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I beg to move,
That the Prison Rules, 1964, a draft of which was laid before this House on 14th January, be not made.
With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think that it would be for
the general convenience of the House if we were allowed to discuss at the same time the next Motion:
That the Borstal Institution Rules, 1964, a draft of which was laid before this House on 14th January, be not made.
These two sets of rules are extremely important, because they contain the rules for the whole of our prison system. These rules regulate the lives of all the men and women who are in prisons and borstal institutions. This is a rather rare occasion, because it is 15 years since there was a complete set of Prison Rules. The last time they were all enacted together was 1949. Although they have been amended from time to time, on this occasion they are completely rewritten. We welcome the fact that they have been simplified. There are now 101 Prison Rules, instead of 207 in the previous issue.
However, we are disappointed that in essence they are very largely the same. Many of those which some of us consider to be antiquated have not been scrapped and, although they have been simplified, in essence the rules are very much the same.
In some respects one could feel on reading these rules that we were in mediaeval times. The Home Secretary now appears to be much more responsible than he was before for the whole of our prison system. Hitherto we have had Prison Commissioners. In the debate when the Prison Commissioners were absorbed completely into the Home Office the right hon. Gentleman said that he not only wanted to be responsible for our prison system—he wanted to be seen to be responsible. He has now had an opportunity of creating some new Prison Rules.
In general I would criticise these rules on two grounds. I believe that they contain some which ought not to be there. Others sound good but in practice our prisons are such that it is impossible to carry them out. The Prison Rules that are most like this are perhaps, for instance, the new Rule I, which says this—
The purpose of the training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall be to
encourage and assist them to lead a good and useful life.
and Rule 2 (3), which says this:
At all times the treatment of prisoners shall be such as to encourage their self-respect and a sense of personal responsibility, but a prisoner shall not be employed in any disciplinary capacity.
The physical conditions of many prisons today make it absolutely impossible for these two rules to be observed.
With 101 rules before me it would be tempting to make a long speech. However, I shall select just a few rules, because I know that there are many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who wish to express an opinion on these rules. I want next to refer to those which have been changed. On the back page of these Prison Rules there is an explanation of those which have in essence been changed. One of the changes which we welcome is that prisoners are to be allowed to write one letter a week instead of one letter a month. I do not find anywhere in these rules a statement of the conditions governing the sending of letters to Members of Parliament. I know that there are some rules about this, but they are not in these Prison Rules.
Therefore, I should like the Home Secretary to tell us exactly where we can find the rules governing the sending of letters to Members of Parliament.
That is a very good point and I am sure that, if the hon. Gentleman manages to catch the eye of the Chair, he will be able to give examples to back up what he has said. There is a new Rule 42 which provides, as the Explanatory Note says—
for the disposal of money and articles sent to a prisoner through the post, and in particular, where the sender is unknown, to allow their application for the benefit of discharged prisoners.
We were told in the Press when the rules were issued last week that the Home Secretary regarded this as a way in which he could defeat the tobacco barons. We do not object to this rule. Anonymous cash gifts sent through the
post to prisoners are probably suspect. However, the right hon. Gentleman is very much mistaken if he thinks this rule will end tobacco barony in prisons. It will need much more than this.
I have been reading recently the very interesting account of Pentonville Prison written by Terence and Pauline Morris after they had spent some months there. They give a detailed account of how the tobacco barons operate. First, they must get the tobacco which, we are informed in this book, is at Pentonville Prison slung over the wall in a nylon stocking and hauled in at the end of a line. Sometimes, and this is regrettable, because I am sure that the majority of prison officers are a fine body of men, an exceptional prison officer himself supplies tobacco to the barons.
The amount of money actually sent into prison for tobacco is an infinitesimal proportion of the amount which is exchanged for the tobacco. What usually happens is that a prisoner will ask his wife to send money to the tobacco baron's wife or to an accommodation address; and the money does not go inside the prison at all. There should be some way of bringing this racketeering to an end. It aways amazes me to think that in prisons, where an example should be set and where, according to these rules, men are sent to be trained to live good and useful lives, there should operate rackets like the tobacco racket and that the tobacco barons should be allowed to terrorise other prisoners. Perhaps the best course would be for the Government to amend Rule 4 and Rule 22(2). Rule 4 states:
There shall be established at every prison systems of privileges approved by the Secretary of State and appropriate to the classes of prisoners there, which shall include arrangements under which money earned by prisoners in prison may be spent by them within the prison.
Rule 22(2) states:
No prisoner shall be allowed to smoke or to have any tobacco except as a privilege under Rule 4 of these Rules and in accordance with any orders of the governor.
Prisoners earn precious little for their work. If these rules were liberalised and prisoners were allowed to spend their meagre earnings in the way they wished, I believe that we should not get so much of this tobacco baroning.
The most important changes are Rules 51 and 52 relating to punishments. By these there is an increase in the powers of visiting committees to award punishments. For any one offence solitary confinement by these new rules is increased from 28 to 56 days. The Home Secretary of late has been trying to appear more liberal-minded and more of a reformer. I think that he has been trying to change his image. If so, these new rules are most extraordinary, because at one stretch prisoners can now be given solitary confinement for eight instead of four weeks. The explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman, according to the Press last week, is that this is a method of reducing corporal punishment—that there is nothing between 28 days' solitary confinement and corporal punishment.
I find that a strange argument. We might as well argue that there is nothing between 56 days' solitary confinement and corporal punishment and that, because of that, to reduce corporal punishment still more we should double the number of days again and make it 112 days' solitary confinement. I very much regret the increase in solitary confinement in this way.
Prison life is bad enough, but to think of being confined in a small cell for a whole month at a time is something most of us cannot even contemplate. In addition to new Rules 51 and 52, we find Rule 43(2). Rule 43 is headed "Removal from association" and under this a prisoner can be removed from association other than under Rules 51 and 52. My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) recently brought to the attention of the House the example of the prisoner Madsen who had been in solitary confinement in 1962 for seven months and in 1963 for six months. This was not under the rules that now will be Rules 51 and 52, but under Rule 43(2) and under the heading "Removal from association".
I should like the Home Secretary to explain exactly how these two separate rules work and, although there is a maximum of 56 days' solitary confinement for one offence, it still seems possible under Rule 43(2) for prisoners to be out of association for a longer period.
I wish to refer now to some of the other disciplinary rules, particularly the one
headed "Restricted diet", which is Rule 55. This one makes me think that we are living in mediaeval times, for it states:
The food and drink to be given to a prisoner under an award of restricted diet shall be in—
We are living in the twentieth century.
Some of us are. Although this general rule is bad enough, we have a similar rule in the rules for borstals. Although it is bad enough for a grown man to be on this diet, it is worse that a teenager in borstal should also be on a diet of this kind. Worse still, a woman can be on this diet, for it applies to both sexes. If any hon. Member is wondering why it should be worse for women, I will tell him. We should consider women prisoners as mothers and prospective mothers. It is absolutely shocking that we should put women on diets of this kind—three days' bread and water. It is bad enough for anyone, but young women who are, after all, mothers and prospective mothers should not be on these diets.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) asked Questions about this in the House today. He sought information from the Home Secretary about the amount of money spent on food in prisons for the ordinary diet. The amount spent on that seemed woefully little to me. It must be remembered, therefore, that when weswitch from the ordinary diet to bread and water, the prisoners are not being switched from a particularly adequate diet but from the present diet to bread and water—and the present one is in itself only fairly adequate. In this connection, I should like to direct attention to Rule 21(2).
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. I, too, cannot see any time limit or restriction in that rule. Rule 21(2) states:
Subject to any directions of the Secretary of State, no convicted prisoner shall be allowed, except as authorised by the medical officer, to have any food other than that ordinarily provided.
When the medical officer prescribes special diets for pregnant women in our prisons, what extra food is given to them? I am told that it is extremely inadequate for their condition, and that they do not get the fresh fruit, the milk and the eggs that they should have. They get a litle extra, but not sufficient. We sometimes talk of visiting the sins of the fathers on the children, but it is absolutely wrong in our prisons to visit the sins of the mothers on the children, who will be physically affected for life.
Rule 20 deals with clothing. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that sufficient underwear is issued for health and cleanliness? In this connection I want to refer particularly to footwear, I understand that boots and shoes are passed on from prisoner to prisoner, and that they are sometimes very dirty. The former wearer may have had diseased feet, and disease can be passed inthis way from one prisoner to another. Further, a pair of boots or shoes that have been worn by one prisoner can be very ill-fitting for the next wearer, and may cripple him.
I suggest that when a prisoner goes in for a long-term sentence and will obviously wear out a pair of boots or shoes, it would be reasonable for those boots or shoes to be new, but that a short-term prisoner should be allowed to wear his or her own footwear, if suit able—no stiletto heels or winkle pickers—or if relatives wish to provide suitable boots or shoes they should be allowed to do so. Only in exceptional circum stances should footwear be passed on. This may seem rather a small matter, but we all know that to wear ill-fitting shoes can cripple a person's feet for life something—not unimportant to the sufferer.
I know that a committee is considering the whole subject of medical services in prison. I wish that there could have been a rule under which the prisoner's medical practitioner could, in suitable circumstances, be communicated with by the prison medical officer. I am not so sure that this is done very much at the present time, but it should be done. Again, I understand that there are many epileptics in prison. If they are left alone in the cells, that should be looked at medically.
Rule 28(1) is crucial to the whole of prison life. It is the rule headed "Work". Our present prison system is completely incapable of providing sufficient to occupy prisoners' minds. I am not a soppy sentimentalist over prisoners but, as the rules show, we are today much too strict and hard where we should not be, but we do not make prisoners do a good day's work. We should be much more certain that prisoners work hard and do a full day's work, not only to keep their families but to help compensate the victims of their crimes from anything left over. A great many of these disciplinary rules are necessary just because prisoners are sitting hour after hour with little to do except multiply their own grievances. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that more work will be provided.
This afternoon, the Home Secretary replied to a Parliamentary Question on the hostel system put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch). The reply was very encouraging. The right hon. Gentleman said that, at the end of 1962, 460 men had participated in the hostel system before being discharged—that is, they had lived in the prison and had worked outside it—and that, a year later, 415 of them had not been reconvicted. The scheme seems to be working very successfully, and I hope that many more experiments will be made with it.
Rule 7 is headed "Information to prisoners". We are told that every prisoner shall be provided, in writing, with information about the Prison Rules, but I believe that these rules should also be explained to prisoners. It is very difficult to give a prisoner all these rules, and some of those who are practically illiterate find it almost impossible to realise what they are all about. Aftercare is covered by Rule 32, but that rule does not outline what happens when a prisoner leaves prison, how much money he is given, and how he is provided for. We all know perfectly well that it is the first few days out of prison that are so important, especially to the long-term prisoner.
My main criticism of the rules is the conflict between the high-sounding Rule 1 and Rule 2(3), and the other rules, some of which I have mentioned. We are told that prison life is a preparation for life outside. Rule 2(3) says:
At all times the treatment of prisoners shall be such as to encourage their self-respect and a sense of personal responsibility…
What possible self-respect can men and women have who have been in prison for years and part of whose daily routine has been to queue up in order to empty their chamber pots? Many of the rules, and the régime in prison, make it absolutely impossible for Rules 1 and 2 to be carried out. It is not only that we object to some of the rules; we object also to the impossibility, under our present system, of putting some of the better rules into operation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) has rendered a very great public service by submitting this Motion, and has clearly stated a number of objections that many of us have.
I am bitterly disappointed that the Secretary of State has not submitted to us rules that are more in keeping with the modern conception of the treatment of criminals. My hon. Friend has mentioned Rule 1—"Purpose of prison training and treatment." Why is this rule not so specific as applied to prisoners as is the rule applying to borstal inmates?
Rule 1 of the draft Borstal Rules says that
The purpose of borstal training requires that every inmate, while conforming to the rules necessary for well-ordered community life, shall be able to develop his individuality on right lines with a proper sense of personal responsibility.
