Monthly Archives: July 2018

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RORY PRAISES LOCAL FORESTRY INDUSTRY FOR SUPPORTING MAJOR GROWTH DEAL

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Rory recently attended a meeting of the Borderlands Forest Sector Group hosted by BSW Timber and Tilhill Forestry at the Carlisle Sawmills in Cargo.

The Borderlands Forest Sector Group is a joint private and public sector initiative which is providing industry support for the Borderlands Growth Deal. Ideas include setting up the first Forestry Investment Zone in the UK, addressing timber transport issues and developing the skill base in the Borderlands area. Rory Stewart joined the meeting to get an update on the work being done, and praised the local forestry industry for supporting this important Deal.

Speaking at the event Rory said “The Borderlands Growth Deal is a unique opportunity, in that it is a growth deal for a rural area, and Keith Jones [Area Director for the Forestry Commission] has been fantastic in taking the initiative on this and ceasing the opportunity for the forestry and wood industry.”

“The story around forestry is a central part of the Growth Deal, and I don’t need to be convinced of how important this industry is. I think there’s a huge amount we can learn from Scotland, and I think one of the things that’s very exciting – that comes from Dumfries and Galloway – is the way in which good, functioning commercial forestry can go along with tourism opportunities, such as the 7stanes mountain biking. More of that is now happening in Kielder Forest, but the more of this we do – the more we connect destination, tourism and walking with forest – the more we open forests up to the world. And I am very excited about where this could lead.”

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RORY SPEAKS ON MOBILE PHONES IN PRISON

Rory: I thank all Members who have spoken today, and particularly my hon. Friend Maria Caulfield for promoting this important Bill. I also thank my right hon. Friend Ms McVey who introduced the Bill in its original version, and my hon. Friend Sir Paul Beresford who brought forward the 2012 version.

This has been an astonishing tour d’horizon, and powerful speeches by an extraordinary number of hon. and right hon. Members have touched on fundamental issues concerning the purpose of prison. Members have mentioned the rehabilitative aspects of prison, as well as incapacitation, retribution and deterrence, but we must begin by thinking about the device of a mobile phone itself. As my hon. Friend Maggie Throup powerfully pointed out, this device is not simply a telephone, and when considering this Bill we must consider its relationship to prison in general.

Prison is designed to isolate somebody from the public, and in contemporary society prison is effectively a punishment of segregation or isolation which includes the breaking of communication. The difference between being in a prison cell, as intended by the prison’s administration, and being in a cell with this device in one’s hand, is absolute. In a cell, someone without such a device can expect to be controlled by the regime in terms of access to media and communications. With a device in their hand, however, their entire life becomes different—they are no longer quite a prisoner; they are someone who can begin to become an active, involved individual who can reach out well beyond the walls of their cell. Relatively rapidly in the short time available, let me talk through what that actually means and how that feels in a prison.

Having such a device effectively means that someone can set an alarm, wake up, and use a torch to communicate with the drone outside their prison cell. They can use their device to pilot the drone to their window, and having had their drugs delivered, they can sit back and go on Skype or Facebook, or make a WhatsApp video call with their partner outside prison. They can sit back, watch a movie, go on Facebook, and fall asleep. When they wake up in the morning they can use the device for their personal fitness training, or begin trading shares and make a little money.

As their morning starts, perhaps after breakfast, they can begin to use their device more actively to run their criminal gang outside the prison walls—that is the moment at which they pick up their mobile telephone to call a business rival, intimidate a witness, or organise the importation of drugs or weapons into the country. Having done that, the device then becomes a weapon within the prison itself. It allows someone to go to another prisoner and say, “You owe me £35 for the drugs that I dealt you last week”, or to calculate a 50% interest payment, or the interest payment attributed to a particular cell. The device allows someone to take a photograph of an individual and send it to their partner. If an individual will not pay, the device allows someone to feed them Spice and, as happened recently, put them in a washing machine, video them, and load an image of them going round and round on social media.

This device can also be used for research—it permits someone to get online, find out what the man sharing their cell has been convicted for, discover something about the business they used to run or the assets they might possess, and establish their address and where their partner is located. The device allows someone to undermine the prison regime, or take a photograph of their prison officer and share it with a friend outside the prison walls, so that they can follow the prison officer home. This device allows someone to research the entire family background of their prison officer, and when they have finished doing that—perhaps in the evening when they are locked up again—they can begin using the device actively to commit crime.

Someone could use their device to hack into other people’s websites, or to access the dark web and start trading weapons or slaves on line. This device might then allow them to begin going on social media. They might not wish to, but they could retweet an ISIS video on this device. They could use this device, through social media, to simultaneously organise disturbances across 30 or 40 prisons at the same time, and time when those disturbances took place. Above all, what they would be doing through their continual use of this device, going on Facebook and Twitter, is continually humiliating and offending their victims. They have been locked away as a sex offender or a violent offender, and their victim is suddenly finding that they are on Twitter or Facebook sharing their views on the world, talking to their friends and generally behaving as though they are not in prison.

