Rory spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on the Administration of Justice in Respect of Daniel Cresswell. Watch it here:
It is a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Crispin Blunt for a powerful and heartfelt speech. I had the opportunity to meet Mr Cresswell and his family briefly beforehand, and I join my hon. Friend in paying particular tribute to Mrs Cresswell and her parents for the extraordinary compassion, faith and energy that they have put into the case over so many years. My hon. Friend raised a number of serious issues and it is difficult for me to go through every one in turn, but serious allegations were made against the police, the lawyer, the court process and the way evidence was used, West Yorkshire police, the police and crime commissioner, the Crown Prosecution Service and, ultimately, the Prison Service.
It is, as you will be aware, Mr Howarth, a very important principle of English law that Justice Ministers do not comment on individual cases. For better or for worse, for 1,000 years the principle of this building has been that judges and juries are independent of politicians, and therefore I am not able in this case to comment on what happened in that courtroom. The grounds for appeal, as my hon. Friend pointed out, cannot be that the jury came to the wrong decision; the appeal can be made only on the basis of new evidence or a legal error. That has been central to this case.
Perhaps I may touch on the broader issue of miscarriage of justice in general and on the all-party parliamentary group on miscarriages of justice that has been set up. There is no doubt that miscarriage of justice does occur, and as the Ministry of Justice, we need to be aware of that. We have seen it in high-profile cases, such as that of the Birmingham Six. Research in the United States suggests that between 2.3% and 5% of convicted people in American prisons are in fact innocent. We need to take that very seriously, in thinking about our entire legal system. Miscarriage of justice can happen for a range of different reasons. It can happen directly through perjury. I am not in a position to comment on the present case, but we must be aware that there are cases of perjury by victims or by police officers. There can be issues to do with insufficient evidence, or with expert testimony. There can be instances of confirmation bias—people’s prejudices affecting the outcome of a case. A good, functioning legal system—and the British legal system has for 1,000 years had reason to pride itself on being one of the best legal systems in the world—has to remain ever-vigilant for these dangers of miscarriage of justice. Although Mr Cresswell has now served his term it is very important, for the sake of others who in future might go through such a situation, that we are absolutely rigorous about making sure that miscarriages of justice do not occur.
I take my hon. Friend’s speech very seriously. I will circulate it to my colleagues in both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, to ensure that everybody dealing with the police, with the Crown Prosecution Service, with the operation of legal aid and ultimately with the prison system, is aware of the very serious allegations that have been made today. I want to conclude with a strong tribute to Mrs Cresswell for all the energy, faith and compassion that she has shown, and to my hon. Friend for the compassion and energy that he has shown in presenting his constituent’s case.
Rory: It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes has very powerfully explained the legal necessity for the Bill and exactly how it will work in law. My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire, my distinguished predecessor, has pointed out some of the challenges in balancing the need of prisoners to remain in contact with their families and retain a connection to broader society with the dangers posed by illegal phones. The hon. Member for Bradford East has pointed out that, of course, the Bill is just one element in what must be a much bigger strategy. As he says, it is not a silver bullet on its own.
We face an interesting and tricky problem. Those who remember reading “The Man in the Iron Mask” will remember that in 17th century France the only way of communicating out of a prison was to throw a silver plate, with some words scratched on it, out of the window. Today the prison walls are, in some senses, not really walls in the way they were in the 17th century. Modern mobile communication allows criminals, in the worst situations, to continue criminal activities from within those walls, to threaten or abuse people, to harass partners who do not wish to be harassed, or in the most dramatic cases, as my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire pointed out, even to organise drug importations or contract killings from a prison.
Dealing with that has been difficult for the Department, because there are very strong human rights protections in article 8 of the European convention on human rights around the right to a private life, which protect citizens’ rights to communication and prevent interference with communication. Ofcom polices that very strictly. Therefore there were two legal issues that needed to be dealt with. The first was whether a private prison governor could be exempt from the article 8 restrictions and the Ofcom regulations on interference. The Crown is usually exempt, but the question was whether a private prison governor could be exempt. That was largely dealt with in 2012.