Rule 1(2) clearly states that
The objects of borstal training shall be to bring to bear every influence which may establish in the inmates the will to lead a good and useful life on release, and to fit them to do so by the fullest possible development of their character, capabilities and sense of personal responsibility.
I agree with that rule.
In 1957, a booklet entitled "Prisons and Borstals, England and Wales", was issued with a foreword by the present Foreign Secretary, who was then Home Secretary. It was emphasised on page 10 of that booklet that
…first the general deterrent effect of the penal system on potential offenders lies less in the punitive treatment of the detected offender than in the total action of the system—fear of detection, public trial and conviction, and the possibility of punishment whether by imprisonment or otherwise; second, that the deterrent effect of imprisonment on the individual offender lies primarily in the shame of being sent to prison and the fact of being in prison, with all that that fact in itself implies—complete loss of personal liberty; separation from home, family and friends…
The pamphlet goes on to say that
On these assumptions it was no longer necessary, in order to preserve the deterrent character of the prison regime, to retain deliberately punitive methods which experience had shown to have no deterrent effect upon those who were unlikely to become better, and to be so hurtful and deforming to the minds of others as to be most likely to make them worse…
I am sure that these draft Prison Rules do not conform with those clear principles.
The pamphlet added that
The aim should rather be, so far as possible in the limiting conditions, to eliminate from the regime whatever was merely negative and repressive, and to emphasise or introduce whatever might be positive and constructive; and especially to seek all means to counteract that deterioration of body and mind which is the gravest danger of prolonged imprisonment…The purpose of a prison is to protect society against crime, and this purpose is not served if the offender returns to society unfitted rather than fitted to lead a normal life and earn an honest living.
When I had the honour to be chairman of a Select Committee which examined prisons we went into this statement very closely. It should be clear to all who are responsible that our prisons should be organised with these aims and principles in mind, but what do we find today? My hon. Friend has mentioned how repressive some of these rules are. Not only are they repressive, but I think that the Home Secretary should write into Rule 1 something better, something even as good as is to be found in the borstal rules.
I have had a large number of letters in the past few years from prisoners. Some time ago I drew the attention of the former Home Secretary to the fact that the punishment meted out to two prisoners in Winston Green Prison, Birmingham, was clearly driving those prisoners completely mad. It is not only that prison authorities often impose a restricted diet, but there is also loss of privileges and earnings and there is solitary confinement. I have seen examples of all this. I talked to two prisoners individually inside a prison and I was horrified by the fact that their bearing was quite abnormal as a result of the torture they had suffered during long periods of confinement to the cell, together with the application of other rules.
Many prisoners have objected to the food and there have been riots or mutinies as a result. Is the Home Secretary satisfied that complaints about food are adequately dealt with? Rule 21 of the draft Prison Rules lays down what the prisoner may have by way of food and drink. He cannot buy food unless he is an unconvicted prisoner. I found that in a modern prison in California visitors were able to take in certain articles of food. I found in a prison in East Germany that prisoners, out of their earnings, which were very much more than they are under our system, were able within limits to buy soft drinks and other articles.
I should like to think that the Home Secretary has evolved, or can evolve, a system under which complaints can be more satisfactorily dealt with before there is uproar in a prison.
Under the rules governing hygiene, a prisoner
…shall be required to wash at proper times…and to have his hair cut as may be necessary for neatness…
Why should a rule of this kind be applied? I do not know how the rule about hair cutting would apply to the Beatles. On the other hand, Rule 26(3) states that
A woman prisoner's hair shall not be cut without her consent except where the medical officer certifies in writing that this is necessary for the sake of health or cleanliness.
I am surprised that under Rule 27 the Secretary of State may in special circumstances authorise the reduction of the period of exercise to half an hour a day. The whole system of ensuring that prisoners have fresh air is as antiquated
as it possibly could be. I do not expect that prisoners should be allowed complete freedom to roam about the place and do what they like.
On a recent visit to a prison in Madrid I was astonished to find that prisoners there were allowed to play games and take exercise in other ways. They were not marched round a yard in two's or three's, hardly able to speak to one another. Ours is a terrible system. The way we provide for exercise is most unsatisfactory, and, moreover, I cannot understand why there should be power to reduce the period of exercise from one hour to half an hour a day. There must be something radically wrong there.
Now, visits. Rule 34(b) provides that a prisoner shall receive a visit once in four weeks if he is under 21 and otherwise once in eight weeks. Why there should be this distinction I do not know. I notice that the parallel rule for borstals is different. This is an imposition which gravely affects many relatives and parents who wish to visit prisoners. Very often the prison is many miles away from where parents or relatives live, and a visit once in eight weeks is not good enough. Let us not forget that what we are trying to do is keep the prisoner's mind free in the sense that he will feel able to lead a better and more useful life when he is released. It is no encouragement to this attitude of mind if visits are so infrequent.
Nothing is said in the rule about the duration of visits. I take it that this is the responsibility of the Secretary of State. I have raised before the question of the time that visitors are allowed, and I recently drew attention to cases in which prisoners were allowed visits lasting only 10 or 20 minutes. I do not suggest that persons visiting prisoners should have as long a time as, for instance, people have when visiting patients in hospital, but I am quite certain that the time allowed is not satisfactory and that prisoners feel a very deep sense of grievance because they are cut off so much by inadequate time.
I endorse what my hon. Friend said about the restricted diet. I do not think that she realises that there is a period beyond which restricted diet may not be continued. It must not exceed 15 days, I think. Does the Home Secretary really believe that these repressive punishments are a deterrent? Do they do any good at all, or, rather, is it not the fact that they do harm?
In the Report of the Prison Commissioners for 1962, we read that, in the year, there were 5,889 cases of restricted diet. That is an enormous number, with a prison population of 20,000. The number of cases of forfeiture or postponement of privileges was 6,953, and stoppage of earnings was imposed in 6,557 cases. Very often, of course, prisoners get the three together.
Why are the numbers put on diet punishment so large in some places compared with others? For instance, in Durham the number put on restricted diet that year was 545, out of a prison population of 1,000. It was many fewer in some other places. For instance, in Leeds, with a prison population of 998, almost the same, the number put on restricted diet in the year was 282. Apparently, this punishment was not used so much there, or, perhaps, the prisoners in Leeds were entirely different from the prisoners in Durham. I do not know. In Birmingham, there were 317 cases. In Pentonville, on the other hand, there were 833.
What does this punishment do? Is the Home Secretary satisfied that, if all these punitive measures are imposed, it makes for better prisoners? Or does it make them worse? So far, I have referred only to the local prisons and I have not spoken of the others.
I feel a personal sense of shame that we should say to a prisoner, "We do not know how to deal with you. You are so difficult. We have got to give you 1 lb. of bread for three days and some water, and then, at the end of three days, we shall put you back on normal diet; then you will go back on to restricted diet for another three days, and so on, for 15 days". Later, I suppose, if he commits another offence, he will get the same thing. So it goes on. I do not believe that it has any deterrent effect. I regard it as inhuman. It is time that a change was made.
I have said, perhaps, more than I had intended, but I feel strongly about these matters. I am disappointed that the Home Secretary has not brought in better rules more in keeping with modern conceptions. I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind how strongly we, and the public, too, I believe, feel about these things and bear in mind also the feelings of those who have the misfortune to have relatives in prison and who suffer much distress from time to time about what happens.
The prisoner himself is very restricted in what he may do. He has no shop steward, no one to turn to. It would be a very good thing if we could evolve some sort of system providing for a council for prisons on which the prisoner himself could express his view. We ought to have a more satisfactory system for registering what is right and what is wrong in the Prison Rules—a rules and discipline committee, so to speak, which would examine all these matters.
Who drew up these rules? Were they drawn up in the light of modern ideas and attitudes? I ask the Home Secretary to look at the matter again and review the whole subject of the rules so as to make them more in keeping with the principle that it is our duty to protect society by making sure that what we do inside our prisons will make men and women more fit to lead a better life after their release.
The first matter on which I should be grateful to have the observations of the Home Secretary is the remarkable provision under which solitary confinement can be imposed, if these draft rules become effective, for a period not exceeding 56 days.
I share the horror which has been expressed from this side of the House about this, and I find it quite startling that such a provision should be included in modern Prison Rules. The proposed rule refers to:
cellular confinement for a period not exceeding 56 days".
Does "cellular confinement" mean total denial of the opportunity of association with other prisoners? Does it really mean confinement to a cell for 24 hours a day? Or is there some provision for exercising with other prisoners? What provision is made concerning baths, meals and matters of that kind? Unless the period of solitary confinement is
qualified by substantial periods of release from the cell, this is about the cruellest form of punishment, short of actual physical torture, which one human being can impose on another.
I had occasion to pursue the practice of solitary confinement in one of our Colonies during the Summer Recess. My recollection is that, even under the Indian penal code in the most rigorous days of difficulty, it was not permissible to impose solitary confinement for a period of more than one month and then there had to be a break for the simple reason that experience showed that the psychological damage caused by solitary confinement was so grave that in some cases it produced insanity. There is abundant evidence in many reports from different parts of the world about the grave danger of solitary confinement to the human mind.
Man is a gregarious animal and it is the cruellest punishment to inflict upon him to detain him alone in a cell, as is proposed under these draft rules, for a period of up to 56 days. I hope that the Home Secretary tonight will tell us that this rule will be altered at once, because this is an intolerable form of punishment and I cannot believe that in 1964 we as a House should allow such power to rest in the hands of any prison authority. I hope that no prison authority would wish for a moment to have or to exercise such a power.
I see that many of my hon. Friends who have applied themselves over the years to this problem and who are far more qualified to speak on it than I am wish to speak, but there is one other matter which I want to touch on and it is this. I am sure that the House will agree with the first proposed rule, namely, that
The purpose of the training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall be to encourage and assist them to lead a good and useful life.
That reads admirably.
I am happy to see that provision is made in Rule 6 for the temporary release of a prisoner. Paragraph (2) states:
A prisoner may be temporarily released under this Rule for any special purpose or to enable him to engage in employment, to receive instruction or training or to assist him in his transition from prison life to freedom.
I should like to know from the Home Secretary the extent to which this power
is being used and what has been the experience of using this admirable system of temporary release. My understanding is that in some cases this system has been remarkably successful and that it has been one of the most useful methods of rehabilitation. I know from experience fairly close to me how friendships built up between the prisoner released in this way and young people like those working, for instance, in the international voluntary service projects in different parts of London have been helpful not only to the prisoner but in enlarging the experience of the young people concerned.
I feel that the use of such machinery as this has been wholly insufficient in the past and I should like to know whether a significant increase in facilities of this kind is contemplated. In my view, a vital aspect of any penal system is that an opportunity should be given to the prisoner to justify himself while he is in prison as a person capable of social responsibility, of work and of making his contribution to meeting his personal and family obligations. At the moment, our prison system denies prisoners that opportunity. I can think of few things more liable to degrade a human being than to deny him the opportunity of doing a job of work and earning wages.
Some progress has been made in this respect, I know, and it has been very heartening to see it take place. But unless this matter is tackled as something to be taken very seriously and in terms of introducing into prisons the means of producing useful products which, in turn, involves the installation of suitable modern machinery capable of turning out good products—in other words, unless the problem is approached from the point of view of enabling the prisoner to do a constructive and productive job—we shall not get very far.
I should like to know from the Home Secretary the extent of the progress being made in this respect, because, as I see it, this is the most critical aspect of the problem of the treatment of the prisoner. We have, happily, moved far from the rack and thumbscrew days, save for this hideous provision about solitary confinement, and I hope that we shall hear that a fresh approach is to be made to the problem of enabling the prisoner to justify himself in prison by being given the opportunity of doing a constructive job of work.
Like my hon. Friends, I hope that the Home Secretary will have another look at these draft rules because they certainly do not carry out the admirable spirit expressed in the first and second rules, which my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) quoted. It is said in these preliminary rules that the purpose of prison treatment is to encourage a prisoner
to lead a good and useful life
and that there shall be
no more restriction than is required for safe custody and well ordered community life.
