Friday, 20 March 2015

Grayling Caught Out

It's utterly typical isn't it? Having explained the blog was having a snooze, Grayling shows his true colours and gets caught out trying to fix a more favourably-inclined replacement for Nick Hardwick, the prison inspector he sacked. Too good not to highlight. This from Ian Dunt on the website on Tuesday:-

Stitch up: Former Tory minister put on board to select new prison inspector

The last prison inspector felt he was pressured out of the job because he was too critical of government. Now it seems plans are afoot to prevent his replacement being of a similar disposition. Details have been released of the selection panel for the new inspector and one name stands out: Lord Oliver Henley, former Tory minister at the Home Office and Defra under the coalition, as well as serving in numerous government roles under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. The idea that Lord Oliver would make an impartial assessor of candidates is not credible.

He is one of two 'independent' panel members, alongside Amanda Sater, a member of the youth justice board. The rest of the panel is filled out by Antonia Romeo, former director of criminal justice at the Ministry of Justice, who oversaw justice secretary Chris Grayling's chaotic privatisation of the probation service, and Dame Anne Pringle, a public appointment assessor nominated by the commissioner for public appointments. 
With one former Tory minister teamed up with a Grayling loyalist, the odds are stacked against anyone with critical faculties securing the position.

This is not a coincidence. Former inspector Nick Hardwick's reports into the decline of the prison estate were one of the only ways to get information about what was going on in the nation's prisons, given the draconian restrictions on journalists or campaigners speaking to inmates. Hardwick was incensed by the 69% rise of suicides in prison – a rise which coincided with the twin disaster of slashed prison budgets and ever-more inmates being crammed into the system.

His last annual report, released in October, described a "significant decline in safety", a steep rise in assaults and the "loss of more experienced staff" due to cuts. The report also went about as far as Hardwick could safely go in blaming Grayling directly. He wrote:

"Increases in self-inflicted deaths, self-harm and violence cannot be attributed to a single cause. They reflect some deep-seated trends and affect prisons in both the public and private sectors. Nevertheless, in my view, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the conjunction of resource, population and policy pressures, particularly in the second half of 2013-14 and particularly in adult male prisons, was a very significant factor for the rapid deterioration in safety and other outcomes we found as the year progressed." [italics added]

In response, Grayling announced publicly that he would not renew Hardwick's contract, which runs out in July, and instead demanded that he re-apply for the job. This was not unexpected. Prison inspectors often have a difficult relationship with the government, although not all ministers are so disreputable in how they deal with them. Dame Anne Owers still had her contract extended and served two five-year terms, despite being very critical of the government. Lord Ramsbotham did not – a fact which probably owed something to his strained relationship with a succession of home secretaries (this is in the days before the creation of the Ministry of Justice). Hardwick opted not to reapply for the job, saying:

"Told MoJ ministers & officials I won't be reapplying for my post. Can't be independent of people you are asking for a job." Grayling insisted the re-advertising process was par for the course, but no-one doubts he wanted Hardwick gone. This selection panel is likely to deliver someone more to his liking.

But now we have this, as reported in the Guardian:-

Appointment of new prisons inspector halted amid criticism of selection panel

The appointment of a new chief inspector of prisons by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has been halted until after the general election after it emerged that two “independent” members of the four-strong selection panel are Tory party activists. The Ministry of Justice has announced that Nick Hardwick, the current chief inspector whose term was not renewed by Grayling, has now been asked to stay on until November while a fresh hunt for a successor takes place.

Sir Alan Beith, the chairman of the Commons justice select committee, criticised Grayling’s failure to disclose that both independent members of the appointment panel were active Tory party members. They are Lord Henley, a former Conservative Home Office minister, and Amanda Sater, a member of the youth justice board who was named last year as women’s adviser to Grant Shapps, the Tory party chairman.

Beith said the justice secretary had given the MPs “no convincing reason” why he had not put forward for pre-appointment scrutiny the single “excellent” candidate that the panel had recommended. The appointment panel was chaired by Dame Anne Pringle, the commissioner for public appointments, and the fourth member was a senior justice ministry official.

Even though half of the appointment panel were active Conservatives, Grayling appears to have rejected the single preferred candidate they recommended, despite the candidate being rated by them as “excellent”. It is understood that Grayling believed the panel should have given him a choice of at least two or three names, despite a civil service ruling that there is no need for an appointment panel to put forward more than one name.

