Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Boxes Ticked Says Simon Hughes!

The response to yesterday's post must be very disappointing to all the agencies still intent on pretending that TR is still 'bedding in' and that things are steadily improving. It must be very annoying to the MoJ that this blog consistently tells a different story. It all reminds me of the ancient proverb:-  
'There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See'
But what of the political architects of the omnishambles? Don't they ever reflect on the effects of their policies? We all know about Chris Grayling, but what about Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes? How can politicians get things so wrong? They must go through life completely oblivious to what's going on around them. 

Thanks go to Sally Lewis on twitter for recently highlighting a simply nauseating interview he gave to the Institute for Government in September 2015:- 

SH: Let’s think of the best example of unexpected events or crises. There were predictable difficulties always, as there always are in any department, such as if you have a bill which you know is going to go to the Lords and be in trouble in the Lords and so on. So the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill was one such bill. And particularly all the issues to do with judicial review where the Lords were going to defeat the Government and so on. So there was predictable uncertainty and a lot of negotiation to be done. And that required extra meetings and meetings with Oliver Letwin as the policy manager of the Government and the leader of our party in the Lords and the Leader of the House of Lords and so on. So the most intense and complicated cross-government issues were obviously to do with legislation, as is normally the case.

The most difficult issues which weren’t crises but where you suddenly discovered they were taking a lot of time and it was fairly intense was where we were negotiating over policy where there was significant disagreement between the two coalition parties, such as knife crime and the proposal for ‘two strikes and you’re out’ stuff which the Tories were very keen on. Another example was charging people who’d come through the criminal justice system for the cost of the Courts Service which was a new Conservative initiative, and making sure the formula for that was worked out as fairly as possible. So those were fairly intense conversations including on our side David Laws and then Oliver on the other side [both then Cabinet Office ministers].

Unexpected developments: because we met regularly and had a good relationship and communication was very good, I think most things we saw coming, we were always prepared for. So there weren’t great dramas and crises in that sense. Sometimes an illness of a colleague would require a bit of reorganisation of responsibilities; Shailesh [Vara, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State] was ill for a little while and ill suddenly. And so there was the normal consequence of people having to pick up this work.

The most difficult battles to fight, again they weren’t crises, but the most difficult battles to fight were obviously delivering Transforming Rehabilitation through the department, which obviously had much opposition from the Probation Service or many of them. And that really required a lot of work by the Civil Service and it was the biggest project we had in the department when I was there. And that had lots of obstacles on the way.

Legal Aid negotiations with the risk of barristers being on strike and solicitors being on strike: not my direct responsibility, but that was obviously difficult. And then there were individual difficult things like the new youth offenders’ centre in the East Midlands, which in the end didn’t get completely signed off by the election, because the Treasury sort of blocked it and which has been dropped since the election.

Interestingly I don’t think that internally in the department there were too many dramas and crises or changes of timetable. I think we managed ourselves well. We covered each other well. We could be fairly adept at doing that, including obviously covering for colleagues at Question Time and so on.

The bigger issues were often cross-government, cross-department things where as our person in the MoJ there needed to be a shared line between me and my colleague in the Home Office, whoever it was at the time, and things like immigration law changes and asylum, which related to MoJ business because it related to detention centres and so on.

So I’m afraid I can’t give you graphic and exciting examples of 1am crisis phone calls -which is good really. It actually meant I think in terms of organisation, it was a well-organised department and if people, as in any good workplace, needed to work late they would. Very, very rarely was there need for many people to come in at the weekends to sort things.

NH: On a slightly more positive note, what do you think was your greatest achievement? What is the thing you’re most proud of?

SH: Collectively, the biggest policy that I inherited and we delivered together was Transforming Rehabilitation. [It] was the biggest policy we collectively delivered in the department – which was to make sure every single offender when they come out of prison would have support, no matter how short their sentence, and which had never been done before.

NH: What was it you think that contributed to that success? What were the factors involved?

