HC Deb 08 March 1951 vol 485 cc635-6
3. Mr. John Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent occupants of His Majesty's prisons, excluding Borstal inmates, are permitted to undertake, under guard, agricultural and other outside work of national importance; and what is the policy generally regarding prison labour.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

During 1950, an average of about 680 prisoners detained in His Majesty's prisons in England and Wales, out of a total average population of some 17,500, were employed outside the prison walls under supervision on agriculture, forestry, land drainage and other work: this number does not include those so employed on prison farms and lands. It is impossible for me to deal, within the compass of an answer to a Parliamentary Question, with the whole subject of prison labour, but I may say that it is the constant endeavour of the Prison Commissioners, with my encouragement and approval, to extend the scope of outside work for prisoners, so long as it is not to the prejudice of free labour. As regards work in prison workshops, I would refer the hon. Member to the replies which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) on 14th December and 22nd February last.

Mr. Tilney

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the advisability, both for the prisoners and for the country, of making use in areas of full employment of a labour force which is at present a burden on the community, and that 680 is a very small percentage of 17,500?

Mr. Ede

Yes, Sir, but the number of prisoners who can be trusted to be at liberty to this extent is also limited. I endeavour to secure that every possible opportunity shall be given to suitable men of having this chance of showing that they have a sense of trust and honour.

Captain Soames

What charge is made to farmers for prison labour; and how does that charge compare with agricultural wages?

Mr. Ede

A farmer has to pay the Prison Commissioners the recognised standard rates.

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