Inmates need decent environment through new law from next government, say MPs

Updated: 

A law to ensure prisons aim to achieve a "decent and fair environment" for inmates should be introduced by the next government, MPs have said.

The Commons Justice Committee said plans in the Prisons and Courts Bill - now ditched since Theresa May called the snap election - to establish a statutory purpose for prisons were an "important step forward".

But if the Bill, or a variation of it, is resurrected after the June 8 election, ministers should include in that statutory purpose an aim to achieve a decent and fair environment for prisoners.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) should also collect data on whether prisons are meeting their obligations to treat prisoners decently, fairly and humanely.

The committee also called for it to be given an effective veto over the appointment of Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons "as a backstop guarantee of that person's independence from potential ministerial patronage or pressure".

Tory MP and committee chairman Bob Neill said: "We have taken a lot of evidence in this Parliament on prison reform, much of which is being taken forward by non-legislative means, and we have reported separately on governor empowerment and prison performance.

"Although the Prisons and Courts Bill will fall, we hope that the next government, of whatever complexion, will attach a high priority to prison reform.

"In the expectation that legislation on prisons will be brought forward early in the next parliament, we think it is right for us to express our views in this report on the provisions of this Bill."