SH: Phenomenally good work by the Civil Service. I mean very high-quality work by the Civil Service – real commitment, real skill, real ability. There were technical issues, there were IT issues, there were personnel issues, [and] there were strategic policy issues of dealing with the external opposition. But it was very, very high-quality Civil Service support and commitment to the project. And when we had our thank you party, I was very impressed when I talked to lots of people who had been involved and I was amazed to discover how many said this is the most worthwhile bit of work they had ever done in their professional life. I mean it really engaged people because they saw the benefit of the policy if it could be delivered. They knew it had a deadline for delivery and so on. And it was delivered in time. So that was the biggest thing.

JG: And just on your role on that.

SH: Yeah.

JG: Specifically, what demands were placed on you?

SH: I mean it wasn’t my lead because probation reform had started before and it was led by the Secretary of State who took a personal interest and another Tory colleague. However, everything all the way, because it was so controversial and so on, required lots of agreed planning of the strategy, the strategy of how we dealt with the unions, [and the] strategy of exactly how it would be implemented and when. There was an issue to do with an apparent conflict of interest of the wife of the Head of the Probation Service who worked for one of the people who got the contracts. And there was all the secrecy around the contracts.

I was involved in the discussion of the process, the delivery in the sense of giving advice, making sure that I was comfortable all the time and able at all times to make suggestions. So I was very much part of the political team delivering it. I had to sell it to my party colleagues because some of my colleagues were quite uncomfortable about it. More of my colleagues were uncomfortable about it than Tory colleagues. So we had quite a big delivery exercise. So that was probably my biggest specific role – colleagues in the Commons, colleagues in the Lords, making sure they were briefed, up to date, informed, given the information to deal with constituents and lobbying and so on. So that was the biggest project.

I had three things that were more specifically mine, which I was very pleased about. I was able to complete the work to make sure we implemented one united family court, which had never been the case before. Family business used to be spread over three different types of court: magistrates’ court, county court, high court and all are [now] brought together in one new court. For the first time the family services were coordinated across the country and all sort of things flowed from that. And it was obviously happening at the same time as Legal Aid had been reduced so there were other issues. It meant putting in more support for litigants in person and mediation to take people away from disputes. So that was a big bit of work. And I think we did well. I think the family courts are working really well. And I think we’ve managed to alleviate some of the pressures that were caused by budgetary reduction.

The second was a little ring-fenced thing but really important – delivering legislation to change the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. It was the first time it had been done since the ’70s, meaning that you don’t now have to declare your relatively minor misdeeds committed when you were young for nearly as often or for as long time as used to be the case. And that hugely helps lots of people’s lives. So that was a very positive piece of legislation.

And the last was really delivering across the women’s prison estate what we called the objective of making every women’s prison a resettlement prison, so that there were the proper facilities there to prepare their release into the community. So it meant lots of new building outside the prison walls where women could meet with their families and have children and partners visit and prepare for work and do apprenticeships and training and so on. And that is in place now, physically in place, in lots of prisons, which it wasn’t when I started. And is in place in delivery terms and the rest.

So those were the three biggest things, not the most important things but the biggest things. And it was very good that when you were able to deliver things like that. People were clearly encouraged by them and positive: the prison governors were positive and the prison staff were positive and offenders were positive and even people from the Howard League who are not always government’s best fans were positive and parliamentary colleagues were positive across the House. Most people ended up saying yes that’s really worth doing. And you felt yes, good, tick the box.


  1. "And when we had our thank you party" - what a shame the whole bally lot of them didn't choke to death on the canapes, cake & bubbles.

    Thanks for digging this out, Jim. It reveals what a pack of conniving, scheming shits they really are.

    "SH: I mean it wasn’t my lead because probation reform had started before and it was led by the Secretary of State who took a personal interest and another Tory colleague [hmm, who was that I wonder?]... it was so controversial and so on, required lots of agreed planning of the strategy, the strategy of how we dealt with the unions, [and the] strategy of exactly how it would be implemented and when. There was an issue to do with an apparent conflict of interest of the wife of the Head of the Probation Service who worked for one of the people who got the contracts. And there was all the secrecy around the contracts."

