Feltham a Young Offenders Institution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:22 pm on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 2:22 pm, 24th July 2019

At the outset, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Mr Gauke, who I gather has recently tendered his resignation as Secretary of State for Justice. I hope that you will allow me to answer in his place, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I am grateful to Seema Malhotra for tabling this urgent question and for the opportunity to respond on an important subject. I am also grateful to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons for its work and the scrutiny its inspections provide. I take the safety of all the young people in our custody very seriously, and clearly the urgent notification letter for Feltham A does not make comfortable reading. It is clearly a deeply disappointing and concerning report. Despite the significant efforts of staff at Feltham A, to whom I pay tribute, and the significant support and resources put in by the youth custody service and the Ministry of Justice, it is clear that serious underlying challenges remain. I have been clear that progress to address these issues needs to be swifter to deliver the safe environment that we all wish to see and that, as recent reports acknowledge, we do see in other parts of the youth custodial estate.

In addition to work already under way, we have taken a series of immediate steps, including placing an immediate temporary stop on new placements of young people into Feltham A, alongside additional resources and support for staff. The governor is still relatively new in post and is working hard to drive improvements in an establishment that has one of the highest and most concentrated proportions of violent offenders in the country. She and her team are dedicated to turning Feltham A around, and we will continue to support them in doing that. As required by the urgent notification process, we will formally respond with an action plan within the required 28 days.