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The overcrowding at Winchester prison reflects the continuing pressure on the prison system generally. We are considering the feasibility of reducing the numbers held in the remand centre by creating a new under-21 remand facility at Dorchester prison. In the longer term, relief for the establishment as a whole will be provided as additional places become available elsewhere through the prison building programme.
No, my reply means nothing of the kind. It means that prisons cannot be built overnight. Since it was the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins)—the leader of the hon. Gentleman's party—who cut the previous Government's prison building programme, the hon. Gentleman cannot expect us to put up overnight the prisons that should have been built during the last decade.
Is the Minister saying that the only solution to the problem of overcrowding in Winchester and other prisons is an expanded prison building programme? Has he given up any hope of persuading the judiciary to reduce the length of sentences for non-violent offenders?
One has to be selective in the points that one makes, but I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has asked me that question. Of course it is our policy, working with the judiciary, that sentences of imprisonment should not be passed—as the Lord Chief Justice has made clear —unless absolutely necessary. Equally, with the growth in the number of offenders coming before the courts—there was a 12 per cent, increase in the work of the Crown courts last year— it is imperative that those prisoners who deserve it should be sent to prison and that there should be prisons to receive them.
Further to that answer, will my hon. Friend avoid, on behalf of the Conservative side of the House at any rate, this insistence upon the point that only violent offenders should be sent to prison? There are many people who prey upon the public by burglary, fraud and other means from whom the public must be protected by means of prison sentences.