Prison Building Programme

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th April 1995.

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Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset 12:00 am, 20th April 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the prison building programme. [18365]

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Six new prisons are planned, which will be designed, constructed, managed and financed by the private sector. In addition, 2,000 new houseblock places are being provided at existing prisons over the next two years, and Lowdham Grange prison is to be rebuilt.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

May I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that excellent answer? Will he confirm that he will ensure that we never return to the situation that was prevalent under the past Labour Government, when courts could not pass custodial sentences, or were dissuaded from doing so, because there were no places in prisons? If my right hon. and learned Friend is looking for additional places, there is room in Portland prisons to build and expand, creating more prison officer jobs on Portland. Will he look at Portland for the expansion of the prison service?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his offer, which I shall certainly bear in mind.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

The Home Secretary has admitted that the Government now have no choice but to expand the prison-building programme massively. Is he aware that the number of women imprisoned for fine defaulting has almost doubled in the past five years, from 868 in 1989 to 1,440 last year? Can he explain that increase, and will he tell us whether he is satisfied that custodial sentences were both necessary and appropriate in all those cases?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

If custodial sentences had not been necessary and appropriate, they would not have been passed by the courts. It is the courts that pass such sentences. The hon. Lady will know that fine defaulters are sent to prison only for wilful refusal to pay: they are those who can pay, but won't pay. Those are the circumstances in which the courts decide that such a sentence is both necessary and appropriate.