I should have thought that an essential principle of any well ordered community was that the individual owed certain duties to society in return for the performance of which society guaranteed the individual certain rights.
When a man goes to prison, he does so because he has not done his duty to society and, therefore, he is deprived of certain rights. It is all the more important, however, that the rights which he retains while he is in prison should be observed strictly and fairly and that he should be aware of them and enabled to exercise them. Otherwise, prison will not be an education for the prisoner for a good and useful life but, on the contrary, will confirm him in his belief that society is his enemy.
The prisoner has certain rights. He has the right, for example, to keep in as close contact as possible with his family and friends. The maintenance of that contact is probably the most fruitful way in which to ensure that after he leaves prison, the prisoner will be able to resume a good and useful life in the community. And yet, when I raised with the Joint Under-Secretary of State the question of the difficulty of one of my constituents visiting her husband in prison—because she lives in Nottinghamshire, where their home is, and her husband was incarcerated in Dartmoor Prison—the hon. Lady explained that the man could not be transferred to another prison near his home because there was not room in a suitable establishment for him in a prison near his home.
Until we are able to correct this state of affairs, instead of maintaining human relationships between a man and his family we shall be using prison, as may happen in the case to which I am referring, as a means of breaking up the family life.
A prisoner is entitled to fair treatment. He is entitled to certain forms of legal protection. Although my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) has not referred to them, it appears to me that the safeguards in the rules for legal protection are, at least, not clearly set out. For me, as a layman, it would be extremely difficult to find out my rights to the protection of the law.
For example, Rule 58, in the part dealing with appellants, states that
An appellant may be visited, in the sight and hearing of an officer, by any person in connection with his appeal.
Presumably, "any person" includes the appellant's legal adviser. Is a prisoner to understand from this rule that he is to consult his legal adviser within the hearing of a prison officer? That would be a denial of justice. Doubtless, the Home Secretary will say that that is covered by Rule 37, which states that the legal adviser of a prisoner in any legal proceedings may consult him
out of hearing but in the sight of an officer.
Does Rule 37 apply to cases under Rule 58?
According to Rule 60, in Part III,
An appellant may send or deliver to his legal adviser any confidential communication prepared as instructions for him and, unless he governor has reason to suppose that it contains any other matter, it shall not be read or stopped under Rule 33(3) of these Rules.
Again, however, do other rules apply here? Does this mean that in sending instructions to his legal adviser, a prisoner may not give the legal adviser any other information bearing on his case and that if he does so, or if the governor even suspects that he may have done so, the governor can stop the letter to his legal adviser? Where are the rights for legal protection of the prisoner? If they exist and are covered
in other rules, at least there should be a cross-reference so that a prisoner can fully understand his rights.
One of my complaints about the rules is that it is very difficult for a prisoner to find out what are his rights. For example, Rule 7(1) states that
Every prisoner shall be provided, in his cell or room, with information in writing about those provisions of these Rules and other matters which it is necessary that he should know, including earnings and privileges, and the proper method of making complaints and of petitioning the Secretary of State.
Necessary for whom? Who is to decide what it is necessary for the prisoner to know? Only certain things are specifically included, but what about those things which are not specifically mentioned in this part of the rules? What right has a prisoner to know what are his rights under other rules and standing orders with which it is not thought necessary to provide him?
I have a copy of one of the documents which is provided to prisoners in their cells dealing with information concerning convicted prisoners' mail. Presumably, this is the document that is referred to. It makes extracts from the rules and standing orders governing the treatment of prisoners. It does not provide a prisoner with by any means the whole text. How is a prisoner to find out all the rules, standing orders and statutes which govern his rights and duties in prison? Where can he get access to this information? Can he get it easily or is it difficult for him, as it is for Members of Parliament, to find out what these rules and standing orders are?
With the assistance of the Research Department of the Library, I have spent a good many hours in trying to find out for myself the precise rules and standing orders which govern the treatment of prisoners in prison. To begin with, the administration of prisoners, the treatment and rights of prisoners and the rights of Members of Parliament are not all defined in the Rules. To be able to know what they all are, one has also to consult the prison standing orders, some of which contain provisions very different from those contained in the rules.
I wish to refer especially to the right of a prisoner to communicate with his Member of Parliament and the right of a Member of Parliament to receive communications from his constituents without them being interfered with. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this question has a substantial history, for he, other members of his Department, and I have been engaged for about two years in a controversy arising out of the case of a prisoner, a constituent of mine, whom I will call Prisoner X.
This man wrote to me five times and each letter was stopped by the prison governor. I was not advised that they had been stopped, nor was I even aware that he had written to me. Only by a leak from the prison did I receive a letter, when I was made aware that other letters had been written to me which I had not received.
When I took this matter up with the Home Office the then Joint Under-secretary of State assured me that these letters had been stopped strictly in accordance with standing orders governing correspondence between prisoners and their Members of Parliament. But the more I went into the matter the more doubtful I became. It took a long time to find out precisely what those standing orders were because, when I went to the Library of the House to find out, I was given a thick volume containing hundreds of pages interleaved with scores of amendments made at different dates.
The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt tell us that these standing orders do not have to be laid before the House for approval. Moreover, they are subject to constant amendment. It is, therefore, almost impossible, even for one well informed about these matters, let alone a prisoner, to know exactly what the standing orders are in current amended form which apply to his case or particular circumstances. This is an intolerable situation. It took me months to get an up-to-date, revised copy of the standing orders inserted in the Library for my own information. What is the position of prisoners in this respect? How do they obtain information about what is contained in the current edition of the prison standing orders?
Now I come specifically to letters to hon. Members. As has been pointed out, there is no reference to this matter in the Prison Rules, but Rules 33 and 34
are supposed to deal with letters and visits. Rule 34(8) says:
A prisoner shall not be entitled under this Rule to communicate with any person in connection with any legal or other business, or with any person other than a relative or friend, except with the leave of the Secretary of State.
What is the prisoner to think when he sees that? He will think, and will be left to think, that he cannot communicate with his Member of Parliament unless he gets the permission of the Home Secretary himself to do so. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman will tell me, "Oh, no, because this has been provided for under Rule 33(2), which says:
Except as provided by statute or these Rules…
So we just have to find out what is provided by Statute. We find that certain standing orders have been made under the Statute. Amongst these is Standing Order 5(c), governing the conduct of correspondence between prisoners and their Members of Parliament. How does a prisoner get to know what his rights are in this respect? How does an hon. Member even become aware, except by doing some extremely hard work with other people's assistance?
I want from the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that both prisoners and hon. Members will be made immediately aware that there is a right of prisoners to communicate with their Members of Parliament and of the precise conditions under which that right may be exercised. I understand that there are suggestions that Standing Order 5(c) may be further amended. It has already been amended once or twice. Is it now to be amended in a more liberal or a more restrictive direction? When the right hon. Gentleman makes the amendment, will he announce it to the House?
Surely hon. Members are entitled to know what their rights are for communications with their constituents. I also want an assurance that the standing orders governing communications between prisoners and their Members will no longer be subject to the restrictive interpretation which has been given to them under his administration and that there will be fresh instructions to prison governors to interpret them liberally and in favour of giving the maximum opportunity to the prisoner to use his right and to his Member of Parliament to exercise his duty in relation to all his constituents, wherever they may be temporarily located.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) said that perhaps prisoners should have shop stewards to represent them. But prisoners, like other citizens, already have shop stewards. Their shop stewards are their Members of Parliament. In this society of ours, and especially in our prison societies, individuals need protection against the abuse of the power of the Executive.
All history teaches that when Executives have great power, they tend to be corrupted by that power. They cannot be trusted not to abuse their power unless they are subject to constant scrutiny and criticism. One of the main functions of Members of Parliament, more important than ever in this modern society, when the Executive is becoming more powerful, is to be able to speak up on behalf of their constituents against any abuse of power by the Executive, or against any restriction of the rights of the individual. That protection of the rights of the individual applies as much to people who are in prison as it does to those who are outside it.
I wish to make only a very short intervention on this subject and to speak first about Rule 28 which deals with work and to say straight away how much I agree with everything which the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) said about this most important and vital matter in prison reform, words echoed by the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) The shortage of proper work in prison makes the opening words of Rule 28(1) rather ironic. It says:
A convicted prisoner shall be required to do useful work for not more than ten hours a day…
The difficulty is not only in finding work in prisons, and that is difficult enough, but in finding suitable work, for there are limits to the usefulness of
sewing mail bags or even make roads on Dartmoor, which are both forms of occupation which are not conducive to the real purpose of prison life.
Despite that, I think that my right hon. Friend is making every possible effort to attract the right sort and volume of work into our prisons, and I for one will be very interested to hear what sort of progress he is making in that direction and what sort of response his efforts are having from the trade union movement. Work can be of value not only to the individual prisoner, from the habilitation it provides, but it is also something which might give the Prison Commissioners a chance to use for other purposes the money which that work brings in.
I do not want to stretch the argument too far, but, for example, if a proper wage were paid for light industrial work of the sort which could be done in prisons, it might enable the Prison Commissioners to draw up a scheme by which a sum could be accumulated by the prisoner for his use when he was released from prison. It is my experience that prisoners find the time after they have been released from prison the most difficult in their lives, and the shortage of money and the support that money can give at that time is often responsible for their going back to a life of crime. This is a very important aspect of after-care.
A small contribution towards his keep in prison might be made by the prisoner, if a scheme of this sort could be worked out. The cost of maintaining many prisoners in the various penal institutions is very large. I do not want to stretch this too far, but there might also be some object in making a small contribution towards possible compensation for victims of crimes of violence.
The only other rule to which I wish to refer is Rule 23, which deals with accommodation. I know that a year or two ago accommodation problems were very serious, especially in local prisons where the vast bulk of prisoners are accommodated. I think that a year or two ago 6,000 prisoners were accommodated two and three in a cell, a deplorable figure. I know that considerable progress has been made in recent years and I should like to hear from my right hon. Friend what the latest accommodation figures are, particularly in our local prisons.
I want to follow what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) about prisoners' letters. I think that it is a breach of Parliamentary privilege for a governor of a prison to intercept a letter from a constituent to a Member. The time has come when we should raise it. I also want to raise the whole subject of restrictions on correspondence.
In the Royal Commission on the Police, I was associated with the recommendations for the appointment of an Ombudsman. However, I have never regarded this with any passionate enthusiasm. An Ombudsman will still be a little man in a black coat and striped trousers, doing his best in limited and difficult circumstances. But the important thing about an Ombudsman is not what he is able to do, but the fact that he exists, the fact that people suffering from frustration or feeling themselves neglected or suffering from a sense of grievance, whether justified or otherwise—and a sense of grievance can bear very gravely on the mind of a person who has no genuine grievance at all, but thinks he has—the right to complain, the right to write, the right to seek sympathy and to feel that in a position of special isolation there is someone to whom one can appeal and someone to look into one's circumstances—these are the benefits of an Ombudsman, and it is these things which demonstrate the importance of the prisoner's letter.
I have never understood the curious, old-fashioned theories that if we do not censor every letter a man will be planning to escape with someone who will be driving up in a Rolls-Royce car, with a rope ladder, and clmbing the walls of the prison. One knows that in these things the grapevine exists and that it is much simpler to pass a message round a prison than it is anywhere else and that methods of communication in prison have become perfected because they have had to be. If normal forms of communications are prohibited, people will find other methods, even if they do not have the romanticism of the Count of Monte Cristo.
I have found, and other hon. Members will confirm the experience, that when I write nice, friendly letters to prisoners in Manchester, I usually get a letter from someone in Dartmoor who has heard that there is an M.P. who writes nice, friendly letters and who wants to try it on me. This shows that not only around the prison but around the whole service there is a grapevine, so there is no point in this censorship. Why should not a man write to his "missus" as often as he likes if he is prepared to pay the inflated cost of postage which the Government have imposed upon us?