That therefore brings us from the device to the purpose of the Bill. This is where the contributions by hon. and right hon. Members have been so important. The first point made by my hon. Friend Luke Hall, which is what we have to begin with, is that this device undermines the effective functions of a prison. It undermines the authority of the prison officers. It undermines their ability to use incentives and the earning of privileges in order to control the behaviour of a prisoner. Basically, it means that a prison is less safe and less functioning, and is unable to perform its functions.

It was clear from nearly the dozen speeches we heard today that there were four quite different concepts of prison. Roughly speaking, my hon. Friends the Members for Horsham (Jeremy Quin), for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami), for Banbury (Victoria Prentis) and for Cheadle (Mary Robinson) focused on the rehabilitative aspects of a prison. My hon. Friends the Members for Croydon South (Chris Philp) and for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart) focused on the function of prison in terms of incapacitation. My hon. Friend Scott Mann focused on the importance of retribution within prison. My hon. Friends the Members for Havant (Alan Mak) and for Dudley South (Mike Wood) focused on deterrence.

I am simplifying—the speeches touched on many different aspects of the use of a prison—but by focusing on those four quite different purposes of a prison we can bring into clear focus the different ways in which this powerful device or weapon in the hands of a prisoner can be used to undermine the purpose of a prison. If we were to focus, as my hon. Friends the Members for Hitchin and Harpenden, for Banbury and for Cheadle do, on the question of rehabilitation, then suddenly the telephone can seem a rather attractive way of containing the prisoner’s ability to communicate with broader society.

The argument that might be made—I would not be making it—is that this device is what prevents a prisoner suddenly dropping off the edge of a cliff when they leave prison and re-enter society. A prisoner who has been locked up for 15 years without access to this device and without access to social media has very little idea of the society outside the prison walls. A prisoner who has access to this device is able to continue family contact, is able to keep up with the world, is able to educate themselves, is able to take German lessons, is able to go on Wikipedia. Indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury explained in her speech, there is a sense—my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden touched on this as well—that there is not a great gap between the kind of use that many prisoners are putting this device to and the kind of use that we ourselves, our families and our children are putting these devices to in everyday life.

But—this is where the speech by the hon. Member for Croydon South is so important—this device flagrantly challenges the fundamental principle of prison, which is that of incapacitation. In the example of Craig Hickinbottom, in the example of escapes being organised from prison, this device leaps over the prison walls. The prison walls no longer become a method of incapacitating a prisoner, but instead become a fluid substance through which the prisoner can continue to intimidate society, run a criminal gang and operate, in effect, as though they were not incarcerated at all.

This touches on the question raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Brentwood and Ongar and for North Cornwall when they talked about the retributive function of prison. If the point of prison is to ensure that the criminal is punished for the historical crime they committed, the question is this: is it adequate retribution to allow somebody to sit in a prison cell with this device? What do we mean by that? Clearly central to the question of punishment is the question of the deprivation of liberty, which involves the deprivation of communication. In so far as we are unable to punish a prisoner in other ways and many of the other ways in which people were traditionally punished have been removed, an individual is now sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment. In other words, the idea is that the individual goes to prison and the punishment is that deprivation of liberty. However, as hon. and right hon. Members have pointed out, the possession of this device could potentially undermine the fundamental principle of that punishment by giving a prisoner a range of liberties—the ability to speak to their family at a moment’s notice, the ability to go online, the ability to stream videos and music and the ability to continue to live the life of an active citizen from within the prison walls—which is not consistent with the judge’s intention.

That brings me to the fourth purpose of prison, emphasised by my hon. Friends the Members for Havant and for Dudley South, which is, of course, deterrence. On the surface, the issues around deterrence and incapacitation would appear to be the same issue, but they are not. The question of retribution, in particular, involves the judge accurately calibrating the punishment to fit the historical crime. The question in relation to the mobile telephone is the extent to which the deprivation of the mobile telephone is in proportion to the exact crime that the individual has committed.

The question of deterrence is quite different. It relates to the notion of an exemplary sentence—in other words, deterrence relates not to the past and to the historical crime committed by the individual, but to the future and wider society. The question then is: does this mobile telephone and its possession represent for broader society something that would be expected by the potential criminal, and the deprivation of which would dissuade them from committing that criminal act?

Superficially, all the questions around mobile telephones seem as though they are just questions of technology, but they are not just that—they go to the fundamental purpose of prison. Again, it might superficially seem that we can just say, “Prison exists for all these things. It exists to incapacitate, deter, rehabilitate and to take retribution,” but this is not true in reality. If we look at the debates that happen within criminal justice, we are unable to resolve these fundamental issues, and the reason is that the principles, or assumptions, from which these things are derived are in conflict with each other. They can be in conflict in different ways.

