Prison Estates Review

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:30 am on 18th April 2002.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 9:30 am, 18th April 2002

We move to our first item of business, which is the debate on motion S1M-2993, in the name of Jim Wallace, on the prison estates review, and on two amendments to that motion.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat 9:33 am, 18th April 2002

Four weeks ago, I announced to the Parliament the publication of the Scottish Executive's proposals for the future of the Scottish prison estate. The Executive debate allows us to focus on the key issues that have led ministers to conclude that the proposals outlined in the consultation paper represent the most effective way to achieve the safer Scotland that we all want and, at the same time, to deliver best value.

A number of key assumptions underpin the consultation paper: that the prison estate should be modernised to provide secure prisons that facilitate effective rehabilitation; that the practice of slopping out is unacceptable and must be ended and, in that respect, a timetable must be set that considerably speeds up the rate of progress that we have already made; that the estate should have the capacity and flexibility to cope with projected numbers of prisoners while enabling the delivery of high-quality rehabilitation programmes; that the public sector must retain the leading role and the standards of service provision should be high across the estate, with elements of best practice being identified and shared regardless of whether they arise in the public or private sector; and that the new estate, however provided, must meet the requirement of best value. I hope that those key guiding principles will command broad support.

I do not propose this morning to describe the proposals in detail. They are set out in the consultation paper, while the Scottish Prison Service estates review report and the PricewaterhouseCoopers financial review, which we have also published, set out at considerable length the financial and other information on which the proposals are based.

As I said when I announced the launch of the consultation paper, I look forward to a constructive debate on the proposals. I encourage all those with views on the subject to make those views known before the end of the consultation period on 12 June. In the meantime, so far as today's debate is concerned, I want to concentrate on the reasoning behind our proposals in order to explain why we think that they are the best way forward.

The Executive is committed to creating a safer Scotland. A wide variety of policy initiatives has been introduced to tackle not only the causes, but the effects of crime in our communities. More resources have been put into policing. Clear-up rates for serious crime are rising. However, we are far from complacent; we know that we must do more.

Imprisonment will not be the answer for many less serious offenders. That is why we have extended the range of options of alternatives to prison that are available to our courts. However, although prison may not be the best solution to some types of offending, those who commit serious, violent or drugs offences must expect substantial prison sentences for their crimes. I will not apologise for a criminal justice system that locks up serious and violent offenders for a long time.

Society rightly demands that offenders who need to be kept in prison are held securely. It is important to point out that the record of Scottish prisons, both public and private, is second to none in that respect. However, it is not enough simply to lock up offenders. We must do all that we can to prevent people from becoming victims of crime in the future. For prisoners to be less likely to reoffend when they have served their sentence, surely they have to be housed in decent conditions that allow for the delivery of appropriate programmes for rehabilitation. Our proposals for improving the prison estate are radical and wide-ranging—they have to be.

Prisoner numbers are projected to rise significantly. It is prudent to plan on the basis of an increase of around 1,000 in the number of prisoners, from the present level of around 6,200 to around 7,200, over the next 10 years. We can see in England how rapidly prisoner numbers have hit maximum capacity. The consultation paper and the report of the Scottish Prison Service's own estates review go into the question of projected prisoner numbers in considerable detail and set out a convincing case. The projections are not my figures, nor the figures of the Scottish Prison Service, but those of impartial statisticians. Any plans for the future of Scotland's prisons must take account of those figures.

It is not just a question of numbers. There is also a pressing need to improve the quality of the existing estate so that prisoners are held in decent conditions. Many prisoners are still held in conditions that should have no place in a modern prison system. Over a quarter of prisoners, including all the prisoners at Peterhead and most of the prisoners at Barlinnie, still have no access to night sanitation. We believe that slopping out is unacceptable. Not only is it highly undesirable in itself, but it takes up staff time that could be better spent on the delivery of programmes for prisoners. How can we reasonably expect prisoners to reform and to become valued members of society if we do not even provide them with a toilet?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

The minister will recall a recent court decision, which suggested that slopping out was against the European convention on human rights. How important is that decision to the implementation of the proposals in the prison estates review, given the fact that we could well be in contravention of the convention?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

It is important to clarify that the court did not rule that there was a contravention of the European convention on human rights, but that a prima facie case had to be answered. The case will be heard in full by the Court of Session at some point later this year. We do not accept that we are in contravention of the convention. In some respects, the fact that we may be contravening the convention is secondary to the fact that we believe the practice to be unacceptable. That is why we want to end, as quickly as we can, the practice of slopping out.

Taking into account both the projected increase in prisoner numbers and the need to improve conditions, we have concluded that around 3,300 new prisoner places are needed. How those places are to be provided, and how quickly, has been fundamental to our thinking in developing ministers' proposals.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Will the minister explain why the prison population in Sweden, which has a population of 9 million, is less than the prison population of Scotland, which has a population of 5 million? Does not that suggest that we are putting people in prison unnecessarily?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I welcome a debate on this issue, because I am very disappointed that the prison population in Scotland is so high and am concerned that the figure is set to rise further.

The Executive is putting in place more measures to promote alternatives to custody—including the provisions in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, which the Justice 2 Committee is about to consider—than any previous Administration. Notwithstanding that, we have to be responsible and prudent enough to respond to the review's projections, which forecast that the prison estate will expand further. I am eager to learn how other countries tackle the problem. However, even with our modest and conservative estimate on the figures—which, after all, range from 6,700 to 8,500 required prisoner places—the projections still determine the number of places that we feel obliged to consider. Although today might not be the most appropriate occasion on which to discuss alternatives to custody, I am more than willing to put on record how much work we are doing on the issue.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Does the minister accept that the financial case made by PricewaterhouseCoopers depends largely on the size of the prison population?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

No. The case is actually based on the costs of providing prisons within a range of different options. It is then up to us to determine the number of prisons that we require. As I said in my statement in March, we have indicated a requirement for three prisons, with the green light for the third being dependent on how prisoner numbers pan out over the years ahead.

We must address the issue of prisoner numbers, and we are doing that in some significant part through modernising public sector provision of prisoner places. We are making significant investment in that respect, including £35 million this year alone for two house blocks, one at Edinburgh and one at Polmont. We have also spent more than £2.5 million at Barlinnie to provide access to night sanitation for one house block, and work will start later this year on another.

Moreover, ministers have recognised the need for a substantial programme of on-going investment in public sector prisons to make them fit for purpose. Indeed, the projections in our consultation paper show that 1,100 of the 3,300 places will be provided through refurbishment and new build in the public sector. However, given decades of underinvestment in that sector, we accept that that provision will not be enough if we are to make a real difference. Even after taking into account refurbishment and new build within the existing estate, we estimate that around 2,200 of the required new prisoner places will need to be provided by the construction of new prisons. At the optimum size of around 700 places for each new prison, that means that three new prisons will be needed.

The options have been carefully costed and independent verification has confirmed that the public sector option would be very expensive for the taxpayer. It would cost twice as much as the private sector option, with the difference being around £700 million in net present value terms. That is £700 million that we would not have to spend; more important, it is £700 million that could be spent on other things. I believe that ministers must act responsibly in considering best value in matters that involve the public purse.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I hope that the minister has noted the report by Mr Carter that was published eight weeks ago by the prison service in England and Wales and on which PricewaterhouseCoopers also acted as advisers on the figures. That report reaches a very different conclusion, with the private sector's costs for providing prison accommodation 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than the figures in the SPS estates review. How does the minister account for that difference?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

PricewaterhouseCoopers, in its report to the Scottish Executive for the prison estates review, makes it very clear that it did not factor into its consideration one of the earlier private prisons in England and Wales, Parc prison, because that prison was set up so early in the planning process that it incurred additional costs that are no longer relevant.

I have indicated on more than one occasion that we asked someone outwith the SPS and the Scottish Executive to validate the figures to ensure that no one could level the accusation that the figures were ours alone. The figures have been published and are open for people's comments; indeed, I will come in a moment to the comments that were made earlier this week. However, I am satisfied that, to date, no one has managed to lay a successful challenge to the validity of the figures.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

No. I have been generous in taking interventions; I want to make some progress.

We owed it to the people of Scotland to think long and hard before publishing the proposals. Many have asked about the difference in the costs of provision between the public and private sector, and I understand their concern. We as ministers were staggered by the difference when the figures were first presented, and I acknowledge that people find it difficult to take it all in. However, some key reasons for the difference are: historic working practices in the public sector; a pension scheme that, unlike most others in the public sector, is funded at a cost of at least 16 per cent to the employer; and the skill mix. Moreover, on the building side, there has been a lack of experience to design, manage and deliver large-scale new prisons.

Taking the public sector route would also affect the time that would be required to deliver a prison estate that is fit for purpose. It would take at least 11 years to deliver the necessary prisons under either of the public sector options, simply because the public sector does not have the resources or expertise to deliver design-and-build projects of such a scale. The last public sector prison to be built in Scotland, HMP Shotts, was opened in 1987 and took 13 years from start-up to opening. In contrast, the decision on HMP Kilmarnock was taken in 1996 and the prison opened in 1999. It is estimated that procuring the number of prison places that we require would take five to six years under the private sector option. As a result, following the public sector route would mean that slopping out would take twice as long to eliminate. I find such a delay very hard to justify.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

I am sorry that my intervention is a bit delayed. The minister mentioned that one of the reasons for the difference in costs is the pension scheme; I think that he said that the scheme is funded at a cost of 16 per cent to the employer. As far as any comparisons between the running costs of public and private sector prisons are concerned, I put it to the minister that the private sector should be bound to match the costs for the pension scheme. That is only fair. If it costs the SPS 16 per cent or whatever to fund pensions, surely the private sector should be forced to bid on the same basis so that we do not end up with a two-tier system.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Many in the public sector such as policemen, fire officers and those who work in the national health service would find that contrast unfair if they have to contribute much more towards their pension scheme. However, it does not necessarily follow that, in any modernisation of terms and conditions, such an arrangement—which was the outcome of negotiations back in 1986 or 1987—should be taken into the 21 st century.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

No. I have been generous in giving way. I am sure that Mr Neil will get some time of his own to make his speech.

The proposal on which we are consulting is that the new prisons should be provided by the private sector. As our published material shows, that route offers significant advantages, both in time and in costs, that we cannot ignore lightly. I respect people who believe on ideological grounds that the private sector should not be responsible for those who have been sent to prison by the courts. However, let me make it clear: we can delegate to the private sector the custody and care of those offenders. What we cannot and will not delegate is the state's responsibility for those prisoners.

At Kilmarnock, we maintain two members of SPS staff, who monitor the daily operation of the contract between the SPS and Kilmarnock Prison Services to ensure that the levels of performance we require are consistently met. Just as important, we can and do impose financial penalties if our high standards are not met. Kilmarnock is subject to the same legal requirements and the same independent inspections as public sector prisons.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

My question concerns state responsibility. I hear what the minister says, but when assets and their running go into the private sector it is almost impossible for members to get answers to questions. We simply get replies that say, "That is a matter for Kilmarnock Prison Services." How does that square with the Executive's responsibility for those prisons?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Ministers' statutory responsibilities in respect of prisoners apply to prisoners in Kilmarnock prison as much as they do to prisoners in the public prison estate. Uniquely among private finance initiative contracts, the contract for Kilmarnock prison has been published and put on the Executive website in an effort to make such information more widely available. That is an almost unprecedented step, which shows the degree of openness that I want to achieve.

There have been many comments about our proposals, and particularly about the costings of the options that are open to us. It is not enough for the critics simply to say that they do not believe the figures. I repeat again what I said when I announced our proposals. If anyone can present an alternative proposal that would achieve our objectives more quickly, at the same time or at lower cost, I would be delighted to consider it. Just attacking without providing a constructive alternative is not particularly helpful. We have published detailed costing information, which has been validated by independent accountants. It is only reasonable that anyone who wishes to question our costings should produce alternative figures that are as robust as ours are.

Much interest was generated this week by the publication of a report on privatised prisons by Phil Taylor and Professor Christine Cooper. We have now had an opportunity to study that report. Given the media attention that the report has received, I think it only right to say a few words about it. Having evaluated the report, I could make a number of observations, but I shall simply say that I do not believe that it gives a balanced analysis. It is an ideological critique—

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Miss Cunningham is laughing, but she may recall that on a number of occasions I have written to her and said in this chamber that nothing was ruled in and nothing was ruled out. Our costings were validated independently and examined without a pre-ordained outcome. That could not be said for the report that was published earlier this week.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Phil Taylor and Christine Cooper are entitled to hold that opinion, but I am astonished and disappointed that two academics appear to have fundamentally confused net present value with cash cost per prisoner. Our initial scrutiny indicates that there is nothing in the report to question the validity of the detailed work on which our proposals are based or the proposals themselves.

Although there is only one privately operated prison in Scotland, there are eight in the United Kingdom. Much has been said in recent weeks about Kilmarnock prison in an attempt to claim that it is not working and, by extension, to demonstrate that the proposed new private sector prisons would not work either. I would like to dispel some of those concerns. I have heard it said that Kilmarnock simply warehouses prisoners, but the chief inspector of prisons in all his reports has applauded the excellent attitude of staff and their co-operation with prisoners, and has commended to others that example of good practice. I think that I am right in saying that, according to last year's annual report of the three inspections conducted in 2000-01, 12 items of the best practice identified came from Kilmarnock, eight from Edinburgh and four from Greenock.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I am in the final minute of my speech and I have not even mentioned Peterhead yet.

There is always room for improvement in any prison. Kilmarnock is still relatively new and all new prisons, public or private, require time to settle down. We believe that, over a range of issues, Kilmarnock's performance can be compared with that of other prisons in Scotland.

Much has been said about the value of the work with sex offenders that has been done at Peterhead prison. I support that work and again commend staff their for the excellent job that they are doing. We must accept that those staff work under difficult conditions. The poor quality of the buildings and the absence of adequate toilet facilities are major issues that cannot be addressed simply by refurbishment. Moreover, around 85 per cent of the prisoners come from other parts of Scotland. The remoteness of the location is an obstacle to the development of support mechanisms by receiving local authorities and voluntary support groups for prisoners after release.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

In acknowledging the good work that is done at Peterhead, it must be recognised that the most important elements in that work are the quality of the prisoner programmes and the quality of the staff delivering them. The STOP 2000 sex offender treatment programme was expressly designed to be capable of delivery at a range of establishments. It is already being delivered at Barlinnie and Polmont. Indeed, fewer than half the staff who are trained to deliver the programme are based at Peterhead. I can announce today that Richard Simpson and I have instructed the director of rehabilitation and care, Alec Spencer, to conduct an additional review of the future management of sex offenders. Richard Simpson will expand on that in his wind-up speech.

