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20 March 2007

Missing prison minister

Tales off the hapless Mr Sutcliffe...

By Martin Bright

Popped in to the 100th birthday celebration for the probation union Napo at the House of Lords today hosted by the former prisons inspector Lord Ramsbotham. Representatives from the prison service, the police, the court service and parliament were there in numbers. No sign of Gerry Sutliffe, Labour’s ninth prison minister in nine years, though. But it seems that the hapless Sutcliffe only turns up for his friends in the lobbying business.

I must say I was delighted to see Sutcliffe exposed in the Sunday Times this weekend for his connections with the lobbying company Golden Arrow. Sutcliffe failed to turn up at the debates hosted by the probation union during the conference season last summer. I’ll never forget the abject apology provided by an astonished Home Office special adviser when he was “empty-chaired” for a second time. But then the sausages on sticks provided by Napo can’t match the beef goulash and French wine Sutcliffe enjoyed courtesy of Golden Arrow at the Baltic restaurant on London’s South Bank.

At the time I assumed that Sutcliffe hasn’t turned up to debate because of a diary mix-up — not unusual at the Home Office. But when John Reid became Home Secretary he told me that Sutcliffe hadn’t turned up because he didn’t like something I had written about him. I’ve only written about him once so this must be it. Maybe the hapless Gerry Sutcliffe doesn’t like being called hapless…

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