It has been a great privilege to hear from so many learned Friends today—indeed, I would be delighted to take interventions from any of them—and they have managed to put their finger on deep philosophical distinctions.

Jeremy Quin:

I would not describe myself as “learned”, either in fact or by courtesy. My hon. Friend is making a very powerful and interesting speech about the philosophy of prisons. It occurred to me, listening to him, how profoundly things have changed over the last 30 or 40 years. If we compare and contrast what an offender might have done in society 20, 30 or 40 years ago with the situation now, we see how markedly things have changed. I am thinking about people’s personal lives—their access to films, the internet and the way they conduct themselves. If we compare how people conduct their social lives now with 30 years ago, when social life was more community-based, it is clear that things have changed greatly, and that needs to be reflected in the prison sentences and jails.

Rory:

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The questions around the telephone is what we expect in society as a whole and the relationship of a prison to what happens in broader society. What we see in our prisons is that in fact they ultimately mirror broader society. What was acceptable in the 19th century is not acceptable today. For example, in Pentonville prison 175 years ago solitary confinement meant total silence and the use of masks for 23 hours a day. Slopping out, which happened as recently as the 1980s—in other words, the fact that prisoners did not have lavatories in their cells—has ceased to be acceptable. Our views on whether prisoners should have showers in their cells might change in 20 or 30 years’ time.

Our views on how a mobile telephone relates to normal life will also change. Will a mobile phone begin to feel so fundamentally interwoven with our social life, our communications and the way we live in a 21st-century society that to be deprived of it will feel quite different in 20 years’ time from how it feels today, or how it might have felt 20 years ago?

Therefore, in trying to work out how to frame legislation and how to treat prisoners, we have to deal with social change at a range of different levels; we have to deal with changes in culture and society over time; and we have to deal with clashes of values between individuals that cannot be reconciled.

The interesting point raised by my learned friends who focused on the question of retribution in justice goes to the fundamental question of what we are entitled to do to an individual.

Alan Mak:

Does my hon. Friend agree that we experience not only cultural change, but technological change? One of the strengths of the Bill is that it sets out a framework that will help to future-proof the statute book with regard to technological change.

Rory:

That is absolutely right. Indeed, the very existence of the Bill shows how quickly technology is changing. We began in 2007 simply by making it illegal to have a mobile telephone in prison—it carries a maximum sentence of two years. One would have thought that there would therefore be no problem with simply jamming the signal in prisons to prevent the use of mobile telephones, because having one was illegal. What on earth is the problem with putting in place the technology to stop that? What we discovered, of course, is that that presents a huge range of philosophical, legal and technological challenges. That explains why we had another Bill in 2012 and, thanks to the very good work of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes, another Bill now in 2018.

Those challenges are quite significant. Let me deal first with the philosophical challenge. Article 8 of the European convention on human rights allows for a right to privacy. The 2012 legislation began to give the Secretary of State the authority to deal with the question of the right to privacy, and also to deal with the unanticipated consequences, which have been raised by various hon. Members, of the blocking technology affecting the lives of people outside the prison walls. Even that is not sufficient, because there is then a series of changing regulations relating to Ofcom, for example.

The 2012 legislation tried to deal with the gap between what can be authorised to a Crown servant—in this case the governor of a public prison—and what instructions can be given to the director of a private prison, such as one run by G4S, Serco or Sodexo. That was resolved in 2012, but what happened then—this point has been raised already—is that we are simply walking around a prison with various devices. What devices can be used in a prison? Before this legislation, we could wander around a prison with a metal detector, which can pick up the metal in a mobile telephone. We could wander around with a wand that picks up the microwave signals from a phone, but the phone might be very small and hidden almost anywhere in a messy cell. What we were unable to do, except with the co-operation of the mobile telephone company, is operate from the mast.

Under the previous legislation, we were forced effectively to jam the signal by transmitting on the same frequency that the mobile telephone company transmits. The company moves from 3G to 4G and the signal changes. Let us imagine that there are three masts from three companies surrounding a prison, all of which are transmitting on different frequencies. Those frequencies change over time, as do their strengths. The prison will find itself trying to transmit on a frequency, and when the frequency changes they miss it. They find the frequency again and they transmit at a certain strength, but then the signal strength increases against them. As they increase the signal strength, they increase the likelihood that they will take out mobile telephone communications from the surrounding houses. That would be a real risk in Brixton, for example.

We are dealing all the time with technological change. The speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Horsham, for Erewash for Torbay (Kevin Foster) and for Witney (Robert Courts) were particularly powerful in dealing with the ways in which that technological change drives this legislation, necessitates this legislation, and will challenge this legislation.

Alex Burghart:

My hon. Friend is making an extremely powerful speech. May I raise a practical point? I imagine that people living or working near prisons may fear that this change will reduce the quality of the signals in their houses or businesses. What reassurances can my hon. Friend give?

