Parliament: Prisons - Minister Says Prisons Chief Misled MPs
Burrell, Ian, The Independent (London, England)
A HOME OFFICE minister accused the Chief Inspector of Prisons yesterday of failing to check his facts and giving "misleading" evidence to a Commons committee of MPs.
George Howarth, who represents the government in the Commons on prison issues, accused Sir David Ramsbotham of relying on "intuition" rather than hard evidence to arrive at some of his conclusions.
The minister submitted a three-page letter to the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee, saying Sir David's evidence gave "cause for concern" and "suggested a lack of understanding of both our policy and procedures".
The criticisms are seen as an attempt to undermine the public credibility of the Chief Inspector, who made damning reports on jails, including Wormwood Scrubs in London and the Feltham young offenders' institution in Middlesex.
Sir David's insistence that the problems are caused by the failings of senior managers has made him deeply unpopular at Prison Service headquarters in London. He has two years left of his five- year contract. Mr Howarth, himself appearing before the committee, said it was entirely appropriate for the inspector of prisons in England and Wales to have independent views. "It would be quite wrong if (Sir David) were to be seen as in some way a creature of the Home Secretary or the Prison Service or Government," he said. "But I do believe it's incumbent on Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons if he puts forward conclusions to base them on evidence. …