Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £117,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day
of March, 1957, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Prison Commissioners and of prisons, Borstal institutions and detention centres in England and Wales.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ The Chairman
I have been asked by several hon. Members about the scope of this debate. It appears to me that all the supplementary sums asked for in this particular Estimate are of moderate amount and that, consequently, the debate today cannot run so widely as to cover the policy of the original Estimate. There is no reason, however, why there should not be a full discussion of each or any of the individual increases set out in the Supplementary Estimate; and in this connection I would point out that the expected deficiency of £245,000 in Appropriations in Aid, Subhead Z, can be debated in just the same way as the increases under the other subheads.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)
Thank you for the clarity of your Ruling, Sir Charles, with which I shall endeavour to comply.
The first part of what I want to say would be related, I think, according to your Ruling, to the salaries, travelling and other expenses of the Prison Commissioners. If we have not some idea of what is in their minds in the performance of their task, it would be wrong for the Committee to vote this increased sum necessary for their salaries. The few general remarks I shall make will, I hope, be in order in that respect.
This is, of course, one the most interesting and immensely varied problems which come within the sphere of my responsibility, that is to say, the problem of the way in which society should treat offenders against its own laws. It is a problem as old as society itself, and I am aware that today I cannot give any final answer to it, because the problem changes as society changes. Each of us, in our own generation, must attempt to find a solution acceptable in terms of our own human understanding and our own store of knowledge and experience.
Since we are discussing money matters under this Supplementary Estimate, we must consider a solution which is practical within our own resources. I have held my present office for about two months only, and the Committee would 1142 not, therefore, expect me to make any startling pronouncement, nor should I be in order in announcing a complete programme of reform; but I think it is in order, Sir Charles, in relation to the subhead dealing with salaries, to give at this early stage, particularly in view of the considerable amount of work which I and my hon. Friends the Joint Under-Secretaries have already put in on this subject, some idea of the way in which our minds are moving, to discuss some of the problems which beset the Prison Commissioners, and refer to some of the work which is in progress.
I should like to make a hasty reference here, without going into detail, in view of what you have said, Sir Charles, to a matter which is of first importance, namely, the very limited amount of information and knowledge which is at our disposal. I say this deliberately, because I have already ascertained that, without accurate knowledge, we cannot administer this matter properly. Accurate knowledge is an indispensable tool of administration. We must know what is happening and why, and we cannot usefully plan ahead, in my opinion, on the basis of the knowledge which I have found at my disposal.
Hon. Members may remember an interesting article by Mr. C. H. Rolph which appeared in the New Statesman, which has, I think, wisely and rightly stimulated a great deal of discussion. This article chided the Home Office for spending less than £100,000 on research in nine years. I should like to be quite frank with the Committe and say that figures given recently in the House of Commons show that we have spent only about £12,000. This is the biggest initial shock which has come to me in examining this problem which has so wisely been put down by the Opposition as a matter for discussion this afternoon. I acknowledge straight away that this is quite unsatisfactory.
Some useful work has, of course, been done, particularly on Borstal training, approved school training and probation. There are several other studies, some of them on detention centre treatment, which are in hand, and we are grateful to the universities also for what they have done. But, in my opinion, much more work must be done, notably on imprisonment itself, which is the subject of this Supplementary Estimate. On this huge topic 1143 we must have more accurate information, and I propose to give first priority, therefore, to the best methods of expanding our research programme.
We can, of course, say that we can rely upon experience alone. But we must also make the best use of the tools which the sciences of statistics and sociology have put into our hands not to replace but to supplement the knowledge we gain from experience. So much, therefore, which is all I think I am in order in saying, on the vital question of research and my intention of giving it a first priority in the administration of the prisons of England and Wales, which we are considering this afternoon.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned detention centres and a certain amount of investigation. Is that investigation public, or is it made for the Home Office?
§ Mr. Butler
They are public investigations and I will take the opportunity of bringing them to the attention of the hon. and learned Member, and, indeed, of the Committee as a whole, if that is desired.
Having managed to make reference to that point, which is one which I cannot expand for reasons which you have so clearly brought out, Sir Charles, but which I wanted to put first to show how we mean to go on, I come to the main problems of prison administration, which, I think, will be in order on this Supplementary Estimate.
