asked the Home Secretary whether he is satisfied that the work being performed by a detainee under Regulation 18B in Brixton Prison is not of a penal nature; on what grounds 3s. a week can be considered adequate remuneration for the work of a man who has been convicted of no offence; and for what reason such inadequate pay as 6d. a day is given to women detainees working in Holloway Prison, which rate of remuneration, allowing for board and lodging, is much less than that which can be earned by a domestic servant.
I do not think that any useful work which is voluntarily undertaken can properly be described as of a penal nature. Such work is rather an alleviation of the conditions of confinement. As regards remuneration, the cost to the public of accommodating, maintaining and guarding these people would exceed the value of their labour even if they worked with energy and application, and while it is right that some payment should be made as an inducement and a reward to those who choose to work, I do not think that the taxpayers in addition to providing for the maintenance and custody of persons detained under this Regulation could properly be expected to pay them wages at rates comparable with those earned by free workers who have to keep themselves.
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that the sewing of mail bags, which is usually work given to convicts, is not of a penal nature suitable for detainees convicted under 18B?
Most of them do not wish to work, and the hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting the position when he says mail bags are the only thing. It is peculiar to a small minority in prison.
Will the right hon. Gentleman look sympathetically into what appears to be a differentiation between these people and internees, aliens and others? The latter are allowed to earn money, and these people apparently are not.
The noble Lord is not aware that some of them are paid money. The circumstances are bound to be somewhat different, but there is no lack of sympathy with the points that he has raised.
If my hon. Friend is thinking of persons having scientific and professional qualifications, I regret that it is not practicable to provide work for which they are qualified, but as I explained in my reply on nth June to the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey), various forms of suitable employment are available for those who are willing to undertake work.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that work is provided in most of our prisons in the making of mattresses for women soldiers and hammocks for sailors, and can he extend the facilities to the friends of the hon. Gentleman opposite?
I have been anxious that everything possible shall be done to develop educational facilities for persons in detention, but experience has shown that if such schemes are to be successful it is better that the initiative should be with the internees themselves who claim that qualified lecturers and teachers can be found amongst their own number. Classes are held by those with the requisite qualifications, and a special hour has been set aside for classes and study. Books and other equipment are provided. As regards the teaching of trades, the number who could be relied on to take continuous instruction in any particular trade is not such as to justify the installation of expensive machinery or tools or the provision of special instructors, but for the women there are opportunities of instruction in dressmaking and in handicrafts including weaving.