‘Michael Gove's flagship prison reform plan could be under threat after the Justice Secretary Liz Truss refused to commit to new legislation.
Appearing before the Justice select committee Ms Truss, the new Minister, appeared to row back from the Prison Reform Bill promised by the Government and supported by David Cameron during the Queen's speech.
She also delivered a blow to Mr Gove by claiming his former department has no plan to deliver the changes he set out before the referendum, hinting that no work had been done to develop the introduction of new reform prisons.
Ms Truss said she is "looking very closely" at suggestions that prison reform will require changes to the law but added: "My predecessor was specifically focused on reform prisons which I think are an excellent idea ... I'm looking at the overall system in which they operate as well.
"What I'm not committing to is any specific pieces of legislation at this stage but I will be outlining my plans in due course." ‘ - Telegraph
‘The Conservative chairman of the committee, Bob Neill, expressed astonishment that Truss could not guarantee the centrepiece of the Queen’s speech, asking: “Are we not going to get one? It is surprising that you can’t tell us whether it will happen in this session.”
Gove promised that a prison reform green paper would be published this autumn and a major prison and courts reform bill introduced early next year. He announced the creation of six “reform” prisons, including Wandsworth in London, but the promised autonomy for their governors is severely restricted by current legislation.
The decision to pause Gove’s prison plans and test whether they can actually work represents a major departure by May from Gove’s programme, which was strongly endorsed by Cameron in a major speech.
In her first appearance before the justice select committee, Truss made clear she would not “arbitrarily” cut the current 85,000 prison population to deal with budget pressures.’ - The Guardian
‘She told the Commons Justice Committee she wanted to speed up the pace of reforms, including giving governors greater autonomy, as Mr Gove had suggested, but was looking at the "overall system".
Asked for details about five possible sites for new prisons scheduled to be built by 2020, Ms Truss said she didn't "yet have the information", but the construction of the jails needed to be done.
"It is a realistic policy," she added.
When it was suggested to her by Conservative MP Alberto Costa that one of the sites was Glen Parva in Leicestershire, she did not seem to know.
Ms Truss also revealed that technology which can detect new psychoactive substances, formerly known as "legal highs", in prisons was working in those jails where it had been installed, and drug usage had reduced as a result.
And she confirmed that the Human Rights Act would be scrapped and replaced by a British Bill of Rights, but the UK would not withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said it was committed to legislating on prison reform and reform of the court system.
The government will come forward with plans for these "in due course", he added.’ - BBC News