These problems concern most what are called the local prisons. As is usual, the problems are those of overcrowding, understaffing—a particular provision is made in this Supplementary Estimate, namely, the salaries for the staff—and shortage of simple work for the unskilled. When I say this, I do not mean that there is no change to report since the last report was given. Much has been done and is being done, but the measure of overcrowding can be broadly summarised by the number of men who have to sleep, for example, three in a cell.
At its peak in 1952, that number was about 6,000. A year ago, it was 2,500, and now, I am glad to say, it is little more than 2,000. I am glad to say that this decrease in what is an unsatisfactory state of affairs has been maintained in spite of the unhappy fact that the overall prison population has risen from about 20,500 in 1144 August last year to about 21,600 at a recent date.
The problem of prison administration, which the Opposition have asked to discuss this afternoon, is being tackled by the Government from two point of view: first, to increase the accommodation; and, secondly, to see whether there are any means of reducing the inflow of prisoners into the prisons. Both involve considerations which are finally not within my control. The first is finance, about which I think I can have a word or two in the right quarter; secondly, the opportunities for legislation, which would be out of order today as we are discussing the Supplementary Estimate; and, thirdly, the action of the courts. The latter, indeed, is not within my control at all.
I should, however, like to say a word about the building programme, because that is in the minds of the Prison Commissioners. Last year, the Prison Commission took over another open prison, making 13 in all. For the moment, I think, it is unlikely that this form of relief to the accommodation in prisons can be taken much further. If we were to do that, we might be taking undue risks with this valuable method and we must not place its development in jeopardy.
We must, therefore, look to the completion of the programme of new building which is now under way. I can only refer to this in note form simply by saying that I hope that the first of these will be ready for use early next year. It will be the prison for 300 men at Everthorpe, near Hull. There is also work on a similar prison in Lancashire, on the psychiatric institution in Buckinghamshire, which is generally known as the East Hubert Institution, which will start this summer. A small Borstal for girls will also open later this year and I hope that work on a second will start early next year.
As for the two Borstals for boys, a site has been acquired for one, on which work should start early next year, and planning clearance is also being sought for a site for the second. That shows that although when I first interested myself in this question, which I did some time ago, I thought that there was not very much outlook for building, there is, in fact, considerable outlook for improved building.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the proposal to erect a maximum security prison in Lancashire. It happens to be in my constituency. I and many of my constituents, knowing the scope of the need for new buildings, as we all recognise, are wondering whether the Home Office is following a wise policy in putting down these maximum security prisons in built-up urban areas. That is a question of principle which the House of Commons ought to discuss.
§ Mr. Butler
What I suggest is this. In my opening remarks, I am simply giving an outline of what is happening. What my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary and I thought we would do would be to listen to all the constructive suggestions which are made and that in the light of the debate this afternoon, including the hon. Member's observation, we would be able to review our policy, and next time I report to the Committee or to the House I can make a full summary of our policy.
When all these buildings, for example, are in use—at least in five years' time—by our calculations that would reduce the overcrowding of local prisons by no less than 1,500 places. I think it would be wiser to concentrate now on the completion of this programme. We cannot see what the level of the prison population will be four or five years hence.
That is at least an outlook of building, which, of course, can be greatly improved upon. That depends largely on the economic situation. In so far as we can look ahead, a reduction by about 1,500 places in the local prisons will make a distinct difference to overcrowding.
§ Mr. Charles Boyle (Salford, West)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of building, can he say whether he has considered the building of remand centres, which might conceivably save the building of a prison?
§ Mr. Butler
I shall be making a special reference to that during my speech, because I regard it as very important.
I have other measures in mind which may well lead to a reduction in the overall prison population—that is to say, if no fresh influence outside my control adversely affects the level of that population. The first relates to short sentences. My 1146 predecessor asked the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders to consider the various suggestions which had been made to him for reducing the number of short sentences of imprisonment. The Council appointed a sub-committee, which, I understand, will report to a full meeting of the Council on 3rd May, which will be quite soon. I shall study the Council's recommendations and do what I can to carry out any recommendations it makes.