Why should the governor be submitted to the humiliating duty of going through the letters word by word, wondering whether there is something cryptic in this sentence, something seditious in that, something controversial in the other, or something blasphemous in the fourth?—and there is a lot of it about now. I would suggest that it is important that a prisoner should have the right to write letters without this special and ridiculous supervision. Any form of censorship nowadays is usually done on the basis of a snap look at a limited portion of letters to see whether anything unusual is happening.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. Coulson) not only because he said things worth saying, but because this is the first occasion since July of last year that the back bench Tories have been completely unanimous on any point at all.
When the Home Secretary says that it is unnecessary to alter all the plans in prison reform and prison restrictions, that is reasonable enough. But there are obviously matters which are not appropriate for the formal regulations or the formal stipulations—indeed, the fewer the regulations the better. My general complaint about these regulations is that they savour very much of the old business of the jangling key, which seems to me one of the most curious survivals of the old conception of the turnkey. Indeed, it is one of the most depressing factors militating against the development of a first-class prison service.
I believe that the prison service now is refusing warders of higher quality than ever before. I have met in prisons men of genuine social conscience, who want to serve, and who find the business of saluting every time the governor passes, the jangling of keys, and the locking of doors all the time, very irksome.
I would be the last to quote China as as example of penal reform, but I remember two things about its system. China supports the system of having armed guards with rifles outside the prison doors, so that if anyone tries to escape he is unlikely to do so. That, no doubt, is a provision which would not be acceptable to the British social conscience—and I would support the British social conscience. China has that method, which we would not adopt, but subject to that, it says, "Of course, we should not think of locking up men at night. They cannot sleep."
The most wicked thing about the prison system—I admit there has been improvement in recent years—was that men and, worse, women, were locked up for 17 hours a day from the time that they finished the normal routine. This was so at Holloway some years ago—but still they are locked up, without any proper sanitary provision being made for them. They have to contend with the wretched business of carrying a tin chamber-pot which perhaps three people have to use. I know that there have been improvements, and I am not trying to be polemical. I know that these matters have been borne in mind.
China has the excellent idea of a suggestion box. It is not much to ask for. There is a great deal to be said for making it possible for a prisoner to put an anonymous note in the box saying that Warder Jones "stinks" and is a knocker about. No one will take much notice of just that one note, but if 15 prisoners put in notes in different handwriting, saying that Warder Jones is a "stinker", and knocks them about, the governor may think that the time has come to inquire where there is a little plot or whether Jones is not the warder he should be.
In any event, the opportunity for men of intelligence—and there are many of them in prison—to use their brains and their knowledge to try to develop a social conscience in the prison service is noticeably not used in this country to the extent that it is used in others. In countries like Luxembourg and the Netherlands, I found that prisoners were found work of social use to them. One of the most important was in connection with the library service. The circulation of books, the development of education and vocational training, the tracing of and research for magazines and technological books that were necessary were all done by prisoners.
There are not many people who cannot recall persons who are liked and respected, but who have transgressed the law and incurred the penalty which it imposes. Why should not that service be used? Why should the restriction that either the harsh law or the harsh social conscience of the community has imposed on them deprive them of the use of their ability?
I was surprised to find in these rules—though I ought to have known it—that when the Home Secretary talks about the remission of sentence, imprisonment for debt is excluded. Is this the case? Is it that the right hon. Gentleman has no power to reduce a sentence for failure to comply with an order of a court to pay the money? In Dickens' day people thought that imprisonment for debt had been abolished. There never has been a concept of our law which is more nonsensical than this. If a man owes enough, he is not imprisoned. It is only the small man who gets sent to prison for debt. If a man owes more than £50, he files a petition, and that figure has not been raised. Before the development of money, £50 might have been thought too little.
If a man owes £50 he files a petition. If he does not intend to pay from the start he forms himself into a limited liability company, somebody else provides a little capital, he borrows a little from the bank if the manager is in a good mood, and sets himself up in business. He does not risk his own money, which, for curious reasons, is called risk capital. It is never put at risk until the company looks like becoming prosperous, when, for cash, he allots himself the unallotted shares which have been waiting for the company to prosper.
I do not like to mention clients, so I hope that I shall be forgiven for this because he has gone to his last abode and I am not sure where it is. I liked the man. He went bankrupt for £2 million about 1895, for about £1¼ million about 1908, and £250,000 about 1922. Throughout the period he lived at a very stately hall in Derbyshire. He had a wife and a charming family, most of whom married well. I liked the man and he was not devoid of virtue. A man does not pay debts if he is well off. He does not sacrifice his property. He has it salted away under a trust. We once drew up a trust so well that, in the end, my client could not get at the money. [Laughter.]
This may sound funny, but what we are saying to the poor man is, "You will pay what you owe out of the money you earn this week, next week and the week after." To the man who earns £10,000 a year, however, we do not say, "It is reasonable that you should pay £5,000 a year." But to the man who earns £5 a week we say, "If you do not go to the county court you will be arrested, and if you do you will get the sack." We tell him that he must pay £5 a week for this, and 2s. 6d. a week for that, and if the man cannot do this he goes to prison—and the right hon. Gentleman says that he does not get any remission.
Why not abolish all this stuff and nonsense? Is it necessary for the courts to collect money from these people? If the courts did not collect this money the people who sell goods on hire purchase, and so on, would not allow people to have so much credit. In any case, the practice of giving credit is to be deprecated. I consider that our courts should not be used at public expense for collecting debts from small wage earners who have frequently been led to run into debt because of the activities of high-powered salesmen at their doors. Some day the people who sell volumes such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica should be questioned on their method of persuading working people that it is necessary for their children to have all 25 volumes on their shelves for constant reference and, of course, on constant hire purchase.
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) for my absence while she was speaking. She made some reference to the Questions that I had down today. It has been said that prison regulations are now being made to ensure that prisoners have food which is useful and satisfactory for their health. I confess that there was so much fermentation on the benches immediately behind me when my Questions were asked that I am not sure that I heard the Under-secretary of State's reply with sufficient accuracy, but I asked her what was the expenditure on food per week per male prisoner. I do not want to be discourteous to her, but whenever we raise these matters we receive in return a few stereotyped observations. In effect, Ministers say, "We buy cheaply, and we buy wisely."
Such information may be useful in a discussion on resale price maintenance, but we happen to have the buying scales of regional hospital boards and other institutions, and we know that they do not make a lot by this alleged cheap buying. It probably does not amount to a saving of more than 12½ or 15 per cent. overall.
I understood the hon. Lady to say that it costs about 14s. 6d. a week to feed a prisoner. I had expected her to say that it was 16s.—the figure that we had worked out on the limited information that we had been given, but I understand that she said that it was 14s. 6d.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that nod.
That is the cost of maintaining a prisoner in terms of food, while the cost in respect of warders, in terms of keep and uniform, works out at about £6 per head. Is there anybody in this House, or anybody on the massed Tory benches opposite—[Laughter.] No, it is not funny. Is there anybody who will say that 2s. a day is sufficient adequately to feed the men whom we are to require to work?
I agree that prisoners should do work. Penal reformers are often thought of as sentimental people who want to nurse prisoners. I agree that prisoners should be made to work. How can we rehabilitate a man by locking him up for seven years, depriving him of work and then turning him out among the community when he has lost the habit of hard and industrious work and tell him to start again? Of course, that is the way to drive him back to the sort of life in which he has no job, and turns to crime again. We must provide work.
I will now say something that is very controversial. Too much space in our prisons is allocated to places of worship which are used for perhaps only half a day a week. I admit that in Wormwood Scrubs we have about as many religions as there are in the world. We certainly have to cater for 12 or 15 forms of it there. I have raised this matter with very distinguished men of more than one Church, and they all say that there would be no objection if a case were put up that part of these buildings should be given up and used for appropriate social services for prisoners, or that they should be permanently used for part of the week. They say that they would not want to stand in the way of such a proposition; that times have altered, and that this might be the best way of using these buildings for the service of prisoners. There must be proper places to work and there must be proper quarters.
That brings me to the question of classification and, here again, I grant the Home Secretary that there have been improvements and that the diversification of penal establishments is providing a diversified form of treatment. But to classify, classify, classify is the task, if we are to deal with the long-term prisoner. I am not referring to a prison like Brixton, which is something like a railway station, where no one knows who is going in and who is going out and where there is a procession of people coming from the courts and going back to the courts.
I am talking about people to be dealt with and where the question of substantial sentence arises. We have to decide upon the best possible course. That is a hard process and mistakes will be made. It is a cruel process upon the individual, because he will be the victim of the mistakes that will be made. But we have to decide what we shall do with him and, by examination, we have to decide whether there is any hope of reformation.
By examination, we have to decide whether there is any possibility of developing and improving some skill.
By examination, we have to decide whether we can reclaim the man. By examination, we have to decide whether we can hope to send him out of prison better trained and better disciplined than when he came in. We have not the resources and the material or organisation to do that for everyone. It is obvious. All of us have met prisoners who are enemies of society. Sometimes that may be the result of treatment which they have had. Sometimes it may be due to psychological reasons. But there are prisoners whom we must regard as irredeemable enemies of society. We have no time to give them the attention which we should like to give. They must be treated as we treat patients in hospital, where there are some cases which justify special and prolonged medical attention and others that do not.
So we have to classify. My complaint about prison is that if one tries to find what a prison governor knows about a prisoner we find that he has a card and a list of previous sentences. He knows what the man was, and nothing more. It is a great defect of the penal system. There have been great improvements recently which have been partly due to changes in the law and partly due to changes among the occupants of the bench. But when three or four days have been spent trying to find out whether a prisoner is guilty of an offence, five minutes are spent wondering what to do with him. The court relies on a friendly "copper" to say that the prisoner is a good husband and pays the rent, or else reliance is placed on the probation officer—if he has had time to make inquiries about the prisoner. Incidentally, probation officers are grossly overworked.
We ought to know whether people are healthy or not; whether they have suicidal tendencies, or whether they are in difficulties. They ought to be subjected to a psychiatric examination. We should make a study of their proclivities. There should be the fullest possible report on them. I am inclined to think that there ought to be a reconsideration of sentence when we know all about them. Provisionally, and without having applied my mind sufficiently to declare myself, I think that there is a good deal to be said for a revision of sentence in all cases.
A classic example is that it is possible to treat a homosexual. We cannot treat, or it is not easy to treat, a genuine homosexual; but we can treat an acquired homosexual. But if we cure him there could be nothing dafter than saying to him, "You are cured. But you will be 'bunged' back into a cell with two other men and locked up away from women for another couple of years until you have completed your sentence". That is fantastic.
I had a Question down today, and it turned out to be an important one. I asked how many people were detained in prison because bail was refused, or had been fixed at a figure which they could not meet, or because they were unable to produce sureties. The figure which the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary gave me was 35,000 a year. Whatever for? I do not know much about the question of deterrents, but there are two political propositions on which further information seems to be necessary. One party says that we want more arms to avert war and sometimes another party says we need fewer arms. Sometimes it is a small section of the other party. The party which advocates more arms says, "If we had had more arms there would not have been this wretched war", and, "We would have won it, anyhow".
On the question of penal reform, everyone says that if there are bigger sentences that will reduce crime, but there was more crime when there was capital punishment for almost everything. It was said that if a man was not hanged for stealing a "bob" there would be more crime. It was thought that heavier sentences would reduce crime, yet from the time the heavier sentences started crime increased, and it has increased ever since.
One of the reasons for that is that when there are two or three prisoners in a cell the older prisoners dominate the younger ones. The younger ones find who are the best receivers, and which doss houses they can go to without having to answer questions. The younger prisoner gets all the information he wants. The over-crowded prison is probably the biggest producer of crime. At the same time, we overcrowd prisons by sending 35,000 people a year to prison with all that it means—perhaps the loss of a job and certainly the loss of social position, because one does not come out of prison without being a little worse for it; it is the sort of thing one does not often forget, friends may not forget and employers do not forget—35,000 a year for default in providing bail.