Secondly, there was the question of instructing the mobile phone companies to work with the Government on interfering with communications out of a prison. The reason why that is important, as my hon. Friend pointed out, is that without the co-operation of the mobile telephone companies, we would get into a very strange war where we would end up broadcasting signals aggressively against those companies, which could potentially compromise the mobile phone signals of other citizens going about their normal life outside the prison walls.
This law will give much more certainty to the mobile phone companies and governors that there is proper, legal, proportionate and reasonable interference with illegal communication. However, we must bear in mind that we are now pushing ahead with in-cell telephony, which will allow controlled legal conversations between prisoners and their families. All of that is vital, because we face a big problem of violence and crime in prisons and driven from prisons. Tapping the almost 10,000 mobile phones that were seized in a single year and interfering with their ability to communicate is not a silver bullet, but it should help to make prisons a safer and more orderly place in which we can begin to address some of the underlying drivers of violence and crime.
I conclude with great thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes for bringing forward a very useful, practical step toward improving our prisons.
Rory visited the Appleby Heritage Centre on Friday where he met with staff to discuss the future of the centres’ apprenticeship programme. For many years Appleby Heritage Centre has been working in partnership with Carlisle College to provide apprenticeship opportunities to young people across the Eden Valley, but following the merger of Carlisle College with Newcastle College in April 2017 the centre’s future and its ability to delivery apprenticeship programmes has been in doubt.
After the visit Rory said: “Appleby Heritage Centre is a truly unique facility, a learning centre that has utilised the most extraordinary heritage space in a way that educates, employs and conserves: it is yet another local success story, and I know of no other similar place that exists. It has responded with flexibility, imagination and innovation to a changing world of education, and made sure that hands-on vocational training continues to feature strongly in young peoples’ lives. It is terribly important to the community that the centre can continue to operate and that school leavers in Appleby and the surrounding rural communities can continue to access high quality education and apprenticeships, and I will be doing everything I can to support the centre and help secure its future for many more generations to come.”
Rory has visited The Butchers Arms in Crosby Ravensworth, to meet tenants Jon and Katie Metcalfe, who took over last year.
The community-owned pub was recently nominated in the Pub category of the Countryside Alliance awards, otherwise known as “The Rural Oscars”. The awards are the most prestigious rural business awards in the UK and give a voice and a platform to the best of the Country’s produce, enterprise, heritage and communities. Whilst they did not win, the pub came highly commended, something which Rory Stewart says both the new tenants and the community should be “incredibly proud” of.
Rory played an active role in the campaign to save the Butchers Arms back in 2011 by making it a key part of the Big Society vanguard project and helping to find £21,000 from Central Government for a feasibility study for the community buyout. The pub was subsequently bought by over 300 people who each wanted to bring the pub back into the heart of the community and Rory also became a shareholder.
After holding a constituency surgery at The Butchers Arms on Friday Rory said: “The local pub plays a crucial part in rural life – both as a source of enterprise and as a social hub. A good local pub helps to tackle important issues such as rural isolation and loneliness and enhances quality of life and wellbeing for people at a very local level. The Butchers Arms is an amazing success story and I am incredibly proud of Jon and Katie and the wonderful atmosphere they have created. The food and service is fantastic and I couldn’t recommend The Butchers Arms highly enough.”
This privacy notice relates to the personal data processed by the Office of Rory Stewart, Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border, in relation to casework and policy queries.
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This document outlines how the Office of Rory Stewart MP processes and manages personal data. It:
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The Data Controller is Rory Stewart MP, and the Data Protection Officer is Catherine Anderson, Chief of Staff to Rory Stewart MP.
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Casework is processed primarily under the lawful basis of public task, with exceptional cases processed under the lawful basis of consent.
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As of 1st April 2018, the office holds information on approximately 20,000 constituents.
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Rory is looking for a full-time constituency caseworker to start as soon as possible. Applicants should be self-motivated, conscientious, cheerful and flexible with excellent attention to detail, time management, organisational and problem solving skills. They must work well under pressure and have good personal and diplomatic skills and the ability to write clearly and concisely. Previous experience of politics is desirable but not essential.
Upon appointment, the successful candidate will be required to comply with the Baseline Personnel Security Standard, undertaken by the Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO).
Key duties include but are not limited to:
This will be an interesting and rewarding role for the right candidate.