So much for short sentences. But if we are to make a substantial contribution to the problem of prison accommodation, we must look beyond the question of short sentences. There is no doubt, as the article to which I referred drew attention, that while short-term prisoners place a heavy burden on the staffs of local prisons and so contribute much to the difficulties which spring from shortages of staff, they do not occupy a great deal of accommodation. I will give the Committee a figure which shows that. In 1954, for example, persons serving terms of less than three months accounted for less than one-twentieth of the daily average population in all the Commissioners' establishments.
We should, obviously, welcome any recommendations to reduce the number of short-term sentences, but we should also recognise that what would contribute most to a reduction of overcrowding is not so much the reduction of the number of short sentences, but that of long sentences. I will give the Committee a figure to illustrate that, also. A preliminary statistical survey on the basis of figures available in 1955 suggested that as compared with 1938, an increase of about 6,000 in the prison population may have been due to an increase in the numbers of persons convicted and of about 3,000 to an increase in the length of sentence passed by the higher courts.
This—let us face it frankly—is a situation which derives from the sentencing policy of the courts and involves considerations which are the concern of the judiciary and not of the Executive, although the Executive certainly has a distinct concern with the effects. Obviously, it will take time to work out, but there are ways in which the Executive, within its proper limits, may well seek to collaborate with the judiciary in this all-important question 1147 of sentencing policy. I am not trying to state anything which is unconstitutional, but I am venturing into a subject which, I think, has to be ventured into if we are to solve this problem.
We need, therefore, to find out by systematic research much more than we know now about the results of the various methods of treatment which are available to the courts, and to place that knowledge at their disposal. We need also to put ourselves in a position to furnish the courts with the fullest possible information about the offenders before them so that in all proper cases they may be able to select the treatment appropriate to each individual on the basis of an expert diagnosis of his history and personality. If we are to do this, which is exploration work, we need the proper tools.
I am already persuaded—and this is in answer to the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle)—that the first of these in order of importance is the remand centre for young people, for which provision was made in the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, with which should be connected a similar centre for adults. It is very wrong that so many young people should come into our local prisons, which, as they are now, can make no proper provision for them, whether it be simply for safe custody or for the more constructive purpose of providing the courts with information about them; whereas in a remand centre, as I visualise it, we shall have suitable premises in no way connected with a prison, in which an expert and specialised staff will have every facility for making a complete examination of the person or persons and giving full advice to the courts. Such remand centres would, as I see them, not only serve to keep these young people out of prison but would be real centres of research into the broader question of juvenile delinquency.
I would say in answer to the hon. Member for Salford, West, that there should be an attached centre for adults. What we have in mind is an adjoining centre for adults, which will be absolutely separate from the remand centre for the juveniles but will use the same specialised staff. The same facilities will be available, according to our plan—hon. Members are at liberty to criticise it, so that we may examine their criticisms made 1148 in the deihate—both for the unconvicted and for the careful classification of many of those who have been convicted—an important work which cannot be done properly with the present facilities of our local prisons.
In this way several purposes will be served. Many young people will be saved altogether from an unnecessary taint of prison life, and the courts will have really valuable help in deciding on sentences. The classification and treatment of prisoners will be better based, and the local prisons greatly relieved both in their accommodation and the pressure on their staffs. I hope to be in a position, even though I have had very little time, to start work on the first of these centres next year. The better progress we can make in this direction of the remand centre the happier I shall be.
I now turn to Subheads A.1 and B.1, dealing with staffing. The first problem, of course, is under-staffing of prisons. We still need about 1,000 more officers before the local prisons can turn over to a shift system which will give the prisoners a full working day and relieve the pressure of overtime on the staff. We are still below the authorised establishment even for the present shift system. I am glad to say that, as in another direction which I have mentioned, there has been a marked improvement. Recruiting has been better; not good enough, but certainly better. A year ago the deficiency was 235. Today, it has fallen to 125. By the end of July we expect to have gained 100 more, and there is a continuing increase in the number of applications. So there is a hopeful outlook, especially presented in the last few months.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information about the kind of man who now applies to join the Prison Service? He will appreciate that one of the important matters is not merely the number of prison sentences and the terms of imprisonment but what happens to the prisoners inside, and that depends to a great extent on the kind of man employed, and the kind of thing he is asked to do.
