Yesterday the House of Commons Justice Committee published its interim report on the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation Programme.
What is the Justice Committee?
The Justice Committee “is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Ministry of Justice and its associated public bodies”. The results of Select Committee inquiries are public and, often, require a formal response from the government. Typically, Select Committees base their reports on evidence from expert witnesses, government ministers and civil servants.
Who is on the Justice Committee
There are 12 current members of the Justice Committee, of whom five are Conservative MPs, five Labour, one Plaid Cymru and the Chair, Alan Beith, is a Liberal Democrat. Here’s the full membership:
- Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith (Liberal Democrat, Berwick-upon-Tweed) (Chair)
- Steve Brine(Conservative, Winchester)
- Rehman Chishti (Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham)
- Christopher Chope(Conservative, Christchurch)
- Jeremy Corbyn (Labour, Islington North)
- Nick de Bois (Conservative, Enfield North)
- Gareth Johnson (Conservative, Dartford)
- Rt Hon Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru, Dwyfor Meirionnydd)
- Andy McDonald (Labour, Middlesbrough)
- John McDonnell (Labour, Hayes and Harlington)
- Yasmin Qureshi (Labour, Bolton South East)
- Graham Stringer (Labour, Blackley and Broughton)
What does the report say?
The report is divided into four main sections plus conclusions and recommendations. These sections are:
- The rationale and evidence base for the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms
- The transition from Trusts to Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service
- The proposed payment mechanism
- The creation of the market
In later blog posts, I will take a look at each of these sections in more detail. However, it is clear that the Committee did not find consensus easy to come by. Unsurprisingly, there was a split along party political lines and this is immediately obvious from the first line of the report:
“The Ministry of Justice has embarked on a radical and controversial programme to change the scope and structure of community and prison-based probation and rehabilitative services”
The Committee says there was general support for the introduction of statutory support for short term prisoners – albeit with the reservations that gains in this area do not come at the expense of the supervision of offenders on other sentences nor result in a reduction of the number of community sentences.
The Committee notes that even witnesses who were supportive of Transforming Rehabilitation were concerned about a number of key issues including in particular:
- The speed of the changes
- The decision to split the delivery of services between the new National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies
- The lack of piloting the new system, and in particular, the payment by results approach in a reoffending setting
The report maintains a balanced approach throughout although concerns and criticisms are pretty constant. The Committee acknowledges that although Transforming Rehabilitation appears to be a very risky initiative, “there are risks involved in not taking action to deal with the gaps and weaknesses in the present system.”
Perhaps the most worrying concern raised by the Committee is that there do not appear to be:
“clear contingency plans in the event that the competition fails to yield a viable new provider for a particular area, or that a new provider subsequently fails”
Tomorrow’s blog post will look in more detail at the Committee’s examination of the rationale and evidence base for TR.