HC Deb 19 December 1946 vol 431 cc2166-7
68. Mrs. Ayrton Gould

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that a woman in Holloway Prison, serving a sentence of one year, is locked in her cell alone from 4.30 p.m., when the last meal of the day is served, until morning and has no opportunity of attending classes or of doing any creative work during those hours; how many women in Holloway and elsewhere are serving sentences of three months and more; and if he will take steps, pending the provision of a full educational programme in all prisons, to instal wireless sets which will enable all prisoners to listen to B.B.C. broadcasts in their cells and to provide materials for women to employ themselves in various kinds of handicraft in their cells.

Mr. Oliver

There are 333 prisoners in Holloway serving sentences of three months or more. Owing to continued staff shortages it is still necessary at this prison for suppers to be served at 4.30 p.m. but the suggestion that there is no occupation for the women after that hour and no opportunity for attending classes is mistaken. My right hon. Friend fully recognises the importance of providing a full evening education programme and opportunities for handicrafts and other creative work at all prisons. With the collaboration of the local education authorities much has been done in the last 12 months and more will, I hope, be done in the near future both at Holloway and elsewhere. Already at Holloway, in addition to the regular evening association available for certain classes of prisoner, there are a number of classes, lectures and discussion groups. As regards the use of wireless, this is available at all but a few prisons, but there are serious technical difficulties in the way of providing installations giving satisfactory reception in cells.

Mrs. Gould

May I remind my hon. Friend that some inmates of Holloway Prison are unable to attend classes of any sort or have any occupation after supper? Will he tell the House what proportion they bear to the number of prisoners?

Mr. Oliver

I cannot give my hon. Friend the proportion. I can only say that a full programme is provided.

Mr. Shurmer

Does my hon. Friend think it right that women should be left from 4.30 in the evening until next morning, without a meal?

Mr. Oliver

I pointed out in my answer that supper is served by 4.30. I think it is served in ordinary circumstances at 5.30. I would have the House understand that this is not the desire of the Home Secretary. These are steps which he is compelled to take by circumstances over which he has no control.

Mr. Thurtle

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the medical officer of the prison thinks that no harm will come to persons who have to wait so long from one meal to another?

Mr. Oliver

I do not think that is a matter which arises out of the Question.

Mr. Kirkwood

Does not the Minister think something ought to be done? How would he like to have to wait from half-past five till the following morning for a meal?

Mr. Hale

Cannot my hon. Friend get this very small administrative problem put right? It shocks the conscience of the House to hear of this state of affairs. Will he also consider the abolition of the practice of locking persons in cells all night? It has already been abolished in good conduct prisons in most civilised countries.

Mr. Oliver

I assure my hon. Friend that his observations will be represented to my right hon. Friend.

Back to
Forward to