§ Mr. Butler
I intended to try to say something about what the staff are trying to do by reference to the Norwich experiment, because I thought that would be 1149 of interest to the Committee. I cannot give the exact delineation of the types recruited, but through the increased number of applications we are having a choice of people, a choice through which we think we can make the necessary selection of those who will be suitable.
Before we come to the handling of the staff I want to refer to the system of consultation which is at present in operation with the staff. The first thing I must refer to is what all human beings are first interested in that is, pay and conditions of service. The pay and conditions of service of the staff must be such as will attract and retain the kind of men and women we need, and so the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have decided to set up a Departmental Committee to examine this question.
It is over thirty years since the last independent review of this sort was held for this purpose, so this debate is coinciding with a real opportunity for us all which, I think, we must all take together. During these thirty years the nature and purpose of the service given by the staff have materially changed. I think that those who perform this duty must now reckon themselves as giving one of our more important social services. In the view of the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself the position of the staff must now be reassessed in the light of the change. Meanwhile, the question of an immediate increase of pay, pending the report of this Committee, will shortly be raised before the Arbitration Tribunal.
That is the start with pay and conditions, and with an inquiry which has not been held for thirty years, in the light of the new experiments we are making and the new relations we expect to subsist between the prison staff and the prisoners.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
The right hon. Gentleman says there has been an increase in the number of applications. Does he know the number of people who have withdrawn from the Service? We are told that a number who joined the Service have felt much deterred by the conditions and have given up in despair.
§ Mr. Butler
I will see that my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, who will make a short speech at the end of the debate, will give the hon. and learned Member that figure.
1150 So much for the material conditions of service, but those are by no means the only things which will keep the prison staff happy or make their job attractive. We want each and every person in this staff to feel that this is a real vocation in which he or she can feel a personal satisfaction. I cannot speak too highly of my contact with the Prison Commissioners, who would, naturally, wish to remain incognito on this occasion. My contact with them has shown me that they have been of the opinion for some time that their primary duty from now onwards is to try to give work in the Prison Service this sort of appeal to those who are engaged in it.
The first step has been, under their guidance, to set up a consultative committee. Here, every section of the staff is represented at discussions on matters which they themselves put on the agenda or which are referred to them by the Commissioners. That, I think, is a sensible method and one which brings the staff into the picture. Another decision which has been taken is to increase the number of refresher training courses for members of the staff.
In this way, we hope to establish much closer links between the staff and those who are responsible for them. Not only must we do this, but we must also establish, if we are to believe in the rehabilitation of offenders, conditions in which good human relationships exist between the staff and the prisoners themselves, thereby releasing tensions which would otherwise exist.
The officer must feel that he has a really constructive part to play, and the prisoner must understand that the officer is really there to help him and not just to keep him under control. That is why I referred, in answer to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), to the experiment at Norwich Prison. Norwich was selected as a particular experiment in these new relationships because it is an ordinary local prison of suitable size, holding 220 men without overcrowding. The population includes the normal proportion of recidivists, with its fair share of troublesome elements.
I cannot say that any change made there is particularly remarkable by itself, but it is very often these small things taken together which make the change in the atmosphere. Officers get to know 1151 their prisoners, and it is arranged, for example, that every man on reception is assigned to a small group under the particular care of two officers whose duties are arranged so that one or other of them is always about. The prisoners at Norwich therefore know that there are these officers to whom they should look for help and advice. The officers are encouraged to get to know their own group, both as a group and as individuals, and to be ready to make reports on them if necessary.
Among the many things tending to relax tension and to increase the sense of responsibility among prisoners is that all convicted prisoners, except in special circumstances which always have to be taken into account, are allowed to be in association outside the cells from unlocking in the morning until 7.30 p.m. Apart from other advantages, the time saved to the staff on locking and unlocking, together with some adjustments of their timetable, have made possible for the prisoners a working-day of over six hours. In other local prisons, with similar staff, the working-day does not always reach five hours. So far, therefore, the objects in view seem to have been achieved without dimunition of discipline and good order. The staff are pleased and the prisoners are co-operative.