Many of them should not have been sent to prison at all. According to my information, well over 1,000—I think that it is 1,500, but I am speaking completely from memory of something I did not hear properly—were acquitted when they were brought to trial. I trespassed on the territory of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East and found that of 800 prisoners in Leeds 100 were in prison through lack of bail. The Home Secretary may say that the 35,000 are in prison for only a week, or three weeks, and that it does not work out at much over 1,000 a day all over, but 1,000 a day is a very big figure in relation to prison overcrowding. If we could reduce that number we could reduce the total number of people in prison.
I have not been trying to be chimerical, or political, but to seek information. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider these things. When I was rapporteur on penal reform some years ago at the Council of Europe, it was constantly said to me—I grant that there have been improvements since—that there was a day when Britain led the world in this field. Where would she stand now in the league of progressive penal societies in Western Europe, or, indeed, the world?
I am very happy to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), an experienced Parliamentarian who has given me a remarkable lesson in how to remain within the rules of order in a debate such as this. I should like to follow some of the provocative suggestions and remarks that he made. With some of them I agree profoundly, in particular with his suggestion that as part of our penal system we should consider setting up some system for revision of sentences. Most of us who at one time or other have to discharge the duty of passing sentence on convicted criminals feel that, in spite of the very great improvements which have taken place in the provision of social reports and information for us, we are not adequately informed, and cannot be informed adequately at that stage, on what is the best sentence to pass in the circumstances. Those who have real experience in prison work ought after a period of time to be able to reconsider the sentences which we have passed and, in some cases, to alter them. However, that is not very directly related to the subject of these rules.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) is greatly to be congratulated upon having given us the opportunity to discuss these rules. We are once again in one sense hamstrung by our own rules of procedure. It is very unsatisfactory that in a matter of this kind we have no effective means of suggesting any improvement to these rules. All we can do is to discuss them under the form of suggesting that they should be rejected, when we do not want them to be rejected at all; and, if we have any criticisms to make constructively about the rules, all we can hope is that they will be pigeon-holed away in some file at the Home Office and that the next time the rules come to be revised somebody will bear in mind what we said on this occasion.
This is a classic example of a matter in which we might improve the procedure in this House. For regulations on matters of this kind we should have a Committee procedure; the rules should be referred to a Committee. We could then suggest Amendments and discuss them in a Committee atmosphere. These are non-party matters. They are quite uncontroversial. The procedure I suggest would enable the great deal of knowledge and experience there is in the House on these matters to be brought to bear on the constructive framing of the rules.
However, as we are in this procedural difficulty, it is inevitable that tonight our speeches must tend towards general principles rather than detailed points on the rules. The matter which stands out at once, and which has already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East, is the sharp and vivid contrast which there is between the general principles set out at the beginning of the rules and what goes on in prisons in practice, as we know from our visits to prisons and as we can see from the detailed rules.
I always admire the patience with which we are received at prisons when we ask to visit them. I imagine that our visits must be a confounded nuisance to those who are trying to administer the prisons. However, we are always received most courteously and helpfully. I get the feeling that it is difficult for us on such visits to get beneath the surface. It is, therefore, of great assistance when authoritative works are written about what goes on in prison.
On the other hand, we have the plethora of books written by ex-prisoners, some of which throw a vivid light on what goes on in prison but tend to be discounted because they are, perhaps inevitably, biased. One useful service which the nuclear disarmament campaign has performed is to introduce into our prisons a rather different type from the ordinary prisoner, and I hope that the Home Secretary will be familiar with the pamphlet which some of them have produced on the conditions in prisons as they found them, with constructive recommendations for reform.
I think that the Home Secretary and his predecessors are particularly to be congratulated on the facilities which they granted to Dr. and Mrs. Morris to go and, in effect, live for a long period in one of our worst prisons, Pentonville, and make a detailed sociological study of what goes on there. It is a fascinating and interesting work, which shows not only the actual life there but the attitudes and states of mind which develop and the kind of community and community values which are built up, both amongst the prisoners and amongst the warders in the prison service. I hope that the Home Secretary has already found time to read this book. If not, I strongly urge him to do so because it gives a really authoritative and dispassionate picture of prison life.
We need to try to get the kind of revolution in the public mind in its attitude to prisons and prisoners that we have seen taking place in the last few years towards mental hospitals. It used to be a sort of taboo, when people were terrified of mental hospitals and were ashamed that their friends or relatives had been to one. They were secretive about visiting them and people were terrified of going into one. The welfare services to assist people in mental hospitals rather lagged behind those in ordinary hospitals. We have seen wonderful changes in mental hospitals, and people no longer seem to have the same degree of embarrassment.
There must, naturally, remain a stigma attached to a prison sentence for any man who has been to prison; but cannot we find a way of making him less of an outcast from the community? He is, after all, still a fellow citizen. Can we not stimulate greater interest in the problems of criminals; the kind of life they lead in prison and, above all, what happens to them when they come out?
Great things are already being done in some spheres. There is an open prison not far from my constituency where, to their great credit, the members of a local theatrical group have produced a play together with the prisoners. It is a man's prison, but men and women from the district took part in acting the play. I am told that this had a tremendous effect and this would seem to be an example of the kind of relaxation that could be encouraged in prison.
I should like to see developing something kindred to the leagues of friends we have for hospitals—people who would take an interest in prisons and prisoners and who would be prepared to devote some of their time and resources to trying, in one way or another, to improve the lot of prisoners and to learn to understand their problems.
The crux of any real improvement in prison conditions is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East said, the question of work. One sees this at once when one considers the kind of atmosphere there is in open prisons, where men tend to be given an honest job of work to do, a job which involves something constructive, where there is an end product, something which they can see for themselves, and where they learn something of a skill, however rudimentary—a task that is not utterly routine and senseless. One can contrast that against the listless, lethargic, futile atmosphere one sees in prisons generally, where people are doing dull, senseless and mostly destructive work.
I recall being impressed when entering one of the workshops in Lincoln Prison. At one end of the workshop was a dreary group of men, closely packed together, stitching mailbags, while at the other end, strung from the ceiling, were nets which were being made by other prisoners. To make these nets was, I gathered from the governor, a sort of privilege. The nets were being made by arrangement with the fishing industry of Grimsby. I was told that when prisoners are switched to this work an immediate change is seen in their outlook and attitude. They feel that they are doing something constructive and they see the product of their labour before their eyes. They work at a speed and with an energy and enthusiasm that is utterly lacking among the prisoners doing the futile tasks which are normally performed in prison and which make nonsense of the wording in one of the rules; that they shall "do useful work".
It is often said that one of the great difficulties is that of overcoming trade union objections, and there may be a degree of truth in that. I hope that the Home Secretary will not shrink from seeking all the assistance he can from all quarters to try to overcome objections from whatever quarter they may derive. We cannot get any positive prison policy until men are able and allowed to do a positive job within prison.
I strongly support the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. Coulson) who suggested that the time has come to consider what is usually called paying the rate for the job. First, give the man a decent job, and then pay him the rate for the job. Out of the rate for the job let there be certain deductions: first, for the cost of his own maintenance in prison; secondly, for payment towards the maintenance of his dependants, comparable with the deductions from pay with which so many of us were familiar in the war; thirdly, for payment by way of compensation to the victims of his crime. He should, of course, be paid some trifling sum for expenditure within the prison. Then let anything left over from his earnings be saved for him, and given to him on his release. That is common practice in the prison procedure in Yugoslavia. If such a country, which is poor compared with ours, can do that, surely we, in our affluent society, can also do it.
I can well see the difficulties and objections to this method. I can well imagine the state of mind of a man living in one of the areas of high unemployment, who has been striving to get work month after month and never succeeded, who must be subject to exactly the same temptation, or even greater temptation, than was the criminal who has stolen and has been sent to prison but who has the character to withstand those temptations, and who then finds the man who has committed a crime being at once given what he himself has been seeking for months—a job, and paid the rate.
That man would have a sense of bitterness, and it might be difficult to persuade him of the sense in giving proper work and payment to prisoners. But these difficulties and misunderstandings must be overcome. It is a very short sighted policy not to give prisoners proper work because, until we do, we cannot have any real hope of changing their minds, and it is only by changing their minds that we can hope to cut down the appalling figures of recidivism, and turn prisoners from a criminal life to an honest life.
I want to comment on one or two of the smaller points of prison life that occur to me as being necessary if we are to give any real meaning to this introductory rule of principle that
…the treatment of prisoners shall be such as to encourage their self-respect and a sense of personal responsibility…
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East referred to clothing and this subject figures prominently in the pamphlet and the book to which I have referred. We cannot expect a man—still less, a woman—to have any self-respect if he is dressed in clothes that are dishevelled and ill-fitting, and not changed sufficiently often. In all the descriptions one gets of prison life this subject comes to the fore—men issued with trousers that will not stay up, but have to be tied in knots to remain round their waists. Men cannot develop self-respect in such, conditions—I would ask the Home Secretary seriously to consider whether, in this age,
prisoners, if they wish, should not be allowed to wear their own clothes. Why should they be forced to wear these ill-fitting, ugly and inferior issued prison garments? This applies just as much to underclothing and footwear as to outer garments.
I utterly agree with what has been said about exercise. Can we not get away from these dreary processions round the prison yard, and allow men to take their exercise and follow their activities in a less degrading and depressing way?
On another point, I would ask why as long as we still keep the iniquitous system of capital punishment must there be open burial ground within the prison grounds. If he is to be hanged, why cannot a man receive a proper and decent burial and why should fellow prisoners have a constant reminder of this evil system by having the burial ground within the prison area?
Whilst we still have this vast overcrowding in prisons, are we right and is it necessary to adhere to the rule that if there is to be more than one man in a cell there must be three in a cell? The argument is that if two men are put in a cell it will encourage homosexuality. One knows from accounts given that there is a considerable amount of undetected homosexuality, and putting three in a cell is certainly not a complete deterrent. When it is discovered and it is known that there is a prisoner with homosexual tendencies he is not put in a cell with another man. I bring this matter forward because in a recent visit to a prison the governor raised this question with me and he said that he did not think that anything would be lost but that much would be gained by altering the system to having, where necessary, two in a cell.
The question of furnishings and fittings within a cell is important. Must a prison cell be such a barren and dreary place as it is at present if our object is to induce self-respect within the minds of prisoners? The furnishings could not be more primitive than they are today in most prisons. Another matter which may be regarded as indelicate to raise but one which assumes importance in the life of prisoners is that where there have been three prisoners in a cell I have never seen any kind of cupboard in which they can keep chamber pots. When there are three men in a cell and they have to use chamber pots, whatever the state of their bowels, one can imagine the condition of the cell and the stench in the morning if there is no cupboard where they can be put. These conditions where men are herded together are a scandal. We should provide proper furnishings and fittings. If people ask what tasks and worth-while work can be given to prisoners we could start with modernising the furnishings and fittings, which the men could do themselves.
When these rules were promulgated there were great headlines in some newspapers to the effect that tobacco baroning would stop, because of the new rule giving governors power to confiscate articles which had been improperly and unlawfully brought into the prison. Anyone familiar with books on prison life would consider it laughable to suggest that tobacco baroning would be stopped by that simple measure. I doubt whether anything other than almost a free issue of unlimited quantities of tobacco would stop tobacco baroning.
On the question of the release of prisoners and after-care, I am delighted to see that Rule 32 states the basic and vital principle that
From the beginning of a prisoner's sentence, consideration shall be given, in consultation with the appropriate after-care organisation, to the prisoner's future and the assistance to be given him on and after his release.
The actual wording of the rule is already a little out of date because it refers to consultation with the appropriate after-care organisation and we know from the Home Secretary's recent announcement that existing organisations are to be replaced by after-care service which has been taken over by the probation service.
