This week’s Justice Committee had the chance to question high ranking civil servants about the UK Government’s policy on prisons.
After the calamity that was both HMP Liverpool and HMP Birmingham over private contracts – indeed Birmingham was in that bad a state that G4S lost their role in running the prison and the Government had to nationalise it – I wanted to know what checks and balances were in place to ensure the suitability of contract bidders.
In both cases the private firms under-bid to secure the contracts only to find they couldn’t sustain them without running services into the ground on the cheap. The civil servants, obviously, must remain neutral – which is quite right – but they were struggling to provide the evidence to show the UK Government was doing its job in protecting our money.
£50 million is how much the UK taxpayer has lost because of a poorly constructed contract with the collapsed firm Carillion. This was the answer I got from the minister of prisons towards the end of my questioning in the Justice Committee.
I wanted to know how much the UK taxpayer has lost because of the terrible contract signed. The minister tries to say that the taxpayer hasn’t lost the money, but if we are now having to pay an additional £50m over the lifetime of the contract I would say we have lost this money.
This is becoming a running story with the Ministry of Justice. They have signed up to contracts to run our prisons, building maintenance and other services without doing the due diligence to make sure that we are not losing out. We’ve seen it in Liverpool prison and we have seen it around the rest of the prison estate.
The contracts being used by the Ministry of Justice to manage our prisons are failing. We saw the lack of ability by Amey to manage the difficulties in HMP Liverpool and many other independent monitoring boards for prisons have complained about the maintenance of their prisons.
I was able to challenge the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on his department and what he will be doing to rectify these expensive mistakes.