Prisons (Family Visits)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1991.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Durant Mr Anthony Durant , Reading West 12:00 am, 6th June 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any plans to extend family visits in prisons.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

From 17 June, instead of one visit a month, prisoners will be entitled to two visits a month. At Holloway, mothers can now have all-day visits from their children at least once, and often twice a month. That has been very successful. We are encouraging other establishments, wherever possible, to set up similar schemes.

Photo of Mr Anthony Durant Mr Anthony Durant , Reading West

Is my right hon. Friend aware that prisoners are often put in prisons a long way from their homes? Could that matter be looked at? Could they be put in prisons nearer their homes so as to assist visits from their families and help them to keep stable relationships with them?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

Whenever possible, prisoners are placed as close to their families as possible. In some cases, particularly those of dangerous criminals, it is not possible. When I visited Reading prison in my hon. Friend's constituency, there were a large number of short-stay local prisoners. The same applies in nearby Oxford. In the Oxfordshire and Berkshire area, a new prison, Bullingdon, is being built. So my hon. Friend's part of the country is well covered in this respect, but I agree in principle with what he said.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eccles

First, I congratulate the Home Secretary on increasing the number of family visits and on the experiment in Holloway of bringing children into prison. Allowing them to spend time with their mothers is to be welcomed—if we are to continue to put women with children in prison, the success of which I doubt, but that is another matter. It is certainly a good move to allow them to have their children with them for longer periods.

I wish to stress the length of time that families spend travelling to visit prisoners. Many of my constituents—and, I am sure, many of the constituents of other hon. Members—will spend three quarters of the day trying to get to a prison for a very short visit and then have to drag their children back home again after spending very little time with the prisoner. However much the Home Office may be trying to ensure that prisoners are placed near their homes, it is by no means being successful.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant), we try to do that whenever we can, but it is not always possible. The hon. Lady knows, because she follows these matters, that assistance with travel costs can be obtained in certain circumstances.

I was grateful for the hon. Lady's welcome for the proposal, which is a sensible one, because when prisoners leave prison they have to resume their family responsibilities and they are often worried in prison about the break-up of their families. Anything that we can do to ease that problem is for the better.