I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed about the implication for the local economy if Peterhead prison were to close, and I confirm that enterprise officials are involved in developments. Our responsibility is to ensure that decisions about the future of the prison estate are the right ones to ensure that we get the prison system that we need. I emphasise that no final decisions have been taken about the prisoners in Peterhead, but we do not plan to house sex offenders from Peterhead as a group in any new privately run prison.

Prisons are a vital element in our criminal justice system. They are a reflection of how civilised a society we really are. I believe that our proposals would lead to a modern and efficient prisons estate that is fit for purpose and well placed to meet the challenges that it faces. As part of the consultation process, we shall listen to what has been said in this debate and to other contributions.

I move,

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the consultation paper Proposals for the Future of the Scottish Prison Service Estate; believes that to help achieve a safer Scotland the prison estate should facilitate the secure holding of prisoners and the delivery of effective rehabilitation programmes, and that prisons should provide a reasonable standard of accommodation; recognises that these objectives can only be achieved by substantial modernisation of the present prison estate, and encourages all interested individuals and organisations to contribute to the current consultation.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

The minister was generous in giving way to other members and we are running slightly over time. I ask those who want to take part in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons, as I have a long list of members who wish to contribute.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party 9:55 am, 18th April 2002

I have to say that the Minister for Justice is really struggling this morning. He is basically admitting that he has sold the pass on any possible reduction in prison numbers, and he is currently in the process of selling the prison system too. It has taken us two and a half years to get to this point, but the Executive is prepared to renege on previous leadership commitments on prison privatisation. No wonder the prison officers are feeling let down.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

It is important to know where the SNP is coming from on this point. Is Roseanna Cunningham saying that she would ignore the projected prison numbers? If so, what would the SNP response be if, 10 years from now, we were running seriously short of prison places? Would it just be to open the gates and let prisoners out?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Frankly, if the privatisation option figures are demolished, the public sector option comes back into play, but that has been ruled out right from the start. Two years ago, the minister and the chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service came to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee and asserted that the prisoner population would decrease. Two years later, they are saying that it will increase. The fact is that the minister does not have a flipping clue what is going on, and that is a result of his complete inability to get a grip of the system.

In 1996, Jack Straw stated that it was

"morally unacceptable for the private sector to undertake the incarceration of those whom the state has decided need to be imprisoned".

If it was morally unacceptable in 1996, I wonder whether the Minister for Justice or his deputy will be able to explain why it has miraculously become morally acceptable in 2002. Again, in 1997, Henry McLeish quite categorically stated:

"There will be no more private prisons in Scotland."

In his own party's manifesto for the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the Minister for Justice committed himself to a clear pledge to reduce prison numbers and make greater use of alternatives to custody. It is disappointing to hear his reaction to the average prison population in Scotland reaching an all-time high of 6,200 and his admission and acceptance that prisoner numbers are just going to increase. He tried to defend the figures by saying:

"I will never apologise for a criminal justice system that locks up serious and violent offenders for a long time."—[Official Report, 21 March 2002; c 10503.]

Nor should he. However, he should apologise for all the big talk about alternatives to custody while presiding over a system that is bursting at the seams.

As a lawyer and as a politician, I know that the prison estate is in need of an overhaul. The state of some of our prisons is indeed shocking, but the programme of closures and privatisation that the Executive proposes in the estates review is simply wrong.

I shall start by talking about Peterhead. With the proposal to close Peterhead, the Executive is following through with the prisons policy that it embarked on when it closed Dungavel, a policy that rewards success with closure. There should be no doubt about it. Peterhead has been successful. It is world-renowned for the work that is done in its sex offenders unit. I know that the Executive and the SPS cannot wait to see the back of Clive Fairweather, but many of us have a great deal of respect for what he has to say. He has made it clear that he believes that closure of Peterhead will set back the progress of the sex offenders treatment programme for three years.

The Minister for Justice should not dismiss too readily the fact that the community in Peterhead wants that facility to stay. Peterhead prison is an important employer in a town that has suffered a number of employment knocks in recent years. The people of Peterhead do not want the prison closed and they want it to keep doing the excellent work that it has been doing with sex offenders.

It is instructive to look at the Official Report from the day of the ministerial statement on Peterhead prison and to contrast the contributions from those MSPs who represent constituencies that are accustomed to and at ease with a prison on their doorstep with the contributions made by members such as Janis Hughes, Bristow Muldoon and Robert Brown, who were clearly representing the concerns of their constituents about the prospect of one of the new prisons ending up in their constituency.

I suspect that the resistance that they reflect will be magnified if there is a suggestion that that prison will contain significant numbers of sex offenders. To avoid indicating where any of those new prisons might be is convenient for the minister.

Turning now to Low Moss, there is no doubt that the existing situation cannot be sustained.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I will take interventions only from the minister.

If a prison is to be closed and a new prison built, it makes sense that the site that is currently home to a prison should be in line for any new development. [Interruption.]

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Order. Whether to give way is entirely at the discretion of a member.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Given earlier points of order, does not what the member said totally contravene what Alex Neil said?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Order. I said that whether a member gives way or to whom they give way is entirely a matter for the member who has the floor. At the moment, that member is Roseanna Cunningham.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am aware of the long list of members who wish to speak in the debate and that members will speak after me.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I would like guidance on the SNP's approach. Is it in the spirit of the standing orders that a member should take Roseanna Cunningham's line and disregard back-bench members?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

For the third time, whether a member gives way is entirely a matter for the member who has the floor. At the moment, that is Roseanna Cunningham.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Plenty of Labour and Liberal Democrat back benchers and front benchers take no interventions at all.

If a prison is to be closed and a new prison built, it makes sense that the site that is currently home to a prison should be in line for any new development. The Minister for Justice said that that will be so in respect of Low Moss, but it is a pity that the same logic is not applied in respect of Peterhead, where there is overwhelming support for the continued presence of a prison.

The Minister for Justice made it clear that the financial aspect sold him on privatisation. Incredibly, we have been told that £700 million would be saved by going down that road. I suppose that £700 million is not too bad as the price for principles.

I would be the first to acknowledge that spending money on the prison system is not the most populist step, but I am afraid that the minister bought a pig in a poke when he sold his principles. It is not only SNP members who simply cannot accept that figure.

It is clear that the recent academic study caused the minister some uncomfortable moments. It was so scathing that I briefly thought of just reading the summary into the Official Report in lieu of a speech. The report begs many questions. Why were hypothetical rather than actual prisons used to make comparisons? What happens if prisoner numbers fall? Why was so little weight given to the many problems that were experienced at Kilmarnock prison, in particular the inability to retain staff in the face of low pay and poor conditions? Why did the public sector option include higher quality and greater risk burdens than the private option? Like was not compared with like.

It is not just the academic report that is a problem for the minister. Comparisons made in the recently published intermediate report on HMP Kilmarnock by the chief inspector of prisons make it clear that no great savings are to be made from privatisation in terms of cost per prisoner. From the HMI report and PricewaterhouseCoopers' academic critique, we can see that Kilmarnock prison is far from being the glowing endorsement of private prisons that the Executive must have hoped as it tried to push its privatisation agenda.

During First Minister's question time on 21 March 2002, the First Minister went so far as to boast that he had "been inside Kilmarnock prison" and had

"seen the closed-circuit television cameras".—[Official Report, 21 March 2002; c 10549.]

Those would be the same closed-circuit cameras that the HMI report mentions. Under the heading "Staff Safety", that report says:

"an example was also given where it was impossible to arrange relief cover for toilet breaks and prisoners were therefore left unsupervised except by CCTV during these periods".

The record of problems and incidents at Kilmarnock prison is long. The prison has the highest turnover of staff and the highest staff sick rate and has more than a third of all prison fires and almost a quarter of prison deaths. Other members will wish to go into details.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I am not making an intervention. Is it appropriate for a member to say something that is absolutely untrue and not take an intervention?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Order. Members saying things that are untrue has been known in this chamber and in many other chambers. It is a question of interpretation of what is said. Nothing that Roseanna Cunningham said is out of order.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

There is absolutely nothing untrue about what I said.

Taken together, the HMI report and the independent academic report blow huge holes in the Executive's incredible claim that pursuing prison privatisation will save £700 million. In fact, the reports clearly show that private prisons are not cheaper to build or run and are not better run than prisons in the public sector.

At First Minister's question time on 28 March 2002, my colleague John Swinney said that it is stated specifically and categorically by PricewaterhouseCoopers on page 11 of its report that it had not

"undertaken work in the nature of an audit".—[Official Report, 28 March 2002; c 10786.]

I recall that the First Minister then seemed as uncomfortable as many of his back benchers are today.

The Minister for Justice described the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers as

"a robust piece of work".—[Official Report, 21 March 2002; c 10507.]

He told us that he had wanted "an independent audit" and that this was it. It was certainly a piece of work but, in truth, there had been no independent audit.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report claimed a saving of 50 per cent, but a similar report in England and Wales by Mouchel Consulting Ltd claimed a saving of just 14 per cent. I say to the minister that that report specifically left out the two most expensive private prisons from its considerations. The two reports had extremely different results and they cannot both be right. It is interesting that United States studies also appear ultimately to show small cost differentials between the public sector and the private sector.

Neither the Minister for Justice nor the First Minister can be surprised at the scepticism in the chamber. They tried to make us believe that they were so surprised that the disparity between the costs in the public and private sectors was so great that, in the words of the First Minister, they

"had them checked and checked again".—[Official Report, 21 March 2002; c 10549.]

The truth is that PricewaterhouseCoopers got its figures from the SPS; it did not independently arrive at its own figures. If the minister was so keen to have the figures carefully checked, does he understand why we find it a little strange that the company chosen to do the checking has 132 private finance initiative contracts that are worth £18 billion in the United Kingdom? It was not an impartial observer by any means.

If the private costings are demolished on cost grounds, the public sector comes back into play as the future for the prison service. But the issue is not just about cost. There is massive opposition to the further privatisation of Scotland's prison system. The Minister for Justice need only look over his shoulder to find some of that opposition. The leadership of both Executive parties needs to listen to what its supporters are saying. The comments that were made on the ministerial announcement by Pauline McNeill, Henry McLeish, Karen Whitefield and Scott Barrie are just a few that spring to mind—and that was before the Scottish Trades Union Congress got in on the act.

If the proposals go ahead, a third of prisoners in Scotland would end up in private prisons and the country would have the most privatised prison system in the world. Prisons are a public service that should be provided by the state. The profit motive should have no role to play in the prison service. In principle, it is wrong for private companies to run prisons. If the state requires that a person should be deprived of their liberty, it is the state's duty to take on that responsibility.

We should not fool ourselves. No private company will get involved in the provision of prison services as a contribution to the public good. They will do so because they think that they can make a buck. Where will savings come from that will help them to do so? We all know the answer: from staff pay and conditions, from cutting back on rehabilitation programmes and from concentrating on inmate containment. That is the record of privatisation where challenging offending behaviour and successful rehabilitation are not priorities. Cost cutting is the priority.

Last year, the STUC passed a resolution that said:

"Congress condemns any further proliferation of private prisons in Scotland."

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I thought that I might exercise my privilege. If certain contractual requirements are made for rehabilitation, why would it be in the interests of any private prison contractor not to deliver on that if there were financial penalties? Has the member not heard the First Minister and me underlining many times the fact that rehabilitation programmes will be an important part of any future prison development in the public and private sectors?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I noticed that rehabilitation hardly got a mention in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report or in the review. The fact is that Kilmarnock is not succeeding in terms of rehabilitation.

I will continue to quote the STUC resolution:

"Congress condemns any further proliferation of private prisons in Scotland. In doing so, Congress recognises that it is morally repugnant to lock up someone and remove their freedom for the sake of profit. Congress further recognises that such a practice in the 21st century is the equivalent of modern day slavery, where a person is sold to someone else for profit."

If anyone thinks that that goes over the top—I suspect that some might—listen to this blurb from an invitation to a conference of the prison industry:

"While arrests and convictions are steadily on the rise, profits are to be made—profits from crime. Get in on the ground floor of this booming industry now. Leading industry analysts will give expert forecasts on future growth potential for the private prison industry and how to make the most of investments today ... as they share their insights on how to capitalize on a new era of opportunities."

There is a vested interest in high crime rates and high prisoner populations.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

That was an invitation to a conference in Dallas in 1996, but that is the ethos of the people who would be directly responsible for a third of Scotland's prisoners. That ethos is not a surprise to anyone who knows anything about Wackenhut's history. Ultimately, it is the US company Wackenhut that will benefit from privatisation. That is what the Minister for Justice wants us to sign up to.

I find those sentiments utterly repugnant and I do not believe that I am alone. That is not the future that I want for the Scottish prison system. I do not believe that it is the future that the people of Scotland want to see either. I call on the natural majority in the chamber today to send a clear message to the Minister for Justice that he is not on.

I move amendment S1M-2993.2, to leave out from "welcomes" to end and insert:

"notes the publication of the consultation paper Proposals for the Future of the Scottish Prison Service Estate; believes that to help achieve a safer Scotland the prison estate should facilitate the secure holding of prisoners and the delivery of effective rehabilitation programmes, and that prisons should provide a reasonable standard of accommodation; recognises that these objectives can only be achieved by substantial modernisation of the present prison estate; further notes that private prisons have serious deficiencies in their management of both inmates and staff, and asserts that, in the interest of public safety, such a key component of the criminal justice system should remain in the public sector."

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 10:12 am, 18th April 2002

The prison estates review is of enormous importance because it involves the safeguarding and protection of the community and the best possible treatment of dangerous prisoners. The key to obtaining the best outcome to the review is to achieve the right result with regard to Peterhead.

When Winston Churchill was Home Secretary, he stated:

"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country."

It seems to me that the Peterhead sex offenders unit has three very considerable advantages for Scotland and the Scottish people. Only two prisons in the world are solely for sex offenders—Peterhead and Kia Marama prison in New Zealand—and both prisons are widely regarded as a great success. That is because a very considerable degree of expertise has been built up among a large number of highly skilled and extremely experienced prison officers. As a result of that expertise, what might have been regarded as a sin bin has become a centre of excellence. Not only that, but the results speak for themselves; those sex offenders who have been released back into the community have in the main not reoffended. Reoffending rates have been hugely reduced.