Instead, the justice secretary has now ordered the selection process to be re-run, putting the decision beyond the general election. Grayling has told the members of the justice select committee, who were poised to hold a confirmation hearing before the election, that “he will not be proposing a preferred candidate to them as there was not a wide enough pool of candidates from which to select”.

The justice select committee had been due to hold a pre-appointment hearing with the preferred candidate later this month, with Hardwick’s fixed term originally due to end in July 2015. The decision means that the new independent chief inspector of prisons will be appointed by the justice secretary in the new government.

A report on the affair rushed out by the Commons justice committee concludes: “The fact that two members of the panel were members of the same party as the appointing minister is a cause for particular concern for a post in which it is vital the incumbent commands public confidence in his or her ability to resist political pressure.”

The shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, said: “Not content with effectively sacking the chief inspector of prisons for daring to criticise his government’s prisons policy, Chris Grayling has stuffed the appointment panel for the new inspector full of known Tories. It just shows to what lengths this government will go to avoid having their failing policies properly scrutinised. This fails the smell test, and it calls into question how any chief inspector of prisons appointed by this process could ever claim to be independent.”

Hardwick has proved a rigorous critic of Grayling’s prison policies warning of a “political and policy failure” last year and voicing concern that staff shortages were causing “huge tensions” across the prison estate in England and Wales.

The job description for the new appointment said that a “strong understanding of current and recent” government reforms in relation to prisons and probation was an important part of the recruitment process. Paul McDowell, the chief inspector of probation appointed by Grayling, stood down earlier this year after the Guardian disclosed that his wife was running the private justice company that had been awarded the largest number of probation contracts.

Finally this from Ian Dunt last night:-

Failure of scrutiny: How Grayling got his way with new prison inspector

Chris Grayling's behind-the-scenes attempts to appoint a more pliable prisons inspector could trigger a change in the code of practise for ministerial appointments, after a damning report called for urgent action to prevent it happening again.

The Commons justice committee raised the alarm when it discovered that both supposedly independent members of the appointment panel for the new chief inspector - Lord Oliver Henley and Amanda Sater - were actually active members of the Tory party. This information was kept from the justice committee. A third member, Antonia Romeo, was former director of criminal justice at the MoJ and the figure responsible for Grayling's probation privatisation programme. So out of four panel members, three had a reason to pick someone favourable to the justice secretary.

As if that weren't enough, Grayling then vetoed their suggestion and refused to put forward a candidate who was considered "excellent" by the panel.

The weirdness doesn't stop there, however. I'm told the MoJ's announcement into the extension of the current prison inspector's term was announced today specifically to sabotage the Commons committee report, which was originally timetabled for tomorrow. Instead of waiting for it to come out, Grayling pre-empted it in a bid to minimise the damage. After that, the committee was forced to make its report public immediately.


  1. Grayling is despotic.

  2. From the justice committee's report:

    "Letter to Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Justice Select Committee, from Sir David Normington, Commissioner for Public Appointments, 11 March 2015
    HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

    Thank you for copying to me your letter of 5 March about the process to select a new Chief Inspector of Prisons.

    One of my most experienced Public Appointments Assessors, Dame Anne Pringle, was in the chair of the selection panel for this appointment. Her particular role is to ensure that the panel makes a fair and objective assessment of the candidates against the agreed criteria for the post. She assures me that both Lord Henley and Amanda Sater were excellent panel members and operated fully within the requirements of my Code of Practice.
    The panel judged only one candidate to be appointable. I understand that in the event the Secretary of State decided, as he is entitled to, not to make an appointment on the grounds that he wished for a greater choice of candidates. This is disappointing. The selection panel was entirely right, under the Code of Practice, to submit only one candidate, if he or she was, in their judgement, the only appointable candidate. Furthermore, their judgement was that the individual concerned was an excellent candidate.
    I do, however, think this case highlights a problem. Although, in my view, no criticism can be levelled against Lord Henley and Ms Sater, this and a number of other cases have convinced me that I should amend the section of my Code relating to panel membership. It does not aid public confidence in the public appointments process to have an independent member who is an active member of a political party or indeed to have two panel members, who are so politically associated with the Government. I propose, therefore, after the General Election, to consult on amendments to the Code to make this clear.