To apply please send a CV and brief covering letter, with your full contact details and subject line ‘Caseworker application – YOUR NAME’ by email to – [email protected].
Applications close on Monday 28 May 2018.
Rory: It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Henry.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Gordon Henderson. It is important for the Houses of Parliament to focus on prisons and in particular on the service of prison officers. As my hon. Friend pointed out in his substantial and eloquent speech—he is extremely well informed, with three prisons in his constituency—and indeed as my hon. Friends the Members for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Jack) and for Henley (John Howell), and Liz Saville Roberts pointed out in their interventions, we have a very strong debt of obligation towards our prison officers. Prison officers are very unusual uniformed public servants. They generally operate outside the public eye, and prisons are not places that the public generally visit. That is why I wish to come on to that good idea of a parliamentary scheme suggested by hon. Members.
The job of prison officers is very unusual. On the one hand, it has some of the features of the job of the police, in so far as they are dealing with criminals and therefore with a lot of violence and trauma but, on the other hand, a particular set of skills is also required. Unlike a police officer, a prison officer may often see the same individual hour after hour, day after day, week after week and even year after year, having to provide a moral exemplar for such individuals on their journey towards ceasing reoffending. Prison officers are helping to educate and support them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey pointed out, in everything from healthcare through to employment.
The challenge presented by my hon. Friend is what we can do practically to help prison officers in their daily work—and, my goodness, they face a challenging situation.
John Howell: I am fascinated by the idea of providing opportunities for Members of Parliament to work in prisons. I happen to be the deputy chairman of the Industry and Parliament Trust. Will the Minister work with me to see whether the trust might develop a form of fellowship to take the idea forward?
Rory: My hon. Friend makes a very generous offer. We are incredibly interested in that, but the real thing that we need to make the idea work is Members of Parliament prepared to do it. If the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey and even my hon. Friend the Member for Henley are interested in being part of a parliamentary scheme, we really have got something to take to the head of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service: I can say not just that this is a theoretical idea, but that we have real, living Members of Parliament who are genuinely interested. We can set up a pilot scheme, learn from what happens in the armed forces and the police service parliamentary schemes, and look at the potential support suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley. That would be an incredibly useful thing.
For anyone listening to the debate who is not aware of such schemes, the amazing idea behind the armed forces and police parliamentary schemes is that Members of Parliament can see for themselves what people are going through on the frontline. In fact, legislation considered on Friday, partly on behalf of the police, was driven in part by Holly Lynch, who had been on the police scheme and had been inspired by seeing the action of police officers. So the scheme has changed legislation here in Parliament.
To accelerate, what useful things can we do for prison officers, apart from paying tribute to them for their extraordinary service, intelligence, commitment, honour, loyalty, courage and resilience, and for the way in which they work with unsociable hours and difficult people? Concretely, there are three different types of things. My hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey touched on terms and conditions, but that I will not touch on today, because we are currently in confidential discussions with the public sector pay review body, looking at exactly the issues raised, such as those of how we move people from the pre-existing closed-term contracts to the new fair and sustainable contract, and the difference in salary compared with other employment opportunities.
To give one small example, of which my hon. Friend is probably aware, in the Isle of Sheppey we pay an increased amount to attract people away from competing professions, such as in transport or the police, to get them to work in the Prison Service. There is much more to be said about that, but I want to talk concretely about the equipment that we can bring in to try to make a prison officer’s life better. We talked about PAVA spray—pepper spray, in other words. My hon. Friend also talked about the introduction of rigid handcuffs and discussed other equipment being proposed, including suggestions for stab-proof vests, body-worn cameras, which we are rolling out across the estate, and CCTV. All that will increase the confidence of the prison officer in dealing with the prisoner.
We also need to be able to prosecute prisoners who assault prisoner officers. We were very proud, on Friday, to be able to double the maximum sentence for anybody who assaults a prison officer from six months to 12 months. But that requires the Crown Prosecution Service to bring those prosecutions. Too often, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey pointed out, there has been an attitude that, somehow, assaulting a prison officer is different from assaulting a police officer on the street.
Gordon Henderson: That is a particularly sore point with me. The CPS standpoint has always been that it is not in the public interest to prosecute a prisoner who is already in prison. It may not be, but it is certainly in the interest of the staff who have to suffer those assaults.
