The issues in HMP Liverpool were of course shocking. It was a very challenged prison and some challenges still remain, in particular around the issue of self-harm. Nevertheless, Governor Pia Sinha and her team have effected a real transformation. I hope the hon. Gentleman will recognise, from visiting Liverpool prison, that over 100 cells have now been fully refurbished. We have reduced the population and, above all, there is a sense of a much safer, more orderly prison. This is real progress in 11 months. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Pia Sinha and her team.
I join the Minister in those comments. In August, he announced the 10 prisons strategy to tackle violence and drugs in 10 of the worst prisons in the country. I am wondering why HMP Liverpool was not included in that project. As the Minister offered to resign should he not be able to reduce the levels of drugs and violence in those prisons, what promise will he make to HMP Liverpool?
I will resist the temptation to offer to resign on every single issue within my Department, but I repeat that I will resign if I do not turn around those 10 prisons by August. Why were those 10 prisons chosen? They largely focus on Yorkshire and London. There are many other challenged prisons in the system. Which is challenged day by day alternates a great deal—it depends on the particular population—but I do not think that anybody would suggest that prisons such as Wormwood Scrubs, Nottingham and Leeds, which are among the 10 prisons, are not very seriously challenged prisons.
I am pleased to say that, at the most recent Budget—I do not wish to get involved in the next Budget and the spending review, on which I am confident—we got a great deal of investment into the prison estate, which makes a huge difference. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the issue of the future budget, but watch this space and see how our negotiation goes.
Privatised provision of maintenance at HMP Liverpool was to blame for a lot of the appalling conditions there. Despite that, the Government plan to run two new prisons for private profit. I do not expect the Government to agree with me that the privatisation of justice is wrong, but surely we can get a consensus that companies engaging in fraudulent activity should not be able to profit from the public purse. Will the Secretary of State today commit to G4S and Serco not being allowed to run those two new privately run prisons while they remain under a Serious Fraud Office investigation for ripping off the Ministry of Justice?
There is of course one important point here, which is that we need to make very sure that the people we work with are reliable and trustworthy. I absolutely agree on that. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that G4S is running some good prisons in places such as Parc and Liverpool. We need to get the balance right between making sure that these are reliable providers and making sure that they protect the public.
Order. The hon. Gentleman keeps chuntering from a sedentary position, “They’re dodgy”. He is entitled to his view. It is better if he expresses it on his feet than from his seat. He is now fast competing with Karl Turner, who has been a model of quiet this morning, but who, it has to be admitted, normally shouts from a sedentary position at the mildest provocation.