§ SIR BENJAMIN STONE (Birmingham, E.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether it is with his knowledge and approval that a letter has been sent by the Governor of Her Majesty's prison, at Birmingham, to a trading firm in that city, in which he asks to be informed whether the manufacture of paper bags could be done by prisoners, and whether the said firm would be willing to enter into a contract for the employment of prisoners in this way; and, if so, on what terms; and whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to compete in the open market, by the aid of prison labour, with a largo class of women and children workers already engaged in the industry referred to?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY, Lancashire, Blackpool)
The notice which the hon. Member has given me of his question has been too short to allow me to make any inquiry into the facts. In regard to the general question, I may say that Governors have instructions to endeavour to secure, locally, simple and easy tasks for short-sentence prisoners as an alternative to oakum-picking and with a view to carrying out the statutory requirement that such prisoners shall, if possible, be instructed in work which is likely to prove useful to them on discharge in their own localities and enable them to gain an honest livelihood. There is no intention on the part of the Prison Commissioners to compete in the open market; undue pressure on, or competition with, any particular trade or industry is provided against by the Prison Act, I877.