    I am copying this letter to the Secretary of State for Justice."

  3. Also from the report is this praise for Nick Hardwick:

    "1 Introduction

    1. The term in office of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, comes to an end on 14 July 2015. The post is one of six ministerial appointments made by, or on the advice of, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice which are subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by the Justice Committee. We undertook such scrutiny in 2010 when Mr Hardwick was put forward as the preferred candidate for the post, and endorsed his suitability for appointment. We wish to pay tribute to the work Mr Hardwick has done during his time in the post.

    2. HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent office, established by the Criminal Justice Act 1982 and sponsored by the Ministry of Justice. The Inspectorate’s main statutory remit is to inspect prisons in England and Wales and immigration detention facilities across the UK, and to report its findings to relevant Ministers on the treatment and conditions of detainees. The Inspectorate also conducts studies into specific custodial issues, often in conjunction with other inspectorates. The Chief Inspector, and the Inspectorate which he leads, is the main independent mechanism to ensure that standards of decency, safety and security are observed in custodial facilities. The other principal means of independent oversight of the prisons system are the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, another post subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by the Justice Committee, and the Independent Monitoring Boards which exist at each place of detention.

    3. In the course of this Parliament we have taken evidence on a number of occasions from the Chief Inspector, including in our inquiries into women offenders, older prisoners, and prisons: planning and policies. We have found his evidence on all occasions to be thoughtful and empirically grounded in the observations made by him and his team of inspectors in carrying out their inspectorial functions."

    1. Report should be here -

    Fury at Sir Cover-Up's 'whistleblowing ban': Backlash over curbs on civil servants talking to Press

    1. Ministers were last night struggling to contain a spiralling row about highly contentious plans to bar 430,000 civil servants from talking to journalists.
      Critics raised concerns about a quiet change to the civil service code, which they warned could ‘stifle whistleblowing’ and open government.
      The code has been amended to include a new provision making clear that officials could be sacked if they speak out before checking with a minister.
      Downing Street was understood to have intervened in the row, forcing the Cabinet Office to offer a series of concessions.
      Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude agreed to redraft guidance to ‘strengthen protection’ for those speaking out to blow the whistle on scandals or abuses of public money, and include a commitment to being ‘as open as possible’ with Parliament and the public.
      However, that is unlikely to appease critics, who have asked why such a change has been enforced just before the general election campaign.
      It appears to have been agreed by Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, who has been nicknamed Sir Cover-Up for preventing the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War from seeing letters and records of phone calls between Tony Blair and George Bush.
      However, the impetus is understood to have come from ministers, who wanted to control the flow of information from departments to make clear that they, not civil servants, are ultimately in charge.

    2. does this attempt to gag Civil Service employees against talking to the press or be sacked, extend to seeking solace by unburdening to friends and family, who then spread the word to their friends and family and colleagues, and so on.., and just by chance of course, the press get wind of it...?

  5. The trouble is, those who are ultimately in charge have often got the most to hide. Gagging is self preservation and not necessarily in the public interest.

  6. The eclipse, the first day of spring, and Grayling being caught short - there IS a god! Now I await for the Beeb to announce that they have got rid of Clarkson!

    1. And maybe the appeal against Graylings legal aid cuts will be upheld too.
      Judgement is expected today.

    2. Cheque's in the post... We're all due a 5% backdated payrise... TR has been revoked...

  7. I am looking forward to reading explanations about the amalgamation of User Voice with the Probation Institute, news of which was first reported (as far as I am aware) by an anonymous commenter to this blog a few days ago.

    Subsequently there has been some recognition from them, in brief statements and on their websites but no explanation for the reasons or the processes involved.

    It seems surprising if each organisation conducted ballots of all members without any news of such a ballot being made public. There again, maybe they are not democratic organisations or perhaps such major decisions are delegated to a few individuals in each body.

    Anyway, I am trying to resist offering an assessment without first reading explanations, which presumably are not yet crafted - or they would have been announced - perhaps they have been announced to their members - after all it is their business not mine.

    However, I am an associate member of Napo, which is somehow a part of the constitutional membership of the PI so am a little surprised that Napo have not alerted members that such a change was being processed.

    I do not know from where One Voice get their funds from, possibly they are self financing, but if not presumably the support of funders is also needed.

