asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why he will not change the rule which prevents him and his Department from issuing full descriptions of an escaped prisoner or other dangerous inmates from similar institutions, in order to enable innocent citizens in the locality to take due precautions.
I am sending the hon. Gentleman a copy of my letter of 25th October to the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) about the information which my Department issues on escaped prisoners. Additional information, including a description of an escaped prisoner, may be issued by the police if they consider it necessary to assist his recovery.
I am glad to hear that that is possible, because is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the recent past prisoners or mental patients have escaped from institutions and the police have not been allowed to issue their descriptions or even give the public any record or note of their backgrounds? Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that all the information possible should be made available to the communities concerned for their own safety in matters of this kind?
The important point is that it should be possible to give the information that is necessary both in the public interest and in the interests of the police in recapturing the person concerned.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that this change of practice on the part of the Scottish Information Office has been widely welcomed by the Press in England and in Scotland and by the people of Scotland as a whole? Will he further accept that my only criticism is that this should have been done a long time ago?