The first point is that the hard-working, dedicated professionals who work tirelessly in the best interests of the community are succeeding and should be given encouragement and support in furtherance of that role. It is interesting that Churchill laid down the test by which success should be measured. He stated:

"A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the State, and even of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerating processes, and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man—these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it". [Official Report, House of Commons, 20 July 1910; Vol 19, c 1354.]

By that test, Peterhead has been a considerable success. That leads me to the second point in favour of keeping the main sex offenders unit at Peterhead: it has the complete and unqualified support of the local community. If I may say so, I have not noticed a long queue of Labour MSPs asking to have the main sex offenders unit deposited in their constituency. In Peterhead, on the other hand, the community has no reservations because it is familiar with the high standards of the prison officers and also realises that the 240 jobs for prison officers has a beneficial effect on employment in the area and that that has a significant impact on the economy of a relatively small community.

The third advantage is that many of the prisoners concerned are some way distant from their families. For example, if a person has committed incest and has been sentenced, the family will not necessarily wish to see that person much, if at all. Families wish to be protected against sex offenders who have committed serious crimes. Some 67 per cent of prisoners at Peterhead are schedule 1 offenders, who have offended against children. More than 50 per cent of all such schedule 1 offenders have offended within their own family. In those circumstances protection of the family is a higher and more paramount consideration than that of visiting. I am astonished that the ministers have not been made aware of that basic reality, which marks out the circumstances of Peterhead as different from those at other prisons. The argument advanced by the minister that distance was a problem and that 24 per cent of prisoners cite that as the reason why they do not receive visits is an argument that applies with a great deal less force than with other prisoners. It is no coincidence that no complaints in that connection have been made to the local visiting committee or to the local MP or MSP.

If the ministers examine the facts closely, they will discover that many families who are at risk from sex offenders do not wish there to be too many visits. In addition, 98 per cent of the prisoners wish to stay at Peterhead because they are not at risk from other prisoners, a point that was given in evidence by a Peterhead prison officer. In any case, visits last longer than in the central belt. The governor, Iain Gunn, said that sex offenders were targeted by mainstream offenders and needed the support regime along with no contact with other types of prisoners. I recommend strongly that the Deputy First Minister institutes research on the issue, because he would readily find out that his argument against Peterhead in that connection has no validity whatsoever.

My understanding is that a new prison could be built at Peterhead for about 500 prisoners with annual costs per prisoner of less than £20,000, which is below the national average. There is no reason why that prison should not be built by the private sector on land adjacent to Peterhead prison, which belongs to the public sector. The prison estates review confirms in paragraph 158 that there was provision to build residential accommodation for 500, but it states that the infrastructure of the prison would be insufficient to meet increased demand. My point is simple. If there is room to build a new prison, it follows that the infrastructure should be modernised. That could be done on a phased basis, as has happened elsewhere in Scotland.

The minister said that it is important to end slopping out in Peterhead. I agree and the best way to do that is to prepare detailed costings as to how best it could be done within that context for 500 prisoners, since the review gives an inadequate picture as it cites only the cost for 350 prisoners. I understand that an option appraisal for a new-build prison at Peterhead and Shotts phase 3 was ordered about two and a half years ago, but that is not mentioned in the estates review. That is not satisfactory.

With regard to Scotland's prisons in general, I strongly urge ministers to speed up the phasing out of slopping out and specify the time scale.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I have been listening carefully to James Douglas-Hamilton's comments. Can he clarify what he is proposing ought to be costed? He said that there could be a 500-place prison at Peterhead, which could be built by the private sector. Would he intend that prison to be built and operated by the private sector? We have given an undertaking that the STOP 2000 programme should continue within the public sector. Is he proposing that the prison at Peterhead should be a public sector prison?

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

The Deputy First Minister should prepare detailed costings on the best options available. He should prepare costings for both the possibilities that he mentioned. At that stage, it would be possible for ministers and the Parliament to make an objective decision.

The Deputy First Minister must specify the time scale for the ending of slopping out. It seems to me that the phasing out is being done on far too leisurely a basis. Also, the overcrowding in Scotland's prisons must be eliminated.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

Let me finish my point. On 27 July 2001, Aberdeen was running at 136 per cent of capacity, Barlinnie was at 131 per cent, Inverness was at 125 per cent, Greenock was at 124 per cent and Edinburgh was at 123 per cent. Action on that issue is absolutely necessary.

Photo of Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Fitzpatrick Labour

I am sure that before he finishes his speech, Lord James, who is probably the member with the most connections to the legacy of underinvestment in the Scottish Prison Service, will want to take the opportunity to apologise for the substantial public investment that is required—which will come from other public services—for a service with which he dealt miserably when he was responsible for it.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

The member fails to do himself justice. I strongly supported the opening of Shotts prison. Indeed, at that time, I listened carefully to what Peggy Herbison said, which was that she did not want all the special units to go to Shotts. I responded to the representations. The special units did not all go to Shotts and only one special unit was opened there. Considerable progress was made in the prison sector at that time.

The minister claims that there will be more than 1,000 new prisoners. The foundations must be laid. If the minister wants to get the matter right, he must be just to Peterhead. We have long advocated the benefits of the private sector. The estates review came up with many of the benefits for which we have cried out for years. For instance, the review states:

"The contractual relationship governing a private build, private operate prison also increases the drive for innovative ways of working."

Such relationships can also encourage the public sector to be more competitive and cost-effective. For instance, SPS prisons tend to require 25 per cent more staff than private sector ones. My view is that both the public sector and the private sector have an important place. I take a pragmatic view about the most appropriate balance. We should take all circumstances into account.

The minister has yet to recognise that Peterhead has changed out of all recognition during the past quarter of a century and that it now performs to the highest standards. That is not just my view. This morning, I received a letter from the Association of Visiting Committees for Scottish Penal Establishments, which states:

"The Scottish Prison Service Estates Review gives insufficient consideration to the potential to develop Peterhead as an international centre of excellence. Members feel that a strong case for maintaining the sex offender unit there can be made on at least three counts:

1. highly trained and committed staff are based there with their families.

2. the community wishes to retain the prison and there is no 'not in my back yard' attitude. The socio-economic impact of removing this facility from Peterhead must be factored in.

3. the prisoners are safer kept in isolation from other offenders".

The letter goes on to say that the association deplores slopping out, but

"believes that the site could accommodate a new-build facility for sex offenders".

I suggest to the Deputy First Minister that it is surely not too much to ask that the case for Peterhead be explored much more constructively, using costings and with an open mind. I appeal to the Deputy First Minister and other ministers to consider not only the nature of the outdated buildings, but the concentration of expertise in what has become one of Scotland's centres of excellence.

I move amendment S1M-2993.1, to insert at end:

", however, calls on the Scottish Executive to instigate further investigation into the costings for a new prison at Peterhead, specifically for accommodation for 500 to 700 prisoners, in order to ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved to maintain the excellence that has been delivered to date by HM Prison Peterhead."

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Before I call on the final front-bench speaker, I inform members that the list of members who want to take part is very long. To get all the speakers in, timings for speeches must be strict.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 10:24 am, 18th April 2002

I welcome the opportunity to open the debate on behalf of the Labour party. On this occasion, members from all parties must act responsibly and should not make extravagant or sweeping claims that will serve only to stoke fears about the proposed changes. That applies particularly when we talk about possible changes to the accommodation of sex offenders. We have a responsibility to deal with the issues sensitively and objectively.

It must be emphasised that the Executive has announced a consultation. There tends to be a great deal of cynicism about the value of consultations because it is assumed that the Government has already made up its mind, that nothing will change and that the consultation is a waste of time. In response, I point to the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, which was changed considerably following a consultation exercise in which 3,000 submissions were received. The result was a very different bill. Consultation exercises can make a difference and I hope that this one will. I urge all those who follow the debate to contribute to the consultation. I urge the Executive to keep an open mind and to take account of all the views that are expressed.

Like many of my colleagues, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. I want a swift end to overcrowding and slopping out, but I have always believed, like many other members, that the state has a direct moral responsibility for the incarceration and rehabilitation of offenders. I am not comfortable with private prisons because I have grave concerns about the commitment of private companies to prisoner welfare and rehabilitation. I have equally grave concerns about the pay and conditions of the staff in private prisons. There are genuine concerns about manning levels and the use of closed circuit television cameras, which are of little use when a fight breaks out. From the evidence that was given to the Justice 1 Committee, it is clear that some officers in Kilmarnock prison feel afraid.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

Not at the moment. I want to make it clear that the Labour party does not believe that value for money equals lowest cost in wages and conditions. Nor does the Labour party believe that managing incarceration is the prime function of the prison service—rehabilitation is just as important. The Scottish Executive must ensure that the need for the prison service to deliver rehabilitation programmes—such as the STOP 2000 programme and anger management programmes—and to develop throughcare is paramount in its decision making.

Kilmarnock, which is our only private prison, has come under more scrutiny than other prisons. It has received both glowing reports and criticism, notably from the chief inspector of prisons. Kilmarnock is subject to a contract with the SPS, which, it is said, delivers better conditions than some SPS prisons. Problems such as high staff turnover seem to have been resolved. Kilmarnock seems to have much to teach the SPS and the prison unions about how to run a modern prison service.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

No, thank you. I will take an intervention only from the minister.

Unfortunately, we fear that Kilmarnock is run at the expense of the work force. We will not support a solution to the problem of the prison estate that involves exploitation of the work force.

The review shows a vast gap between the costs of running a public prison and those of running a private one. The gap is so vast that it appears to be one of credibility. All of us, including the Executive, thought that the gap was astounding, which is why the figures have been checked and rechecked. There is a strong suspicion that the review does not compare like with like. How were the running costs for public sector prisons calculated? I understand that pension payments were included. Should such payments be included? Do the calculations project into the future the cost of the bad industrial relations of the past? Have industrial relations improved enough to give us confidence that the public sector can deliver an efficient, modern and flexible regime? I very much doubt that. I urge the public sector, including management and unions, to look into the future and to realise that as new technology and rehabilitation programmes develop, prisons will change.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

No, thank you. The public sector should lead the way and should not have to be pulled along reluctantly into the new century. It is beyond doubt that change must take place. We want the public sector to lead that change. We are prepared to consider paying a higher price to cover fair pay and conditions, but not an inflated price. An inflated price would come at the expense of other areas of the justice budget such as victim support, anti-drugs projects, domestic violence programmes and legal aid provision.

I fear that we have no option but to go down the public-private partnership road for new prison buildings. It is another astounding fact that the SPS cannot deliver a new prison in less than a dozen years. I had assumed that there would be some forward planning. We cannot wait that long to end slopping out, which applies to nearly 2,000 inmates and which all parties have condemned as degrading and inhumane for both inmates and prison officers.

I ask the Executive to reconsider the middle way—some might call it the third way—of privately built and publicly run prisons. I know that there is a problem of risk transference, but I do not regard that as insurmountable. I also know that there are few such models elsewhere, but let us be pioneers. I ask the SPS management and the unions to consider how they could run a prison that was built and maintained by the private sector, in an efficient and flexible way but with fair pay and conditions. Can they rise to that challenge? I ask the Executive and the prison unions to begin discussions about that. If the projected cost of the privately built, publicly run model—as shown in the review—can be reduced, we may have found a solution.

I shall now consider what we should do about Peterhead prison. Peterhead lacks internal sanitation. The cells have chemical toilets that have to be emptied by the prisoners two to three times a week. The Cosgrove report noted that, because of the age profile of sex offenders, it is particularly important that night sanitation is provided. There is no hot or cold running water in the cells, so the prisoners cannot wash. There is no power in the cells. The fabric of the building is crumbling and the foundations are unsound. It may be beautifully clean, but it is falling down and beyond repair according to its former governor Bill Rattray, who gave evidence on Tuesday to the Justice 1 Committee.

Bill Rattray praised the work and commitment of the staff at Peterhead, but he voiced uncertainty about whether the programmes that are run there could be transferred seamlessly to another prison. There is no doubt that the STOP programme that is carried out with sex offenders is highly regarded, and I believe that part of its success lies in the fact that Peterhead is a facility that is dedicated to holding sex offenders. That means that they feel safe from the threats to them and their families from mainstream prisoners. The people of Peterhead also support the prison being there. It would help to allay fears at Peterhead if the minister could guarantee that the Peterhead prisoners would continue to be held in a dedicated prison. The prisoners need to feel safe if they are to undergo programmes of rehabilitation and if those programmes are to continue to be effective. There is no evidence that the location of Peterhead causes any problems, apart from the fact that the building is on its last legs.

The other aspect of the Peterhead issue is the fact that a proportion of the officers may not want to move south if the programme is shifted to the central belt. That has implications for the continuity of the STOP programme, and the loss of 250 jobs at Peterhead will have an economic impact on the north-east. I ask the minister to give close consideration to retaining the delivery of STOP 2000 in the north-east and to cost out the provision there of a new, publicly run, dedicated prison for sex offenders. There is space at Peterhead for a new building.

Finally, I draw the minister's attention to the plight of the prisons that serve local courts, which have severe overcrowding problems. Inverness prison is overcrowded by 25 per cent and Aberdeen prison is overcrowded by 36 per cent. The problems in the north, the north-east and the south-west will not be solved by the building of new prisons in the central belt. How does the minister propose to deal with overcrowding in local prisons such as Inverness, which have no room for expansion? The projected increase in prisoner numbers will be felt in the Highlands and Islands, the north-east and the south-west, and I ask the minister not to forget those areas in consideration of the bigger picture.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

We move to the open debate. I call Stewart Stevenson, to be followed by Pauline McNeill.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 10:34 am, 18th April 2002

I thank the many members throughout the Parliament who have approached me to express their support for Peterhead. I also thank Maureen Macmillan for her helpful remarks. My first point relates to what the minister said and what Maureen Macmillan spoke about. I suspect that I am one of only a few people to have read the Kilmarnock contract. I have here paragraph 6 of schedule D of the contract, which relates to the way in which Kilmarnock prison must deal with prisoners. There is absolutely nothing in the contract about the prevention of reoffending.

The situation at Peterhead is the main issue that I shall address. The prison was built in 1888 at a cost of £57,400, on land costing £5,000. It has been a centre of innovation for many years. In 1923, the major innovation was the production of mattresses for the prisoners for the first time. However, the prison's recent history has been more substantial. The case for knocking down Peterhead prison has been made. The first argument is that the building is clapped out. It is true that the building needs to be replaced, but members of the Justice 1 Committee—including me—who visited the prison recently know that it will do for a few years more. It is unsatisfactory in modern terms, but prisoners there put toilets seventh on their list of priorities. Nonetheless, we must do something about the sanitation.

