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Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 9651, tabled on 8 September 2017

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether he plans to introduce a Prisons Bill during the current session of Parliament.

Answered on

18 September 2017

We remain committed to continuing to reform our prisons to make them places of safety and reform. The most pressing priorities can be delivered without legislation and we are currently working to implement the necessary operational changes.

The Bill contained measures to strengthen the role of the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. To strengthen their role we:

  • have created a new Unit within HM Prison and Probation Service that is responsible for responding to recommendations our independent scrutiny bodies make;
  • are implementing the Urgent Notification process contained in the Bill to ensure the Chief Inspector can go directly to the Secretary of State in the most severe and urgent cases, who will respond promptly 28 days later;
  • will develop a Protocol between the Ombudsman and Ministry of Justice to set out the role of both organisations in relation to each other, similar to the protocol agreed between HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Department earlier this year.

The Bill also contained measures on psychoactive substances and combatting illicit mobile phones in prisons. To address these issues we have already:

  • rolled out new tests for psychoactive substances across the estate;
  • trained 300 dogs to detect psychoactive substances;
  • made the supply of psychoactive substances into prisons, and possession of them, criminal offences; and
  • invested £2 million to equip every prison across the estate with hand-held mobile phone detectors and portable detection poles to step up the detection of illegal phones.