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Lord Elton: My Lords, perhaps the Minister intends to deal with the following matter at the end of his speech. Is the noble Lord able to tell the House the route by which that intelligence reached the directorate and where in the chain it was evaluated?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it was my intention to deal with that point later. However, as the noble Lord raises it now I am content to clarify the position and place it on record. Intelligence was collected and analysed by a small group known as the Chaucer team based at HM Prison Swaleside. That team reports to the area manager for Kent. Clearly, that was the route whereby the intelligence emerged. I hope that that fully answers the noble Lord's point.
On 28th April the Director-General decided to conduct a full lock-down search of the prison and simultaneously to move the then governor. The Director-General and the Government stand by that decision, although we greatly regret the damage caused. The Director-General has said that, with the benefit of hindsight, the immediate posting of a new governor to start on the same day of such a search was, in his words I think, undesirable.
I do not believe that at this stage we can unearth new facts and judgments about the night of 5th/6th May. Damage estimated at £2,242 was caused by the forced entry through doors in the prison. The governor leading the search, who expressly took with him a colleague who knew the key system at Blantyre House, is adamant that he would never have authorised forced entry into any part of the prison had keys been available. Other evidence was put to the Home Affairs Committee which claimed that the keys had always been available and the damage was deliberate. Whatever the explanation, we can all agree that the damage was regrettable.
An internal Prison Service inquiry found failings in the planning of the search and made a number of recommendations, including the need for contingency plans, the importance of the attendance of the board of visitors at any non-routine event and practical planning issues related to the search. A full review of the security manual is being undertaken during 2001 and the section which gives guidance on searches is being given high priority. It remains the case that non-routine searches of the kind carried out at Blantyre House are expected to be relatively rare occasions. The service has, nevertheless, accepted that the lessons emerging from the Blantyre House search need to be absorbed into routine guidance.
Allegations have been made of attempts to mislead Parliament and the public over the significance of the results of the search. I contend that those allegations do not hold water. The search team seized a total of 98 "unauthorised" items. It took time both to assess each item and to conduct an inquiry into the management of Blantyre House which provided the basis for improvements to the way in which security should be managed at that establishment. The objectives of the search were broad and included taking a snapshot of security and control measures at the prison.
The committee's criticism is based on public comments in the first four weeks after the search when it was not yet possible to assess the full significance of every item seized in the search. The results of the search do not stand alone as justification for the search. The Director-General accepts that a large number of items seized turned out subsequently to be relatively insignificant. But there were some significant finds, including three abandoned mobile telephones and some small quantities of drugs. The later investigation into the management of Blantyre House revealed weaknesses in the supervision of prisoners working outside the prison, serious shortcomings in the application of security measures, weaknesses in the allocation and selection procedures for the transfer of prisoners to Blantyre House and apparent financial mismanagement of charitable and subsidiary funds.
Lord Elton: My Lords, the Minister makes a fairly damaging statement. As I understand it, money was found in the chaplain's office which, though unusually large for a prison, was not a significant sum. I would
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I repeat that there appeared to be some mismanagement of charitable and subsidiary funds. I am content to take away the noble Lord's point and give it further consideration.
There were also inadequate arrangements for the securing and locking up of tools and mobile telephones authorised for outside work which should not have been kept in the prison. In other circumstances there might have been considerable concern were it not for the particular nature of the prison.
The Director-General made it clear to the Home Affairs Select Committee that he held Mr McLennan-Murray in high regard. Mr McLennan-Murray is on a two-year secondment to the Department for Education and Employment. The timing of his return rests with him and the Prison Service. The director-general expects Mr McLennan-Murray to govern larger prisons than Blantyre House in the future.
The Government accept the committee's recommendation that the three resettlement prisons should have a new security status. The service has recently introduced a "semi-open" security classification for the women's estate which will accommodate prisoners who present a low risk but cannot be fully trusted in open conditions. The service has reassessed the security needs of the three resettlement prisons and decided to reclassify Blantyre House, Kirklevington Grange and Latchmere House as semi-open. That will allow medium- and long-term prisoners to come into a semi-secure environment and, subject to subsequent risk assessments, to be allocated work placements within the community.
The prison has conducted an analysis of the most recent temporary release failures. Each of the prisoners were at an advanced stage in their progression through Blantyre House and were allowed regular access to the community. There is no evidence to link their absconds to the changes at Blantyre House.
The Government are in full accord with the committee's view of the importance of resettlement. We also agree with the committee's view that resettlement should be part of the plan from the start for all prisoners. However, the Government do not accept the committee's view that there is:
There are a wide range of resettlement-related programmes and projects to identify and promote effective practice, particularly with regard to getting prisoners employment and accommodation on release. The examples include the resettlement
There are housing advice and mentoring pilots at six establishments in partnership with the Rough Sleepers Unit. There is the Headstart programme which has been successfully run at Thorn Cross and is being extended to two more prisons. That programme helps prisoners to achieve job aspirations through individually tailored interventions, including building close links with the individual's home community prior to release.
There are many other employment and accommodation schemes based on locally developed partnerships between prisons and other agencies, particularly with the voluntary sector. The experience of those initiatives and programmes is being fed into the development and implementation of a new custody to work strategy for the Prison Service to deliver improved employment and accommodation outcomes for released prisoners.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I sense that he is moving away from the report of the Select Committee. I gave him notice of the questions that I mentioned. Will he find time in the remaining few minutes that he has to deal with, above all, the question of the relationship between the area manager and the governor of the prison? Will he answer the question why Mr Boateng's response made no reference to that? Will he answer the question about funds for greater security, refused to Mr McLennan-Murray but granted, I understand, to the incoming governor? Other questions were asked and we would be disappointed if he missed the opportunity to answer the questions of which he has had notice.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for bringing us back to those points. I intended to cover them in my conclusion. I recognise that time is pressing so, particularly in view of the noble and learned Lord's observation, I shall answer the points that he asked. There were some 11 of them.
The noble and learned Lord asked whether, when the board of visitors wrote to the director-general, it complained about the relationship between the area manager and the governor. The director-general says that to his knowledge the first time the specific question of bullying was raised by the board of visitors was before the Home Affairs Committee on 17th October. It raised other concerns to the director-general to which he responded by letter and in person.
The committee criticised those relationships and said that the matter should have been addressed earlier. The question relates to that and asks whether we accept that. We do not. The director-general believes in the professionalism of both the former governor and the area manager and their commitment to resettlement. The director-general explained to the Home Affairs Committee that had Blantyre House been re-roled to a juvenile prison, which was considered in early 2000, he would have wanted Mr McLennan-Murray to stay on as governor.
The noble and learned Lord asked about Mr Paul Boateng's response and why he did not deal with the relationship. I am in some difficulty here because a complaint has been lodged with the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office by Mr McLennan-Murray over the relationship. Because of an investigation being undertaken into that complaint, I am sure the noble and learned Lord appreciates that it would be invidious and wrong for me to comment. Therefore, I cannot comment further on that matter.
The noble and learned Lord asked about the former governor. There was a further question regarding resources to improve security and whether they were refused to him. The area manager asked the former governor to carry out a re-profiling exercise before consideration could be given to providing additional resources. That re-profiling exercise has been carried out by the present governor and, as has been widely expected, has led to a release of further resources. The improvements to security arrangements were carried out by the new governor without those new resources in place. The resources put into Blantyre House relate to resettlement work.
I have dealt with the noble and learned Lord's point on the policy formulation for resettlement establishments within the Prison Service. We are developing that policy.
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