Rory:

That is a fundamental question, and I am pleased that my hon. Friend has asked it. It is, in fact, addressed both in the 2012 Act and in the schedule to the Bill. In the schedule, new subsection (4A) provides for the Secretary of State, in authorising the mobile telephone company—the mobile network operator—also to place an obligation on that operator not to interfere with the communications of individuals outside the prison walls, and to require the operator to take remedial action if any such interference should take place. That is a very good challenge.

My hon. Friends the Members for Torbay and for Witney also raised other issues, such as encryption and the potential setting up of a wi-fi network within the prison walls. That is not always easy. I assure Members that whenever we try to put wi-fi into a prison, we find that 150-year-old Victorian walls make it almost impossible to get a signal into it. On the other hand, criminals can often be extraordinarily entrepreneurial and ingenious in getting around problems that may defeat our engineers.

At the core of this, however, is not simply a question of technology. Let us return to the question of the four purposes of prison, and let us return in particular to the question of retribution. The key idea of retribution in relation to the mobile telephone is the idea that you are punishing a criminal for a crime that he committed in the past. As was suggested by a number of learned Members, that is a fundamental philosophical principle relating to the nature of the rights of that individual.

As Immanuel Kant pointed out, the individual should, as a matter of rational logic and a categorical imperative, be treated only as an end in himself, not as a means to an end. In other words, we should not be punishing individual A in order to change the behaviour of individual B. We should not even be punishing individual A in order to change the future behaviour of individual A. As Kant argues, the retributive punishment should be directed only towards the historical action of the individual, and should relate only to that historical crime. Kant is therefore arguing that neither deterrence, which is punishing individual A in order to affect the behaviour of individual B, nor rehabilitation, which is punishing individual A in order to affect the future behaviour of individual A, is a valid form of punishment.

The Members who advanced utilitarian arguments were making a completely different set of points. Their arguments were, in fact, arguments about society more broadly. They were suggesting that what matters is not the historical action committed by the individual, but society as a whole, and the future consequences. They might well argue that what matters is not what the individual did in the past—that has happened, and there is no point in crying over spilt milk—but how we change society in the future. How do we ensure, through the punishment that we inflict on this individual, that this individual does not go on and reoffend? How do we ensure, through the punishment that we inflict on this individual, that others are deterred from committing a crime?

In that fundamental clash between a Kantian deontological world view focused on the rights of the individual and the dignity of the individual, and a consequentialist or utilitarian argument in which the individual may suffer for the greater happiness of the greater number, we have something that cannot be resolved in this Chamber, because such fundamental values and principles are beyond the ability of this Chamber to resolve. All we can try to do—through the media, through civil society, through Parliament, through legislation—is listen to these types of debate, understand them and articulate them, but we can never fully resolve them. That is why this legislation needs to be able to contain a powerful and enormous element of flexibility. As technology changes and this device—this mobile telephone that I am now holding up—becomes more powerful, as the ways in which 4G or 5G technology emerge, as my hon. Friend Alan Mak points out, and as social attitudes towards punishment, crime and indeed social attitudes towards mobile telephones change, we need legislation that can keep up with that change. A day may come when some elements of the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury, where she emphasised the centrality and normalcy of this phone in our everyday family lives and especially in the lives of our children, may begin to predominate over the kinds of argument made by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South.

Jeremy Quin:

It has been said that one does hear Kant in the Chamber occasionally, but rarely so eruditely expressed; it is wonderful to hear the Minister’s philosophical discussion. He talked about the centrality of mobile phones; the centrality a lot of us were concerned about was the direct use of the mobile phone to direct criminal networks and criminal gangs on the other side of prison walls. On the strict practicalities of the use of mobile phones, will the Minister reassure me that this Bill will help prevent that very real problem?

Rory:

Yes; in essence the point about the mobile telephone is that we need to understand it not as a telephone. It is of course a communications device and as such, particularly in telephonic communication, it can be used to control criminal gangs, but we must also take on board its full use, and understand that it is also a recording device, a way of accessing the internet, and a wallet in which money is contained and through which money can be transferred, and that it therefore can be used to intimidate people—to intimidate witnesses—to run criminal gangs and do all sorts of things right through to piloting a drone through a window. Once we understand that, we begin to understand that this device is a weapon, not a communications device, and what follows from that are all the things Members have raised in terms of criminality: the importing of illicit substances, the accessing of illicit entertainment, the making of illicit money, the running of illicit gangs, the extortion of money, the undermining of a prison regime, the committing of crime, its use for terrorism and for promoting disturbances, and create victims through social media.

All of which brings me finally back to the legislation itself. On the surface, this Bill seems very straightforward, and in fact of course, as Members have pointed out, the core of this legislation sits at proposed new subsection (2A) to the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Act 2012:

“The Secretary of State may authorise a public communications provider to interfere with wireless telegraphy.”

The key point here is that it is addressed to the public communications provider rather than, as is the case in the 2012 legislation, to the governor of a prison or the director of a private prison.

