Privatised Probation System

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 4th March 2019.

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Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice 5:06 pm, 4th March 2019

The National Audit Office report on probation privatisation is another damning indictment of the current Transport Secretary. Once again the Conservatives’ part-privatisation of probation has been exposed as a dangerous experiment that left the public less safe and out of pocket. The NAO highlights a 22% increase in reoffending. Will the Minister now admit that this privatisation has put public safety at risk in a reckless pursuit of running justice for private profit?

The NAO says the Ministry of Justice will pay at least £467 million more to failing private probation companies than was originally required. Does the Minister believe that rewarding failure in that way is the best use of much-reduced Ministry of Justice resources? Despite such failings, the Conservatives are recklessly planning to sign new private probation contracts. Will the Minister halt the current tendering plans to allow an independent review into whether probation should be returned to the private sector, or are they just ideologically driven?

Last month, Working Links, one of the largest probation providers, collapsed. Will the Minister explain the tendering process by which it was quietly handed to another private company? Will he guarantee that there will be no further staff losses under this new arrangement? Another private provider, Interserve, is in deep financial difficulties. Does the Minister have an emergency probation plan ready for if or when Interserve goes under?

Finally, private shareholders should be left in no doubt: Labour will return probation to the public sector. Will the Minister guarantee today that new probation contracts will include break clauses, so that a future Labour Government can put an end to this disastrous privatisation if his Government will not?