My Lords, the report praised the work with young adults and on resettlement, but was critical in several areas. In some key areas the inspectorate found that procedures were in place but not being followed through. I am assured that progress has been made since September 2002. The Chief Inspector's recommendations will form an action plan which is being finalised. My honourable friend the Prisons Minister has asked to receive regular updates on progress.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Granting a few bright spots, unlike the devastating and damning report on Ashfield published this day, is it not the case that the report on Norwich is largely a litany of failure to fulfil recommendations—urgent recommendations—made in 1968? Given the Prison Service's solemn commitment to rehabilitation, is it not deeply disturbing that such tiny numbers of prisoners are being given access to education and training?
Furthermore, is it not just plain shocking to read that this situation, and I quote from the report:
"was disguised by inaccurate statistics presented both to us", meaning the Inspectors,
"and to the Prison Service"?
What action is now being taken?
My Lords, there is no doubt that, in addition to identifying some areas where the prison was functioning well, such as resettlement and the young adult wing, the inspection found areas, as the noble Lord has said, where there is a great deal of scope for improvement. That was critical. It is true that areas such as general cleanliness and so forth were a major concern. Other areas of concern were highlighted; namely, the relationship between staff and prisoners, although generally the prison has a good record.
We share the concerns of the report. They will be actively pursued through a follow-up report being prepared by the governor and area manager. That action report will need to be adhered to rigorously. The noble Lord, Lord Quirk, is also right to point out some of the past failings in education provision. However, I must advise him that there are areas of education within the prison where outstanding work is being done. I believe that the report acknowledges that.
The prison aims to provide as much work and education as possible. Despite some of its problems, the prison expects to exceed education targets for this year at all levels. That is a tribute to the staff and the steady commitment of those involved in education at Norwich prison.
My Lords, I chair the All-Party Penal Affairs Group. First, will the Minister explain why it takes five months from inspection to publication of the report? In this day and age, surely it can be achieved quicker than that. Secondly, why, when the Prison Service under Martin Narey is making such good overall progress, we have evidence of prisons slipping back? Is there any way of achieving uniform management standards across the whole of the Prison Service?
My Lords, my noble friend always speaks with great knowledge on these issues. I believe that his last point is probably the most telling. It is critically important to ensure that there are high standards of management and leadership across the Prison Service. Martin Narey is deserving of great credit and praise for his efforts to achieve those standards.
I turn to my noble friend's first point which related to the publication of inspection reports. Noble Lords might have noticed that the gap between inspection and publication of the report on Norwich prison was around 15 weeks; that is significantly less than what had, until recently, become an undesirable norm. I am advised that that is due to a revised protocol between the Chief Inspector and the Prison Service, which ensures that all reports are published to a quicker timetable. That should be welcomed by everyone.
My Lords, I want, in particular, to return to the issue of work. Many prisoners are willing to take up opportunities—some have had to take up opportunities—to work in prison, as well as training. However, the report shows that there is a serious shortage of work for prisoners in Norwich prison. Is not work, as well as training, often a way of avoiding re-offending by prisoners on release?
My Lords, as I have said from the Dispatch Box on a number of occasions, the Government recognise the importance of providing meaningful work and well-directed and well-targeted education. It is obviously the case that prisoners who enjoy both training and work will, on release, probably be much less likely to re-offend. As regards the work targets for Norwich prison, the purposeful activity target of 20 hours per prisoner per week was not attained last year. The prison achieved a level of 17.4 hours per prisoner per week. The report highlights that; it will be one of the important areas on which the follow-up report will focus. The governor will have to concentrate his or her activities on ensuring that that is achieved.
"This is a picture of a prison that needs urgently to energise its staff and management".
What steps can the Government take to ensure that the recommendations in this report, as well as the catalogue of recommendations in the 1998 report which have not been followed through, are fully implemented?
My Lords, I have made it plain that the Government accept the important elements in the report which focus on critical and key failures. Drawing something positive from the report of the Inspector of Prisons, she says that Norwich prison is clearly capable of carrying out good work, as the relationships in the young adult wing and the work of the resettlement unit show. There are plans for further development which we welcome. However, the key is to ensure that prisons—in particular the Prison Service—are well-led and well-organised. It will be the responsibility of the governor—a new governor will be in post in the near future—working closely with the area manager to ensure that the recommendations made in the report are properly and effectively carried out.
The noble Lord raised the issue of the recommendations in the previous report. It would be fair to say that the prison has moved on—in some ways for the better, but in some ways there has been slippage back. Those recommendations need revising and revisiting to establish how valid they are in the current situation. Taking that into account, yes, there is much work to do in Norwich prison. We accept that.
My Lords, I am not sure whether the Minister and I are reading the same report. Perhaps I may draw his attention to the 1998 report and the serious concern about the failure to implement those recommendations. More than 50 recommendations made in 1998 have not been implemented. Where does the buck stop? Can the Minister put his hand on his heart and say, with the prison population now at 72,000 and expected to rise to 110,000 during the next five years, that reforms are possible?
My Lords, I had hoped that I was not striking an apologetic tone for the way in which failures notified in earlier reports have not been met and matched by effective action because that is not the case. We want to ensure that reports are acted on. This report will have to be acted on for the reasons identified by many noble Lords today, on which they have made telling points. The Prison Service has a critical and important job. These reports are important in ensuring that we direct our activity towards securing its objectives—and that we intend to do.
My Lords, I made plain earlier the Government's commitment to ensuring that education facilities are in place. I acknowledge that the education service has an important part to play, and the Government have ensured that more resources are committed towards that. It is perhaps worth reminding your Lordships that in 2002–03 core funding of £65.7 million will be provided, an increase of nearly £10 million on the previous year. By 2003–04, core funding for education will increase to £85 million. The Government have attempted every year to increase funding for education—we are now guaranteeing an increase—because we recognise its value in rehabilitation work.
My Lords, does the Minister realise that his assertions that the report will be acted upon are not convincing because the previous report was delivered to the same government and has not been acted upon? Does not the fact that the prison population has risen inexorably for several decades and the coincidence of this terrible, worst ever report on Ashfield—which we heard on the radio this morning—draw one to the inevitable conclusion that the only way to solve this problem is to send fewer people to prison? That means getting hold of young people before they become offenders and giving them a style of life and occupation which will enable them to become productive citizens. When will the Government make that and not the containment of people in prison a policy priority?
My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point very much to heart. Of course we need to create a society which is more at peace with itself and in which there is greater contentment among our young people. Obviously it would be more desirable if people did not commit offences but, when they do, and the offences are serious enough to merit a period of time in prison, they should be sent there. It is the duty of this Government—and of any responsible government—to ensure that that provision is properly made.
My Lords, given that the report shows a cut-back in training facilities at Norwich over the period concerned and that any prospect of rehabilitation and reform depends almost exclusively on effective education and training, when will the Government seek to have prisons give the same quantity and quality of education, particularly to young offenders, as the intensive surveillance and supervision programmes now give to young people in an out-of-prison context?
My Lords, I hoped the noble Lord had listened carefully to what I said about our increased investment in education provision over the next two to three years. I am sure he will accept that it is very significant and a welcome change from policies adopted by previous governments. Let me repeat what I said. We recognise the value and importance of education. We are developing a programme to deliver further and higher standards of education. It will concentrate particularly on education with a work-related value because that will be of tremendous benefit. I hope that the noble Lord will support us in that programme.