Wednesday, 4 December 2013

What the Justice Committee should ask about Mr Grayling’s Great Leap Forward

What should the Justice Committee ask the Justice Ministers in their hearing today? The session forms part of the inquiry into Crime Reduction Policies: A Coordinated Approach? But its terms of reference are wide enough to cover almost anything. Over the last year, Mr Grayling has embarked on a twin approach of radically cutting costs and imposing a political ideology, making him something of a cross between Chairman Mao and Ebenezer Scrooge. As befits the season, he will be bringing Bob Cratchit with him to Parliament today. 
On prisons, key questions the Committee might like to know:
a)    What has happened to the proposals for transforming youth custody for under 18’s which promised bold and imaginative ideas for change? Is it true that the Treasury is refusing to fund them?
b) Despite no announcements on the juvenile secure estate, the Government is proposing to scrap separate facilities for young adults. Do Ministers seriously think that greater protection and better regimes for this age group can be provided in the wider prison estate and if so how?
c) Do Ministers  consider that the well documented problems at  privately run HMP Oakwood are teething problems and that the unit costs of £13,000 per prisoner place can provide a benchmark for the rest of the service?  Or is it true that G4S puts in extra resources of its own to run the establishment safely.
On Probation, the committee might have a further go at finding out more details about :
d)   the cost assumptions underlying the new system that will enable  Ministers to fund the supervision  of short term prisoners on top of existing work and what qualifications will be required of staff involved in both the new and existing supervision
e) whether ministers are confident in the ability and propriety of private sector providers in the light of concerns about existing contract performance and what extra costs will be needed to supervise and monitor future contracts in the light of the failures to do so adequately in the past
f) What if any discussions they have had with the judiciary about their plans to outsource the probation service’s work?
There are many more detailed issues about the progress of Mr Grayling’s seemingly uninterrupted revolution. Whether today’s discussion of his affairs will turn him from miser to philanthropist remains to be seen.


  1. Thanks for this Rob, very helpful in reminding me that the big new Youth Justice changes have seemed to have disappeared from the political landscape. Like you, I'm concerned at how young adults' needs will be met and whether they can be kept in an appropriate environment that avoids at least some of the "school of crime" risks.

  2. Great write up from someone really 'in the know'. I particularly like the references to 'Transforming Youth Custody' and discussions with the judiciary, who have been particularly noticeable by their silence - but will be widely quoted in the press once they, start sentencing under the new regime.

    This informed, balanced set of questions shows that the next development will be for Select Committees of the Houses of Parliament, could well be to have informed folk such as Rob, sitting amongst the members adding information as questions are asked and answered and maybe also to have barristers asking the questions as seems to now be commonplace in other forms of public enquiry.

    It would greatly contribute to the members of parliament controlling the proceedings, rather than there still being too much influence in the process from the Government and main political party groups, rather than 'coalitions of members with shared specialist knowledge and/or interests'.

    Nonetheless we are far better off with select committees than before, Norman St John Stevas, introduced them. God rest his soul!

    Andrew Hatton