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Transpeople (Prisons)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:44 am on 20th November 2015.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 11:44 am, 20th November 2015

I shall do my best to respond to all the points that the shadow Minister has raised. I must correct one figure: she said that there were 186 suicides, but that figure is likely to include natural-cause deaths as well. She will know that we have an increasingly elderly population in prison, which accounts for part of that rise. Of course, even one self-inflicted death in prison is one too many. I want to assure her and the House of the seriousness with which the Secretary of State, I, and the whole of NOMS take the issue.

Let me repeat that we are currently reviewing prison service instruction 7/2011. I hope that the hon. Lady will be reassured by the fact that members of the trans community are involved in the process. I stress that rehabilitation is at the heart of what we do in prisons, so it is hugely in our interest to have every prisoner in an environment where they have the best chance to rehabilitate. We need to be mindful of the safety of trans prisoners, and of all prisoners, and of our wider legal obligations. I repeat that rehabilitation is at the heart of everything we are trying to do within our prisons.

The hon. Lady mentioned overcrowding and prison officer numbers. Our sustained recruitment campaign for prison officers is bearing fruit in a significant net increase in prison officers, as I told the House at the last Justice questions. We continue to recruit prison officers, which will make it easier to deal with a number of the issues that the hon. Lady raised.

The hon. Lady asked if she could come and see me. My door is always open to Members, and I would be more than happy to meet her on this issue. I repeat that decency for everyone we have care of in custody is at the heart of what NOMS does. I recently visited Leeds prison, where the tragic event took place. I have every confidence in the governor, Steve Robson, of whom we can all be proud. He is a decent, humane man, who I am sure will have tried very hard to do the right thing.

On self-inflicted deaths in prisons generally, we are taking a number of actions because of the seriousness with which we take the issue. We are reviewing the assessment, care in custody and teamwork process, and we hope to implement improvements to it early in the new year. We have put additional resource into our safer custody work, which deals with these issues, and we have held a number of national learning days, run jointly with the Samaritans, who are expert in this area, and I attended one of those days myself.

Several hon. Members rose