  2. Interesting and scary insight into the thinking of the other side ! They clearly don't have a clue about the real world and I don't recognise their world

  3. You have to ask, on which planet does SH live?

  4. Sounds like Hughes is a walking advert for Tena, pissing his pants with the excitement of it all. Pathetic, disgraceful & so, so sad. No regard for the detrimental & catastrophic impact upon staff, users of probation services or the safety of the public. "That was the biggest thing", Simon Hughes.

  5. The dishonesty of claiming success, and therefore, money on one person, multiple times, per order needs to be exposed to the media - please, NAPO? Surely the PAC need to pick up on this.


  6. I think if I had met him, I would not have been able to stop myself attacking him physically, I still feel absolutely furious with him. Having seen him present awards at a Dyslexia school, for convicts event in Hackney one night in about 2000, I was impressed that he seemed to understand the reality of probation. However like so many barristers they did not understand beyond just using us to aid them get a good result for a client in court.

    I recall many experiences as a court officer trying to "educate" lawyers into what could realistically be achieved or expected by probation – Simon Hughes was one we failed with, but his arrogance led him to legislate against the advice of probation practitioners. I am reminded of hearing Lord Williams speak. He was briefly a probation minister before he moved to a Justice Ministerial Job, before his untimely death. He was the only minister in the Labour Government 97-2010 who really valued probation and he was at that time encouraging judges to meet probation workers. He had been chair of The Bar Council - Gareth Williams, but sadly died and anyway was quickly moved away from prisons and probation for political expediency.

    The problem is our whole system of Governance - once central Government effectively moved local magistrates away from controlling probation (and we complained about them) it deteriorated and it was just luck if someone in the Civil service was knowledgeable - sadly David Faulkner had to eventually retire.

    I recall a stand up row at the end of a ridiculous presentation at the old Keswick conference run by Lake District Napo, with the then head of probation at the time of the 1992 Act. that was about the word offender getting into the legislation and documentation and effectively replacing probationer.

    I should have campaigned harder and given up on the professional career - one could not do both, I just was not confident about seeking a big Napo role, probably sensibly as I was always going to be limited in my potential due to dyspraxia which I did not discover until 1999 - that I am dyspraxic and dyslexic and the consequences - but that is another story. ND - neuro diversity - in all its forms, dyspraxia/DCD, Asperger's Syndrome, etc., etc., have still to be understood by the CJS. We must be half a century away - judging by the speed we are learning about addiction and mental illness - which were known about when I started out in 1972 - yet still the provision are very poor.


  7. Since the Great Shafting of 2013 & subsequent threatening letter from Trust CEO ("my way or the highway, sunshine") I have been committed to pursuing the argument of constructive dismissal of Probation staff. Mr Hughes' words, published at the time I was being paid off, have made me quite upset.

    1. I was employed as a Probation Officer by a specific employer and had continuous employment status as a PO for many, many years.
    2. I was re-deployed against my expressed wishes, outwith TUPE regulations and on undisclosed data I was not allowed to challenge, and assigned to a pseudo-independent artificial organisation, created by the government solely for sale to the private sector - all in the hands of one man whose sole aim was to force through the sale as quickly as possible.
    3. My one & only chance of appeal against this redeployment was dismissed without any further explanation or justification beyond an arbitrary comment about caseload snapshots on 11 Nov 2013.
    4. I was sent a letter by my Trust CEO telling me that if I tried to appeal the sifting decision a second time it would be regarded as tendering my immediate resignation.
    5. The organisation I was re-deployed to refused to consider my request for redundancy (made within the specified timescale) telling me I wasn't eligible...
    6. ... they went on to place me at risk of recundancy 3 months later, but they refused to co-operate with the national terms & conditions agreed pre-sale and, by applying undue pressure upon staff, the organisation enforced a voluntary severance scheme to rid themselves of 35% of existing staff. After a painful fight, with no union support & under threats from bully managers, I felt I had no option but to leave.
    7. A number of "priveleged" individuals were not only deemed eligible for the enhanced redundancy package but were also subsequently re-employed by the new organisation.
    8. I would suggest that the above represents a clear strategy to enforce changes to individuals' employment rights - outwith the TUPE framework - that couldn't otherwise be implemented & which led to inevitable loss of employment; an inevitability which was known in advance by virtue of the national agreement for job losses which the MoJ signed up to, i.e. the EVR scheme.