The second argument relates to remoteness. The minister will be aware that, although 85 per cent of the prisoners come from outside the Peterhead area, this week two thirds of them have petitioned to keep the prison open. Neither the prisoners nor the staff are a source of pressure regarding the prison's remoteness. It has been suggested that the pressures of delivering sex offenders programmes are considerable and that staff need to rotate to other prisons. However, the absence rate at Peterhead is the best—that is, the lowest—in the entire service, and the absence rate is one of the key indicators of stress.

The third argument relates to finance. However, the cost per prisoner at Peterhead is only 11.7 per cent more than the cost per prisoner at Kilmarnock, according to Clive Fairweather's report on Kilmarnock, which was launched this week. That is despite the fact that Peterhead is a specialist prison with inefficient, old premises.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I would like to, but I do not have time.

I am slightly baffled by the exclusion from the discussion of Parc prison, in Wales, which I visited a week ago, where the cost per prisoner is substantially greater. Parc prison opened in November 1997 and is delivering at £31,000 per prisoner. That is at odds with the statement that private prisons need time to settle down.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The member is in his last minute. The Presiding Officer has said that we are tight for time, and I cannot allow a member to speak for more than four minutes.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I respond to the minister's plea for an alternative model by informing him that a private sector person is even now considering a building at Peterhead and drawing up plans and costings. They are also prepared to lease the building for public service operation, should the minister come through on that.

Do we trust accountants? The Kilmarnock prison service's accounts claim that Kilmarnock prison was sold to the Home Office in 1999. Apparently that was an error, but it did not stop Deloitte & Touche managing to sign off the accounts. We should not always listen to what big, international accountants say.

I close with a comment about the staff at Peterhead. When the Justice 1 Committee visited Peterhead, it spent 45 minutes with the staff. All members should take account of one significant fact: in those 45 minutes, not a single word came from the staff about the adverse effects of closure on their personal circumstances. What we heard was about public safety and their dedication to the public service ideal. Good leadership, committed staff and the public service ideal are what we need in the prison service.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour 10:38 am, 18th April 2002

I acknowledge the hard work of my colleagues on the former Justice and Home Affairs Committee and the work that has been done subsequently by the Justice 1 Committee and the Justice 2 Committee to highlight the need for prison reform and the inhumane conditions in which some prisoners are kept. I also acknowledge the progressive work of the justice department in considering alternatives to custody, women's disposals and other measures that will make the prison service better. However, I am disappointed that the debate on the future of the prison service has shifted to a discussion of the buildings and is not integrated with a proper policy discussion. As the minister said, this is a consultation process, and I want to use my time to convince the minister that he should be more challenging about the report that is before us. I urge Scottish ministers—even at this late stage—to let us have a debate in Parliament on prison policy, not just one on prison buildings.

When the Minister for Justice made his statement to Parliament last month, he said more than once that he was astonished by the figures that PricewaterhouseCoopers presented. However, Parliament has not heard why those figures stand out and what key factors will allow the private sector to deliver a cheaper option. I studied the reports and noted the assumptions that PricewaterhouseCoopers made.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

I cannot, as I have too much to say.

I noted PricewaterhouseCoopers' assumptions that the Scottish Prison Service has lost some of its expertise in designing prisons, that using the public sector would mean lengthy delays, and that the risks that are normally transferred to the private sector, as in the case of PPP hospitals and schools, will not happen in the case of prisons. I cannot see the basis on which PricewaterhouseCoopers made the latter assumption; it is not evidence based. I ask the minister to challenge PricewaterhouseCoopers' assumptions.

I am categorically not prepared to accept the assertion that prisons are necessarily different just because PricewaterhouseCoopers says that they are. There is no serious analysis of a privately built, publicly run option. I urge the minister to look seriously at that issue. The report heads at 90mph towards privatisation, which tells us that it did not seriously consider alternatives.

I want to deal with the so-called £700 million savings. Even if Parliament accepted that as an accurate figure, it arose from comparing the public and private sectors over a 25-year period, I believe that a substantial element of those savings is based on staffing. I acknowledge that, for known reasons, there would be a reduction in staffing levels if we had a modern prison. For example, a prison is easier to supervise if there is a reduction in slopping out. However, I believe that the report's savings are made on the back of reductions in rates of staff pay and pensions.

The most critical aspect of the proposals is that they would produce a two-tier work force, because the private sector will not pay the same rates of pay as the public sector. In the report, PricewaterhouseCoopers states, as it always does, that market conditions will govern pay. That is true of pensions, as the minister outlined this morning. However, I have experience as a trade union official of dealing with two-tier work forces. They have a profound effect on the ability to deliver a service. Industrial relations are more tense because whatever union or professional organisation there is, the work force with the poorer conditions will always argue for parity for doing the same job.

There is a sense of unfairness in a two-tier situation because the work forces are working in the same service, but have different pensions and conditions. The whole prison service will be dominated by that unfairness. Why are those factors not costed into the private sector's ability to deliver? In five or 10 years' time, it is inevitable that irrespective of what trade union or professional organisation there is and how effective they are, they will be successful in getting higher pay, because they will want parity. That assumption should be built into the private sector's costs.

Many back benchers, like me, are willing to discuss alternatives. We are not closing our minds to value for money and the need for a modernisation of the prison estate. However, we want real, credible figures in which we can believe.

I want to say something about Kilmarnock prison in the five seconds that I am sure you will let me have, Presiding Officer. Kilmarnock prison is run with expertise that derives from the Scottish Prison Service. If that expertise were removed, a private prison would not be able to deliver Kilmarnock's level of performance. I ask the minister to accept that that is an important factor in the good and the bad reports that there have been on Kilmarnock.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative 10:43 am, 18th April 2002

I congratulate the ministers and the Executive. It takes great courage to acknowledge that they were wrong. When Kilmarnock prison was suggested as a private establishment, many of those who are now in the Executive stood against that proposal. However, an example of someone who stood for Kilmarnock was Willie McKelvey, who was MP for Kilmarnock. Willie was not known for his right-wing views, but he recognised the practicalities of Kilmarnock prison and the benefits that it could bring to his constituents. I believe that Willie was right. It is sad that he did not manage to convince his colleague John McAllion, who is sitting at the back of the chamber. I know that Willie and John were close.

I am disappointed that there has been much bad mouthing today about Kilmarnock prison. There is much that is good, although there are exceptions, in the reports on Kilmarnock by the inspectorate of prisons for Scotland.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I will come to Mr Stevenson in a second.

There are positive things to be said about Kilmarnock. There are good conditions there. There have been staffing problems, but that position will change over time. Members must take on board how long it took to build Kilmarnock prison and commission it. I contrast that example, as did the minister, with the example of Shotts prison. I also contrast the situation within Kilmarnock with the situation within Shotts prison, where there was recently a major disturbance. Members on the Lib-Lab benches lodged no motions on the Shotts situation. However, I am sure that if a similar situation had arisen in Kilmarnock prison, there would have been a mass uprising of Lib-Lab members, who would have been pushing to lodge motions.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I will take only one quick intervention, from Alex Neil. [Interruption.]

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

I should point out that I am not yet a minister.

Does Mr Gallie think that it is right that in Kilmarnock one officer looks after up to 60 prisoners at a time? Is that not where the savings lie?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I do not believe that what Mr Neil says is the case. There is always more than one officer in control of the wings. There is a minimum of two officers and others can come in. Mr Neil's point, therefore, is wrong.

Prison officers asked me why Scottish prisons could not be built by the public sector. In response, I refer to the example of the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood, the cost of which has risen from £40 million to £300 million. That is a good reason why we should have private sector involvement in the future.

I come to the issue of Peterhead. I compliment Stewart Stevenson on his reasonable arguments on behalf of his constituents. It was a good presentation. I do not go along with all that he said, particularly with respect to Kilmarnock. However, he made good points about Peterhead. The location of that prison is important. It is also important that its officers have expertise, that sex offenders are imprisoned there, and that that is accepted by the local community. Stewart Stevenson and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton made many practical comments about visits. I suggest to the minister that we could have a public build at Peterhead and use the current expertise of Peterhead's officers to develop such a new prison. However, Peterhead's buildings are old and must be replaced quickly.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 10:48 am, 18th April 2002

Whenever I see an alleged bargain of the type that we are offered in the estates review, I think of the lines in Virgil's "Aeneid":

"Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes."

That translates as, "Always fear the Greeks, even when they are bringing gifts." In this case, we have apparently got a whopping bargain. We are getting prisons at a fraction of public sector costs. In addition, there is a bargain hidden within that bargain cost, because it will pay the profit of the private operator, the accountants, the builders, and the architects, and will cover all the risks that are alleged to be transferred from the public sector to the private sector. Beyond that, there is the cost of capital, because Government and private operators must borrow the capital to build the new prisons. However, Government would borrow at a much lower cost than a private operator would.

We are asked to believe that the significantly reduced cost in the private sector includes the higher borrowing costs of the private sector as well as all the other costs and profits. That is where the Greeks—PricewaterhouseCoopers—come in. The report refers to that firm as "independent accountants". PricewaterhouseCoopers is the firm that was a joint sponsor of the October 2001 Dublin conference that was the second annual PPP-PFI global summit. At the minimum, that fact would lead us to question that firm's objectivity on private sector prisons. PricewaterhouseCoopers comes up with an overwhelmingly and surprisingly clear judgment, if one believes what it says. That is where the doubts come in.

Other people have referred to the English report, in which the differentiation between the private and public sector was only 14 per cent. The United States of America, to which Roseanna Cunningham referred briefly, has probably the largest prison population in the world and imprisons a higher proportion of its citizens than most countries—it is pretty experienced in the area of banging people up for considerable periods of time. The United States General Accounting Office's report to the House of Representatives' Committee on the Judiciary's subcommittee on crime compares the costs of private—

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

That report is six years old. A number of people have challenged its content. Furthermore, it uses accounting practices such as those that allowed the Enron debacle—which would not have happened in this country—to happen.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

If the only reason why the private sector option is cheaper were our accounting practices, I would be seriously worried. That is one of the problems.

I admit that the report is six years old but America was running prisons for a long time before 1996 and has a lot of data to draw on. The report says:

"we found the Tennessee study ... to have the most sound and detailed comparison of operational costs of private and public correctional facilities" and goes on to say that the analysis showed very little difference in average inmate costs per day between the private and public correctional facilities. Do we really believe that the situation would be a great deal different in Scotland?

The report also states:

"The best approach for evaluating operational costs is to study existing comparable facilities, not hypothetical facilities."

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report studies hypothetical facilities, not facts.

I am extremely unhappy about going down a route that is morally questionable, on the basis of an argument that many members from all sides of the chamber do not find convincing.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 10:52 am, 18th April 2002

As an MSP with a prison in her constituency, I have a strong interest in the SPS proposals to modernise our prison service. It is important that MSPs and the public, including prison officers, are able to contribute to the debate surrounding the modernisation of the prison service in Scotland. I am convinced of the need for that modernisation. It cannot be acceptable in the 21 st century for prisoners to be faced with the indignity of slopping out and with living in cramped and, in some cases, unsafe accommodation. However, I am yet to be convinced about using the private sector to run our prisons. There is a need to examine further the impact that the current preferred option will have on the quality of our prison service. Prison officers must be fully involved in that examination.

On service quality, I am not convinced that the SPS is comparing like with like when it concludes that the privately built, privately run option offers substantially better value than do the other two options. Cheapest is not always best—in fact, in my experience, it is rarely best. We have a duty to ensure that public money is used effectively and efficiently but we also have a duty to ensure that our prisons are secure and facilitate rehabilitation. I am sure that we all agree that society is best served by a prison service that delivers high rehabilitation rates and low levels of recidivism.

I am pleased that today's motion recognises the need for effective rehabilitation services, but it is important that the need for private prisons to generate profit and reduce costs does not lead to a reduction in staff numbers, a deterioration of their terms and conditions and a consequent lowering of staff morale. In that context, the high turnover of staff at Kilmarnock prison, where the rate is around three times higher than that of any other prison in Scotland, is of concern.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

The latest figures from Kilmarnock indicate a turnover of 13.8 per cent, which includes transfers between the unit at Kilmarnock and other Premier Prison Services establishments in England and Wales. The next highest turnover figure, which does not include transfers, is 12 per cent and is in one of the SPS units. That means that Kilmarnock's turnover rate is now lower than that of many of the Scottish institutions.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

That demonstrates why we have to have this review: we need to have a genuine discussion about the effects of the proposals.

It is important that we consider the issues. I ask the ministers to examine carefully the impact that building private prisons will have on staff and to consider whether that will have a detrimental effect on the level and quality of educational and rehabilitation services in our prisons. I am concerned that the cost savings could eventually be borne by society through increased crime. I urge the Executive to gauge the strengths of the various models not just in terms of their relative costs, but in terms of the impact that each model will have on staff and the standard of services.

Scottish prison officers provide a valuable and high-quality service to society. I point out to Phil Gallie that, if there was a riot at Kilmarnock—as, unfortunately, there was at Shotts—it would be officers from Shotts and other public prisons who would respond to the problem. Shotts does not now have the problems that it experienced when the Tories were in power because of the commitment, training and skills of its officers, who have addressed the issues that led to the problems of that time.

Any review of services must benefit from the knowledge and experience of prison officers. I trust that the SPS will ensure that prison officers are encouraged to contribute to the debate and are supported in doing so.

We all accept the need for reform of the prison service. Outdated prisons must be tackled and outdated practices such as slopping out must end. We must ensure that our prisons provide security for the public, safety for prison officers and for prisoners and the opportunity for genuine and meaningful rehabilitation. That will not be an easy task and we will have to address the issue of cost. However, we owe it to the people of Scotland to examine the proposals carefully, to weigh up the pros and cons of each option thoroughly and to deliver a prison service that is fit for the 21st century.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Members must learn how to abbreviate their speeches when they misjudge the amount of content that they have.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 10:57 am, 18th April 2002

First, I must say that I found Roseanna Cunningham's refusal to take interventions from mere back benchers to be discourteous, to say the least. I hope that she will reflect on that when she makes further speeches in the chamber.

So far, the debate has focused on the SPS's clear suggestion, supported by PricewaterhouseCoopers, that savings of £700 million can be made over 25 years by building and operating three new prisons in the private sector.

The consultation paper that the Scottish Executive has produced stresses that no decisions have yet been made on the options and that none will be made before the consultation closes on 12 June. There has been a great deal of argument about the figures—and a great deal of misinformation peddled by SNP—so I want to move away from the economic arguments and focus on what I see as the clear moral arguments involved in what we are about to be asked to approve.

