Clause 1 — Power to destroy or otherwise dispose of property

Part of Mental Health (Discrimination) (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 10:17 am on 30th November 2012.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 10:17 am, 30th November 2012

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He might think it easy for me to say—now he has made the point—but I was specifically thinking of hospitals when I drew up the amendment. As he said, lots of prisoners have health problems and require medical treatment, entailing a trip either to a doctors’ surgery for an assessment or to hospital for treatment or a more detailed assessment. The last Government did an awful lot in that regard, taking forward telemedicine so that people could be seen while still in prison via video link. That was a perfectly good innovation, but it does not apply in every case. As my hon. Friend said, prisoners often have to visit hospital.

It is not just about hospitals, however; lots of prisoners go out to work on day release, if they are coming to the end of their sentence, as part of their rehabilitation. Many people in open prisons go out to work or out into other parts of society to do some rehabilitation work. As things stand, however, it seems that the Bill would not cover those people. People in custody also go to court, either to have their remand hearing considered or to have further charges put to them, and it would be bizarre if something was found while somebody was in court but was not covered by the Bill just because they happened to be in court rather than in prison.

I genuinely do not know—perhaps the Minister will tell us—how many trips are paid to hospital, how many people go out to work each day or how many court appearances are made, but I am sure there are people with better minds in this place who do know. It would help to have that information. It seems to me, however, that many people make such trips, so there might be a large loophole when prisoners are away from their prison and prisoner escort vehicle and therefore not covered by the Bill.

I am also slightly concerned about the use of the term “prisoner escort vehicle”. I wonder exactly what it covers. Again, I would not want people to get away on a technicality. We have lots of clever members of the legal profession in the House, my hon. Friend Mr Nuttall being one of them, and I would not want any of those clever people—much cleverer than me—to be able to find a loophole by which it could be claimed that a vehicle was not strictly speaking a “prisoner escort vehicle”. I wonder, therefore, if we have a definition of exactly what it means.