David Ramsbotham have done much to improve prison conditions. I have known them for years and I have every confidence in their ability to turn the prison around. In addition, we must never forget the work of the board of visitors, the chaplaincy and others who continuously go into prisons and carry out very useful work.

At the end of the day, our patience will be exhausted. If one has a toothache, there are ways of curing it. If the time comes when nothing works, that tooth must be extracted. Wandsworth will be no exception if its public profile continues to build up over a period of time, condemning it as being inhuman.

9.21 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, this is a most serious report and this has been a most serious debate. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, has done us all a service by securing the debate this evening. The chief inspector makes important criticisms of Wandsworth prison and, in the preface to the report in particular, he also draws some wider conclusions from this particular case.

I have not been to Wandsworth prison. Therefore, I shall not follow the comments that have been made on the details of the report. However, clearly, both the detailed recommendations and the overall case made against the so-called "culture" of the prison deserve the closest scrutiny. From what I have heard about the prison from inquiries that I made before the debate, I gather that while very good work is being done there--

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attention was drawn to that a little earlier and it is mentioned by the chief inspector in the report--the problem of the culture is very real. It can be summarised as relating to the way that some of the officers treat the prisoners.

I should add at once that, when I was in another place, there were three prisons, or, to be more accurate, three penal establishments in my constituency and, for a while, a Prison Service training establishment as well, which I came to know well over more than 20 years. I have the highest respect for prison officers and governors and for the very difficult work that they carry out on behalf of us all. Although it is not directly relevant, I also came to have very high respect for the Northern Ireland Prison Service when I had responsibility for it for a couple of years. During that time, I came to know some very hard prisons indeed.

I return to Wandsworth. Throughout his report, the chief inspector makes the point that the culture of the prison does not respect prisoners sufficiently. However, both the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in his opening speech and, particularly, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark gave us reason to hope that changes were in progress. I believe that the speech of the right reverend Prelate was very important.

The chief inspector rightly says that Prison Service standards constantly emphasise that the service should respect the human dignity of prisoners. However, he also believes that the proper measures are not being used to judge the working of prisons in this respect. In talking about the information given to top management, he complains that it is,

    "not about the quality of outcomes for prisoners but about budgets, Key Performance Indicators and measurements of quantity of laid down processes".

I do not doubt that he is right, but quality is notoriously more difficult to measure than quantity. In particular, it is very difficult to measure how much officers respect the human rights of prisoners. There is no objective measure. Respect can sometimes be measured by politeness--the way in which prisoners are addressed, for example. That leaves something to be desired in some cases. But in every prison there are some prisoners who are difficult to be civil to, let alone polite.

There are also some people who are quite capable of uttering the most polite words while really asserting their power over others. I think immediately of the regimental sergeant-major at Sandhurst explaining to a new officer cadet "You call me 'Sir', sir, and I call you 'Sir', sir, but the difference is--you mean it". I tell that story not in criticism of the sergeant-major, who certainly could not be faulted for lack of politeness on any objective measure, but in illustration of the difficulties of measuring respect.

In the end, I do not think the chief inspector is right to suggest, as he does rather indirectly, that performance indicators can be devised to measure in full the respect for the human rights of prisoners, although they might make a contribution. Governors

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and senior prison staff management should, of course, concern themselves about it, even if it cannot be measured, and they should do all they can to ensure that a proper culture exists in every prison. But not everything that is important can be easily measured and sent to head office on a form.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, referred to the fact that the report was based on feelings. That is true, but the culture of a prison can be felt when visiting, although not so easily on a formal, high-level visit. One example is a ministerial visit, and until this evening I had thought an episcopal visit was another. However, it is something that, for example, the board of visitors should be responsive to, as it visits the prison all the time and sees it in its everyday guise and not on its best behaviour.

The same is true of chaplains and doctors, mentioned by the chief inspector, and of others who regularly go into a prison, although it is important not to damage their proper role by expecting them to be over-concerned with reporting to the management on conditions. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark gave us an important cautionary tale in that respect, too.

I regard what the chief inspector says about governors and senior staff of the Prison Service listening to boards of visitors and other sources of information on the culture of prisons as most important and deserving emphasis. But it is also most important to ensure that the staff at all levels can talk to management if they feel that things are not right. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, spoke of the comments on the report of officers from Wandsworth. I hope that they have had a full opportunity to see the report and to comment on it, not only through the Prison Officers' Association, but directly.

It is also very important to ensure that prisoners' complaints are properly considered and dealt with, as is mentioned in the report.