It is clear that we need to replace the 1,900 prisoner places in Scotland that, during lock-up periods, have no access to toilet facilities other than buckets that have to be slopped out. Much of the prison estate is outdated. We must move away from the era of overcrowded Victorian prisons and provide more flexible, safe and modern accommodation that is fit for the 21st century.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Mike Rumbles has picked the strangest of issues on which to display loyalty to his party leadership. I draw to his attention the fact that there are currently nine prisoners in Peterhead from Aberdeenshire and that the chances are that, on release, they will return to their communities, which are perhaps in his constituency. Would not Mr Rumbles like to be assured that they have had the best possible opportunity for rehabilitation? As Professor Marshall and many other commentators on sex offences say, that means keeping Peterhead open.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I am not prepared to wait 12 years for new prison facilities to be built. There is a huge moral obligation on the state to ensure that, when we take people's liberty away, we incarcerate them in decent conditions that are fit for purpose. Whatever system we use to build the prisons—be it private, public or a mix of the two—there is no question but that we must build them.

I congratulate the Executive on beginning the consultation, which is the start of an essential modernisation programme. We must ensure that, whichever option is chosen, the state cannot simply abrogate its responsibilities for looking after the welfare and—I emphasise this for Richard Lochhead—rehabilitation of those whose liberty we have removed. I was pleased to hear the Deputy First Minister state clearly this morning:

"What we cannot and will not delegate is the state's responsibility for those prisoners."

If the private option is eventually chosen, we must ensure that the SPS retains sufficient controls to ensure that the safety and well-being of prisoners in our prisons is maintained. Having a team of SPS personnel in each private establishment—as in Kilmarnock, where their role is to monitor daily operations and to maintain the highest possible standards—is essential. I was glad to hear the Deputy First Minister reinforce that point. It is not well understood, especially by SNP members.

I congratulate the Liberal Democrat and Labour ministers in the Executive on pressing ahead with the much-needed modernisation proposals for our prison estate. No other Government in recent history has been prepared to tackle major reform of our prison estate, not having seen any particular advantage in spending scarce resources on our prisons. There is no doubt in my mind that the approach is the right thing to do. I welcome the consultation process, which will enable us to get on with much-needed reform, and to do so quickly.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 11:01 am, 18th April 2002

Unlike Mike Rumbles, I do not believe that it is the right thing to do at all. The Minister for Justice, who is a good Liberal, said this morning that those who oppose the review might do so on ideological grounds. I would have preferred if he had used the term "ethical or moral grounds". The minister indicated that some people believe that it is wrong to entrust the care of prisoners to the private sector. I believe that. It is significant that all the speeches from Labour members this morning have made it clear that they believe that too.

Roseanna Cunningham quoted Jack Straw, who, before coming to office, said that privatisation of prisons was "morally unacceptable". He went on to say:

"this is one area where a free market does not exist", but it exists now in the policies that are suggested in the estates review.

I agreed with Jim Wallace when he introduced his party's 1997 manifesto and said:

"We shall cut prison numbers."

What is he presiding over as the Minister for Justice? He is presiding over potentially the largest quantum jump in Scottish prisoner numbers in Scottish history and has put in place a policy that could incarcerate more people in private prisons than are incarcerated anywhere in the western world.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Does the SNP believe that we need more prisons—yes or no? How long is the SNP prepared to wait for them? Is it prepared to wait 13 years?

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The debate goes much further than simply the prison estate. It is fundamentally about the type of society we want to build in Scotland. Do we want Scotland to be Americanised? Do we want privatisation and profit? Do we want to follow the lead of a country where, at the latest meet-and-greet meeting of correctional companies in Washington, prisoners were referred to as "the product" and where the flyer put out before the meeting said:

"Business is booming ... Get in Now"?

I do not want to live in that sort of society.

To answer Mr Rumbles's point, we should consider European alternatives. I will address that briefly. I speak in the debate because I come from the part of Scotland with the largest concentration of prison officers anywhere in the country—it has Polmont, Cornton Vale, Glenochil and Perth. I grew up in Tullibody, where Glenochil is based. I have been going there for years, and I find in Glenochil a highly professional, highly qualified staff. I do not find that at Kilmarnock. The review is not about value for money; it is about saving money. Therefore, we need an alternative strategy in the broad European pattern.

I cannot understand why we in Scotland are banging up 120 people per 100,000, when the figure is 62 people per 100,000 in Denmark, 52 people per 100,000 in Finland and 90 people per 100,000 in the Netherlands. Is the Government really saying that to walk the streets of Edinburgh or Glasgow is safer than to walk those of Oslo or Copenhagen? I cannot believe that. We must, to take Pauline McNeill's point, consider the European model of criminal justice policy. That is where the debate should happen.

Denmark is building state prisons. Right-wing Governments in Holland have retained custodial sentences in the power of the state. The same is true of a right-wing regime in France, which, when building 35 new prisons, said that it is

"inconceivable that the state should surrender control over custodial management and policy".

I return to what Jack Straw said: private prisons are morally unacceptable to me. I return to the alternative. We are told, "That is the way it is," but we should be here to think about the way it should be. I do not want the Americanisation of our society. The estates review does nothing more than prove a commercial case. If more privatisation is the answer, the minister must have asked a very odd question.

Photo of Margaret Jamieson Margaret Jamieson Labour 11:06 am, 18th April 2002

I am grateful to have been called to speak in the debate, as the first and—on the basis of the number questions that have been asked about it in Parliament—arguably the most controversial private prison is in my constituency at Bowhouse, near Hurlford.

Many have used the development at Hurlford for their own political ends. Many have opposed the development in principle and others have argued for full contracting-out of the SPS. Phil Gallie mentioned that this morning. As the constituency member, I have sought to take a pragmatic approach to the matter while considering fully the implications of all the issues with which I have been faced in relation to HMP Kilmarnock.

I, like Willie McKelvey, welcomed the proposal to build a prison near Kilmarnock. It provides a facility for the south-west of Scotland, which keeps prisoners closer to their communities and makes visiting by families much easier, both of which contribute to a safe and secure prison environment, while making the transition back into society smoother for inmates and leading to a corresponding reduction in reoffending.

However, those factors are negated by the level of training that is provided to the staff at all levels. People in the job deal with some of the most damaged individuals in our society. Interacting with them in their everyday lives and through medical and social work requires special skills and specialised training. That is most obvious in the treatment of drug addiction. HMP Kilmarnock has not successfully refuted consistent claims of drug availability. I have also received letters expressing serious concerns about the quality of medical support and about the lack of training in specific techniques, such as resuscitation.

The situation has impacted on staff turnover, which in turn makes working conditions and the care of offenders much more difficult. Let me make it clear that I am not, unlike some members, criticising the employees at HMP Kilmarnock, many of whom are enormously committed and caring towards the prisoners who are in their care. However, I am concerned that they are not being given the tools with which to provide a caring and effective service, despite the direction of Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons. That makes the prison experience less effective and, in some cases, downright dangerous for offenders who are sent to HMP Kilmarnock.

I place my view on private prisons on the record: I do not have a hang-up about who owns the building, but I am deeply concerned that staff in prisons such as Kilmarnock are outwith the public sector, without the protections and standards that the public sector requires. I ask the minister to take the opportunity that the review provides to consider how such a service can be provided with staff remaining under the public sector umbrella. In particular, he should take the opportunity to consider an extension to HMP Kilmarnock, which would provide him with an opportunity to review the contract in totality and to seek a way of bringing those staff who are outside the public sector, but who provide a public service that is paid for wholly by the public through their taxes, into public sector employment.

That would answer my concerns and those of my constituents about the future of prison policy in Scotland and it would ensure a consistent, effective standard of care throughout the sector.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative 11:10 am, 18th April 2002

I speak unashamedly as a representative of the north-east, and I wish to focus on the issues surrounding Peterhead prison. The prison is a centre of excellence. It is a unique establishment, which is recognised worldwide.

It seems that, in the context of the estates review, we are going to dissipate something that is good. Why break up a successful team? Due to the threats of closure, there are already problems securing a sufficient level of recruitment to maintain the existing team complement and there is a lack of morale and confidence. The Minister for Justice must take some responsibility for that.

The view of the vast majority of prisoners is that there should continue to be a centre of excellence at the location. There are established visiting facilities and what the Association of Visiting Committees for Scottish Penal Establishments said is absolutely factual. My colleague, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton referred to that. I hope that the minister will take on board the association's comments. Most important, the community at Peterhead is prepared to receive a prison in its midst and to consider it as an opportunity to bring benefit to the community at large.

I thought that the Government might take an holistic approach, which took into account the fact that, although a balance sheet might get rectified here, a cost will be incurred elsewhere. We need to consider the estates review holistically, across the whole of the Scottish Prison Service. I accept that the minister has said that he will consider it in that way.

The Peterhead economy has taken many hits over the past few years. We have lost work in textiles, in engineering and at Crosse and Blackwell, and we have had problems in fish processing. Now there have been three Government-sponsored hits on the local economy. First, there was the run-down of RAF Buchan, which has taken £10 million out of the economy. Secondly, there was fishing decommissioning. There is money for decommissioning, which is fine, but there is nothing for retraining crews, nor for the onshore jobs that will be lost. Now we are threatened with the third hit: the closure of Peterhead prison.

It is the Government's duty to recognise the outcome of its actions—the impact on prison services and the socioeconomic impact on the town of Peterhead. About 250 officers and almost the same number of families will be moved. Children will be taken out of school. School rolls in the area have already been damaged by Government action at RAF Buchan. Will a huge cost be imposed on the local authority through moves to amalgamate schools? There are knock-on effects on other parts the Government's budget. The closure of Peterhead prison would mean a surge in the number of empty properties, which would further damage a housing market that has already been rocked, and there would be damage to existing businesses in the town.

I have already discussed team morale. A new prison in Peterhead, on the existing site or on the adjacent ground, which is available, to house 500 sex offenders, would not only build on the current centre of excellence; it would remove the costly need to provide mini-units in other prisons, the risks of which other members have mentioned. They may be mini-units, but they incur large costs.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

Does the member accept that the number of sex offenders in Scotland is currently 500?

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

I thank Lord James for that—it proves the point.

The minister must consider the matter holistically. He must consider the effects of Government action on prison morale and on prison staff. We need to make improvements to prisoner conditions—nobody is arguing about that—but the minister has not come up with a single reason why one of the proposed new prisons could not be located in Peterhead, which would keep that centre of excellence open, provide help to the local economy and improve conditions for the prisoners in one fell swoop.

It would be nice to think that, once in a while, those of us who live outside the central belt might see some Government investment, as has been promised by all three First Ministers. They promised to disperse jobs around Scotland and that the economy of all Scotland would be at the fore. I ask the Minister for Justice, when he does his review, to reconsider what he said this morning.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party 11:14 am, 18th April 2002

I will concentrate my remarks on the experience at Kilmarnock prison but, as a Central Scotland member, I wish to associate myself with the campaign to save Peterhead prison. If Peterhead prison is closed, Jim Wallace will not be the Minister for Justice, but the minister for injustice. There is no case whatever for closing Peterhead prison.

The minister gave away much in his speech. The real question about the PricewaterhouseCoopers report—and all the kidology around it and the subsequent estates review—is, as Alasdair Morgan suggested: how can we be living in a fairytale land where we can save £700 million over the next 25 years?

Two points about the PwC report are striking. First, PwC is to the Scottish Prison Service what Arthur Andersen is to Enron. PwC took the figures that it was given, with no audit and no independent assessment of those figures. The whole thing is fairytale nonsense. Secondly, PwC's recommendations are without foundation. When it compared the public costs with the private costs, it did not consider the experience of Kilmarnock prison. Its auditors created out of thin air a virtual prison in the clouds, which nobody has ever seen. If they were my auditors, I would sack them.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Alex Neil is in the clouds, but I will bring him back down to earth and his comments on Peterhead prison. Does he accept that the building is now totally unsuitable and out of its time? How would he provide a new prison there?

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Phil Gallie should look at yesterday's budget statement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a budget surplus next year of £7 billion and, I think, £9 billion the year after that. Our national debt is now the lowest in Europe. Speaking as an economist rather than as a politician, the idea that the public sector cannot afford to invest in the prison service is absurd. The money exists and public safety, as has rightly been said, should be the number one concern of every Government. If the money is available, the Government should invest it in public safety.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I will ask Alex the same question that I asked George Reid, who would not answer it. How long is the SNP prepared to wait until the public sector provides all the prisons? Will it wait 12 years? That is the Scottish Prison Service's own figure.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Phil, Phil. [MEMBERS: "Mike."] Sorry: Mike, Mike. Mike Rumbles has so many faces, it is difficult to remember which one he is wearing.

The idea that services can be obtained quicker, safer and cheaper by spending a fortune on the private sector is absurd. I have just mentioned the budget surplus—money exists in the budget that can be invested in the prison service. The idea that we need to rely on private profiteering is nonsense.

Let me tell members not about a virtual private prison, but about Kilmarnock, and about how the minister will make £700 million of savings. The minister went on about prison workers' pensions being funded at a cost of 16 per cent to the SPS. He did not mention the fact that he gets 16 per cent—why should not he be privatised and sacked for the same reason? He did not say that Kilmarnock prison has the lowest-paid prison warders in Scotland and the best-paid prisoners. The chief inspector of prisons, in evidence to the Justice 1 Committee, pointed out that prisoners there are so well paid that they use the money to buy drugs in the prison. The minister did not tell us about the suicide level at Kilmarnock, either.

A month ago, I was in a Kilmarnock prison metalwork shop, in which there were 27 prisoners, some of whom were in prison for murder and attempted murder. There was only one warder in the workshop, and a camera that could not see into 20 per cent of the workshop.

A week later one prisoner coshed another nearly to death. That is the price of privatisation. It is quite obvious from the four back-bench new Labour speeches that we have heard that Jack McConnell has led Jim Wallace up the garden path. There is nae chance of privatisation going further.

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour 11:20 am, 18th April 2002

This is the fifth new Labour speech.

As the member for the constituency that includes Barlinnie prison, I welcome the estates review. However, I am concerned that the review has focused so much on bricks and mortar. For that reason, it can be seen as a missed opportunity. The prison estates review was very different from the other Scottish Executive reviews that have taken place, such as the health board acute services review. With respect to that review, I am accused of being a dinosaur because I talk about bricks and mortar and do not relate that to the management of services. What makes the Scottish Prison Service different from acute services in health? Surely a review of estates management is needed, as well as an estates review. A review of the Scottish Prison Service might also be useful. We need to identify the most effective way of rehabilitating prisoners.

