Two U turns and a listening Minister

Yesterday was a good day for democracy – for a change.

One of the few Ministers who does believe in Parliament, Jack Straw, came to the House. He had held a consultation on building 3 Titan prisons. Most people had said a big “No” to the idea. Jack has scrapped the proposal. Amazing. Simple. Couldn’t possibly catch on with the others.

Meanwhile the usually absent Two Homes Secretary failed to turn up again to make a Statement on prying into all our emails and web visits. She made a written statement so we could not cross examine her, although she was available for media interviews.

It was good news that she has dumped the idea of a big national computer system at public cost to monitor us even more. It was bad news that she wants the private sector to do some of the job for her. That is presumably why she was not going to submit herself to questioning in the House. We would have asked her how many more obligations there will be on private computer firms? How much will it cost them? How much more intrusive is it going to be? In the media interviews I saw I did not hear her being asked that. She was just allowed to pose as a believer in civil liberties! What a racket.

The far away Prime Minister was also busy U-turning. Hour by hour we learnt from the media that more of Gordon’s expenses package for MPs was heading for the waste bin. Sky News was a better source than the Commons tea room. By the close of business the Attendance Payment was dead. So well done bloggers on this site- your silly names for the payment must have been the last straw for this proposal!


  1. AEG
    April 28, 2009

    Jack Straw wasn’t listening, they’ve simply run out of money!

  2. mikestallard
    April 28, 2009

    The best news of all is that the government is beginning to unravel. You can see it is the Home Secretary’s face on TV. Mr Brown looked tired against the military background yesterday. And as for reviewing the Americans who had come to do the job of the British Army in Helmand Camp Bastion – that must be the lowest he can sink.

  3. Mark m
    April 28, 2009

    I agree with AEG.

    Labour governments only cancel spending when they have run out of money

  4. John Moss
    April 28, 2009

    Prisons for 1,500 are still too large. Prisons should be much smaller, more local and run by locally accountable, elected officials.

    In Rainham, the site was supposed to be a job creating, regeneration site attracting business investment, but it and the surrounding area were blighted for three years by the Titan jail proposal. They will be equally blighted by the 1,500 cell mini-titan which will face just the same level of public opposition and just as hard a planning battle to get it built.

    A prison of 2-400 cells might have been absorbed in a wider development without difficulty four or five other sites could easily be found across the north east and south east of London for similar scale jails and the benefits of keeping prisoners close to their family and even to their work (why not let them work on day-release?) is massive in terms of rehabilitation and reducing re-offending.

    We should be planning to build 20-25 jails of 2-400 cells in many ore towns and cities. We should use th epre-fabrication techniques used in the US to build them more cheaply and we should make it a local sheriff win charge with responsibility to reduce re-offending through treatment of addiciton and training. That way we cut re-offending and cut crime.

    1. alan jutson
      April 28, 2009

      Many of the new smaller prisons which are PRIVATELY BUILT and PRIVATELY RUN (but paid for on a prisoner by prisoner rate by the Home Office) are built on the US pre cast concrete cell type structure.
      So we do at the moment have this sort of expertise in this Country.
      The problem as you say is that we do not have enough prisons.
      I agree with you that more smaller prisons, are probably that much better for all concerned, visitors, staff and inmates rather than the huge Titian type that were being proposed.
      But the simple fact is that we simply need more prison places to keep undesirables off of the streets.
      But Private Prisons have to abide by the same Home Office code of treatment that applies to State run establishments, thus the re-offending rate is similar, although those in the private sector would argue that they are slightly better.

      1. John Moss
        April 28, 2009

        I know a couple of manufacturers have invested in pre-cast construction, but there isn’t really a competitive market, and the builders usually say they need to build 1,000 minimum to justify this. A steady supply of more, smaller sites would address this.

        And of course, you are right that the real savings come from reduced re-offending from better rehabilitation and training and that that is much more likely with smaller local jails.

        One thing that is interesting is the Crown Estate regulations on the building of prisons. These are well beyond “building regulations” and often increase costs exponentially. A sensible look at those could yield savings!