The next step, which will be taken very soon by the Commissioners is to extend these methods to a group of the smaller local prisons. We can then see how we get on by experience. It is principally in this way, rather than by the appointment of assistant governors, which is a single step recommended in some quarters, that the better part of progress may lie. But it may well be that in our experience we may find that more extended use of assistant governors is necessary in some types of prison. I should like to hear what hon. Members have to say about this and about the Norwich experiment. However that may be, the training of these grades is now being reorganised, the main object being to place emphasis on good case-work technique as an essential part of their equipment.
So much for staffing under Subheads B.1 and B.2, to which you, Sir Charles, will observe I have adhered quite closely. I now want to refer to work which, according to your Ruling, will come under 1152 Subhead Z, which comes very appropriately for me to make a few observations on work and earnings. Perhaps the most important of all these problems is this question of work. I do not want to lay emphasis on the less attractive side of the picture, which0, unfortunately, seems always to attract the most attention. That, of course, is the shortage of simple work for unskilled prisoners in local prisons and the poor industrial quality of much of it—the mailbag work and other work on that level.
I will give further statistics to the Committee and try to limit them to the most simple that I can find to put the matter in perspective. Out of about 12,000 effective workers in local prisons for men, fewer than 5,000 were employed on the mailbag level in 1955, and I do not suppose that later figures are very different. We are making considerable efforts, in consultation with the employers' organisations and the T.U.C., in getting more work and more varied and interesting work to supplement our, perhaps fortunately diminishing, orders for mailbags. Some progress has been made. My hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary has already had several interviews with the parties concerned and we hope to make more progress.
We are also trying to increase the opportunities for employing prisoners outside the walls—extra-mural employment. This is one of the most socially valuable ways of employing prison labour. I am sorry to state another fact which is unsatisfactory. It is that the number so employed at present is barely half what it was a few years ago. In so far as this reduction has been in sonic part due to difficulty felt by certain trades unions, we have been doing our best, through the Prison Commissioners, to find out what the difficulties of those trades unions are. If any hon. Members could co-operate with me in this task I should be very much obliged. We are engaged in these negotiations now. They are being conducted in very good faith and, therefore, I will regard these talks with the trades unions as being sub judice.
In emphasising the positive side of what is being done, I can say that we are getting a slow but constant introduction of new trades, such as light engineering, electrical installation, plumbing and radio mechanics, thus showing a 1153 slight improvement even in local prisons. We are also showing an improvement in our vocation courses, so that more and more prisoners can go out with a diploma in their trade from the City and Guilds of London and other outside examining bodies. All this takes time and it costs money, but it is very important and progress must be made, because we have a very long way to go yet.
Closely linked with the question of work, which shows a slight improvement and must improve with the aid of employers and trades unions, is the question of what we sometimes call, or perhaps miscall, the total earnings of prisoners. This is a subject in which many hon. Members are interested. My predecessor made a statement on it during his term of office. I can tell the Committe now only that some improvements are about to be made. They are not very much, but at least they are a step which will bring to an end the worst feature of the present scheme, that is the so-called "beginners' rate" of 10d. for the first eight weeks. Under the new arrangement, all prisoners will start with a minimum of 1s. 8d. This, I realise, does not sound impressive, but it is by no means the end of the story.
When I come to look at this matter of prisoners' earnings with a fresh mind, I realise that apart from the financial implications of improvements that one might consider, there are deeper questions much more important than whether the maximum rate should be 5s., 7s. 6d. or any other sum of that order. If the object of paying these sums is merely to stimulate industry—and that, I must emphasise, was the original purpose behind the present scheme—then it can be argued that something like this scheme, with reasonable adjustments, would do fairly well. It certainly stimulates industry, but is this sufficient, and should we not look a good deal further?
What of the prisoner's self-respect? What of helping him to realise his family and his social responsibilities? These are among the declared objects of the treatment and training of prisoners. Might they not he furthered by a wider and more imaginative view of the possibilities of earnings as an instrument of training? It might be possible, for example, to devise a scheme which would permit a 1154 prisoner to save a certain stun with which to help himself and his family on discharge.
Or, taking an even wider view—and in these few weeks I have made myself acquainted with the work being done by various international bodies on this matter—international bodies have looked at the idea that prisoners should be paid at a rate comparable with a normal industrial wage, out of which they would pay for their keep in prison, maintain their families, meet their social insurance and other obligations, save towards discharge and, possibly, pay compensation to their victims.