Chris Philp:

I touched in my speech on a question about this proposed provision, asking whether the word “authorise” confers adequate power on a Minister or Secretary of State: if they authorise someone to do something, they may not follow that authorisation—they may ignore him. Should that word therefore be changed to “compel” or “require” in order to give the Secretary of State the power he or she needs?

Rory:

That is an interesting question, and the answer is that, as currently drafted, this word “authorise” means exactly that: it is giving legal permission. The anxiety of the mobile telephone companies would be that without that authorisation, were they to conduct these operations they would be in breach of Ofcomregulations and ultimately in breach of article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Under this legislation therefore, all we are doing is saying to a willing mobile telephone company that, should it voluntarily wish to work with us, this gives it the authority to do so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South has raised an interesting point, however. What would happen if the mobile telephone company were to turn round and refuse to comply? To some extent that is hypothetical, because we have not yet encountered a mobile telephone provider that is not prepared to work with us on this, for a range of reasons. The mobile telephone companies’ relationship with Ofcom and the Government is complex, deep and interlinked, and they generally wish to retain the goodwill of the Government. It is also true that in some cases we would have a commercial contract with a mobile telephone company to undertake this work, so it would have a financial interest in working with us. Hypothetically, however, it remains the case that under this legislation, a mobile telephone company would be able to refuse to provide the service. We do not believe that it would do so, but my hon. Friend is absolutely correct to say that, theoretically, it could do so under this legislation.

Alex Burghart:

Has my hon. Friend’s Department received assurances from the major providers that they are happy with the legislation as it stands and that they intend to work with the Government in the future?

Rory:

Yes, the Department works closely with the major providers and our understanding at the moment is that they are all willing to work with us in line with this legislation.

I shall move towards a conclusion, and I shall try to end within the next three minutes. I want to move quickly through the Bill, and to clarify matters for hon. Members before they vote on it. In proposed new subsection (2B), “preventing the use” and “detecting or investigating the use” are the key purposes to which this authorisation can be put. In other words, the point of this is to ensure that we can prevent someone from using their mobile telephone, that we can find their mobile telephone, and that we can work out what they are doing with it.

Proposed new subsection (2C) will probably trouble, confuse, amuse and perplex a number of Members. It states that an authorisation may be given in relation to

“one or more relevant institutions…one or more kinds of relevant institution…or relevant institutions”.

Even a very learned and distinguished colleague such as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury might struggle to work out why on earth we are distinguishing between those three categories. Perhaps she would like to intervene on me at this point. The answer is that parliamentary counsel is trying to provide for the possibility of our giving authorisation to, for example, two prisons in the adult male estate, such as Brixton and Wandsworth, or to two kinds of prison, let us say a young offenders institution such as Feltham and an adult male institution such as Brixton. Alternatively, we might wish to give a more general authorisation to all institutions of the relevant kind—for example, all the young offender institutions in the country or all the adult male institutions in the country. This is a perfect time for my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury to intervene on me.

Victoria Prentis:

I thank the Minister for giving way, but he certainly does not need my help or that of more learned colleagues. The point he is making is an important one, which is that the current legislation is clunky and difficult for governors and Ministers to use, and that this legislation will make things much easier and more effective.

Rory:

That is an enormous relief

Chris Philp:

The Minister has mentioned the word “authorise” again. I heard his clarification earlier. As the Bill is drafted, the mobile phone companies would not be absolutely required to comply, but can he confirm that it is the expectation and the intention of the Government—and, I think, of this House—that when the Government ask a public communications provider to interfere with wireless telegraphy in a prison, it will comply with that request, and that the Government and the House would take a dim view if any public communications provider did not comply with such a request?

Rory:

Without wishing to sound like the Speaker, I think my hon. Friend has made his point with great force and clarity, and I am sure that anyone listening to the debate will have taken on board his message very clearly.

In conclusion, I should like to thank hon. and right hon. Members for their patience. This has been a relatively long debate, and we have touched in extreme and excruciating detail on the philosophical foundations of the legislation, as well as on the technological applications of mobile telephones. It has been a really worthwhile debate. Having spoken at some length, I want to finish with a short moment of sincerity to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes, in particular, and also other right hon. and hon. Members for their often intelligent, interesting and illuminating contributions. The Bill matters: it goes to the heart of how prisons are run, what they exist for, how we punish someone and what a prisoner can do from within a prison’s walls to intimidate prison officers and other prisoners, profit themselves and organise crime in broader society.

Giving Government the power to ensure that these illegal acts, currently punishable by a maximum sentence of up to two years in prison, can be prevented with the latest technology and the consent of mobile telephone operators, which will allow us to pinpoint the devices, block them and follow their traffic, will be an extraordinary contribution to reducing drugs, violence and disorder in prisons, making them safer and more decent, and ultimately protecting the broader public.

Palace of Westminster

RORY PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE NHS ON ITS 70TH BIRTHDAY

Palace of Westminster

Rory Stewart has paid tribute to the NHS on its 70th birthday, praising it as “a service which has inspired the world”.

