To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the BBC report of 9 July 2020, G4S selected to run Wellingborough mega prison, what estimate he has made of the savings to be accrued to the public purse of the decision to appoint a private contractor to run the establishment in comparison with the notional public-sector prepared as part of the bid evaluation process.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the BBC report of 9 July 2020, G4S selected to run Wellingborough mega prison, whether the successful contractor will be required to follow Prison Service Instruction 07/2017, Regime Management Planning, to ensure that the regimes are safe, decent, secure, resilient and sustainable.
The competition for the operation of the new prison at Wellingborough has not yet concluded as we are still in the standstill period. We intend to announce the outcome in due course.
The operator contracts between the Department and all private prison providers require the Contractor to be responsible for all staffing matters, including ensuring staff have the training and experience necessary for safe and decent prisons. This is monitored to ensure the standards are maintained across the lifetime of the contract. Mandating minimum staffing levels for private prison operators would restrict their ability to introduce and foster innovation, and their flexibility to adjust their staffing levels across the lifetime of the contract according to the needs and demands created by any changes to the prison population or in risk. It could also deter them from engaging with expertise and professional support in the local and wider community and hinder their ability to respond quickly to new challenges and opportunities.
As part of the Prison Operator Competition, subject matter experts scrutinise and validate proposed staffing levels within operators’ bids to ensure delivery of operations to a decent, safe, secure and rehabilitative standard. The competition for the operation of the new prison at Wellingborough was not about the difference or preference between the public and private sector. We have been clear through this competition we expected bidders to provide high quality, value for money bids that deliver effective regimes to meet the specific needs of prisoners. Our priority is to help prisoners turn their lives around to prevent reoffending and future victims.
We hold both public and private sector prisons to account for the outcomes they deliver. PSI 2017/07 only applies to public sector prisons, however, private prisons will have their own similar systems in place to ensure they provide the required services and use the levels of staff determined as required and appropriate. These are robustly scrutinised for the lifetime of the contract to ensure that the required standards are met.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, construction at the new prison at Wellingborough and early works at Glen Parva has continued safely, with workers following PHE guidance and the Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures. We expect the new prison at Wellingborough will open late 2021.
While no decisions have been made on who will operate the recently announced four new prisons, we maintain this government’s commitment to a mixed market in custodial services. It is our ambition that at least one of these new prisons will be operated by the public sector. In this scenario, HMPPS would not be required to go through a bidding process. In the event that any of the new prisons were competed these would be done through the Prison Operator Services Framework via a mini competition. In this case, HMPPS would not take part in the mini competition but would instead provide a public sector benchmark against which operators’ bids can be assessed. If bids do not meet quality or value for money thresholds, HMPPS would take on the operator role.