Justice Secretary Liz Truss casts doubt on prison reforms

prison officer Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Justice Secretary Liz Truss refused to say whether Michael Gove's prisons bill would go ahead

Justice Secretary Liz Truss has appeared to cast doubt on plans for a sweeping reform of prisons in England and Wales proposed by her predecessor, Michael Gove.

The ideas would give prisons more control over their budgets and regimes.

Ms Truss refused to say whether Mr Gove's prisons bill would go ahead and told MPs she was "not committing" to any specific piece of legislation.

The Ministry of Justice said it was "totally committed" to prison reform.

Mr Gove's ideas were central to the social reform agenda under David Cameron.

Ms Truss, who took over from Mr Gove in July, said her own plans to modernise prisons, change regimes and improve safety, to be announced this autumn, had to be "deliverable".

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".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Justice Secretary Liz Truss said she was "not committing" to any specific piece of legislation

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.

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