Eight new prisons have been opened since 1985, seven are under construction and one, which has been converted from existing buildings at Banstead in Surrey, will open in a few weeks' time. Five more are planned to start on site this year and eight are in various stages of planning and development.
The building programme also covers the expansion of existing establishments. By the end of this year, nearly 2,000 new places will have been added to existing establishments in a period of less than two years. The prison department directorate of works has begun a five-year programme to provide over 6,500 cells with access to sanitation. By the mid-1990s we will have added about 25,000 places to the system.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, whose programme is a credit to his Department. Does he agree that the major problem in the prison system at the moment, in relation to overcrowding, comes from remand prisoners, not those serving time? As a consequence of that, in the new prison programme will he consider separating remand centres from prisons and building them in the centre of towns, close to the court centres so that access is provided to relatives and lawyers? That would reduce alienation and speed up the time in which cases are brought to court.
My hon. Friend is entirely right to focus on remands. There are too many remand prisoners in the system. The Government are anxious to reduce the pressure caused by the numbers. We are making provision for remand places in the building programme that I have outlined.
My hon. Friend has referred to the urban remand centres, and we are giving particular attention to the possibility of such centres at Everthorpe and Cookham Wood. We also have a multifaceted strategy to reduce the number of prisoners held in remand—for example, the imposition of time limits on pre-trial proceedings, an increase in the number of bail hostel places, an increase in bail information schemes, electronic monitoring, more courts and more judges. It is a comprehensive programme.
Will these prisons be built especially to keep prisoners in? When the Tory Government were elected in 1979, I think the slogan was, "Elect us and set the people free." In the 10 years since, the prisoners have been breaking out.
Can my hon. Friend assure me that the building work to extend Stocken prison will be carried out more efficiently and cost-effectively than the building of the prison itself, which he and I have had occasion to discuss several times?
My hon. Friend has raised the question of Stocken prison on a number of occasions and his constituents have every reason to be grateful to him for the attention he has given to their needs. The answer to his question is yes.