I am sure that the Prison Officers Association Scotland will not be pleased to hear this, but I want to see mass redundancies throughout the Scottish Prison Service. I want to rehabilitate prisoners so that they do not regularly revisit Barlinnie and the many other prisons throughout Scotland. That is an important issue that has not been addressed in the estates review, but which should be addressed as part of an overall review.

There should be a genuine consultation period. We should not take a fixed view on how we should approach the issue—I would not rule anything in or out. That is another important part of the process. I have criticised many authorities for not getting involved in a genuine consultation process. This may not be a populist view, but I believe that the Justice 1 Committee, along with the Scottish Executive, has a duty to explore every possibility in the prison system, to ensure that we eradicate many of the difficulties that we currently face throughout the prison system.

I am not convinced by the private option for operating prisons. Like Margaret Jamieson, I want to see more evidence that says that we cannot use the option of private build and public operation of prisons. The report states that there are no examples in the United Kingdom or internationally of such a system. However, the Parliament was developed to provide Scottish solutions to Scottish problems. We in Scotland have a great history of being pioneers of new systems. Why should not we consider developing a system in Scotland for private build and public operation of prisons, and making that system renowned throughout the world? The prison estates review was a missed opportunity for considering all the options and making use of the skills that exist in Scotland.

We should allow the Justice 1 Committee and the Scottish Executive to consult thoroughly throughout the process. We should not rule anything in or out. We should all reflect on the many points of view that are expressed during the consultation period.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 11:24 am, 18th April 2002

I was very impressed by my visit to Peterhead prison; it would take a lot to persuade me that that prison should be closed. The staff at Peterhead are a very fine team, and Scotland is not so rich in fine teams that it can afford to disband one.

The Executive deserves great credit for examining the issue at such length. Like other members, members of the Executive have a gut feeling against private prisons. However, the Executive has been persuaded by the figures that it could save a lot of money by taking the private route—money that could then be spent on hospitals, the health service, transport and so on.

There is a range of opinions in the chamber. Some members, such as George Reid—who made an excellent speech—are totally against private prisons, come what may. I presume that they would be prepared to pay the price for that in not having the schools, hospitals and so on that they might otherwise have. Other members start from the premise that they are against privatisation, but would accept it—perhaps reluctantly—if the gains were so great as to allow important investment in other services.

The Parliament must analyse the figures. To be honest, most of us do not believe the report that the Government has received. The minister says that he does not believe the academic report that criticised the report of the estates review. Through the Justice 1 Committee and other mechanisms, we must try to analyse the thinking behind the figures. I have no doubt that PricewaterhouseCoopers can add up properly, but was it told the right things?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I am not so sure that PricewaterhouseCoopers can add up properly.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

Perhaps it cannot, but that is not my position. My position is that PricewaterhouseCoopers might have been fed duff information. I cannot understand the great rise in the prison population that it predicted. We need to be brutal and determined in pushing alternatives to custody—I know that Jim Wallace and Richard Simpson are committed to such alternatives. However, we must be ruthless about investing enough resources and stopping the bureaucratic or legal piddling around—if that is a parliamentary expression—that stands in the way of what we all want: alternatives to custody.

It is no secret that some leading lights in the management of prisons and in the Prison Officers Association Scotland are like the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships. They must be sorted out, so that we can provide efficiently and humanely run public prisons.

We must explore the figures that we have been given, because the assumptions on which the report is based might be seriously flawed. We must end up with a proper investigation in which people can believe. If that is done through the Parliament, with good advisers and real analysis of the assumptions on which the report is based, we might come to a satisfactory conclusion and find a way through. I am sure that the ministers, like all other members, want a humane and efficient prison service that works well. Consultation is a valuable way of enabling us to achieve that.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 11:28 am, 18th April 2002

I asked to contribute to the debate as the convener of the Justice 1 Committee. As the committee is launching its response to the estates review, I did not think that it was appropriate for me to speak from a party-political point of view. I will therefore take this opportunity to tell members about the witnesses whom the committee will call. If, as Paul Martin said, this is to be an open consultation, members who do not sit on one of the justice committees should come to hear the evidence that is given by those parties. That will be more valuable than reading the report.

We will hear from governors of various prisons.

We will hear from governors of private prisons, including prisons outside Scotland. We will hear from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy; from Professor Cooper, with the alternative response; from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities; from the Association of Visiting Committees for Scottish Penal Establishments; from trade unions; and from Safeguarding Communities and Reducing Offending in Scotland. The committee will be given a presentation on the STOP programme, and will hear from academics, Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons, the chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service and the Minister for Justice. I do not know whether that is the complete list.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

Last year, every member of the Parliament received a copy of a report by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland. In that report, the moderator said that he had made a point of visiting every prison in Scotland. Will the Justice 1 Committee include him on its list of witnesses?

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I am content to discuss the committee's hearing from any other parties who are recommended by members or by people outside the Parliament. The committee wishes to examine the report thoroughly and with an open mind.

It is unfortunate that the time scale for the committee is very short—the estates review was published before we went into two weeks of recess—but we shall do our best.

I am setting aside the arguments that have been aired about whether it is morally or ethically wrong to privatise prisons. I ask members simply to read the documents that are available. I shall provide references that members can pick up on. The terms of reference of the SPS estates review are on page 1 of the review. Members should examine the terms of reference on page 31 of the PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Page 3 of the Executive's consultation document says:

"The Executive's proposals focus on three main challenges."

Members should read those challenges. They will find that rehabilitation appears not to be given the balance and proportionality within the investigation that we would wish it to have in the interests of Scotland.

What is a prison for? That is quite a simple question to which there are simple answers. Members will agree that prisons are basically for punishment, deprivation of liberty, protecting the public and property and providing security. Rehabilitation should happen in the interests of society and costs. Not least, there should be decent pay and working conditions for the staff who work in Scotland's prisons.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I have a very short time and I am making a point about what the Justice 1 Committee will consider. All members will agree that all that the committee does should be accountable to the Parliament and done in the spirit of openness in Scotland.

We have received evidence from the two main players that are set against each other to some extent—the models of Kilmarnock and Peterhead. The committee will consider the issues in that evidence. I ask members to give advance notice of their coming to the committee to hear evidence. If I have time and if members of the committee allow it, I will let other members put questions to the parties who will give evidence.

I do not want people to rely on soundbites or press releases. Members should hear evidence first hand, because this is a serious issue about the way in which Scotland looks after those who offend and the rest of society for the coming 10 years.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour 11:32 am, 18th April 2002

The minister called for a constructive debate, so I will begin on a constructive note. The modernisation of the prisons estate, the ending of slopping out, and the housing of prisoners in decent conditions with adequate rehabilitation programmes are principles that are widely shared in the Parliament and throughout the country. Indeed there will be universal agreement in the chamber about those principles, but I warn ministers that they should be very worried indeed when Phil Gallie begins a speech by congratulating it.

The minister must accept that there is no agreement in the Parliament with what he describes as his wide-ranging proposals to achieve the ends that I mentioned. There is opposition throughout the Parliament about the proposals for privatised prisons and I will explain some of the reasons for that.

The minister referred to projected prisoner numbers. Those might or might not be correct; I am not in a position to make a judgment about that. I hope that we all hope that they are incorrect and that in future in Scotland we will lock up fewer prisoners, because we will live in a less violent society. Surely we can all agree that the thrust of Government policy should be to try to achieve a less violent society in Scotland, which would be very much the European model to which George Reid referred in his excellent contribution to the debate.

If we all agree about that, does not the minister see the contradiction in handing out 25-year contracts to companies that have a vested interest in keeping the number of prisoners who are locked up in prisons high? That is how such companies will secure their profits over a 25-year contract. Privatisation of prisons goes against the thrust of the Government's policy of developing a society in Scotland in which fewer people are locked up. If the minister cannot see that contradiction, he should.

The minister also makes a great deal of the £700 million savings that he alleges will arise from privatisation of prisons. He argues that if we do not make those savings from privatisation, that £700 million will have to come out of the money for schools, hospitals and so on. That is a familiar argument of those who support privatisation, but we find that schools and hospitals are being privatised as well. The argument is, "heads we win; tails you lose" and it does not convince me for a moment.

The minister claims that the figure of £700 million of savings has not been successfully challenged. It was challenged in "Privatised Prisons and Detention Centres in Scotland: An Independent Report" by Phil Taylor and Christine Cooper. Whether the figure was successfully challenged in that report is a matter of judgment and opinion. In a debate of this kind, we cannot arrive at a reasonable and informed opinion about that, nor can we trust that the Government's consultation period will allow us to arrive at an informed and reasonable opinion, because the consultation will be held essentially within the Executive. It is not open, accountable or accessible in the way that is should be.

I suggest that the Justice 1 Committee be allowed to finish its investigation and to report to the Parliament so that we can debate the subject before we come to conclusions about our decisions on the consultation document.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

Thank you, John. It is the Justice 1 Committee's intention to report. The committee clerks are writing to the minister today to ask whether the Executive intends to have further debate on the matter. If it does not, the committee might initiate further debate.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour

That is very good news.

Does the Executive never ask itself from where the private companies will secure £700 million of savings? Private companies have unique pressures. First, they are trying to break into what is for them a new market. They therefore must deliver the service more cheaply than does the public sector. Where will they make the savings? They will make them in staffing levels and at the expense of wages and conditions for the workers in the prisons. They must also secure a return on profit for their shareholders. Where will they secure that profit? They will make it from staffing levels and at the expense of wages and conditions of the staff.

I know that the record of the private sector in prisons throughout the UK is that it does not recognise trade unions. It uses inexperienced staff, pays lower wages with inferior conditions and it wants regional pay bargaining in order to tear up national pay agreements. I cannot believe that the party of labour could ever go along with such a blatantly anti-union programme.

Members on the Labour back benches will certainly not go along with such a programme. The Executive had better take that into consideration.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP 11:36 am, 18th April 2002

That was a very encouraging and positive speech from John McAllion. I hope that the Executive will take note of the points that he and other new Labour back benchers made.

I refer to the 1987 report on the Bank of Commerce and Credit International. An audited report of BCCI in 1987 certified the company's accounts as true and fair. Four years later, it was closed down in the midst of what was described as the world's biggest fraud. BCCI's accountants, as members might know, was Pricewaterhouse. Some members might say that the company is not Pricewaterhouse any longer; it is PricewaterhouseCoopers. That is right, because Pricewaterhouse merged with Coopers Lybrand. Some members might be aware that 10 years ago Coopers Lybrand was fined £2 million for its role in the Maxwell pensions scandal.

We have a report from PwC that, in effect, tells the Executive what it wants to hear. Those two accountancy firms' answer to the question "What is two and two?" is, "What do you want it to be?" That is the reality as far as the accountants are concerned.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

Is the member saying that PricewaterhouseCoopers is lying in its report?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I am saying that I do not think that the PricewaterhouseCoopers report is worth toilet paper. We should reject its assumptions and conclusions, because the company has a vested interest in privatisation of the prison service and every other public service. That is the reality that we should consider. Perhaps the projections of higher prisoner numbers are made on the basis that eventually some of those accountancy firms will be caught not paying the proper taxes and some of the accountants in PricewaterhouseCoopers will end up in prison where they belong.

All the members from the Labour back benches have concluded that the savings in the private sector from the provision of a prison service will be made from labour costs and conditions. Members say that proper rehabilitation and a humane prison service are expensive—of course they are. We should set the highest possible standards not just in the treatment of prisoners, but in conditions for prison staff.

A very long line of accountants lined up 10 years ago to tell us that we would get best value by getting rid of the public cleaning and catering services within our hospitals. They all lined up to say, "Best value? Get the private sector in." Ten years on, we realise the folly of that, given falling morale and falling standards of cleanliness and catering in our hospitals. Let us not make the same mistake in going down the privatisation road again.

Unlike other members, I have experienced incarceration in a few prisons. [Laughter.] Perhaps some members will have that experience in future. I have experience of at least three prisons and from the point of view of the professionalism of the prison officers, I can say hand on heart that prison officers are extremely motivated and interested in rehabilitation. Unfortunately, rehabilitation never worked with me, although I managed to convince a few prison officers and I am sure that they will join the anti-Trident protest soon. However, morale among prison officers is beginning to head in the same direction as morale among hospital staff, because they are completely undervalued and in a totally insecure position.

Let us not throw out the valuable experience of men and women who are deeply dedicated to their jobs and who have the professionalism that modern Scotland requires to rehabilitate people. Let us reject privatisation of the prison service. I repeat the excellent point that George Reid made: privatisation should be rejected on ethical and moral grounds. The prison service should not be in the private sector—it should remain in the public sector.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 11:41 am, 18th April 2002

The outcome of the debate, in a couple of months' time, will be a defining moment for the Parliament. It will influence the way in which we will do business in the coming years and the way in which future Governments and Parliaments will fulfil their obligation to serve the people of Scotland. The question that we are addressing is whether we should go down the public route or the private route.

Like the majority of speakers in the debate, I wholly oppose the privatisation of Scotland's public services, including the prison service. Privatisation is the wrong road for us to go down. People who are in favour of PFI give a couple of reasons why we should go down that road. The first is mobile capital—one can put more capital into public services and therefore deliver services more quickly. However, if we go down the PFI road, we will commit future generations and future Scottish Governments and Parliaments to the large expense of paying off PFI projects and curtail how those Governments and Parliaments serve the people of Scotland—we would be mortgaging our future.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

No. I will take an original intervention from any other member, but I will not take an intervention from Mike Rumbles.

The second reason given by those who favour PFI is that it is cheaper. Is PFI really a cheaper option for the Scottish public purse? I do not think so. Recent history is littered with examples of PFI projects, such as the channel tunnel and the Skye bridge, that were several times more expensive to the public purse than was originally intended. PFI becomes the cheaper option because staff are paid less and have poorer working conditions. The costs are transferred from the private sector back into the public sector, because the Exchequer ends up picking up the costs of paying low wages. Chancellor Brown's budget yesterday contained a range of welfare initiatives. If we pay prison officers a lower wage in future, they will end up receiving more tax and child care credits. At the end of the day, we will subsidise shareholders' private profits, because we will pick up those costs. In the long run, we will not save any money.

It is no wonder that, in the mid-1990s, Alistair Morton of the Government's private finance panel said that PFI is

"the Heineken of privatisation—taking the private sector to the parts of the government machine not reached by previous privatisations."

It is no wonder that the private sector embraces PFI and the Government's plans to privatise our prison service, or that all the academics and commentators are lining up to condemn the plans that the Liberal minister, Jim Wallace, has produced.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Does the member agree that it would be sensible for the Justice 1 Committee or the Minister for Justice to ask the Auditor General to make an independent assessment of the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, in order to find out whether that report is based on fact or fiction?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I certainly agree that we need an independent assessment, as we have not yet had one.

