The new Minister of State for Prisons was before the Justice Select Committee this week and I wanted to grill him on wasted taxpayer money through the privatisation of probation services.
The National Audit Office undertook a review into this failed experiment – started by the current Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP – and concluded that the Ministry of Justice has had to pump £467 million into the failed project to try and stabilise them.
You can see from my questioning that the Minister and his civil servants were very uncomfortable with these questions. There is obviously still more to learn on this. The Minister tried to hide behind his belief that the taxpayer has saved money because the services are being renationalised again. But this is a completely false way of looking at things. To make a comparison, if you moved out of your house you would stop paying the rent – meaning you make a saving – but you will still need to find somewhere else to live which will cost you rent. The same can be said for rehabilitation. We may no longer be paying the private companies to undertake the work, but we will still have to undertake it ourselves. But we lose the money we spent on private firms prior to renationalisation.
This has been a failed experiment that I voted against when it was first proposed in the 2010-15 Parliament. Our money has been wasted for dogma of private good, public bad. The UK Government should be ashamed.
The calamity that is Chris Grayling MP – the current Transport Secretary who is best known for signing a contract with a ferry company who has never operated a ferry service and copied and pasted their terms and conditions from a takeaway site – first struck in the Ministry of Justice when he part-privatised probation services.
The cost of this bungle? £173,000,000. I have long argued that these changes would not work and that everything needed to be put back under the control of the UK Government. It was ridiculous to delineate offenders by risk as we all know that people change and someone who is technically low risk can become high risk to the community.
But it is not just me who said that this reform has failed. Her Majesty’s Inspector of Probation, the National Audit Office and the cross-party Justice Select Committee have all stated that this was a failed policy.
As it would happen, the day after Labour secured an Opposition Day Debate on the privatised probation companies and called for them to be nationalised once more the UK Government announced that they would do just that. Common sense has prevailed, but not after Chris Grayling MP cost us all £173million.
Yet another company that provides services to the UK Government has collapsed. Interserve handles contracts for the Ministry of Justice for probation services.
Following the damning National Audit Office (NAO) report into the cost of this privatisation of probation I wanted to know what further impact this collapse would have.
One of the many roles of the Justice Select Committee is to cross-examine the UK Government’s preferred candidates for inspectorate roles.
This week we considered their choice for HM Chief Inspector of Probation. The candidate, Justin Russell, previously worked for the Ministry of Justice on the Transforming Rehabilitation programmes – the system used to part-privatise the now failing probation service.
During my questions I asked if someone who formed part of the team that created the failing system could be truly independent inspector.