I invite the Home Secretary to reconsider the status and position of welfare officers within prisons. It seems to me that there might be great advantages if they could be made part of the probation and after-care service, if officers doing after-care work within that service could at times be seconded to prisons and have some experience of the welfare service in prisons, and, equally, if prison welfare officers could do after-care work outside. There should be a complete interchange so that the two sides of the picture are really understood. As everyone knows, after-care work must start within the prison. It would help to overcome the suspicion which, I believe, many prisoners have towards the new proposals.
Prisoners tend to resent it if they are put under probation officers when they leave prison. Many of them do not like it when they are put under probation officers on licence or under supervision on release. This is because they misunderstand and confuse the functions of the after-care officer with those of the probation officer under whose supervision a man is put when he goes on probation instead of being sent to prison. They feel, "I have done my prison sentence. I have paid my punishment. Why should I have this added punishment"—for so it appears to them—"of being put under supervision?". Of course, that is not the object and purpose of it. If they could see that it is the same service which begins to concern itself with their welfare the moment they are sent to prison and that the work done there carries straight through and is continued by the same service after they have left prison, there would, I believe, be better prospects and hope for the effective functioning of the service.
As the Home Secretary acknowledged recently, the success of after-care work depends, above all, on finding employment for prisoners after their release. I take this opportunity once again to urge the right hon. Gentleman to try to persuade public authorities of all kinds to set a lead in employing prisoners after their release. This applies to Government Departments, nationalised industries and local authorities. From my discussions with probation officers and others concerned with after-care work, I understand that, with rare and notable exceptions, it is exceedingly difficult to persuade any public authority to take on an ex-prisoner, and it is also a very great handicap to probation officers trying to persuade private employers to do so when it is possible for the employer to say, "If none of the public authorities will do it, why should I?" I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will probe this matter deeply, not, as it were, taking at its face value the kind of answer he may get at first.
I take the example of the British Transport Commission. My experience and the experience of most who are familiar with what goes on in our courts is that it is almost unheard of for a man who has been convicted of an offence of dishonesty ever to be re-employed within the Transport Commission. One can quite understand that the Commission would have good reason for saying that it could not take the risk of employing an ex-thief on the handling of parcels, for instance, but is there any reason why such a man could not be taken on as a lineman, platelayer or something of that kind just as he might be taken on to work in light industry or in a factory?
I know that the British Transport Commission says that it treats every case on its merits. A letter in these terms was written to The Times recently when the chairman of Middlesex Quarter Sessions criticised the Commission publicly for its policy. All I can say is that, in my experience and in the experience of everyone with whom I have discussed it, we have never yet come across a case in which the British Transport Commission thought there was sufficient merit to re-employ or to employ an ex-prisoner. I hope that the Commission and other public authorities will adopt a more constructive attitude and that the Home Secretary will do all in his power to urge it upon them.
I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) that if we are to do what Rule 1 says we should try to do, namely, to assist prisoners
to lead a good and useful life
and to prevent them from lapsing back into crime again after coming out of prison the most important factor is, as is stated in Rule 28, to provide useful work for them to do in prison.
It is absolutely incredible that people are still sewing mail bags by hand in prison and that we can call that useful work. The reason that they do this work by hand is not because it is quicker—there are machines which can do it many times faster today—but because if machines were introduced into prisons the amount of work which prisoners would have to do would be quickly used up.
As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. Coulson) said—and I am sorry that the hon. Member is not in his place, but perhaps he was beginning to feel lonely on the benches opposite—it is important for us to urge the Home Secretary to take greater action about introducing work into prisons from outside industry. I am sure that if he took the trouble to look round he would find many types of commodity suitable for production in prison. I know plastics and electrical porcelain firms in the London area which send a good deal of work out to people's homes. An effort should be made by the Home Secretary to encourage these firms to ask for tenders from the various prisons in the London area. The same may well be true in the constituency of the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North.
I do not believe that there is as much difficulty with the trade unions about this matter as some people pretend. Rule 28 says that
Prisoners may be paid for their work at rates approved by the Secretary of State".
It is rather a pity that these rates should be less than the current trade union negotiated rates for the type of work concerned. I believe that this is the principal difficulty. Trade unionists have said to me that they would be perfectly willing that work should be done in prisons provided that it was done at rates not less than that paid to their members outside. This is a reasonable attitude. If the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North were followed there is no reason why this should not be done, because it could be a very good investment for the State.
Many of the wives of men serving sentences in prison are on National Assistance. If prisoners were paid an adequate rate it would be possible to recover this National Assistance expenditure from their wages, just as is done in the case of maintenance orders for husbands who have left their wives. This seems to be perfectly simple to me.
Does not the hon. Member realise that a great deal of the labour of those who are serving prison sentencesis not of such quality that the standard rate can be paid? Employers of agricultural and other labour will not pay the same rate to prisoners as is paid to others in the industry because their labour is not of the same quality. That is one of the real difficulties in this matter.
I agree that there may be certain prisoners who are not capable of achieving the standard of workers in the industry concerned, but I named two types of work which I thought were suitable for being done in prison which are extremely simple. In both cases the work is paid for at piece rates. Therefore, naturally, the earnings of the prisoner would depend on the amount which he produced. But I agree that one would have to make up the wages of certain prisoners to the minimum trade union rate for time work because they did not achieve the standard general in the industry.
The next point that I wish to raise concerns Rule 7, "Information to prisoners," about which the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) spoke. It is not satisfactory to provide as the rule provides, that the prisoner should be given that information
which it is necessary that he should know,
because no one can explain to us who will decide what the word "necessary "means. We have not been told whether the prison governor will decide what is "necessary" or the prisoner himself. This could be overcome quite simply by specifying that prisoners could receive a copy of the rules. This could be the solution of the difficulty.
I go a little further. As the hon. Member for Ashfield said, it is not much use looking at some of the rules unless one has the standing orders available, also. I do not propose that they be issued to each prisoner and kept in his cell, because the document is bulky, but is there any reason why a copy of the standing orders should not be available in the prison library for inspection by any prisoner who needs to refer to them?
I should like to know what effect the revision of the rules will have upon the standing orders. They are being reprinted, but it still is not easy to find my way around them. One still has to look at three different places to get a complete picture. There is a book of reprinted standing orders and there is a number of foolscap sheets which are said to be copies of extant standing orders from the old standing order book, but these do not include everything, because in the table of contents in the printed document certain standing orders are referred to which are neither in the book nor in the typewritten sheets.
I suppose, therefore, that they must still be in the old standing order book, which is full of amendments and pieces of paper pasted in from one end to the other. I still find it difficult to get the complete picture. I should like to know from the Home Secretary how long it will be before the standing order book is completely revised and reprinted, so that we may know where we stand.
Communications to Members of Parliament are referred to in the reprinted document, but I cannot find, either in the reprinted document or in the foolscap sheets, anything which refers to communications to people other than Members of Parliament.
On classification, Rule 3 of the new rules states that prisoners may be classified
in accordance with any directions of the Secretary of State".
The journal New Society seems to consider this a great step forward, because today's issue condemns the system of "stars" and "ordinaries" and the distinction of having certain prisons for "stars" only. It states:
This system ignored not only the fact that many stars are ex-Borstal or ex-approved school and, therefore, not so different from many ordinaries, but also the manifest truth that a considerable number of ordinaries would benefit from star facilities.
I entirely agree with that.
The standing orders specify the classification to be followed. In Section 10, the table of. contents still refers to the "star" class and the "ordinary" class, although when looking at Section 10 of the standing orders one finds that the subsection in question is not included. I should like to know, therefore, where we stand on the question of classification.
Are we to have a completely new look at this?
Communications are dealt with in Rule 33. Subsection (3) states that
the governor may, at his discretion, stop any letter or communication on the ground that its contents are objectionable or that it is of inordinate length.
As to communications to Members of Parliament, which are included in the reprinted standing orders, the grounds for objection are denned in much greater detail. But other letters are not dealt with in the new book. I imagine that they were included in paragraphs (a) and (b) of Standing Order No. 5, which have not yet been reprinted.
Would it not be possible to refer in the rule to the standing order so that a prisoner who has a copy of the rule book can look at it if he is in doubt as to what he may or may not say in a letter he is about to write, particularly if we couple this with the suggestion I have made that a copy of the standing orders should be available for inspection by prisoners in the library?
Rule 49(2) concerns inquiries into charges against prisoners for offences against prison discipline. The prisoner must appear before the visiting committee. The new rule, I believe, follows exactly the wording of the old one—that he should be charged with presenting his own case. I believe that most prisoners feel—as do a lot of outsiders concerned with prisons—that they should be entitled to have a prisoner's friend helping with the presentation of a case. The prisoner in such circumstances stands completely alone under the present system and has difficulty in getting witnesses to come forward, for his fellow prisoners will nearly always fear the consequences of supporting him against the establishment, which is the way they look at it.
It would be helpful to a prisoner facing a charge if someone could be delegated to act for him. This is especially so when he stands to get a severe punishment. I can see all sorts of objections to having a member of the prison staff acting for him, but one suggestion made to me is that the prison chaplain could perhaps be the prisoner's friend. Alternatively, it could conceivably be done by a visiting magistrate. I hope that the Home Secretary will consider this point.
I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestion that it would have been helpful if these rules could have been dealt with by a committee, because some very constructive suggestions have been made in the debate and it is a great shame that we have had no opportunity to alter the rules.
It is excellent that the House should, from time to time, discuss prisons—not only Prison Rules, but what goes on in prisons more widely. I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot), who said that he thought there should be wider interest in prisons and what goes on in them among the general public.
My view is that that interest is developing. More journalists, more Members of Parliament and others are seeking permission to visit prisons and I do not think the prisons are cut off from the mass of the people as they were not so very many years ago. Certainly I welcome that.
Itis a good thing when prison films are shown on television. I took part in one myself not long ago. We have nothing to be ashamed of, although, of course, we have a tremendous amount that we want to improve. We shall improve old buildings more successfully if there is a more widespread public opinion about modern treatment of prisoners.
The tone of the debate has been biased in some respects partly because we have simply been looking at the rules, and one can no more judge equitably what goes on in prison by looking at the rules than one can form a comprehensive judgment of the House of Commons by looking at its Standing Orders.
Since I have been Home Secretary, I have endeavoured to get around as much as possible and to see for myself. All of us who are Members of Parliament know that a visit to a prison does not show us all that we would like to know. A prison sentence will teach one more than a one-day visit. Nevertheless, I never visit a prison without learning something, and I should like the House to know that in 1963 I personally visited 14 prisons, three borstals and four detention centres. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary and my other two Ministerial colleagues between them paid 36 visits and we are aiming at securing that all the 90 or so establishments under the Prison Department of the Home Office will have received a Ministerial visit before long.
I have taken considerable interest in these new rules and I myself would not claim for a moment that they are perfect. One has to take a certain moment of time and produce a new set of rules and one has to put in the standing orders those things which are most likely to change and be adapted, because it is easier and quicker to alter the standing orders than it is to alter the rules.
If one compares these rules with those of days long gone by, one sees the enormous improvement and how fantastic it is to describe some of these rules as mediæval. The rules in 1899 were far more numerous. At that time, there were 312 rules governing local prisons alone and 190 governing convict prisons. We have steadily got these simplified and I think that the House would agree that all the time we are getting them into simpler and more comprehensible language, and we now have them down to about 100.
For example, there is Rule 3, the classification rule, to which the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) referred. The detailed old classification rules are out of date now because we need greater flexibility. The old 1949 rules, which we are now supplanting, envisaged there being large numbers of young prisoners serving prison sentences. There were in 1949, but the numbers are now very different.
My aim is to get all young people under 21 out of prison, apart from a few cases of very serious offences. Although at present we cannot because we have not yet got all the accommodation, in general we want to make that our aim. Already, since 1st August, last year, no young people under 17 can be sent to prison. We are making steady progress in these directions.