    I have not heard or enquired whether MOJ are providing any ongoing funding to PI, actually I hope not as enough tax payers money has been spent on TR already. If the MOJ are funders, I guess they will also have a view. Nothing was revealed in Justice questions in the House of Commons this week, but then as MPs seem to mostly have a poor understanding of Probation and TR, that is perhaps not really a surprise.

    It is a little surprising that current practitioners have not said more via this blog, but maybe like me they are only able to speculate, so hopefully we will be given more information from Napo - in my case - and the other participants - soon.

    1. I think I have probably got this wrong and it maybe short of a merger - initially it was said to be a "partnership"

      I may have made a dyslexic/dyspraxic misunderstanding as until just now I interpreted that as a merger.


    1. Could this mean the end of the £46 on release?
      Or maybe even a job of debt recovery for CRCs (someone will get the contract to collect)?

    2. How does TR address the bleedin obvious as stated here by a mentor in the Guardian article - a scenario which has been known about for many years? Where does the money come from for all those Oyster cards and the resources for each & every prisoner to have their hand held? Oh yes, smash the public sector, get cheap-rate volunteers via the charity sector & take the money out of the pockets if trained staff:

      "I mention Grayling’s comment about £46 and no support. “Right,” says Hayley, “and women prisoners are much more likely than men to have nobody meeting them. £46 goes nowhere. First off, you’ve got to buy an Oyster card (London travel card), which costs £5, plus a minimum £5 top-up, so you’re down to £36 out of the gate. That’s got to last you until your benefits come through, which could take up to 6 weeks. That’s why so many girls just go out and reoffend. There’s just no way for them to survive.”
      Hayley brings an Oyster card for her client. Wire also provides food bank vouchers, an essential piece of survival kit. There’s also a bag of toiletries and a couple of towels back at the office, which we’ll pick up on our way to the Southwark homeless persons unit, where, with a bit of luck, Tanya will be found a placement at a B&B. I’m realising by now just how inadequate £46 is, and how big the gap is that the CRCs will have to fill if they are to meet the needs of the most vulnerable prisoners."

    3. I'm confused, havent St giles trust got into bed with ingeus the private sector which will make it harder to do this kind of work

    4. Oi! 'Ang on, guv - geezer darn the boozer says you should learn to read more closely. The Guardian article is written by Monica Ali who states clearly she is a Trustee of the St Giles Trust. No wonder she thinks Grayling's plans are "radical" - they're benefitting from TR.

  9. Frances Crook of the Howard League has just tweeted a copy of a letter from NOMS, stating that they have ordered G4S to withdraw an invitation for her to visit its prisons. How far will this Government go in its quest to avoid public scrutiny? This is a stunningly stupid move.

    1. Just further evidence of the siege mentality that NOMS have always employed, which both appealed to & shored up Grayling's megalomania. The perfect storm was created when Spurr & Grayling joined forces... If measured on a barometer it would show a 'low' to rival Thatcher & Regan, or Blair & Bush.


    3. Grayling and his con men are a fucking joke.

    4. By Frances Crook

      I have spent a lot of the last twenty years in prisons. I have visited jails all over the UK and in many other countries. I've also visited seven of the private prisons in England and Wales. It was surprising then, to be banned from visiting Oakwood and Birmingham. Banned by the National Offender Management Service (Noms), not by G4S, who had invited me.

      The Howard League has opposed the principle of privatising prisons since it was first mooted in 1992. The concern is ethical, based on the distaste of making a profit from punishment. The most dreadful thing we can do to a person is take away their freedom and that responsibility must rest with the state.

      In many cases our worries have been justified as private prisons have had the same, and in some cases, worse problems than public sector establishments. The suicide rate is the same, the levels of violence and assaults is the same. The innovation has tended to be technological and introduced in order to save staff time, the best example being telephones in cell and automatic visit booking systems.

      When G4S-run Oakwood opened it suffered horrendous problems. The chief inspector famously said it was easier to get drugs than soap. Birmingham prison was the first Victorian prison to be taken over by the private sector.

      I met a senior staffer from G4S in the studio of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme a few weeks ago when we were putting forward different views on privatisation and he invited me to visit Oakwood and Birmingham to see for myself. I was due to visit next week and had bought my train tickets.

      It was therefore a bit of a shock to get the letter from Noms saying they were banning me.

