HC Deb 14 June 1956 vol 554 cc739-41
13. Mr. Collins

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how far it is the practice, under his regulations, for an escaped prisoner, after recapture, to be punished, in addition to loss of remission and bread and water diet, by loss of educational, reading and other privileges, being compelled to have a light in his cell all night, and to exercise and associate always with other escapees.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)

Prisoners who escape or attempt to escape are placed on the escape list, which means that they are subject to special supervision which necessarily excludes them from, or restricts their participation in, some activities. For example, they may not attend an educational class unless a discipline officer is present, and they are regarded as ineligible for certain jobs which carry an element of trust. The light in their cells is kept burning at half strength during the night. In some prisons they are excluded from association for meals and recreation, and this precludes them from reading daily newspapers in association, but their right to have library books and to receive books and periodicals from outside is not affected. These restrictions are designed to prevent escape and are not imposed by way of additional punishment.

Mr. Collins

Is the Home Secretary aware that, whatever the intention may be, the effect of these regulations is to punish these men twice—and in a very severe way? Is he further aware that a constituent of mine has served nineteen months of a three-year sentence and, for the whole of that time, he has had to have a light burning in his cell? Is that not almost akin to the water torture? Will not the Home Secretary review these provisions, whilst keeping regulations to prevent escape?

Major Lloyd-George

I think that the hon. Member will agree with me that if a prisoner has previously escaped some precautions must be taken to avoid the same thing happening again. That is the only purpose of these precautions. I have looked into the case which, I take it, is the basis of his Question. I can assure him that the governor of the prison reviews the position of all the prisoners on the escape list from time to time and that the prisoner to whom the hon. Gentleman is referring was removed from that list last week.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is not the compulsion to associate with other escapees an invitation to conspiracy? Is it not impractical and psychologically unsound? Will the Home Secretary seek expert advice in order to satisfy himself that it is unsound and defeats its own end?

Major Lloyd-George

These practices vary from prison to prison. The right of association is one which prisoners regard very highly. In certain cases the association is supervised and in others it is not. The question is considered very carefully indeed.

Mr. Osborne

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend bear in mind and not forget that those who break the law should be punished?