I welcome the Minister's statement. Would he agree that it is detrimental to the rehabilitation of prisoners that they should be kept locked in their cells for the bulk of their waking hours? Would he bear in mind especially the shortage of working facilities in maximum security conditions, such as in Leicester?
I agree entirely that people should not be kept locked in their cells for longer than necessary. However, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we have many problems of overcrowding which must be faced.
My right hon. Friend is at the moment considering various ways in which alternatives to imprisonment can be applied, as set out by the Wootton Committee, which recently reported.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that we are at the moment faced with heavy overcrowding due to an extreme increase in the prison population in the early months of this year. I am happy to be able to say that the figures seem to have levelled out since the summer, but we are, of course, pressing ahead with our prison building programme.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in some of the prisons of this country, prisoners are working only about 14 hours a week in prison workshops, and that, in order to improve this state of affairs, the Government must be prepared to invest a great deal more money in building new prisons and new workshops and bringing the existing ones up to date? In the present state of mind of the Government, it does not look as though any more money will be found for this purpose.
I am aware that the situation is unsuitable in certain prisons, but, on the second part of that question, the prison building programme which we have is that which we inherited from the previous Government. We are doing our best to speed it up.