On 8th January 2020 the Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke during the third day of debate on the Queen’s Speech, on the topic of criminal justice:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the gracious Speech and look forward to hearing two maiden speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay and Lord Davies of Gower. I am sure we will listen with interest to their contributions and that their different experiences will come to be of value in your Lordships’ House.
My contribution focuses on criminal justice matters, not only because of my role as bishop to Her Majesty’s prisons but because these issues affect every community, including those in my diocese.
On 16th July 2019 the Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford repeated a Government statement about domestic abuse. The Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I crave the forbearance of the House. I have two questions; one of my own and one from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who, due to the adjournment, has had to leave. My question relates to the needs of very vulnerable people, mainly women, on release from prison.
During my visits to our local women’s prison, I have learned that a higher proportion of women in prison than is the case in the general population come from violent and abusive relationships. It is critical that such women and other vulnerable people who have been abused are released into a safe, secure place with secure accommodation. Is the Minister aware that on occasion, due to things such as poor communication between the probation service in prison and the probation service outside prison, things go wrong and, tragically, a woman is released into danger.
On 5th June 2019 the Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a question she had tabled, on the national probation service. The answer, her follow-up, and those of other Members are reproduced below:
Probation: Voluntary Sector
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the voluntary sector can contribute to an effective national probation service.
The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con): My Lords, voluntary organisations play an important role in helping offenders turn their lives around. We are determined to strengthen this role. In May, the Government set out our plans for future probation arrangements, including that the National Probation Service will directly commission specialist and voluntary sector organisations to deliver rehabilitation services. We are engaging closely with voluntary sector providers to ensure that our arrangements maximise their potential engagement.
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer and welcome the proposal in the Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence consultation, which promises a clearer role for the voluntary sector. My concern, however, is that the consultation proposes ongoing mini-competitions and a mixed market for services. Can the Minister tell us how the Government will ensure that smaller charities are helped to spend less time competing for contracts and more time serving the community?