Above all, the Prison Service is right to be trying to refine its measures of outcomes. It would be very useful to see the statistics of reoffending by prisoners from various prisons. If the most effective regimes and programmes are to be built on, we need to know which they are. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that rehabilitation is one of the most important aims of prisons. But, of course, such statistics would suffer from the same difficulties as school league tables. The nature and habits of those who are sent to a particular prison are reflected in the outcomes. But the real difficulty is that prisoners who serve a sentence of any length do so in different prisons. The prison from which they are discharged would presumably get the credit or blame for their reoffending, or lack of it, and may not necessarily have been the most important influence.

But as the chief inspector indicates, the Prison Service is right to try to improve its information about the quality of treatment and the conditions of the prisoners and to improve comparisons between the outcomes of the different prisons.

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This has been an extremely useful debate. Like the report, it has been mainly about one single prison but, in reality, there are messages which affect the Prison Service as a whole much more widely. We are all grateful to the noble Earl both for initiating the debate and also for starting it off on a clear note of hope which has been echoed throughout the debate. We await with interest the Minister's response.

9.20 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am, as ever, very grateful indeed to my noble friend Lord Longford for allowing us to discuss this very critical report from Sir David Ramsbotham, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons. My noble friend Lord Graham put his finger on it when he said that this is an opportunity and I believe that that opportunity must be grasped. It is a very important moment in the development of the Prison Service.

My noble friend Lord Longford has prepared for this debate with his customary care and courtesy, speaking first to the chief inspector, the governor and the area manager and has been very thorough in his preparation.

Sir David has, with his usual robustness, identified severe failings, particularly in the segregation unit at Wandsworth. I want to report to the House this evening on the service's swift response to the chief inspector's findings and to explain how those improvements will be sustained and monitored year on year.

My noble friend Lord Longford asked how much responsibility the Government accept. It is important to address that point first. The Government take extremely seriously their responsibilities towards prisons. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has resumed the previously abandoned practice that he and his Ministers should reply in person to Parliamentary Questions from Members of both Houses on prison matters. He made a Statement in the other place in response to the chief inspector's report on Wormwood Scrubs when he reaffirmed his personal responsibility to Parliament. On that occasion he said:

    "There is a broad understanding that I do not undertake to lock up the cells and check the walls every evening, but I am responsible to the House for what happens in the Prison Service".--[Official Report, Commons, 28/6/99; col. 27.]

That is a very clear recognition of his accountability.

The chief inspector reports to the Home Secretary and it is right that he, in the first instance, should look to Martin Narey, the director general, for a response to the report's recommendations. I assure the House that he and his senior management team do not shirk responsibility when change is clearly needed.

My right honourable friend Paul Boateng, the Minister for Prisons and Probation, visited Wandsworth prison just a few days after he was appointed. He has visited since and has first-hand knowledge of both the problems of that prison and the examples of good practice there.

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Wandsworth is one of the largest and most complex prisons in the country, and for many years played a crucial role in taking difficult prisoners from other prisons. With a prisoner population of around 1,300, it was recognised that the regime needed to be controlled and structured. Its success in operating a safe environment for prisoners and staff is reflected in the relatively low number of incidents.

As Sir David recognised, considerable efforts have been made to develop Wandsworth in the 1990s into a multi-functional prison, with offending behaviour programmes, a model drug strategy and good healthcare provision, forming a basis for further development.

As my noble friend Lord Graham noted, Sir David in particular praised,

    "those many good staff who want to do a good job ... and who have a genuine affection for, as well as pride in, Wandsworth".

He made it very clear that that was the case. He stated:

    "There are enthusiastic, skilled and dedicated staff in all departments, who are trying as best they can to overcome the problems with which the prison is beset".

I add my thanks to the POA for its positive response to the action plan. Sir David concluded that there was a good foundation at Wandsworth on which the Prison Service can build, and evidenced that by the number of good practices he noted. Those points were referred to very well by the noble Lord, Lord Graham.

Sir David singled out for mention the introduction of "throughcare", which he identified as being more advanced than in training prisons and is a fine example of close working between prison, probation and psychology staff. It includes commendable initiatives, with two accredited offending behaviour programmes with an implementation quality rating of 100 per cent, which is, indeed, impressive.

In respect of the drug strategy, Sir David commended the fact that every prisoner is tested for substance abuse and that MDT results are presented in a highly sophisticated and effective manner, which he recommended is adopted for use by other prisons. Wandsworth's rate of positive mandatory drug tests is only 7 per cent, which is half the national target. That is an excellent achievement, particularly for a local prison.