I understand from an inquiry which I have made urgently that the United Nations has noted this matter for special study and report. I hope we shall get a speedy report from that organisation, even though we may have to work independently as a nation on this matter and give an example to others.
These various ideas, which I have simply thrown out at the opening of the debate—and that is why I asked the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) whether he would mind my opening it—such as the prison population, the building programme, the nature of the staff, the staffing problems, the question of work and the question of earnings, are only some of those which it is possible, by ingenuity, to get into order under the very drab headings included in this Supplementary Estimate.
Surely the ideas which I have thrown out begin to lead us away from the simple conception of punishment, which, over many centuries, has occupied too dominating a position in our penal philosophy? May it not be that something of value was lost when the relationship between the offender and his victim was thought to be one which simple punishment could satisfy so long as it was left to the State to carry out that obligation of punishment? Was there not also some ethical value in the older conceptions, because they are the older conceptions, of restitution and compensation?
Here, I begin to look some way into the future, perhaps, Sir Charles, you may imagine to dream a little. At any rate, I am coming to an end. I believe that we might one day come to think of our prisons not as places of punishment— 1155 though that they must be since deprivation of liberty must always be a punishment; not only as places where offenders are trained to be better men and better citizens, which is what they seek, however imperfectly, to be now; but also as places where an offender could work out his own or her own personal redemption by paying his or her debt not only to the society whose order he has disturbed, but to the fellow members of that society whom he has wronged.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
When the Opposition decided to ask for a debate on prisons we did not do so because we thought there was any party capital to be made out of it, or because we wanted entirely to find fault with the present situation. We did it for two reasons. The first is that the prison service, which the right hon. Gentleman properly said is one of the most important of our social services, nevertheless tends to be the Cinderella of them and, in the past, has usually been at the tail end of the queue. We thought that it was a good thing, therefore, that the public should be reminded occasionally of the work that the prison service is doing.
Our second reason was that we hope and believe that the right hon. Gentleman will follow in the footsteps of Lord Templewood and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and be a great reforming Home Secretary. Therefore, we thought it proper today to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of enunciating certain general principles. Certainly, the tone of his speech and the breadth of the canvas that he has painted has shown that we have good ground for believing that he will live up to the high expectations that we have of him.
I hope that nothing we say on this side of the Committee will be regarded as reflecting on the Prison Commissioners. They are doing an extremely difficult Job remarkably well. It is difficult because their function is twofold. First, they have to provide security for the public and, secondly, they have to seek to reform and rehabilitate the prisoners.
I believe that the importance of security can be exaggerated. Security often militates against reform and, sooner or later, the public will have to make up 1156 its mind to what extent it wants security and to what extent it wants reform and rehabilitation. There is certainly no doubt in my mind that money is more economically spent on reforming criminals rather than on merely confining them. If it is necessary to do unpopular things in the furtherance of penal reform, we will gladly give the Government our support in doing them.
Nevertheless. much can be done in advance of public opinion, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has made such a good start in enlightening it upon this important matter. First, the machinery has to be created so that it is ready when needed and, secondly, men and women have to be trained. One of the great mistakes which has perhaps held us back over the last few years has been to believe that prison reform calls for the expenditure of vast sums of public money.
I would say that a full complement of prison officers, a proper relationship between the staff and the prisoners, and a diagnostic approach to the new prisoner and effective after-care machinery for the discharged prisoner are probably far more important than new buildings alone, although I do not want it to be thought that I am in any way belittling the new building programme to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
I want to say how much we welcomed the progress report he gave us on buildings. I hope that the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is asking us to approve the payment of extra moneys for the Prison Commissioners indicates the confidence he feels that they are fully conscious of the importance and urgency of these tasks.
I do not think that this is a subject which will create any very pronounced party differences, and from the concluding remarks of the right hon. Gentleman we would probably all agree upon three basic principles of penal policy. First, that people should go to prison only if that is the only way of dealing with their situation and requirements; secondly, that the whole of their treatment in prison must be aimed at rehabilitation; thirdly, that there must be no avoidable hardship for them in addition to the deprivation of freedom to which the Home Secretary referred.
