A former top boss of outsourcing firm Serco, which earns millions of pounds from UK government contracts and which manages five prisons in England and Wales, has become the new justice minister in Theresa May’s cabinet.
Tory Edward Argar, who became Charnwood’s MP in 2015 – only nine months after quitting his role as head of public affairs at Serco UK and Europe – will be responsible for issues concerning youth justice, female prisoners, and offender health in his new role as justice minister.
The 40 year-old has also worked at infrastructure firm Mouchel, which has also been given contracts by local government to undertake highway and transportation works.
Theresa May will be hoping her new parliamentary under-secretary of state at the ministry of justice, another justice minister to have voted remain in the EU referendum, will not destabilize her cabinet like his predecessor.
Argar replaces Dr. Phillip Lee, who dramatically quit the role on the day the EU Withdrawal Bill returned to the House of Commons, citing he needed to step down to campaign for a second referendum on the final Brexit deal, putting him at odds with his own Tory government.
Serco was at the center of a huge row in 2013 when it agreed to repay the government £68.5 million (US$91 million) for overcharging on a criminal tagging contract.
The outsourcing company is one of three firms to share 14 privately managed prisons in England and Wales – Serco controls five of these. They run Doncaster, Ashfield, Dovegate, Lowdham Grange, and Thameside prisons on behalf of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Doncaster was criticized by inspectors in 2016 who found vermin and “overwhelmed” staff.
In total, private institutions make up around 15 percent of Britain’s prisons, with the rest managed by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), according to the Mirror.
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