The 70th anniversary of the NHS’ foundation was marked with a range of celebrations, across both Cumbria and the country. In Westminster the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards were held, in which Cumbria Health on Call (CHoC) triumphed, winning the Excellence in Primary Care Award. These awards were designed to identify and recognise the most outstanding examples of care, innovation and quality within the Health Service and CHoC beat almost a hundred contenders to take home the trophy. It was nominated for the award by Rory, Trudy Harrison, John Stevenson and Tim Farron.

The “Go Blue” campaign, championed by the North Cumbria NHS Trust, was also a notable success. Penrith Town Hall, thanks to the work of Kevin Beaty, was illuminated blue, and proudly flew an NHS flag while, in London, due to Rory’s efforts, the Palace of Westminster was lit up in a visual tribute to the Health Service. Earlier in the day, services were held at Carlisle Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and across the country to mark this national anniversary.

Commenting on the day’s celebrations, Rory said, “The last few days have been fantastic, demonstrating the gratitude felt across the country for the NHS. The celebrations have been extremely memorable and it was a particular pleasure to see CHoC triumph at the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards. It deserves our congratulations and our thanks for the work that it does. It was also a privilege to see the Palace of Westminster lit in blue yesterday evening and to view the illuminations that took place across Cumbria. I would like to thank all of those who organised and participated in the celebrations and, most importantly, all of those who work tirelessly to make the NHS a service which has inspired the world for the past seventy years”.

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RORY HOLDS MEETING TO DISCUSS IMPACT OF BORDERLANDS ON BEWCASTLE

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Rory has chaired an informal meeting at Netherby Hall to discuss the Borderlands Growth Deal and the Forgotten Lands initiative with key stakeholders from in and around the Bewcastle Parish. The meeting – hosted by Gerald and Margo Smith – was an opportunity to provide an update on recent Growth Deal developments and share ideas about ways in which the growth deal could benefit the Bewcastle Parishes.

The Borderlands Growth Deal is the planned government growth deal to invest in communities and infrastructure across North Cumbria, Northumberland, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. It aims to tackle the regions economic challenges and provide support for existing businesses, as well as working to attract new business to the area. The Forgotten Lands project is a more localised community-based initiative to regenerate the so-called ‘Forgotten Lands’ of the Bewcastle areas. It grew initially from a grant from HRH Prince Charles to invest in local rural regeneration in 2014.

The meeting at Netherby Hall took place shortly before the first conference of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal was held at the Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries. The conference brought together the Borderlands Partnership, which comprises of the five Borderlands Local Authorities: Dumfries and Galloway Council; Carlisle City Council; Cumbria County Council; Scottish Borders Council; and Northumberland County Council, and also included key stakeholders and local and national politicians. The proposals which were discussed at the conference will be made to both the UK and Scottish governments later this year.

Rory said: “The Borderlands initiative presents a unique opportunity for Cumbria and the wider Border region and is a major investment by Government. It will support improvements to infrastructure and transport​, develop our existing industries (such as agriculture and tourism), and ​transform the Borderlands into a national example of productivity with high levels of innovation, and the internationalisation of small businesses as we look ahead to a new trading future. I began working on this project during my time as Minister at DEFRA, and I am incredibly excited to see it take off, but we must make sure that we are thinking innovatively about how smaller communities such as Bewcastle can benefit, so that we are really making the most of the unique opportunity before us.”

Rory Stewart MP at Penrith JobCentre

RORY PRAISES JOBCENTRE STAFF

Rory Stewart MP at Penrith JobCentre

Rory has praised the staff of Penrith Jobcentre during a visit to discuss the rollout of Universal Credit.

Rory was welcomed to the Jobcentre by Shane Byrne and Amanda Bucannan who briefed him on the rollout of the new system of benefit distribution, its workings and its likely effects upon claimants. Rory was also shown a video on how Universal Credit can help people back into work, which is one of its primary purposes. Before leaving, Rory took the opportunity to thank Shane and Amanda for all that they do to help people from Penrith and surrounding areas to find work.

After his visit, Rory commented, “It was great to be able to visit the Jobcentre, to hear about their excellent preparation for the rollout of Universal Credit and to thank the staff for all of their hard work. Last month’s employment figures were hugely encouraging and I would like to pay a huge tribute to the staff who do so much to support people into work by effectively connecting employers to employees”.

Rory Stewart MP at CHoC

RORY CONGRATULATES CUMBRIA HEALTH ON CALL ON ITS PARLIAMENTARY AWARD SUCCESS

Rory Stewart MP at CHoC

Rory has congratulated Cumbria Health on Call (CHoC) on its victory in the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards.