Overcrowding and work in prison have been mentioned and I should like to deal with these two major issues before endeavouring to answer as many detailed points as I can. It is a shocking thing that there should be three in a cell, but I do not regard that as the greatest evil in the present prison system. The greatest evil is that so many of these men, whom we want to be training to stand on their own feet and earn their own living outside, are not able in prison to do more than about an 18 or 20-hour working week. I intend to make that my first objective and I have already put certain changes in hand. I am already setting myself to make the necessary plans to increase the normal working hours in those prisons where they are now shortest, and I think that we should take one target after another and steadily increase them as near as we can to a normal working week.
Overcrowding at the peak time was about a year ago when there were 8,624 prisoners sleeping three in a cell. We have now got that down by nearly25 per cent. The latest figure I had was 6,555. That is partly due to the fact that there are not so many in prison at the moment, for one reason or another, but it is also partly due to the very substantial prison building which we have in hand, and which is now coming to fruition.
Last July, I opened—one cannot open a prison, but whatever one does to a prison; I do not think that one can close a new prison, either—I inaugurated the first new purpose built secure prison for men that had been inaugurated for 50 years, since Camp Hill Prison, in the Isle of Wight, was inaugurated by my predecessor the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). That teaches two things.
First, what a tremendous backlog of old buildings we have to deal with. For one reason or another, partly because the prison numbers were not rising in the 1920s and 1930s—they were stable—there seemed no need for new prison buildings. But it also shows that we are now getting the first results from the big building programme that my predecessor put in hand. We have five more secure prisons in that programme, which are coming forward, and our plans are such that within four or five years, if the prison population remains reasonably stable, we shall have eliminated three in a cell.
Work for prisoners is a somewhat more complex problem than some hon. Members have indicated. There are three things that we need if we are to give prisoners a full week's work. We need workshop space. Many of our older prisons are surrounded by an enormous prison wall and there is very limited space inside. We need work, and the nearer it is to the kind of work that prisoners may be doing when they come out of prison, the better. It is not all destructive, with respect to the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North. There is a great deal of constructive work, too. We have to bear in mind that we have large numbers of prisoners in for quite short sentences, who would not, in the time, be able to learn complex work. We have also, I am sorry to say, a large number of prisoners of not very high intelligence, and I think that the sort of destructive work which the hon. Member has seen is probably, at any rate for the first few weeks, the most suitable work that a man like that can be asked to undertake.
I entirely agree that one should not be anything like satisfied with the orders that we are at present able to get for the prisons. I am giving attention to that. We already tender for contracts from outside firms, and we get a number of them. I know that these are delicate matters and that it might be alleged that we were taking work away from local, free people who have not committed any crime and who might thereby be unemployed. Fortunately, the employment position, at any rate in the greater part of England, is now so good that there is little risk of that, but it has to be watched.
With the help of my Advisory Council on the Employment of Prisoners, on which the trade unions are represented, I believe that we shall be able to make considerable progress. That Advisory Council has just completed a further report on this subject of work for prisoners, and I hope that within the next few weeks we shall be able to get that published.
As regards payment, there is nothing in these draft rules to prevent me from putting into effect the practice of paying wages to prisoners comparable to those paid in outside industry, but it is a highly complex question and I think that it deserves a good deal of further study, because indissolubly connected with the question of prisoners' earnings is the other question of what compulsory deductions should be made from the earnings if they are increased above the present level of pocket money.
I would make these two points: first, we must make every effort, as we are doing—I am giving my personal attention to this—to improve the organisation of prison industries so as to create a situation in which it will be reasonable to begin to consider the payment of normal wages. It is not reasonable to consider that if, because of the restrictions I have mentioned, prisoners in Wandsworth do not get the chance of working more than 18 hours each week.
My second point is that advance in this field must come in stages, and may come at a different pace in different parts of the prison system. We already have a full working week for everybody in borstal, for the younger people throughout the prison system. We have carefully to extend it.
As I said, there are three obstacles, and I have still to mention the third which, fortunately, we are overcoming, and that is the shortage of prison officers. This was very severe a few years ago. I am glad to say that recruitment is running at a very high level. I am disposed to agree with what the hon. Member for Oldham, West said, that we are now obtaining a very high quality of recruit to the prison service. I should not like to say that it is the best we have ever had, because comparisons are odious, but I am satisfied both with the number and with the quality. No, I shall never be satisfied with the number, but we are coming into a position where not only can we staff the new prisons which are being inaugurated but we can improve the situation in those prisons where hitherto we have been able to work only a single shift of prison officers, and if one is working with only a single shift of officers, clearly one is not able to have the prisoners unlocked for enough time of the day to allow them a long working day in addition to their meals, their exercise, and everything else which they have to do.
I have made extensive notes of the speeches made by hon. Members. I shall take up as many points as I can, only sitting down when I have obviously wearied the House.
I think that the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) was wrong when she said that in the Prison Rules we have the whole of our prison system. We have not. We have just the bare bones of it, and if she says that these are mediaeval, most of the mediaeval features she sought to point out were taken direct from the rules dated 1949. I do not know whether the hon. Lady—who was a Member of the House at that time and I was not—challenged them then.
The hon. Lady said that the state of our prisons prevented Rules 1 and 2 being carried out. I would not go as far as that, but I would readily agree with her that the existence of so many old prisons is a severe handicap to applying the modern methods which we would wish to apply, and which we are applying wherever we can.
She referred to the conditions governing the sending of letters to Members of Parliament. What prisoners are allowed to do is set out in the information booklet which is available to every prisoner. It is also available to hon. Members, in the Library. I want to re-examine these rules, because I think that at the moment they are not clear enough. I hope that we would all agree that letters from prisoners to Members of Parliament should be stopped if, for instance, they contain libels on the judges, or set down on paper complaints against prison authorities which have not been ventilated in the approved way within the prisons.
It is essential for prison discipline that if a man has a grievance he should first seek to have it remedied through the proper channels. If he has had his grievance ventilated, but has not had it remedied, there is no reason why he should not write to his Member of Parliament or petition the Home Secretary—a course which is also open to him. But it would not be right or wise for prisoners who had not attempted to get their grievances remedied through the proper channels laid down within the prisons to be free to write to Members of Parliament, asking them to intervene.
Is it now clear to prisoners, to hon. Members, and to the right hon. Gentleman himself, that prisoners must exhaust all the various channels through which complaints can be made before they write to their Members of Parliament, or need they try only one method and, having failed in that, write to their Members of Parliament?
Normally, a prisoner who has a complaint can voice it to his prison officer, and then to the Governor. He can then ask to see the visiting committee or the board of visitors. He should do these things in the first instance. I hope the House agrees with that. He can certainly write to a Member of Parliament about something before he petitions the Home Secretary. All that is desirable is that in the normal way he should go through the regular routine arrangements which are laid down for lodging complaints. I think that the rules relating to correspondence with Members of Parliament could be simplified and clarified, and I am giving my attention to the matter.
I now turn to the question of the tobacco barons. I would not claim that this new rule, by itself, would bring the activities of the barons to an end. I am sure that that is not the case. But the House should recognise that this is only part of the combined efforts that we have been making to curb the barons. We have increased the lowest rates of earnings and, as a result, have been able to increase the amount of tobacco or the equivalent in cigarettes which a prisoner may retain in his possession. It used to be half an ounce; it is now two ounces. That means that a prisoner is less likely quickly to run short and be tempted to fall into the hands of the barons, who charge very high rates of interest, seldom less than 100 per cent.
Secondly, we now issue an advance of earnings to a prisoner on his first reception into prison, so that he is less likely to get into the hands of the barons because he cannot resist the temptation to smoke in his first few days in prison.
This new rule about the confiscation of money sent in anonymously has been widely discussed and considered within the prison service. It is believed by those closest to this traffic, and the attempt to stifle it, that the new rule, together with the other measures which I have mentioned, will severely limit the power of the barons; though I certainly hesitate to say that it will stop them altogether. The baronage flourishes most in the large crowded local prisons where there is a mixture of sentences, and the more speedily those serving longer sentences are got out of the local prisons to regional or central prisons the less will be the chance of baronage establishing itself.
The hon. Lady criticised severely the new rule which says that in certain circumstances, and for very serious offences, a visiting committee or board of visitors may order up to 56 days cellular confinement. I listened to her words, and when she reads them again tomorrow, I wonder whether she will feel that she was taking sufficiently into account the need for safeguarding the prison officers who are exposed to great risks of personal assault. It is important that there should be severe penalties available to visiting committees and boards of visitors to be imposed in certain cases. The hon. Lady will notice that an award of 56 days cellular confinement can be given only for such offences as escaping, or attempting to escape, assaulting an officer or doing gross personal violence to some other people.
Unquestionably, there must be deterrent sentences, and the problem arises in this way. The most severe, the most disliked, award that a prisoner who has been misconducting himself can get is the loss of remission of his sentence. The House knows that if a man is now sentenced to three years' imprisonment that is, in fact, regarded as two years. But he is liable to lose the 12 months' automatic remission with which he starts, if he has a loss of remission awarded to him.
Suppose a man has lost the whole of his remission so that no further penalty may be imposed on him in the form which he dislikes most, by loss of remission. Clearly, the visiting com- mittee or board of visitors must have other severe penalties available to it. There are few boards of visitors, even in cases of assault, which would wish to go straight to the imposition of corporal punishment. There are other punishments. There is the stoppage of earnings, the exclusion from associated work and cellular confinement. These three are generally found to be the most effective.
Generally speaking, a visiting committee or board of visitors would not wish to make an award of corporal punishment except in the most serious forms of very grave offences. When they are faced with an offence of this kind, an offence in respect of which they would not wish to go so far as awarding corporal punishment, and if the offender has already forfeited all his remission so that he cannot adequately be punished in that way, the committee or board is faced with a difficult problem. I believe that the powers given to boards or committees, though they will not often be used, will be of value in the form of an increase in alternative penalties. The hon. Lady spoke about restricted diet. She had overlooked the fact that elsewhere it states that restricted diet can not be imposed for more than 15 days.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make this clear? I admit that it is 15 days, but there is nothing to prevent a further 15 days being given for another offence almost immediately at the end of the first 15 days.
It could only be imposed for a further serious offence because this is only for serious offences, but the possible remedy of petition to the Home Secretary is always available. The hon. Lady and some other hon. Members sometimes speak as though I or the governors imposed these penalties. These are the sort of penalties which can be imposed only by visiting committees of local magistrates or boards of visitors, people wholly independent of the prison service. That is one of the valuable safeguards. It should be one of the prides of our country that ordinary citizens are willing to take on the wholly unpaid duty of acting as members of visiting committees or bodies of visitors.
The hon. Lady argued that the prison diet was of itself inadequate. I do not think it is inadequate; I think it is monotonous. The prison diet provides a man with more than 4,000 calories a day. My medical advisers say there is no sign of malnutrition or debilitation in hospitals following from eating prison food. I expect that most of us—not as prisoners but as visitors—have eaten prison food. I certainly take the opportunity of doing so. I should not like to have to eat it every day of the week for months, but certainly all the food I have eaten or seen in prison has appeared to be of good quality and making a reasonable meal.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the term "calory" is now very much out of date in this connection? The question is whether it is a balanced diet. One of the troubles is that we are always told that some prisoners put on weight. One always puts on weight on a limited diet which is bung full of carbohydrates. It is the lack of variety and the restricted conditions, which do not show up quickly and are difficult to detect, that make the figure an astonishingly low one which needs much examination.
We are discussing the rules. They say that the food must be wholesome, well prepared and reasonably varied. I have no hesitation in maintaining that the food in our prisons generally does meet those requirements, but I entirely agree that day in and day out prison food is monotonous.
I was asked what extra food was available for pregnant women. That is entirely a matter for the prison medical officer. He can prescribe what special diet he thinks is needed in any particular case.
Of course, and there is every possibility for a prisoner to complain if that is not done. I should like to pay tribute, which I think will be echoed by other hon. Members, to the governors of our women's prisons. I think that we are very fortunate in the quality of women governors. While I am always looking for improvement, I think that we should be hesitant to criticise as though our women's prisons were in callous hands.