The development of the drug strategy at Wandsworth has continued apace with the provision of 10 additional officers and counsellors to provide CARATs and to increase the availability of voluntary testing. Sir David also cited Wandsworth's healthcare as being an example of good practice, commending the arrangements for nurses, management of healthcare generally and the fact that nursing staff are always on duty when prisoners arrive.

Wandsworth is continuing to move forward on a wide range of other partnership-based initiatives. Tomorrow, for example, the Government will be signing a protocol on child protection arrangements with the Chief Executive of the NSPCC, the first of its kind across the Prison Service.

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Despite those good points we recognise the seriousness of the criticisms raised by the chief inspector, as does the Prison Service at large. The response to the findings of the chief inspector was swift and focused. Within days of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons leaving the prison, the Prison Service concentrated on immediate improvements to the segregation unit, the focus of some of his sharpest criticism.

All prisoners in the care and separation unit, which, as the noble Lord noted, has undergone a significant name change, now have access to daily exercise and showers and receive clear written or oral explanations of their rights and expectations. A woman officer and two ethnic minority officers are now working on the unit. Search procedures have been reviewed and the governor in charge visits the unit on a daily basis, which are all important improvements.

Adjudications are now carried out by the governing governor or his deputy. Special cells are no longer used to deal with suicidal prisoners. Daily inspections are made by the duty manager to ensure that standards of hygiene are scrupulously maintained. The programme of repainting is nearly finished.

However, as the chief inspector noted, cultural change is vital. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln referred to the value of cultural shift and its importance. We believe there are real gains to be made from focusing on staff attitudes and improving them. That has been achieved by much more visible management, clearer standards of care, clear expectations of staff and written material for prisoners.

Senior management commitment is essential to drive home that new culture of change that we all desire. It is clearly provided in this case. We have found that the most effective means of monitoring improvements is to develop an action plan in response to all of the 147 recommendations of the chief inspector and to monitor it on a regular basis. That has been done for Wandsworth.

I should like to draw out some of the elements of the detailed plan. Wandsworth is committed to delivering a user-friendly visits booking system--a matter raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater; an effective strategy to meet the needs of foreign national prisoners--a matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Judd; a full commitment to the RESPOND (Race Equality for Staff and Prisoners) programme; more drug-free accommodation; more enhanced thinking skills courses and a revised education programme that will focus on basic skills.

My noble friends Lord Longford and Lord Graham, the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to the absence of a governor from September 1998 to February 1999. At the time, the then governor of Wandsworth was the best candidate to act as area manager. It is accepted that this was, with the benefit of hindsight, an unsuitable arrangement. Martin Narey has made it

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clear that no prison of Wandsworth's size, complexity and need for change will be left without a governor in this way. As a consequence, there was no gap last month between Mick Knight--the governor of Wandsworth until then--moving to head Norwich prison and the appointment and putting into place of Stephen Rimmer in moving from Gartree to take over at Wandsworth. I believe that that must be welcomed.

The current area manager for London South, Peter Atherton, has responsibility for a number of the largest and most complex prisons in the country. In recognition of that load, an additional area manager, David Waplington, is providing management support. The director general assures me that this means that there will be no lapse in senior support when Peter Atherton moves later this year, on promotion, to lead the high security estate.

My noble friend Lord Longford rightly asked about the senior management team supporting the governor at the prison. Some staff have changed. The team has been restructured to ensure a proper mix of skills. Moreover, some members of the previous senior management team have been replaced. The necessary commitment to change is there, from the new governor and his senior management team of Wandsworth, straight through the area manager to the director general.

The governor most recently met the local branch of the Prison Officers' Association last Wednesday. The POA is co-operating with the planned improvements to Wandsworth. The governor meets the POA branch every month. He also has regular meetings with all staff. The governor is quite clear that the POA committee will make a substantial contribution to the positive developments and that it will support the rooting out of any unprofessional behaviour in Wandsworth prison. I pay tribute to the commitment from the POA branch to the action plan.

Many noble Lords referred to other prisons. Last year, your Lordships debated the Government's response to the chief inspector's report on Feltham remand centre. In that report, the chief inspector expressed his understandable frustration that inadequate action had been taken in response to recommendations made in an earlier report. My noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn described that report as "bleak" and shared with noble Lords his shock at some of the findings.