CHoC, which operates in Rory’s constituency, was given the prestigious Excellence in Primary Care Award this afternoon, by a judging panel that examined nominations from across the United Kingdom. The NHS70 Awards, which are designed to recognise and celebrate the NHS’ most successful people, teams and projects, were announced in ceremony on the Terrace of the House of Commons, attended by MPs, peers and nominees.

CHoC was nominated by Rory, Trudy Harrison, John Stevenson and Tim Farron, and, in winning, has beaten hundreds of contenders to be crowned the national champion. Rory selected CHoC as his nominee in recognition of the quality of its care and the innovative solutions it has found in dealing with the challenges of rural, often isolated communities. This is the latest in a string of successes for CHoC, which in the past few months has been awarded an “outstanding” designation in its recent CQC inspection and named an NHS70 regional healthcare champion.

Commenting on their success, Rory said, “So many congratulations to Cumbria Health on Call. To win this national award is a huge achievement and very richly deserved. The work that its staff do day in and day out, to care for communities across Cumbria is invaluable and worthy of recognition. I look forward to seeing CHoC’s successes continue for many years to come”.

Rory and Kevin

PENRITH TOWN HALL TO ‘GO BLUE’ FOR THE NHS’ 70TH BIRTHDAY

Rory Stewart MP and Kevin Beaty

Penrith Town Hall is to participate in the “Go Blue” Campaign to celebrate the NHS’ 70th Birthday.

Throughout the week of birthday celebrations, the Town Hall in Penrith will fly an NHS flag while, on 5 July, the day of the NHS’ birthday, staff will wear blue to work and the building’s windows will be illuminated with blue light. The “Go Blue” Campaign, which encourages buildings to light themselves with NHS blue, has so far received pledges of participation from across Cumbria and the United Kingdom, with the authorities of the Palace of Westminster recently agreeing that the iconic building will be illuminated on 5 July.

Kevin Beaty, Leader of Eden District Council, commented that, “The NHS has reached a momentous anniversary. It seems fitting that Eden District Council marks the occasion by lighting up the Town Hall in Blue. As well as this our staff are wearing blue to work and we will raise an NHS flag in honour of the staff across the district and beyond who care for us selflessly 24/7. Happy Birthday NHS, here’s to many more”.

Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border, who has taken a strong interest in this campaign, said, “This is really great news and yet another success for the wonderful ‘Go Blue’ campaign started by the North Cumbria NHS Trust. I would like to pay a huge tribute to Kevin and everybody who works in Penrith Town Hall for agreeing to this. The NHS’ 70th anniversary is a major national event and I am delighted that Penrith is playing a leading part in the celebrations”.

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RORY SPEAKS ON THE SPENDING OF THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE

Rory: May I begin by thanking colleagues for their contributions? It is very striking in justice debates how much learning and experience there is around the House; almost every Member who has spoken is either a distinguished ex-prisons Minister or has worked as a solicitor or criminal barrister, and brings deep passion to their work. I also want briefly to pay tribute to the fact that this debate has generally, with perhaps a single exception, been conducted in a very practical, non-ideological, focused fashion, with great charm and commitment and a deep and pragmatic understanding of the individual issues, without lapsing in any way into lazy clichés or any slogans prepared perhaps for YouTube. I also want to thank the officials whose work underlies most of this debate. We owe a huge debt of gratitude, as many have pointed out, to our judiciary, in particular the criminal Bar, which underpins a lot of the respect in which Britain is held throughout the world.

On prisons, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas) who kindly picked out Amy Rees and Russ Trent for the work they have done in communicating their work in Berwyn, and also to the prison officers on the landing, who my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) pointed out are taking on the most extraordinarily challenging and often very dangerous job, day in, day out.

The core of this debate, however, was set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill): the fundamental paradox at the heart of this discussion that, on one hand, justice is not a transaction, but on the other hand, it is demand-led. Somewhere between the deep values of justice—the values that my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) connected so exactly to our national identity—and the constraints imposed by population and funding lie many of the problems that Members have touched on today.

The right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson) talked, in a very valuable speech, about many of the problems and challenges in our justice system; my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham extended them to the courts system; the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) found many of those issues within probation; and again the right hon. Gentleman connected this forensically to the questions within both the main estimates and the supplementary estimates over the past four years. I would of course, as expected, want to point out that there have been some elements of progress and some things we should be proud of, but I will come back to the challenges towards the end of my speech, and in particular to the comments of the right hon. Gentleman, who rightly asked how we are going to deal with them; I will wish to finish on that practical question.

First, however, I want to talk about the achievements. A number of things have happened. One of them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) pointed out, is the transformation in the supervision of offenders on short-term sentences, and in particular, in the supervision of an extra 40,000 offenders during the first 12 months after leaving a short-term custody. The hon. Member for Wrexham used the example of Berwyn to highlight the development of the new prison programme and the 10,000 new places that will be provided through those prisons, with public capital coming forward for the prison in Wellingborough and a private finance initiative for the prison at Glen Parva. Those new prison places, which will ultimately house 20,000 prisoners, will make a huge difference. It is often tawdry buildings—some of them Victorian, some of them more recently built—that underlie the real problems relating to dignity, cleanliness and everyday life that contribute directly to violence.