PFI simply transfers public capital into private cash. It is not even as if private shareholders in Scotland will benefit, as the multinationals will end up owning the Scottish Prison Service. We will put public cash from Scotland into the pockets of overseas private shareholders.

Peterhead is the ideal case for leaving a prison to get on with its good work. I went to the prison with members of the Justice 1 Committee. The only negative aspect of our visit was that not all 129 MSPs were present—had they been there, we would not be having this debate today as the plans that we are debating would have been thrown out. Every member of staff was signed up to a whole-prison culture that cannot be replicated elsewhere. People at the prison are absolutely stunned that their good work will be wrecked if Jim Wallace has his way. I urge every MSP to tour Peterhead prison when the Parliament is Aberdeen, so that they can see what is happening there. If MSPs who support Jim Wallace's plans make such a visit, they will change their minds.

It is imperative that we reject PFI. If not, we will be casting a vote of no confidence in Scotland's public sector and in the many people who took up a public profession in order to serve their communities and their country. We should also reject any plan to close Peterhead prison because to do so would be to commit an act of social vandalism that every member of the Parliament would come to regret.

Photo of Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Fitzpatrick Labour 11:46 am, 18th April 2002

The Deputy First Minister is aware of my constituents' concerns about the future of the Low Moss site in Bishopbriggs. I am pleased to promise ministers that I will be on the case, during and after the consultation, just as I was before it.

Like most of my colleagues who have spoken in the debate, I recognise the history that underlies the estates review. Despite Lord James's protestations, the state of Low Moss, which is in my constituency, is the product of decades of extremely limited investment, in capital and in other resource terms.

The minister will be aware that my constituents have always been assured that Low Moss is a temporary facility. Times may move on, but I assure him that there is considerable opposition to his proposals for a larger facility with a larger population that may include prisoners in the higher categories. I would be grateful if the minister were able to say something about the status of the report, "Constructing the Future", which was prepared by Mr Murch in April 2000 and which made proposals for the site. What financial assessment of those proposals was made, by whom and when? I also want much clearer information from ministers on the protections and assurances that will be made available to prison staff who might require to transfer from the site should the minister's proposals proceed.

The likely fairness, openness or transparency of the consultation does not impress me. I say that not least in light of the terms of the gagging e-mail that was issued by Mr Cameron of the prison service on 21 March 2002, about which I wrote to ministers on 8 April 2002. It is unacceptable to me, as an elected representative, that key stakeholders in the consultation should be gagged. The stupidity of that gagging is underlined by the fact that I, and others, have a copy of that e-mail, which was sent to me anonymously. That is not the kind of consultation that we want. Let the key stakeholders in the consultation say in public who they are, what their position is and what the consequences are of that position, including costs.

The minister will also be aware of my concern about the approach that local prison management has adopted towards me. When I met recently with constituents who are officers at Low Moss, I was disturbed to discover that the local prison management had instructed that I should not be shown round the site. I am one of few members who can say without embarrassment that they are not unfamiliar with that site—I was previously there in a professional capacity. However, that is not the point.

I want to hear more from the minister about the need for robust scrutiny of the figures. I have grave concerns, which I shared with ministers, about some of the underlying assumptions. While I fully agree with my colleague, Paul Martin, on the need for scrutiny and the stewardship of large sums of public expenditure, I hope that ministers will share with us their proposals on the other review that is implicit in the current exercise. How did it come about that a management team presided over circumstances that, on their own figures, resulted in their being said to be some £700 million adrift from their nearest competitors? The private sector, with its rigour, would have had a ready answer to that set of circumstances.

We hear regularly about the need for the rigour of the private sector and I often share those sentiments. I trust that that rigour will be applied in an early analysis of how we arrived at the present circumstances. Along with other members, I have made it clear that we need to be convinced about how the claim differential arises. We also seek assurances from ministers that other public-private partnerships to fund capital expenditure and other service delivery, with the core business being run by SPS personnel, will be given active consideration in an open-minded consultation.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I am grateful to members for their co-operation in reaching a situation in which everyone has been called. We move to the closing speakers, the first of whom is George Lyon.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat 11:50 am, 18th April 2002

The debate on the future of the Scottish Prison Service is very important. The final decisions that are arrived at will have far-reaching consequences not only for the Prison Service, but for all our public services in the years ahead.

We must modernise the Prison Service—we must end the practice of slopping out as soon as possible and we must provide extra accommodation for the predicted rise in prisoner numbers. No one disputes the objectives that are contained in the estates review documents. The concerns that we are expressing in the Parliament are about how we go about achieving those goals. I respect the fact that members of the different parties hold strong views on the subject.

I will deal with some of the points that were made. Roseanna Cunningham's opening speech on behalf of the Scottish National Party was poor—it was more like a rant. She must believe that she is important, because she was unwilling to take interventions from back benchers. The fundamental point about her speech was that it contained no factual rebuttal of any of the information that is contained in the documents that are before us. Her speech was a series of statements of opinion that were passed off as factual. When Jim Wallace challenged her on the figures for the increase in the number of prisoners, she refused to answer back. She described the £700 million net present value saving as small change. If that figure is converted into cash, it amounts to about £1.1 billion.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I did not describe the figure as small change.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

I am sorry, but that is what the member said. A figure of £1.1 billion would fund four to five royal infirmary hospitals. I do not think that anyone would agree that that amounts to small change.

Roseanna Cunningham made comparisons with the report down south, which compared the private sector with HM Prison Service in England and Wales, not with the Scottish Prison Service. That is not comparing like with like. As I have already pointed out, the US report is six years out of date and has been challenged on a number of bases. The accounting rules in the US are different—that is why the Enron situation was allowed to happen. Our accounting rules mean that such a situation would never arise in this country.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton made a good contribution, which argued for a serious look at the Peterhead situation.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Will the member explain how it is that, south of the border, Charlie Kennedy is a left winger who opposes privatisation, yet the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament are the champions of the privatisation of the Prison Service—in spite of the opposition of their partners in coalition? The only members of the Scottish Parliament who are in favour of the privatisation of the Prison Service are the Liberal Democrats and their right-wing allies, the Conservatives.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

That is complete and utter rubbish. We take a pragmatic view of what will deliver the desired objectives and will obtain best value for the taxpayer. One cannot disregard the sums that are compared in the documents unless members present genuine reasons about why those figures are not accurate. We will listen to such reasons. As the Minister for Justice made clear, we would prefer to go down the public sector route, but £700 million of savings cannot be disregarded as small change.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton said that it would be well worth revisiting the Peterhead situation. My colleagues in the north-east have already spoken to the minister on that subject. It would be worth considering whether a new prison on the Peterhead site would be viable option, given the support for that suggestion in the Parliament.

Maureen Macmillan and Pauline McNeill raised genuine concerns about the private sector option and I respect their viewpoints. Maureen Macmillan made a telling point when she said that it is right that the public sector must be prepared to modernise its working practices in response to the challenge that has been laid down. We need more information on the model that combines private build with public sector operation. Such a plea has recurred throughout the debate.

All members sympathise with the position of Stewart Stevenson, in whose constituency Peterhead is, and share his genuine concerns about the closure, which comes on top of other blows that have hit Banff and Buchan hard. However, it would strengthen Mr Stevenson's case if he tried to incorporate a bit of accuracy into the facts that he quotes in his press releases on the subject. The member indicated that the running costs at Parc prison are £31,000, compared with a figure of £23,000 at Peterhead. He then used the figures in Clive Fairweather's report. Clive Fairweather's cost-per-prisoner figure of £27,000 does not square with the figure of £23,000 that Stewart Stevenson used.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The member should consider the difference in prisoner place provision as prisoner provision.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

Like-for-like figures should be used. The figure of £23,000 has been plucked out of thin air.

George Reid gave one of best speeches in the debate. Although I do not agree with his point of view, I respect him for what he said and the strong way in which he presented his case. It was an excellent contribution.

We are faced with hard choices about which way to proceed to modernise our prison services. Those who have criticised the estates review figures must answer some hard questions. If they genuinely believe that those figures are wrong, they must demonstrate robustly and thoroughly in what way they are wrong and what the right figures are. Coalition ministers have made it clear that they are willing to listen to serious attempts to challenge the figures in the estates review. Genuine consultation is taking place and ministers will listen to views that are underpinned by facts. It is up to all members to make such views known.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 11:58 am, 18th April 2002

The debate has been a good one. There have been several spirited contributions, some of which have been constructive and thoughtful. A welcome degree of passion has been introduced into our deliberations, which is no bad thing. The prison estates review is an evocative subject and it is important that when we discuss such matters, we put forward our case in a rational, but determined manner.

Like many other members, I take no satisfaction from high prison numbers but, as the Minister for Justice said, there are reasons for that. The 20th and 21st century curse of drugs has meant more long prison sentences, to which there is a lack of credible alternatives. I say to George Reid that although it is true that we lock up more of our citizens than most comparable western European countries, that comparison is sometimes a little odious. Of the foreign nationals that other countries lock up, more come from the United Kingdom than anywhere else. We must address that question and others, particularly credible alternatives to prison. The courts have no confidence in the range of non-custodial alternatives that are at their disposal. Fine defaulters account for 7,700 prison admissions per year. Could fines be collected from benefit to help prevent that difficulty?

I think that most members would agree that the purpose of prison should be retribution, rehabilitation and public safety. Christine Grahame dealt with that. However, prisons must also have certain standards: prisoners must be housed in humane and sanitary conditions. The estates review, which will help us achieve that aim, is long overdue. Government also has a general duty to provide such facilities at the cheapest cost that is compatible with the agreed principles and aims that we share.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

In one moment.

I accept that many of the arguments that have been advanced against private prisons are not the usual Pavlovian response from those who are philosophically opposed to privatisation. I recognise the sincerity of the views that have been expressed.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

In Kilmarnock prison's metalwork workshop, there is only one prison warder for 27 prisoners at any point. Indeed, sometimes one warder is in charge of up to 60 prisoners as they are moved from one part of the prison to the other. Is that consistent with the remarks that Bill Aitken has made? Is that a price worth paying for privatisation?

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

If Mr Neil will bear with me, I will deal with the Kilmarnock experience later in my speech. I accept that there is an issue there.

We must accept the fact that the prison population is likely to increase. Much as we regret that, we must ensure that the appropriate facilities are in place to cope with that.

Although I accept the sincerity of the views of those on the other side of the chamber, they fail to recognise the substantial cost savings that the private sector can introduce. I find their over-the-top badmouthing of the private sector unacceptable. In an uncharacteristically intemperate speech, Roseanna Cunningham made her views very clear. Frankly, part of her speech resonated to the creak of the rack and the clank of the treadmill. It was not a helpful contribution.

On the other hand, Stewart Stevenson put forward a reasoned and measured case. He explained how the good work that is done by the existing unit at Peterhead means that it is at least arguable that that facility should be retained. David Davidson also highlighted the loss of expertise that would result from the closure of Peterhead because, by necessity, many of those who work there would not transfer to any new facility. Basing a sex offenders unit in any local community would obviously have a pretty traumatic effect, but the Peterhead community is relaxed with the location of the present facility. There is therefore a real argument for re-examining the Peterhead situation.

Several contributions from the Labour benches, such as those from John McAllion and Pauline McNeill, expressed unease. I make no criticism of their views because they are sincerely held.

In a characteristically robust address, Phil Gallie defended the record of the Kilmarnock prison very well indeed. I must say to Alex Neil that, in common with other members of the Justice 2 Committee, I have visited Kilmarnock prison as well as many other facilities in Scotland. I found that Kilmarnock prison was the best. I accept Alex Neil's point about the workshops, but the improved design of that prison and the use of closed-circuit television afford a degree of supervision that I found to be entirely satisfactory.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I must make more progress, but I shall give way.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

When I visited Kilmarnock, I saw that the welding shed has blind spots that even the CCTV cameras cannot possibly cover. Does Bill Aitken accept that?

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Blind spots are to some extent inevitable in any building design, but the fact is that Kilmarnock prison works. The prison seemed to me to house prisoners in a much more satisfactory condition than prisons such as Barlinnie. I think that Kilmarnock has worked and should be repeated.

Alasdair Morgan's speech revealed his in-depth knowledge and his classical education, as I recall that it contained an ancient Greek quotation. He spoke at length about profit, but I was minded to think that the only profit apparent from his contribution was his more than adequate portrayal of the prophet of doom.

Karen Whitefield, who has an obvious constituency interest, spoke about Shotts prison. Phil Gallie's intervention was well made when he said that, had the riot that occurred in Shotts prison a few weeks ago occurred in Kilmarnock, the noise from the Labour back benches would have been fairly deafening. However, perhaps that is another issue.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

As the full facts of what happened at Shotts prison are not in the public domain, it is unacceptable for people to comment on what took place. We must bear in mind the fact that our prisons have had less violence over the past few years. The Tories must also accept what would happen in the event of any riot in Kilmarnock. Prisons house some of the most volatile and problematic people in society, so such things can happen. The reality is that the response to any riot would come from the trained staff from Shotts and other public sector prisons, not from the cameras at Kilmarnock.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Rather than encourage a riot in the chamber, I will move on from that point and return to what Alex Neil said. He accused the Executive of creating a virtual prison, but the creation of virtual prisons is far better than virtual or fantasy economics. While he was not prepared to accept the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, he accepts that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have a £7 billion budget credit next year. Although Alex Neil's suggestion that we should privatise the Deputy First Minister has its attractions, I do not think that he contributed much to the argument.

To conclude, although there are many conflicting arguments, some of them are quite compelling. The most compelling argument is the fact that £700 million would be saved. All who have taken part in today's debate could suggest uses for that money. We must take that into consideration.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

No, Mr Aitken will not give way. He is already over time.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

We cannot be hidebound by dogma. The cost differential is far too great. We support the Executive, with the caveat that we recognise that the issue of Peterhead prison cannot be easily resolved and is worth further inquiry.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party 12:07 pm, 18th April 2002

The debate has been extremely useful and we have heard several considerable contributions. George Reid was right when he stated that opposition to private prisons is based not purely on ideology but on moral and ethical grounds. Several members referred to the right-wing former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, who, when he was in opposition, opposed private prisons because

"almost all people believe that this is one area where the free market does not exist".

Today, those seem hollow words.