It gives me great pleasure to report that a similar package--a solid senior management commitment, a comprehensive action plan and careful monitoring of its implementation--has produced marked improvements. Indeed, Sir David said that he now found Feltham to be,

    "a very different place from the one we left nine months before".

He also said:

    "The impressive commitment to change amongst management and staff, from top to bottom, is very noticeable. This confirms what I have said before, namely that there has always been a body of good staff, knowing what they want to and can do, but being denied the opportunity to do so for a variety of reasons".

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I believe that that response demonstrates exactly what can be achieved within the Prison Service. It shows what can be done. We must repeat that elsewhere. Wandsworth is obviously one of those places that is high on our list as regards a repeat of that performance.

Noble Lords will recognise that I have concentrated very much on the service's response to Sir David's report on Wandsworth. The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, made reference to the noble Lord, Lord Laming. However, I am not likely to believe that the service only reacts when its failings are exposed by the chief inspector. Indeed, most importantly, when speaking about Feltham, Sir David said that,

    "this degree of commitment to improving the treatment and conditions of young prisoners in Feltham should not only follow a bad inspection report; it must be built into the structure of the Prison Service as a matter of course".

Those are very wise words.

Strong management is the key to success and it must come from within the Prison Service. The director general is leading from the front with his personal commitment to change. The deputy director general has introduced rigorous arrangements for line managing prison establishments. To strengthen this development, the Government asked the noble Lord, Lord Laming, to chair a working group on targeted performance improvement, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cope.

The service has made some significant advances in recent years, but there is a need to pull together and sharpen the focus of the work to tackle underperformance. The noble Lord will be able to draw on a range of skills and experience from within the service and from the wider world of business and the voluntary sector in order to develop a strategy to build effective local partnerships and establish prisons as resources for their communities. The Government have asked the noble Lord, Lord Laming, to report by 1st May 2000. That is a challenging time target but one which we feel must be met.

Many noble Lords made many points in the debate. I shall try to address some of those before I conclude. The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, raised the issue of family contact development officers. I am pleased to be able to tell her that a family contact development officer is being piloted at Huntercombe Young Offenders Institution in Oxfordshire. That is an important development. I believe that she also made reference to the need to have adequate facilities to receive visitors. At Wandsworth a major refurbishment programme is under way to improve and brighten the access to the visiting area. The noble Baroness also referred to the gate area. We have taken a careful look at that. That point was raised in the report. A dedicated staff information room has now been provided and the POA posters and bulletins have been removed from the immediate gate area.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln raised the issue of a lack of chaplaincy facilities at Wandsworth. All prisoners now have the opportunity to exercise their statutory entitlement to religious provision. The chaplaincy team works well with a wide

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range of colleagues, including those involved in the Safe Ground Project that has been mentioned. The prison will continue to seek to maximise the numbers who attend Sunday services.

It is important that we try to focus on some of the other issues which have been raised in the debate. While I am not able to cover all of the points because time does not permit that, I undertake to write to noble Lords on some of the points that I have not been able to cover.

The chief inspector levelled serious criticism at the service and the conditions he found on his inspection. We accept that there are serious failings at Wandsworth. I have described the energy that is going into remedying those failings and the improvements that have already taken place. I also think that it is worth placing this report on one prison in context. It is significant that the chief inspector and the director general agree that Wandsworth is not another Wormwood Scrubs. By coincidence, the chief inspector has finished his follow-up inspection at Wormwood Scrubs. I cannot, of course, prejudge the report of that inspection which will be made to the Home Secretary, but I am confident that Sir David will have seen real change for the better. He described a "transformation" at Werrington, where his previous report had been extremely critical. There have been recent and good reports on Hatfield, Bullwood Hall, Huntercombe and Wayland. The chief inspector will return to Wandsworth in December, 12 months after his report. I am confident that he will find substantial improvements.

The Government do not deny that there are deep-seated problems with some prisons. However, we are encouraged by the evidence of the impact of our unique investment from April of last year of more than £220 million in improving prison regimes. As a result, drug misuse is falling, offenders released after completing offending behaviour programmes are not offending again and, perhaps most impressively, prisoners' employment chances are being transformed by a drive on literacy and numeracy which led to prisoners gaining more than 30,000 qualifications last year. These are improvements we can all take encouragement from. Much good can come from adverse criticism in reports such as that made at Wandsworth, and we must build on those improvements if we are to have a Prison Service which aspires to be the best.

Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (Amendment of Rules) Bill

Reported from the Unopposed Bill Committee without amendment.

        House adjourned at eleven minutes before ten o'clock.

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