Monday 22 October 2012

Privatising Probation: What Reform says – Government does

If you want to know what future government policy is going to be, don’t bother asking your government because they won’t tell you until it’s too late. Instead, turn your eyes to a right-wing think tank masquerading as a charity.

In February 2011, Reform, a free market think tank, produced a brochure based on a meeting held at global law firm, Clifford Chance, titled: ‘21st century justice’. The meeting in large part discussed the probation and prison service and the need for change. 

However, whenever Reform says change, what they actually mean is privatisation, and that is exactly what is going to happen with the probation service. Chris Grayling has said the government will push ahead with a pay by results system, rather disturbingly, before any assessment of the pilot schemes has taken place. outsourcing the process to private companies. This policy David Cameron will be announcing today - the outsourcing of large parts of our prison service.

The meeting last year was attended amongst others, by Blair Gibbs, Head of Crime and Justice at the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange and former Advisor to Nick Herbert MP. Mr Herbert was a co-founder of Reform before becoming an MP. Another attendee was David Banks, Managing Director, Care and Justice Services, G4S.

G4S are one of the likely beneficiaries of any probation privatisation. G4S are a global security company who currently have operations in 125 countries; and are the biggest security company in the world. G4S also pay Reform to be a corporate partner and are not short of a voice or two in power. G4S has access to the very top, paying the former Labour Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Reid as a director and Lord Condon who is a Non-executive Deputy Chairman & Senior Independent Director. It would be reasonable to ask where the Liberal Democrats are in all this, but it turns out, the crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne, who is the Lib Dem MP for Taunton, sits on the Reform advisory board.

The probation service is however just the tip of the iceberg with the advent of Police and Crime Commissioner elections taking place on the 15th of November this year, who Reform believe should be in control of prisons, probation, courts, fire and ambulance services as well as policing.

The Daily Telegraph recently exposed Mervyn Barrett, a candidate for the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commission position as being supported by American neo-con lobbyists, the Fund for the New American Century. Following the G4S fiasco during the Olympics, Mr Barrett verbally came out in support of the company saying they are working well in Lincolnshire, where they have come out in support of G4S, where it provides police support services.

He is not G4S’s only supporter, Andrew Haldenby, the director and co-founder of Reform, wrote and article in the Times following the G4S failings, stating: ‘the coalition’ is not proposing to ask G4S to bid to supply bobbies in competition with the local authorities. It might be worth a look, though — if only to wipe a little of the smugness off the faces of spokesmen from the trade union known as the Association of Chief Police Officers, who have spent the past week wallowing in G4S’s embarrassment.’

Such fervent support for their corporate partner is expected from these enemies of the state. Reform claim they involve corporations in their ‘charity’ work because they are ‘often left out of the Whitehall policy discussion.’ However, since 2010, G4S have had at least 17 government meetings and given 7 oral presentations to government.

In addition they regularly provide written evidence, which they did in January this year, providing a submission to the Justice Committee on the subject of Care and Justice Services. Number 32 of their submission recommended in addition to existing areas, that the government should ‘consider other areas to increase competition such as: Probation services’.

Today’s politics mean that a corporation’s wish is a government command. If the public don’t like something they are forced to protest, which is largely ignored or aggressively attacked if it takes the form of direct action. For organisations like G4S, they pay Reform, and in return, get promoted by the think tank to the politicians who attend the same meetings. G4S are then invited to say to government what they want in a written submission, the passage of policy bypassing the public with undemocratic stealth. The government then produces another policy that neither coalition party had in their manifesto. Democracy is broken and very soon if we do not resist, we are going to have G4S running our police and I don’t want that in my society.

Further reading:

  1. MPs and Lords Financial links to Reform
  2. Reform – a charity of a conduit to privatisation? -
  3. Reform – a voice for corporations - 


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