HC Deb 16 March 1896 vol 38 cc1016-7
SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if, having regard to the utilisation of the free markets of the United Kingdom by the Governors of German and Belgian prisons, for the sale of goods manufactured by the forced labour of foreign convicts and felons, which they are forbidden to sell in their own districts, he will instruct the Governor of Her Majesty's Prison at Birmingham, and other Governors desirous of causing their prisoners to manufacture paper bags and other articles, that they should sell their prison goods in Germany, Belgium, the United States, and other foreign lands, bearing in mind the provisions of the Statute, 40 and 41 Vic., c. 21, s. 11?


I cannot admit that the construction which my hon. Friend appears to place upon Section 11 of the Prison Act is a correct one, or that the facts as to the importation of prison-made goods are as he suggests in the first part of the Question. I can assure him, however, that I shall take every care that the section in question is administered in accordance with the promises made by the Government of the day when it was under Debate, namely, that prison labour should be spread over as many kinds of employment as possible, and that, with due regard to local and other circumstances, there should be as little competition or interference as could be with any trade throughout the country.


I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade, whether he can now state when the correspondence with Foreign Governments in regard to the importation of prison-made goods will be issued; and, what is the cause of the delay?


It is not considered desirable to present the correspondence referred to by the hon. Member until it is complete. Endeavours are being made to obtain early answers from those Powers which have not yet replied, and on receiving these the question of presenting will be at once dealt with.