Prisoners (Employment)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th November 1970.

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Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester North West 12:00 am, 5th November 1970

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take further steps to provide useful employment for prisoners in Her Majesty's Prisons during their periods of detention.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

A large-scale programme for improving prison work is in hand.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester North West

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?

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

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.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler , Nottingham South

As the Minister says that the main obstacle in the way of provision of better working facilities is the very serious overcrowding in our prisons, would he consider publishing proposals on how the prison population could be reduced?

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

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.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

Is it not a fact that the whole prison system will soon be bedevilled by heavy overcrowding? How soon will the Minister be bringing plans to the House for new prison building?

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

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.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

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.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

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.