Ian Lucas:

May I point out to the Minister that Berwyn is a public sector prison that was delivered on budget and on time, and in which a lot of hope is invested? Why have the Government excluded the public sector from tendering for the new prisons that he is referred to?

Rory:

Wellingborough will be built with public capital. Glen Parva, on the other hand, will be a private finance initiative. We believe in having a mixed economy. That is partly because we think that there are things we can learn from the private sector. The public sector remains the core of our prison estate, and we owe the sector an enormous debt of gratitude, but in Thameside, Altcourse, Park and elsewhere, we have learned about family centres and about technology—particularly in Thameside, with the use of in-cell telephony and computers. At Altcourse, we have learned a great deal about workshops and employment. There is a great deal that we can learn from each other.

The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston was kind enough to pick out some of the positive elements in the female offender strategy, and I would like to take this opportunity of welcoming the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar) to his place. I think that he will do an enormous amount for the youth estate, for female offenders, and for the general principle, which we all support across the House, that women should not be in custody unless it is absolutely necessary. We have also made progress, through Lord Farmer, in our approach to families. In the past two weeks, we have achieved smoke-free prisons, and we have now managed to announce new policies on scanners for intercepting drugs, of which I am proud.

We also have 2,500 extra prison officers, which we have perhaps spoken about too much in this House, but they are important because they drive our ability to deliver the key worker system. That system will involve a relationship between one prison officer and six prisoners, and for at least 45 minutes a week, an individual conversation about a prisoner’s sentence plan and education plan. That will be an important element in bringing decency and reducing violence. Body-worn cameras and doubling the sentences for people attacking prison officers will also be an important part of restoring some of the civility and decency that we need in order to bring about rehabilitation, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) pointed out.

I wish to conclude by addressing the question posed by the right hon. Member for Delyn. He asked how we were going to do all that in a tight financial situation. From my point of view, the answer is that there are of course no silver bullets. Everyone in this Chamber, on both sides, has enormous experience of the system that has existed in this country for a very long time. In fact, there is a prison in my constituency that is almost 2,000 years old; it is a Roman prison. There are no simple answers to the question of how we balance punishing someone and isolating them from the public with doing the difficult work of turning around their life and preventing reoffending.

However, the central lesson—which my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) put his finger on—is training. In the end, this is going to come down to the individual relationship between the prison officer and the prisoner. It is going to come down to the confidence they have to unlock their prisoner, to how they deal with violence and assaults, to how they push towards reoffending and to how they develop in their everyday engagements such as a decision on a telephone call, on a blanket or on a family visit. It is going to come down to the sense of trust and predictability that will ultimately turn around the lives of prisoners. More than 40% of our prisoners have come out of care. More than 50% have been excluded from school. Similarly, more than 50% have not achieved the reading level of an 11-year-old. It is going to take patience and resilience to turn that around.

This training cannot just be about super-governors parachuting in to turn around troubled prisoners and then leaving, only for the system to collapse again. A resilient system is one in which the uniformed prison officers at band 3, band 4 and band 5, in their pride, their purposefulness and their courage, will demonstrate that they can achieve remarkable things. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) highlighted this achievement in Perth prison, which is an extraordinary example of a decent regime being run in a tough local prison in Scotland. Prisons in this country are already achieving remarkable things in places such as Dartmoor and Altcourse, and even in some of the toughest prisons such as Leeds. If we can get those elements of training and leadership together, I believe that even in a tough financial climate, with all the pressures of the financial crisis and with all that we owe the national health and education systems, we can deliver a prison system that works for prisoners and ultimately protects the public.

Rory Stewart MP at Blencathra

​RORY VISITS ONE OF BRITAIN’S LEADING EDUCATION CENTRES

Rory Stewart MP at Blencathra

Rory recently visited the Blencathra Field Studies Council for an update on its work and developments.

The centre is part of the Field Studies Council (FSC) – an environmental education charity providing informative and enjoyable opportunities for people of all ages to discover, explore, and understand the environment. More than 100,000 students go on FSC tours each year. Rory has visited the centre several times in the past, and has often been joined by distinguished guests such as Sir Chris Bonington.

On this occasion, Rory met with Tim Foster, the Head of the Blencathra Centre, and Lizzie Chaplin-Brice, the Assistant Head. They discussed several topics, including recent changes in the subjects that students choose and, in particular, rewilding. This final subject is a strong interest of Rory’s, due to the threat that it poses to rural communities across Cumbria.

Commenting on his visit, Rory said, “I am grateful to Tim and Lizzie, both for showing me around and for an extremely stimulating discussion. It was fascinating to hear about the centre’s response to the changing interests of its students and it was invaluable to hear their intelligent and considered thoughts on the issue of rewilding. It is always a pleasure to visit”.