1157 The difficulty that we are facing is that the shortage of staff militates against the first two of those principles, and the inadequacy and obsolescence of our buildings militates against the third. However, if we have to choose between men and women and buildings, I would sooner we put men and women first and buildings second.
It is disturbing to find the extent to which specialist and skilled staff is available in other parts of the world when it is not always available in this country. At the Chino Diagnostic Centre, in California, for instance, there are 44 psychologists and social workers engaged exclusively on diagnostic work. In this country, with a criminal population which is larger than that of California, we have only 49 full-time medical officers, of whom only six have taken the Diploma of Psychological Medicine.
I am certain that more and better diagnostic work would help to solve one of the main matters to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, the problem of the prison population. He said that accurate knowledge is an indispensable tool of administration, and that he proposed to give special priority to expanding the research programme. I hope that in the course of that he will be able to devise more informative ways of giving prison statistics than is at present the practice of the Prison Commissioners. It is extremely difficult to follow all the figures which they give.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the prison population as being over 20,000. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to clear up this point later, because, when replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead), on 7th March, he said that the total population in Her Majesty's prisons in England and Wales on 26th February was 17,779 men and 707 women.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)
That did not include Borstals.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am most grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for that explanation. This illustrates the kind of difficulty that we experience in analysing figures relating to this subject.
1158 I am glad to know from the statistics given by the Prison Commissioners and the Home Office that overcrowding in the prisons is at present on the decline. The Home Secretary referred to limiting the inflow of prisoners. I had hoped that he would go on to pay tribute to the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers), whose Maintenance Orders (Attachment of Income) Bill will, I think, have the effect of reducing the prison population by between 3,000 and 4,000 at any one time.
What the right hon. Gentleman said about the tendency to longer sentences certainly enjoys the support of the Opposition. It is most valuable that he has said that he hopes it will be possible to collaborate with the judiciary on sentencing policy. The predilection of the judges for corrective training and preventive detention has, I think, added to our problems in respect of the prison population.
I think it may well be that the time has come for the Home Secretary to look at the whole working of the Criminal Justice Act, not merely with a view to considering whether our sentencing policy is right, but also to see what steps which were envisaged in that Act have still to be taken if the Act is to come into full operation.
If I might turn to Subhead B.1, dealing with staff——
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
Before my hon. Friend leaves that part of his speech, will he say a word about the emphatic necessity for reconsideration of policy relating to detention centres?
§ Mr. Greenwood
That is one of the points which I hoped the Home Secretary would review when he was considering those parts of the Criminal Justice Act which are still awaiting implementation. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman realises that there is a great deal of dismay among those interested in the subject at our slowness in implementing that part of the Act.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
Is my hon. Friend aware that a judge is furnished with a report from the Prison Commissioners on the suitability of the prisoner for corrective training, and if the individual concerned has the necessary number of previous convictions to make him 1159 liable for corrective training, such a report almost amounts to asking the judge to comply with the recommendation of the Prison Commissioners that the prisoner should be sent for corrective training?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I thank my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) very much. I hope, Sir Charles, that he will have an opportunity to develop that theme in the course of his own speech if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye.
The Home Secretary is asking for an additional £442,000 for increases in remuneration. The increases in remuneration do not seem over the past year to have brought very much improvement in the staffing position. The Home Secretary told us that if three-shift working is to be started 1,000 additional prison officers are needed. In their Report for 1954, the Commissioners said that the staff situation was serious and discouraging, and in their Report for 1955 they said that the position was worse than ever.
The Home Secretary has rather encouraged us upon this point, but I should like to give the Committee the figures for recruiting which have been sent to me by the Prison Officers' Association. These figures relate only to men. The Association says that in 1947, 211 additional men were obtained; in 1948, 326; in 1949, 305; in 1950, 194; and that in 1951, after there had been a 20 per cent. increase in pay, the figure rose to 434. Since then there has been a general decline. In 1952, the figure was 124; in 1953, 207; in 1954, 21; in 1955, 35; and in 1956, 27.
The Home Secretary has told us that there has recently been an improvement in this respect. We are very glad indeed to hear that. However, I think it true to say that the improvement came about only when there was a certain amount of industrial uncertainty after the Suez crisis at the beginning of the autumn.