  10. Makes you wonder, are we living in a democracy? By anyone's definition?


    2. "Given events of the last year or so, it was perhaps no shock that Serco announced losses for last year’s trading. What was surprising was both the scale of those ‘record’ losses, the statement from chief executive Rupert Soames that the company was continuing to make losses on a number of public sector contracts and his suggestion that in part this was the fault of the public sector.

      Serco has reported an operating loss of £1.3bn compared to a profit of £236m last year. £1.3bn represents many years’ profits. The company has also reported the loss of goodwill and exceptional write-offs, and intends to press ahead with a £555m rights issue.

      This is not good news for Serco shareholders – and it might prove not to be good news for its employees either. The implications for its many public sector and business sector clients are that it could also be bad news for them too if the company seeks to recover some of these losses at the expense of quality – although I should note that there is no evidence that Serco would seek to do this, and any such behaviour could only further damage the company’s reputation."

      I intend to find out how & why the Soames boy (Grandson of the Churchill dog) feels able to blame the public sector for Sercos incompetence. Watch this space...

    3. They truly speak a whole new language - greedspeak?

      "Historically, the key metrics used in forecasts were non-GAAP measures of Adjusted Revenue (adjusted to include Serco’s share of joint venture revenue) and Adjusted Operating Profit (adjusted to exclude Serco’s share of joint venture interest and tax as well as removing transaction-related costs and other material costs estimated by management that were considered to have been impacted by the UK Government reviews that followed the issues on the EM and PECS contracts). We believe that in the future the Company should report its results (and provide its future guidance) on metrics that are more closely aligned to statutory measures. Accordingly, our outlook for 2015 is now expressed in terms of Revenue and Trading Profit. The Revenue measure is consistent with the IFRS definition, and therefore excludes Serco’s share of joint venture revenue. Trading Profit, which is otherwise consistent with the IFRS definition of operating profit, adjusts only to exclude amortisation and impairment of intangibles arising on acquisition, as well as exceptional items. Trading Profit is therefore lower than the previously defined Adjusted Operating Profit measure due to the inclusion of Serco’s share of joint venture interest and tax charges. We believe that reporting and forecasting using metrics that are consistent with IFRS will be simpler and more transparent, and therefore more helpful to investors."

      Serco add "we believe that nearly all governments are going to be faced by inexorable pressure on four fronts: the growing costs of healthcare and the costs of supporting ageing populations; the need to reduce public debt and expenditure deficits; rising expectations of service quality amongst public service users; and the unwillingness of voters and corporate taxpayers to countenance tax increases (we call these the "Four Forces"). To reconcile these forces, governments need to continuously improve the quality and efficiency of service delivery. We believe that public sector monopolies are, by their nature, less well-equipped to manage continuous innovation and improvement in service delivery than the private sector, and a model in which government sets strategy, defines services so they are contestable, and then effectively competes, procures and oversees service delivery, is the best route to delivering improving quality and reducing the cost of public services. Such a strategy relies on vibrant and competitive markets of private sector suppliers to deliver public services."

    4. "(Our) strategy builds upon Serco's long track record and expertise in the transformation and management of complex public services, and of supporting critical and sensitive activities central to nations’ interests. We believe our chosen markets have compelling long-term structural growth drivers and that Serco can play a central role in helping governments respond to the challenge of improving the quality and reducing the cost of public services, whilst earning for our shareholders sustainable and attractive risk-adjusted returns."

      Soames therefore confirms that Serco will be reliant on Tory/capitalist ideology continuing beyond the forthcoming UK general election, that he is confident of such an outcome, and that there is evidently significant profit to be made by targetting public sector work, both operating profit & shareholder goodies.

      So, prepare to be fleeced. Serco are but one of many hundreds of organisations targetting the public sector across the globe.

      Also, we need to learn greedspeak so we can interpret their plans.

    5. Here's the key phrase from all the hobbledegook above:

      "Such a strategy relies on vibrant and competitive markets of private sector suppliers to deliver public services."


      "You're paying me shitloads to keep the doors open with my Tory connections & impeccable credentials (brother Nick, father Chris, grandfather Winnie) - and because I own Grayling & others; don't fuck up again."

  11. Clearly the MoJ and Grayling KNOW it's a mess, they KNOW they are worthy of censure and criticism and they KNOW that the Howard League have the credibility to bring their folly into view. They are frightened because they KNOW they have screwed it up.