Police and Justice Bill
Lord Dubs (Labour)
My Lords, I will just intervene briefly. I had a long conversation with my noble friend on the telephone yesterday morning and listened to her put forward all the arguments that we shall no doubt hear later. I promised to think very carefully about them. I have thought very carefully about them and I am afraid to say that I am not persuaded, the more so now because I have heard some excellent speeches this evening, which have demolished the Government's case. I do not think that I am regarded as a member of the awkward squad, but one does not have to be a member of the awkward squad to say that the Government have got this one wrong.
I have three brief points. First, the crisis in the prison population suggests that this is the last moment to be tampering with what is one of the great traditions in Britain—an independent inspectorate that has shown robustness and integrity and has been willing to say things that are uncomfortable for Governments. I always thought that it was a great tribute to successive Governments and prison Ministers that they have had such an independent inspector of prisons. Indeed, that has been part of the way in which we have managed a very difficult area of life.
Secondly, like others who have spoken, I believe that the role of the Chief Inspector of Prisons is different in kind from the role of the other inspectors—so different that I think to merge them is not sensible.
Finally, our reputation internationally rests on a number of key features of British life. I suggest that the way in which we have inspected our prisons, with a real sense of independence, has sent an important message to other countries where things are not done that way. People in other countries look, sometimes with admiration, at the way in which we have managed prison inspection, so it would be a sad day if we said to the world, "No, this is coming to an end".