The hon. Lady asked about underwear. The provision of underwear is adequate. If she has any specific questions about clothing which she would like to discuss with me, I should be very glad indeed to do so. She asked about footwear. The position about footwear was explained in an Answer to a Question today. If she will examine that reply, I think she will see that we do not serve out all prisoners with somebody else's shoes, possibly from diseased feet. Our policy is, wherever a prisoner has got a long enough sentence to justify it, to provide him with a new pair of shoes at the beginning of the sentence. I do not think, however, that I could accept the plea that prisoners be allowed to wear their own shoes or their own clothing.
The hon. Lady asked about the medical inquiry. This inquiry into the prison medical service has gone forward. It has just about been completed. I shall pay very great attention to its recommendations.
The hon. Lady asked whether epileptics were left alone in cells. This is not done, and special care is taken of those who are epileptic.
The hon. Lady asked if the rules could be explained to prisoners who might not understand them. That is provided in Rule 7(2).
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) asked why Rule 27(2) empowered the Secretary of State to restrict exercise to half an hour a day. There are certain cases—elderly prisoners, prisoners who are not really fit to walk in the prison yard for an hour—who do not want to be out for an hour a day. They ought not to be compelled by the rigidity of a rule to be kept out for as long as that, if all concerned think that half an hour for cases like that is enough. We have some very old men in prison, as well as some very active ones. This is a mimimum. It is a requirement of the rules. It is desirable that there should be some flexibility there. I think that the hon. Member was under the impression that prisoners now were not allowed to talk to one another during exercise. That is no longer the case.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that visits once in eight weeks were not enough. This again is a minimum which in fact is widely improved upon, but the rule must lay down a minimum which at all costs must be kept. The hon. Gentleman asked why restrictive diets were more common in some prisons than in others. This is partly because there are different types of prisoners in different prisons and partly because some visiting committees or boards of visitors may take a rather different attitude about what suitable punishments are for certain types of prisoners than is taken elsewhere.
The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) asked about the value of temporary release. He knows that we have very substantially developed the hostel system and we are seeking to do what we can to ease and smooth the transition from confinement in prison to freedom outside. The first few days after release are one of the most vulnerable times. I believe that the hostel system has done great good by enabling these long-term prisoners to accustom themselves to being outside prison when otherwise they might have become institutionalised.
The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) asked whether Rule 58 overrode Rule 37. The answer is that it does not. I can assure him that a prisoner who wishes to consult his legal adviser can have the benefit of rule 37.
It does not involve a prisoner being in his cell for 24 hours a day. The man will go out for exercise, for a bath, to the lavatory, and so on, but he will not be in association with others.
Perhaps we can consider the case of Madsen about whom Questions were asked the other day. He was allowed to exercise. He was able to watch television in the evenings. That case was a very peculiar one, because he was not there as one of the other prisoners might have been, for assault on a prison officer, but because he is one of the two or three outstanding escapers in the whole prison population. The difficulty about having him out in association with other men is that he is immediately planning a mass escape.
Was he not out of association under an altogether different rule from the one we are discussing? The right hon. Gentleman will remember that I asked him to explain the difference between the two rules because the matter which has been raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South and other hon. Members is something quite different.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in all seriousness, whether the Home Office has taken the advice of psychologists or prison officers about the mental consequences upon a prisoner of being kept in solitary confinement, effectively out of human association, for as long as 56 days'? I have read learned medical works on this suggestion that the mental and medical consequences upon the state of mind of a prisoner are absolutely disastrous in certain cases and can actually produce insanity.
I am certain that that would not be allowed to happen. All these punishments have to be watched, not only by the governor but by the prison medical officer; and he would certainly call attention to it if he thought that a severe penalty was affecting a prisoner's mind.
I was talking about the deprivation of association. In the majority of cases where a man is not in association with his fellow prisoners it is by his own choice. We have a substantial number of prisoners who, for one reason or another, think that they may be in danger if they are in association with others. They therefore ask to be segregated. Where a prisoner is thought to be a danger to good order and discipline he may be segregated regardless of his wishes—and that was so in the case of Madsen.
That provision is simply a necessary one which is used, in particular, to prevent known escapers or known men of violence from organising plots to escape, mutinies or attacks on the staff. I quite agree that the less we have to use these severe penalties the better, but it is important to have some of them in reserve.
I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. Coulson) for his remarks. I entirely agree with his general outlook on the importance of work. I took his point that the money earned by work would be useful on discharge, and that is exactly one of the gains we acquire from the hostel system. A man working under a hostel system is allowed a small amount of pocket money, but the rest, after paying for his keep, is set aside, and provides him with a nest-egg when he comes out.
The hon. Member for Oldham West—
I will do my best, but I am afraid of wearying the House. I am trying to pick up—and I hope the House will think that I am not doing badly—a good many of the points made in the debate.
The hon. Member for Ashfield spoke about the standing orders, to which the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) also referred. I am very anxious to get the standing orders into more manageable form, and I quite agree that what has been available in the Library until fairly recently has not been very easy to follow or find one's way about. My purpose is to get the standing orders into a set of manuals of reasonable thickness. That work is going forward, and I hope that in due course it will be completed. The cyclo- styled sheets are a temporary means until we have got the standing orders into book form. I think that was the hon. Member's main point.
There is also the question of the transfer of prisoners to prisons within reasonable distance of their homes so that wives can visit them. I also asked the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that when he amended the standing order governing prisoners' letters to Members of Parliament, he would make a statement about it to the House.
I will be very glad to answer a Question on that because my interest, like that of other hon. Members, is that everyone shall know what the rules are. As the House realises, it is only a short time since the rule was changed to enable prisoners to write to hon. Members at all.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West has had to leave the Chamber, but I would not agree with his suggestion of encouraging anonymous complaints to a prison governor. I am much more sympathetic with his remark that there were men of intelligence in prison who were not used sufficiently in the prison environment to further progress of social development, and so on, in prison. We have, of course, the H and K wings in Wandsworth, which I should like extended elsewhere. We are feeling our way forward.
The hon. Member spoke of prison food. It is important to explain that 14s. 6d. a week is based on bulk buying on long-term contracts because, otherwise, people would go about the country asking, "How would you like to feed your husband on 14s. 6d. a week?" Of course, 14s. 6d. a week, at the prices at which the Prison Department buys, is equivalent to more than twice that amount at retail costs. I do not regard prison food as other than monotonous. I do not believe that prison food should be in any way luxurious. It should be simple, but adequate and wholesome, and comply with the other adjectives which the rule contains.
I also thought that the hon. Member for Oldham, West was unkind in suggesting that the ordinary prison governor knows nothing except statistics about the prisoners in his care. I have certainly not found that in going round prisons with governors. I have been deeply impressed by the amount of personal knowledge the governor has about individual prisoners and especially about those who have been in prison for some time. As we develop the system of remand centres we shall steadily be able to improve the service which can be given to the courts by reports on the nature and character and potentialities of the prisoner and the kind of treatment which might serve his best interests.
The hon. and learned Member for Derby, North would like a system of review of sentences. He will appreciate that that is somewhat outside the scope of the present rules. He asked whether I had read the Morriss book about Pentonville and of course I have. What it impressed upon me was that it was far removed from the Pentonville of today, no doubt due in part to the fact that it was based on studies made there four years ago. If the hon. and learned Member follows that up he will find that there has been a vast improvement in the ratio of staff to prisoners at Pentonville in those four years and that is one of the most important gains if one wishes to improve the atmosphere of the prison system. The hon. and learned Member also asked about the furnishings in the cells. I do not know whether he has had the opportunity of visiting our newest prison at Blundeston.
The cell furnishings at Blundeston are a great advance on what we have in our older prisons. They are almost entirely prison-made. I am sure that one of the most useful jobs of work done in prison workshops is to have simple modern furniture made which will be an improvement on the older furnishings in the cells.
If I do not reply about the status of welfare officers in prisons or the work done for discharged prisoners by local authorities I hope that the hon. and learned Member will not think that a discourtesy on my part. I hope that we shall have debates on after-care and the like, which I regard as tremendously important, but they are outside the rules, on which I am afraid I have spoken for too long.
I end by referring to a remark made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, who asked somewhat cynically where England would now stand in the league table of prison progress. She would stand pretty high—not at the top, because we are handicapped by our old prisons and by our shortage of staff. But my purpose as Home Secretary is to put her right at the top as soon as possible.
Could the right hon. Gentleman answer the point I raised on Rule 49(2) about the right of a prisoner to have a friend to help him with the presentation of his case when charged with an offence against prison discipline before the visiting magistrates?
One cannot go more than a certain distance in these cases. A man who has got himself into prison cannot hope to have all the advantages that a free man would have outside if he was having his case presented by a lawyer or a trade union official or someone like that. My experience is that in such cases the visiting committee or the board of visitors is very anxious to get to the bottom of what is troubling or biting the man who has complained to it, but I do not think that a right way of doing that would be to insert in the rules a provision that a prisoner who came up before the visiting committee or the board of visitors could have as of right a friend by his side.
Some of my hon. Friends, in the course of their speeches, congratulated me on having initiated this debate. I should not only like to congratulate them on the excellence of the debate but I have been filled with admiration at the way in which they have enlarged the scope of the debate while keeping well in order.
I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for the very detailed reply that he has given. Even though he has not satisfied all of us on every point, at any rate he has attempted to give a detailed reply. He said that he thought it was an excellent idea to discuss prisons. So do we, but I would point out that in the last two or three years whenever we have discussed prisons the debate has been initiated from this side of the House, and, as far as I can remember, no time whatsoever has been given by the Government for the discussion of the important problem.
I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman that one cannot judge prisons simply by the rules. I agree, from some of the prisons that I have visited, and particularly some of the open prisons, that the actuality is much better than one is sometimes led to believe from the rules. Nevertheless, I should also like to reiterate what some have said, that in many of the prisons conditions are worse than the rules would have us believe. I am in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that the problem of overcrowding is not so much one of prisoners sleeping three in a cell as the fact that during the daytime the prison is overcrowded and there is too little work for the prisoners to do.
If I had thought that I would have been in order I would probably have made a different speech from that which I did make. However, I should like to make one fundamental point. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that overcrowding in prisons has decreased because there are more prison places. It is important thatthe old prisons should be replaced by newer and more modern ones; but I do not think we should view this problem solely from the point of view of providing more prison places. We should consider the present prison population and ask whether prison is the best place for some of these people. Let us consider some of the inadequate people. Would they not be better in hostels, where they could be taught to go out to work and fend for themselves?
I have not been into so many prisons as the right hon. Gentleman has, but I have visited a few. I have seen desperate criminals, murderers, and so on. One prisoner who stands out in my mind is a man who arrived at Leeds prison, having been sentenced to 28 days' imprisonment on a charge of being drunk and disorderly. I was watching the reception at that prison at five o'clock one evening. The governor said, "Hullo, Jimmy, are you back again?"
This man had come from Hull. He had had to have an escort all the way from Hull to Leeds, a distance of 60 miles. He had arrived to serve his 28 days sentence and was greeting his old friends. At the end of the 28 days he had to be given a railway ticket back to Hull where he had been picked up.
This man stays out of prison for two or three days, gets drunk with his pals among the seamen and then gets another sentence of 28 days. That is how he lives, and we, the people of Britain, are having to pay for this. This kind of person ought to be in some kind of home for alcoholics and given training and medical treatment. That is why I say it is not just a question of seeing how many more places we can get but of looking at the present prison population and seeing what can be done about the situation. We should also bear in mind the inadequate types of people who are in prison.
In conclusion, I reiterate what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) said about our procedure. We have to accept all these rules or reject them all. It is quite plain that we should have liked to have discussed in detail, and perhaps voted on, the provision to increase solitary confinement from 28 days to 56 days and the punishment diets, but, as we are not allowed to do that, and as we cannot be without any Prison Rules at all, we shall have to accept them as they stand.
I hope that the Home Secretary has noted everything that has been said in the debate and that, before long, we shall have some amendments to the rules on the lines we have indicated.