Rory: It is 100% in the public interest to prosecute prisoners who assault prisoner officers. If they are not prosecuted, the authority of the state is undermined; it becomes almost impossible for prison officers to run a decent and human regime, very difficult for people to be unlocked from their cells and difficult to move people into education and purposeful activity.
If the education and purposeful activity and the decent and safe environment of the prisoner are not delivered, the prisoner is much more likely to reoffend when they leave that prison. That is a direct threat to public safety; therefore, as my hon. Friend implies, the Crown Prosecution Service must prosecute prisoners for attacking prisoner officers. We owe that to prison officers, but we also owe it to the public as a whole to have safe, clean and decent prisons. These are our prisons; in the end, prisoners are citizens who come out and reoffend on the streets. We have to restore discipline.
My hon. Friend spoke about drugs and the importation of mobile telephones. In the end, those issues can be dealt with. There are basically only five ways in which mobile telephones or drugs can get into a prison—after all, there is a fence around the prison. They can be thrown into the prison, flown into a prison, dragged into a prison, posted into a prison or carried into a prison. Every single one of these ways needs to be addressed.
We address the issue of people flying things into prisons by tackling drones; of people throwing things into prisons by the use of nets and proper yard searching; of people dragging things into prison by identifying the wire set-ups that run into prison windows; and of people posting things into prison—for example, a letter impregnated with Spice so it can be smoked can be photocopied. But we have not been good enough in England for nearly 40 years is searching humans going in and out of prisons.
Scotland is different. I venture to suggest that it is not a coincidence that the violence and drug rates have been lower in Scottish prisons and that there has been much more regular routine searching of people going in and out of Scottish prisons. I do not think that is an accident. I would be very interested in working with the Prison Service to pilot in 10 prisons increasing the security and routine searching at the gate, to see what would happen. But that will not be enough—many other things need to happen. At the core are people: the prisoner officers themselves.
There is no point in my standing here and pontificating about the Prison Service because there are more than 100 prisons. With the best will in the world, even if I visited two prisons a week, I would not be able to visit them all in a year. There are more than 20,000 prisoner officers and 84,000 prisoners. In the end, good prisons depend on good people. That is about recruiting, training and promoting the right kind of people and managing people in the right way.
How do we recruit the right kind of people? We search for exactly the values we are looking for. We train them by focusing on institutions such as Newbold Revel, the prison officer training college, to make sure people feel proud of being prison officers. I am very interested in reintroducing the passing out parade—getting families in to applaud people as they graduate from that training college, so that they feel they are extraordinary public servants, protecting our nation through their work. They need to feel that in their uniform, in their passing-out parade and in every day of their work.
We need to get the training right when people enter, and when people move into the custodial manager role. We need to think about how supervisory officers on the units, even if they do not have formal line management responsibilities, can mentor and drive those young, inexperienced staff. In many prisons, 60% to 65% of prison officers have been there for less than a year; we need supervisory officers to be able to work with them, to give them the confidence and the jailcraft to manage those prisons.
Then, we need to think about what happens at the governor level. How do we make sure that we do not end up in the situation that my hon. Friend found in a prison in his constituency, where there were four governors in five years? We need governors to stay longer in the prisons. We need them to be formally trained before they arrive in those prisons. One of the key determining features in trying to work out why one prison is performing well and another is not has to do with questions that are very difficult to put on paper. We sit here and look staff numbers, drug levels and the age of the building, but the biggest constant is always the human factor: the culture of that prison and the prison officers, the nature of the leadership and management, the morale of the place and the way in which people work together.
This has been a really important debate. From our point of view in Parliament, we are very proud that there are three Bills on their way through the House of Commons that will help prison officers. One of them is doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting a prison officer. We have another Bill going through that will focus on new psychoactive substances and testing of drugs in prison. We have a third Bill going through the House that focuses on excluding mobile telephones from prisons.
Legislation on its own is not enough. It is about public understanding and support for one of the most unique, precious and impressive services that we have in the United Kingdom. That is why I believe that the proposal, made today by my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey and the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley, of a parliamentary scheme focused on telling Members of Parliament about the Prison Service will be an enormous help in getting legislators to understand how much our prisons matter to our society and, above all, understanding how much we owe our prison officers.
