HC Deb 02 April 1925 vol 182 cc1486-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will publish information as to the nature and extent of prison libraries and the extent of the use of library books by prisoners; and whether there is any provision in the prison regulations for the discretionary issue to prisoners of superior mental qualifications of a greater number of volumes than those ordinarily supplied?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)

Prison libraries might no doubt be greatly improved if more money were available, and we should welcome gifts of suitable books for the use of prisoners from any quarter; but, so far as I can judge, the books we have are fairly adequate for meeting the prisoners usual requirements. Complaints from prisoners are not common, but there have been a number of complaints from prisoners of an altogether exceptional type, who find the prison libraries not at all in accordance with their taste. These have been met to a great extent by allowing prisoners to have books in from outside much more freely than was formerly the case. Obviously public moneys cannot be properly used to cater for tastes which run in the direction of abstruse mathematics, advanced science, or the less familiar Oriental languages. The answer to the last part of the question is in the affirmative.


Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to furnish the House with information as to the number of books in the different prison libraries?


I inspected one myself a month ago. It contained about 5,000 volumes. The library was not at all bad. I should be only too glad if any hon. Member would like to go and inspect these libraries.


May we not have official statistics for the purpose of information?


Will the right hon. Gentleman see that in every prison library without exception the book "Looking Ahead" is placed with other forms of fiction?


; I would suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, from his point of view, "Looking Backward" might be a more interesting work.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that "Looking Backward" is one of the most valuable works ever published in this country?