If the state requires a person to be deprived of their liberty, it is the state's responsibility to provide the prison for them. In the past, MSPs have been keen to line up in outrage about prisoners who have written books to profit from their crimes. I believe that it is wrong and outrageous that private multinational companies should profit from crime by housing prisoners. Prisons are a basic component of our criminal justice system. As several members have pointed out, the only way in which a private company can make a profit from running a company is by paying the staff less and by employing fewer staff. That is what happens in Kilmarnock.

George Reid said that the last thing that we should do is to go down the road that America has gone down. Members should be mindful of the fact that, if the proposals in the prison estates review are implemented, 38 per cent of our prisoners will be housed in private prisons. In America, the proportion is only 3 per cent. Not only would we Americanise the prison system, we would surpass the Americans in doing so.

Over the past two years, figures have been bandied about comparing the cost of private prisons such as Kilmarnock and public SPS establishments. The SPS even tried to have us believe that the cost per prisoner in Kilmarnock was in the region of £11,000. The SPS's calculation clearly did not make a fair comparison.

On 1 February 2001, I asked the Minister for Justice to explain the conflicting figures on the cost per prisoner in a public prison and the cost per prisoner in Kilmarnock prison. The minister said:

"We have asked independent accountants to evaluate the figures that will be contained in the review."—[Official Report, 1 February 2001; Vol 10, c 880.]

He made it clear that a group of independent accountants would look at the figures to ensure that there was a fair comparison between public and private. He went on to say that that would be done so that we could compare "apples with apples".

Today, the minister referred to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report as independent verification and validation. However, Alasdair Morgan referred to PwC as "the Greeks". How independent is PricewaterhouseCoopers? Under clause 64 of the Kilmarnock contract, the SPS gave the company delegated powers to sign the financial part of the contract on its behalf. PricewaterhouseCoopers's fingerprints were all over the Kilmarnock contract from day one.

As Roseanna Cunningham said, the GMB drew attention to the fact that PricewaterhouseCoopers is involved in 132 PPP projects across the country to the tune of £18 billion. Forgive me if I appear a little cynical, but PricewaterhouseCoopers does not strike me as being an independent firm of accountants. On the contrary, it strikes me that it is a company that has a vested interest in PPP projects. It is up to its eyes in PPP projects across the country.

The report was commissioned purely to justify the continued privatisation of our prison service. It was provided as a convenience for ministers to hide behind when they are asked questions about why they want to continue with privatisation.

The minister said that the report would allow us to compare apples with apples. However, Maureen Macmillan stated that there is a strong suspicion that the report does not allow us to do that. She is right to have that concern. She highlighted the fact that the costs in the report for the private sector do not take account of pensions, whereas those for the public sector do.

The SPS made an assumption about the public sector services that will be provided, such as those for a medical centre. However, those costs have not been included in the private sector calculations. The public sector options also include costs for the SPS headquarters and for a training college, but the private sector submission makes no provision for those. PwC also fails to include costs for the tendering process, which can be substantial, and it conveniently leaves out the cost for contract compliance. The financial case that is made in the report has been cobbled together purely to demonstrate the continued desire of those senior civil servants in the SPS who want to ensure that privatisation wins the day.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The intervention will not be original. Take a seat.

Given that hundreds of prison officers and their families have waited for the review for two and a half years and as their lives will be affected by the review, the report should at the very least have made comparisons on a level playing field. However, it is an abject betrayal of the prison officers who have dedicated themselves to the service for so long.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Michael Matheson referred to the two-and-a-half-year delay in the publication of the review. Does he accept that the reason for the delay was that ministers did not accept the figures that they were given? Initially, they did not believe the figures and they have published the report with the greatest reluctance.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

That is not the case. I understand that ministers began the estates review before PricewaterhouseCoopers were involved in the process; ministers decided only at a later date to bring in PricewaterhouseCoopers to carry out the validation process. Phil Gallie should address the question to the minister.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Will the member draw attention to the fact that the remit for PricewaterhouseCoopers was not to evaluate or audit the figures, but to support decisions that had already been made?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

In effect, the report was about a deal that had been done. It is being used to justify a case. No way is it an independent evaluation.

I will speak about Kilmarnock prison. I begin by pointing out to Margaret Jamieson that my criticisms of the prison are levelled not at the staff but at the management.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

If Scotland's only private prison had been a success and if it had demonstrated that it was much more effective in dealing with offenders while providing staff with a good working environment and wages and conditions of service equal to those in the public sector, perhaps I could have appreciated the Minister for Justice's enthusiasm for the private sector option. However, the chief inspector of prisons' latest report, which was published only this week, again highlights many deficiencies at Kilmarnock prison. For example, there have been more assaults on staff by prisoners. The prison continues to have a high staff turnover, although it is doing well—the level of turnover is decreasing. Moreover, the prison has the highest level of self-harm among prisoners, the worst record for deaths in custody, the poorest prison discipline record, one of the poorest records on staffing levels and the worst rate of staff sickness. Finally, of the 41 fires that occurred in prisons across Scotland last year, somehow 26 of them happened at Kilmarnock.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Simply to put the record right, because I heard members shouting about attacks on Kilmarnock prison, will Mr Matheson confirm that what I said was that 91 per cent of the staff had no previous experience in prisons?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I am sure that the Official Report will bear out what Mr Reid says.

I found it interesting that the chief inspector of prisons also highlighted the fact that the staff at Kilmarnock not only have felt unsafe in the past, but feel that the situation is deteriorating. That is the very prison that Bill Aitken told us is doing well and is indeed better than SPS establishments. However, its record does not strike me as glowing.

I turn briefly to Peterhead prison. When I visited Peterhead with the Justice 1 Committee, I felt for the first time that I was in an establishment that was doing what it should have been doing: working with offenders to deal with their offending behaviour. I believe that the prison's closure will put the public at risk. Indeed, Bill Rattray, who was the governor of Peterhead for six years, told the Justice 1 Committee this week that he had no idea what the implications of the closure will be. That is a risk too far. Moreover, given some of the comments from Labour members, the minister should realise that this is a privatisation too far.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour 12:17 pm, 18th April 2002

The Executive called for this debate because we wanted to hear members' views as part of the consultation process. For the most part, the debate has been measured. We all clearly agree that it is imperative to end slopping out and to set a timetable for doing so and that, as Paul Martin stressed, it is important to modernise the estate to meet modern correctional practice standards and to address issues of rehabilitation and reoffending. I agree with Paul Martin that the review does not cover rehabilitation in detail; it deals primarily with bricks and mortar. However, the thrust behind our policy is to address the problem of reoffending. We also want to avoid overcrowding. As some members pointed out, overcrowding is a problem in many prisons and we need to get rid of it.

The one issue on which we do not agree is how we achieve best value in the new estate. However, the crux of the problem for the Scottish Executive centres on the advice that we received from the SPS, which we have attempted to verify. I have listened to members' criticisms on the matter and I should point out that we have at least made such an attempt. If we had not done that, members would have criticised our failure to do so. We have endeavoured to examine the situation closely.

Why have we delayed the report for a whole year? We have taken so long over the issue because in the first instance there was disbelief about the figures. PricewaterhouseCoopers was given free access to all the available figures and came up with its own conclusions. Those conclusions, too, demonstrated the substantial difference between the private sector and public sector options.

The question that Mike Rumbles has repeatedly asked SNP members is what they would do, given the advice that it would take 12 years to ensure public provision. The advice that we have received is that the ability to procure in the public sector, here and in England, will lead to substantial delays. The delay may not be as great as 12 years and we may be able to achieve what we need in less time than that, but that is the advice that we have received. The SNP has signally failed to come up with an alternative offer. I hope that it will do so during the consultation.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I shall give way to Stewart Stevenson in a minute, when we come on to Peterhead prison.

Roseanna Cunningham refused to allow me to intervene to correct some of the misinformation that she was delivering. Michael Matheson, in an otherwise measured speech in which he covered specific points that must be considered in great detail, got one thing wrong. He spoke about high staff sickness levels, but the report shows that the average number of sick days a year for Kilmarnock was 8.5 and that the only prison with a lower figure was Peterhead. In some prisons, such as Dumfries prison, the figure was as high as 25.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I will not take interventions on that point. I may take one later, but not at the moment.

We agree on what prisons are about. They are about ensuring that there is punishment, which is important, but public safety is also an issue. I completely reject Lord James Douglas-Hamilton's suggestion—again, in an otherwise measured contribution—that holding the majority of sex offenders in the central belt makes things unsafe for the public. There are 50-odd sex offenders in Glenochil and I hear no disturbance about that in my community.

As well as the principles of punishment and public safety, there is also the question of staff safety. Kilmarnock prison has been criticised on that ground, but there have been attacks on staff in the public prisons as well. There is the question of reasonable terms and conditions—my colleagues have made a series of helpful contributions on the real concerns about the need for reasonable terms and conditions. We must have good training. Again, Kilmarnock has been criticised in that respect, although its staff are trained to SPS standards. As George Reid said, the staff are new, but they are nevertheless trained to SPS standards. Although the most recent inspector's report says that there must be further basic training for staff, it applauds the fact that there is training for management.

We need an effective correctional programme. When Kilmarnock prison was set up, the contract was based on a work ethic and the prison achieved what it was asked to achieve—the highest proportion in any prison in Scotland of prisoners out in the workshops doing work. That is the task that was set and the prison has achieved it. The correctional policies are now changing and Kilmarnock's policies must therefore be revisited. We have already done that in one respect, in that we have given Kilmarnock an equal share of the transitional care money to ensure that drug programmes and rehabilitation programmes under the Cranston project are carried out in Kilmarnock as they are everywhere else. The health board will build a small health centre in Kilmarnock to deal with problem drug users who go out from Kilmarnock to the local community.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I am sorry, but I do not have time. If the member wants to speak to me later or write to me, I will be happy to listen.

There are other important issues. Michael Matheson and other members have listed all the problems at Kilmarnock and Alex Neil goes on about the problems there all the time. The issue is not that the public sector is the best and the private sector is the worst or that the private sector is the best and the public sector is the worst. The reviews by HM inspectors in the past year showed that there were 12 items of best practice for the whole service, and that—

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

Alex Neil should let me finish. On best practice for the whole service across Scotland, there were 12 items from Kilmarnock and there were eight items from Edinburgh and four items from Greenock. There is best practice in the public sector and in the private sector.

There are justifiable criticisms. I will listen to Margaret Jamieson, because she has her finger on the pulse in relation to Kilmarnock. She knows the staff there; many of them are her constituents. There is no doubt that there are concerns about staff safety, particularly at weekends and in A wing.

Why do we have an HMI system that covers not just the public sector, but the private sector? We have that system because there is a unified service that is inspected and treated as a whole. Why are there visiting committees across the whole estate? There are visiting committees across the whole estate because it is important that the public are represented when the estate is examined. Visiting committee members at Kilmarnock prison have the most open access—they carry keys and can go anywhere that they want to go. I have spoken to the chair of the visiting committee, who was very positive about the prison, as were the chairman of the Parole Board for Scotland and the moderator of the Church of Scotland. The question is not one of public good and private bad or private good and public bad—there is best practice in both the public sector and the private sector.

I will speak about Peterhead prison, as it is the subject of the Conservative amendment—it was also the subject of Stewart Stevenson's excellent speech. Stewart Stevenson knows that, as a back bencher, I went on record applauding the work at Peterhead prison. I want to put on record again that there is absolutely no doubt that there is excellent work at Peterhead prison. However, the current buildings have outlasted their use and need to be replaced. Where and how should we replace those buildings? The majority of sex offenders are held in prisons in the central belt. Some 85 per cent of offenders will go back to the central belt and most likely will be relocated there once they have concluded their sentences. Links with the criminal justice social work system that will look after them when they are on parole are absolutely crucial. Whether we like it or not, maintaining links at a distance is not easy. The other day, I spoke to members of the central Scotland criminal justice team and asked them about the issue. They said that moving people around is a difficulty for other prisons, too. There is a real difficulty in relocating high-risk sex offenders in particular.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Does the minister accept that I addressed the issue of the private-build-public-sector-operate option and the 11 years mentioned in the estates review? There is an option from a local person who has a credible track record and believes that he can do the work well within a three-year time frame.

On prisoner location, does the minister accept that an excellent scheme is in place for top-end prisoners to move for discharge to the prison in the area from which they came sufficiently early to address the linkage with the support and social services systems? In that sense, there is no merit in the minister's argument. He should remember that 191 prisoners said that they want to stay at Peterhead prison.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

We will continue to discuss the matter. We have had a meeting with Stewart Stevenson and Aberdeenshire Council. I confirm what my colleague Jim Wallace said at the start of the debate. He and I have instructed the SPS—specifically, Alex Spencer, who set up the programme at Peterhead prison and is now the director of rehabilitation and care—to examine the future of sex offenders in the Prison Service with the assistance of outside advice. The review will not be just internal; it will be external. If there is a decision at the end of the consultation period to move to a central prison, we will carefully consider how that will be done with the least disruption.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I am sorry, but am I in my final minute, Presiding Officer?

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I ask the Conservatives to withdraw their amendment, as our proposals are broader than their suggestions. If the amendment were accepted, it would limit the review that we want to carry out.

Most people have at least said that they are comfortable about there being a consultation. We could have taken a decision without consultation. The Executive is happy that the Justice 1 Committee is to conduct a review. We hope that the committee will hear from the chair of the Parole Board, as the board has interesting views.

I urge a serious examination. So far, the most disappointing aspect of the debate has been the Taylor and Cooper review. I hoped that that would give us a better analysis and understanding of the substantial differences. However, the review is a piece of polemic. Moreover, it confuses current costs per prisoner with net present value. For a professor of accounting to do that is totally unacceptable. I hope that the Justice 1 Committee, which is convened by Christine Grahame, will examine that carefully when Professor Cooper is in front of the committee, because we need to understand the substantial differences.

We all agree that we want a modern prison service that ends slopping out, but we want it with staff who are committed, are paid reasonable wages and have decent pensions. Whether it is in the private sector or the public sector, the prison service must serve the needs of the public through providing proper safety and proper rehabilitation. The Executive wants to achieve that at best value, but that seems to be the one point on which we are not agreed. The Executive will not spend £700 million extra—if that turns out to be the figure at the end of the consultation period—on public rather than private prisons.

I set a challenge, which Maureen Macmillan, Pauline McNeill and others have also set. There needs to be close examination of the figures. There must also be an examination by both sides of why the public service is so expensive. The issue is not just about one side being cheap and the other being expensive. The gap between the two is almost beyond belief and must be examined closely. We hope that it will be.

I hope that the Parliament will agree to the Executive's motion, which welcomes the consultation. I also hope that people will genuinely take part in that consultation.