So-called Big Beast Ken Clarke has left the Justice Department to become a Minister without Portfolio, with a roving economic brief.
But while that has raised a few eyebrows in terms of what will come next for the government’s economic policy, perhaps the most interesting news for the construction industry is Chris Grayling’s appointment to Clarke’s old job. Grayling is renowned as a darling of the right-wing Tories and is expected to placate many on the Conservative backbenches who had been unhappy with Clarke’s liberal outlook.
If that reputation proves to be true, there could be a new round of prison building on the way.
Clarke, after all, came into office as Justice Secretary promising a “rehabilitation revolution”, in which offenders would not simply be banged up, but rehabilitated so that they could become useful members of society. Indeed, he was critical of the rising prison population that the coalition had inherited from Labour and indicated a desire to reduce prison numbers, rather than invest in building ever more new buildings in which to house them.
Grayling, on the other hand, is perceived to be much closer to his old boss, Michael Howard’s view of the justice system: “prison works”.
If that turns out to be the case, he will soon be lobbying the Treasury for some cash to build new prisons in which to house a rising population. Whether or not one agrees with the politics behind this thinking, it will no doubt add impetus to the construction industry.
And with rumours suggesting the Treasury is already thinking that the new PFI model could eventually be used for the provision of new justice buildings, including courts and prisons, Grayling’s appointment might be important in the broader government agen