        1. alan jutson
          April 29, 2009

          I can assure you that prisons are being built now with far fewer than 1000 pre cast concrete units.
          I know, because I visited the site just before construction was complete.
          The particular site I visited had about 250 cells, and was a catagory A Prison.
          It was built by a Private Company who will run it for the Home office. The same Company have built a number in the UK.
          Another Private Company also builds and runs prisons and claims to have a better (lower) re-offending rate than the normal State run establishments.
          With regard to your comment abourt costs.
          The Private Prison Company’s offer a complete design and build turnkey project, and then they manage and run them for the State as well.
          It is my understanding that they are rather more competitive on cost for both build and running. than the existing State establishments.

      2. molesworth 1
        April 28, 2009

        “…rather than the huge Titian type that were being proposed.” So, they haven’t saved them for the nation after all? I’m confused…

        1. alan jutson
          April 29, 2009

          Not quite sure of the point you are making.
          As I understand it 3 Titan type (very large) Prisons are now not going to be built, but 5 smaller prisons will be
          The 5 smaller prisons probably have a similar number of cells combined, as the 3 Titan type prisons.
          The cell count will in total, will therefore be similar but over more sites.

      3. John Moss
        April 29, 2009

        Alan, could you contact me? I had an input to the Green paper and it is something I think we need to keep working on

  5. Number 6
    April 28, 2009

    Absolutely spot on. Nu Labour will never stop spying on us and attempting to control our every move. I sincerely hope the Conservatives will repeal all of thier Communist-style laws, starting with ID cards on day 1.

  6. Henry North London
    April 28, 2009 I have sent my shirt in to Downing street today ( well I will before last post today)

  7. Adrian Peirson
    April 28, 2009

    If I were Prime Minister I’d hope to be knocking down a few Prisons not building more.

    I’d start with Morals in schools, and I’d set the Entry Requirements for getting into the Country Much higher.

    Gurkhas would of course easily pass the entry rquirements and be waved through.

    If you have to build more prisons, you’ve failed in my view, which I why I oppose capital punishment, if you need a punishment like that except on very few occaisions, then your policies have failed.

    1. alan jutson
      April 28, 2009

      In an ideal world I would agree with you about prisons.
      But I am afraid that we all have to live in the World as it is, whilst we make an attempt to change things for the better.
      If you, or a member of your family had been (I hope not) a victim of violent crime, burglery, or willful damage you may also think that locking them up with an attempt at rehabilition was a better solution than many other forms of so called correction.
      Aware that the present system is not working well but it does get them off the streets for a period, and so people are therefore more safe for a period.

  8. Breaker
    April 29, 2009

    The Two Homes Secretary (and indeed the rest of this government) haven’t the first clue about technology (as the massive overspend on headline IT projects attests).

    There are companies starting up all over which provide a secure connection to their servers then securely tunnel you over to another country to access the internet. All that the ISP will see is that you have an encrypted connection to your ISP; your online history as far as the UK authorities can trace will be blank. (See for details).

    This also puts a nail in the coffin of English businesses trying to compete abroad – don’t the UK secret services have form in passing confidential data from surveillance to UK companies to win contracts over other foreign national companies? Having this information available to government departments can only invite accusations of misconduct.

    Classic Labour – poorly thought through and malign implementation.

  9. Ross
    April 30, 2009

    Admiral Lord West gave a keynote speech yesterday at a conference at RUSI on critical national infrastructure. He said, rightly, that since most of our critical instastructure (electricity, telecomms, water etc) is operated by private companies, government must work in partnership with private industry to defend the realm, and not impose unnecessary regulatory burdens.

    At the end of his speech he was congratulated on this and asked
    why then the government was proposing the interception modernisation programme whereby phone companies and ISPs would have to spy on their customers. He claimed that they would get some of their costs paid. So some costs won’t be paid. We’ll be spied on and the costs added to our phone bills, just as the cost of ID cards will be extracted by charging us all £200 for every new passport.

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