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Labour’s Chris Williamson crushes the justice minister for turning probation into a ‘cash-cow’

Chris Williamson

In parliament on 18 December, Labour MP Chris Williamson slammed the Conservative justice minister for turning probation into a “cash-cow”

It’s easy to see why. An eight-month report from the parliamentary Justice Committee found that the Conservatives’ probation privatisation had failed in every measure and risked public safety.

“Abject failure”

Williamson was not impressed with the Conservatives introducing profit to the probation system in England and Wales:

We know the government sees public services as a cash-cow for the private sector. But the privatisation of the probation service has been an abject failure. [The contract] had to be terminated two years early despite a half a billion pounds bailout. The privatised service failed to reduce offending. So why is the minister proposing to privatise the service again in 2020?

David Cameron’s administration began the Transforming Rehabilitation privatisation process in 2014.

In response, justice minister David Gauke said:

I would say to him that, in the period of time since transforming rehabilitation, actually the reoffending rate has fallen. We would like it to fall further. And there are issues with how the system is working, which is why we’re taking the entirely pragmatic approach in terms of bringing those contracts to an end.

Fundamentally flawed

MPs in the cross-party Justice Committee, however, demanded the government ends the “botched” system. As well as the functional failures, the Conservative government had to bail out the rehabilitation companies with £512m in 2018. In July, Justice Committee chair Bob Neill – a Conservative MP and barrister – said:

We are unconvinced that Transforming Rehabilitation will ever deliver the kind of probation service we need. Hard working and dedicated staff are doing their best with a probation system that is currently a mess

Introducing profit into the justice system undermines the critical service it provides. In the Commons, Williamson nailed the bottom line: everyone needs public services such as justice to work, so why rent them from the private sector?

Featured image Chris Williamson/Twitter

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