My hon. Friend makes an important point. Last year when I visited Bedford prison I noticed that and I am pleased with the service they have there.
The management at HMP Bedford are working really hard under challenging circumstances, but I remain concerned that the publicly run prison is deliberately being run into the ground and deprived of adequate funding. Meanwhile, money is being used to build the new super-size prison just down the road in Wellingborough, which will be handed straight to the private sector. Questions remain unanswered as to why the MOJ banned the public sector from bidding for that new prison, yet it is happy to hold a competition involving the failed prison privateer G4S and the recently collapsed private provider Interserve. Statistics show that private prisons are disproportionately more violent, dangerous and overcrowded than their public sector counterparts. If that is the Government’s response to the overcrowding and violence crisis in our prisons, it has already failed.
The Government’s refusal to publish the HMPPS estate and transformation team’s report into whether the public sector should be allowed to operate new build prisons has led to deep suspicion. If the Government admit that the public sector is the benchmark, why is it shut out of the bidding process? Marketisation has utterly failed in the prison and probation service and public safety has been compromised. It is time for the Government to listen to frontline workers who know exactly how to turn things around. The Government must end the two-tier workforce for pay, conditions and professional standards in the probation and prison service.