The government has announced it is withdrawing its controversial bid to help the prison service in Saudi Arabia.

Last month the Ministry of Justice said it was closing Just Solutions International (JSi), the commercial arm of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which specialises in criminal justice consultancy and the provision of offender management products and services to overseas governments.

But the government said it was unable to withdraw a bid submitted in April for a contract to conduct a training-needs analysis for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia prison service staff, via an executive agency of the Saudi Ministry of Finance.

However, justice secretary Michael Gove told the House of Commons at lunchtime today that the government had ‘now reviewed the issue further and decided to withdraw our bid’.

Gove told MPs that it was important the ministry’s resources were targeted at its 'programme of domestic public service reform’.

The ministry’s commercial involvement with a similar agency in Saudi Arabia had attracted widespread criticism.

In August Amnesty International reported that the country remains one of the most prolific executioners in the world, a situation 'compounded by the fundamentally flawed nature of Saudi Arabian legal and judicial safeguards'.