Prisons and Probation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:58 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice 12:58 pm, 14th May 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
notes HM Chief Inspector of Probation’s recent conclusion that the privatised probation system is irredeemably flawed and that public ownership is the safer option;
recognises that the Public Accounts Committee concluded that probation services are in a worse position than they were in before the Government embarked on its reforms;
further notes the Government’s decision to return HMP Birmingham to public ownership following repeated failures under G4S;
is concerned by the Government’s plans for at least two new prisons to be privately run;
and calls on the Government to end its plans to sign new private probation contracts and contracts for new privately-run prisons.

Today’s debate will address the widespread failures that affect our justice system as a result of privatisation. Over the past 12 months this issue has shot up the justice agenda after two flagship privatisations ran aground. The Government had to cancel the privatised probation contract two years early. The failing probation companies had proved incapable of tackling reoffending and were financially unsustainable despite the Government handing a £500 million bail-out to them. There was also the decision to return HMP Birmingham to the public sector after unprecedented failures by the contractor G4S.

Yet despite the recent high-profile failings in the privatised justice sector the Government are on the verge of signing yet more private prison contracts and yet more probation contracts, throwing more good money after bad. But just how bad does it have to get before the Conservative party ends its obsession with the private sector? Today, Members have a chance to show their rejection of this flawed policy. The Opposition motion has one simple demand: it calls on the Government to scrap their plans to sign new private probation contracts and contracts for new privately run prisons. As usual, the Government will probably claim that we in the Opposition are driven by ideology in our commitment to ridding the justice system of the scourge of privatisation, but the reality is that only one party in this debate is driven by ideology. It is the Conservative party, whose insistence that the market is always best has proved so costly to our railways and our utilities and so dangerous to our justice system.