Rory: This is about bringing in new technology. What this is really about is powers that will enable the Secretary of State to spend money, once the new technology is developed, to insert the new material. The approximate cost would be in the low millions per site, but we do not have the exact costs at the moment.
David Hanson: Well, I am grateful for that. If that is the low millions per site for every prison in the United Kingdom, perhaps the Minister can tell me, as I asked, how much and when.
Rory: With your permission Mr Deputy Speaker…
Deputy Speaker: Order. Who is intervening—I am now beginning to lose even myself at this stage? I think what we should do is hear Maria Caulfield and then we will come back to the Minister to answer. I think that that is the best way to deal with this.
Maria Caulfield: I am grateful to the Government and the Minister for bringing forward the money resolution. I thank the Minister and his predecessor for their support for the Bill. I also thank Opposition Members. The Bill has cross-party support, and the shadow Minister has been extremely supportive as well. The purpose of the Bill is to make our prisons safer and more secure, and to tackle the ongoing and increasing threat that mobile phones pose to the stability of our prison system. Having met prison officers in my local prison in Lewes and heard at first hand about the problems that illegal mobile phones cause, I believe that the Bill will significantly improve safety and make their jobs easier. The purpose of sending offenders to prison is not just to punish them, but to protect wider society. The illegal use of mobile phones in prisons allows offenders to continue their criminal activities and fuels the illicit economy. Access to the internet, such as social media, can allow them to contact and intimidate victims and witnesses. Furthermore, the proposed technology will not interfere with any legitimate wireless telegraphy outside the relevant institution. It is also not the only security measure in place to tackle the illegal use of mobile phones. I welcome the Minister’s support and the money resolution, and I look forward to the Bill’s Committee stage.
Imran Hussain: I shall not be opposing the motion. As Maria Caulfield and the Minister know, the Opposition did not oppose the Bill on Second Reading. However, we do challenge the careless attitude that the Government have displayed towards it and wider issues of prison reform. Prisons are in a worse condition now than they were under the Victorians. They are home to a dangerous level of violence and abuse, and are in nothing less than a state of emergency. The Bill received its Second Reading on 1 December last year—it had cross-party support and passed without a vote—and Members on both sides of the House recognised the need to take steps on its explicit purpose of degrading prisoners’ ability to use mobile phones in prison. They also recognised the importance of its underlying purpose of restricting the supply of drugs to prisons and tackling the growing violence within them. Yet it is only now, five months later, that a money resolution is being considered. We might be dealing with a private Member’s Bill, but if the Government were serious about tackling the use of mobile phones, and the supply of drugs and the dangers they pose, they would be acting quicker. They should be bringing these measures to the House in a Bill of their own, not relying on Back Benchers or delaying the Bill, thereby putting the safety of prisoners and prison staff at risk. The Government control time in the House, so there is no reason for delay when they have support. What has taken the Minister so long to reach the point at which the Bill can go into Committee? The Labour party is anxious to get on with reform because every delayed day is another day of violence. Will the Minister assure us now that there will be no undue delays, and tell us whether he has plans for a broader reform Bill?
Rory: I rise to respond to the excellent speech made by Imran Hussain and the question asked by David Hanson.
David Hanson: Again, I am interested to know how much. It is important that there is some context. I support the objectives of the Bill; I just want to get a flavour of the amounts involved.
Rory: This is a sensitive issue. We are clearly trying to prevent organised criminal gangs from using mobile telephones in prisons, for all the reasons mentioned by the hon. Member for Bradford East. We therefore cannot be too specific about exactly where we are going to put these devices or exactly how we are going to interfere with mobile telephones. The answer that I have given is a broad figure in the ballpark of a few million pounds per site. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would wish me to share with the House the exact number of sites at which we are going to do this and which sites we will target first. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Maria Caulfield for all her extraordinary work as a Conservative Back Bencher to introduce the Bill. As the hon. Member for Bradford East pointed out, this is vital. There is a plague of mobile telephones that are being used to deal illicit drugs and to fuel violence. We need to cut down on them with better searching both at the prison gates and in cells, and we can also do much more to block the technology. With many thanks to Members, I commend the money resolution to the House.