    Hughes admits there was "the strategy of how we dealt with the unions, [and the] strategy of exactly how it would be implemented and when." A strategy of dismissal, constructive dismissal, to allow for the implementation of a single-minded political ideology, i.e. the sale of public services to the private sector.

    1. I am very sorry indeed Anon at 10:48.

      Understandably I provoked a lot of animosity when I encouraged folk to simply refuse to transfer from the Probation Trusts by whatever means possible - I realised that would have placed folk in parlous positions financially but at that time Government needed probation workers and might have offered something better if enough folk refused. Anyway individuals would have kept their sanity and were highly employable even those who could not transfer immediately into social work.

      I appreciate the resentment as I still have some from when I had an “our way or the highway moment” - in 2003, but was offered as a get out, early retirement, on medical grounds, which on advice I accepted because it gave me more and also certainty than I possibly would have got if I had gone the constructive dismissal route, which Napo told me might have got me less than zilch - so with a mortgage I opted for safety & never worked again.

      Similarly, I simply walked out - having given notice in 1988 when a probation employer, did not treat me as I considered fairly - but I went back for more with another Service 8 months later - in the interval I did a locum SSD job, & confirmed that SSDs were still not quite as good employers as were Probation Services as I first discovered when I did a similar comparison in 1975 - when I looked at 6 social workers in District H of Liverpool City Council SSD, scrabbling round a single phone in a shared office compared to what was on offer from Merseyside Probation Service.

      I am sorry, I did not campaign enough and conditions deteriorated. When I started in 1975, I recall folk talking about previously probation officers being at the same pay level as police Inspectors in the 1960s. Now new recruits will be on less than Prison Officers, at least in 31 prisons.

      It is concerted collaborative action that is needed or I can see little chance of improvements as public spending becomes ever more constrained. Parliament is not enlightened - Corbyn's Labour Party does not have any published criminal justice policy that I can see & I see nothing else on the horizon as we await the Truss plan for probation in April - will it involve Police & Crime Commissioners - I wonder?

    2. Thank you Andrew.

  8. Well, that was a tough interview for Simon. Fake news has a long history. Simon Hughes became a MP following the bitter Bermondsey by-election in 1983 when the Liberal election leaflets screamed it was a 'straight choice' between him and Peter Tatchell. It was all dog whistle homophobia and it ticked the boxes on that occasion too for Simon who years later revealed his own homosexual experiences. To get the truth from Simon he would need to be interviewed by the Grand Inquisitor.

  9. Vile self-serving species all of them.

  10. SH - I have read that blog today with my mouth gaping, at the childishly worded trash, the lies, the self- praise which is steaming vomit inducing. And doesn't he just love himself. The language and composition sounded juvenile, a young child making a speech to the class, or even the school, on a project they had to do, along with other children. And so chuffed with self, every paragraph, (which in Hughes case, is mostly untrue and exaggerates everything which was done,) is full of 'me,me, I, I..'. But small children have a right to be proud of their work. HE sounds like Trump, a narcissistic fantasist, in charge of TR, and working with the phenomenally very very good Civil Service behind him.

    That paragraph about the success of the Civil Service is beyond comment! And of course, he was responsible for the bigger tasks too-yes, of course he was... And as a Liberal Democrat, who are trying to get their foot over the step again, how pleased the Party must be to have him as a leading light!!!!!

    1. I agree. It is all so vague and imprecise, unspecific, lacking analysis and critique.

    2. SH visited my office in Southwark just before he took up that post - he was then the local MP & we were told he wanted to find out more about our work. There were case presentations, he met some clients, and he was full of praise. Little did we realise what he was about to do.

  11. A scheme to attract ex-prison officers back into jails has attracted just 10 people more than a year since it was set up, PoliticsHome can reveal.


  12. Am I too late to call Simon Hughes a self-serving feckless C*NT?

  13. SH is unbelievable.. what planet is he on ?