§ Dr. Barnet Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Is it not also true that in September, 1955, there was an increase in remuneration of from 18s. 6d. to 30s. a week, and might not some improvement have resulted from that?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I have no doubt that that is one of the factors. It may or may 1160 not be a coincidence. However, the main improvement took place, I gather, when there was a certain amount of unemployment in areas where there are a number of prisons. Whatever the cause of it, the fact that we still have 1,000 fewer officers than are required if three-shift working is to be started means that the prison staffs are having to work regular and permanent overtime and that the "Morrison hour", which was introduced in 1943 as a temporary expedient, is rapidly becoming a regular part of prison life.
The Home-Secretary—we welcomed his statement—is seeking to improve the machinery for consultation. I should like, in advance of that machinery being improved, to tell the Home Secretary two of the main grounds of discontent on the part of the prison officers. One is the slowness of promotion. It now takes nineteen years for a man to reach the rank of principal officer, twenty-seven years to become a chief officer Class II, and twenty-nine years if he is ever to reach the position of chief officer Class I, of whom there are only 24 in the country.
We agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he describes this work as a vocation, but, although it is a vocation, it is a great pity if we discourage men and deprive them of their enthusiasm because of the slowness of promotion. I hope that the Home Secretary will look into the possibility of ensuring that appointments to the governor grades are made from inside the prison service, and not from outside, as has too often been the case in the past.
The second ground for discontent among the prison officers is the dilatoriness of the Prison Commissioners, no doubt operating under the dead hand of the Treasury, in meeting wage claims. I understand from the Secretary of the Prison Officers' Association that a pay claim was submitted to the Prison Commissioners on 31st October, 1956. A reply to that claim was not received until 11th January 1957, that is, two-and-a-half months later. A meeting with the Prison Commissioners took place on 23rd January and a detailed letter was sent by the Prison Officers' Association on 25th January. A reply to that was not received until 19th February. On 20th February, the Association asked the Prison Commissioners to agree the 1161 terms of reference to the Civil Service arbitration Tribunal and, at any rate, up to 9th March, a reply had not been received from the Prison Commissioners.
We welcome the inquiry which the Home Secretary is undertaking into the whole question of the prison service, but it seems a great pity to vitiate the atmosphere in which that review will take place by these wholly unnecessary bad industrial relations which exist at present. It is a thoroughly bad thing that the Prison Officers' Association should have been treated in this rather off-hand way; and I think it a pity that they should feel justified in saying, in this month's issue of the Prison Officers' Magazine, thatthe Prison Service is absolutely seething with discontent".Because, unless we can improve the relations between prison officers and the Commissioners; unless we can improve the atmosphere, the kind of reforms which the right hon. Gentleman wants will, I am afraid, be almost incapable of achievement.
The question of shortage of staff brings me to follow what the right hon. Gentleman said about the problem of work for prisons which is covered by Subhead Z. The news that the Home Secretary gave us about the change in the rates of pay was very good news; and if he will go further, as he suggests, and allow prisoners to accumulate earnings, I think that a great step forward will have been made. At the moment, unfortunately, in most cases prisoners are not able to work sufficiently long hours, or to do the kind of working day they want to do and which it is in their interests to do.
In paragraph 11 of the Appendix to Chapter 1 of the Prison Commissioners' Report for 1955, the Commissioners draw attention to the fact that… in the local prisons it has not been possible to increase the working-week of the prisoners beyond about 25 hours on average …although in some shops as much as 30 hours may be worked. So, obviously, a great deal remains to be done.
I hope that the Home Secretary will not be in any way deflected by the possibility of this costing money, because in the Seventh Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, a Report of a Sub-committee presided over by my hon. Friend the 1162 Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) included this conclusion:Your committee took a most serious view of the short working week of the prisoners, which resulted from the shortage of staff, and therefore asked for written evidence to be submitted in the form of memoranda which are annexed to the evidence to this Report. Although the figures given there contain an element of theoretical calculation and are based in some respects on data which are a little uncertain, your committee consider that the evidence, oral and written, confirms the view that a substantial saving would result from the introduction of the three shift system in local prisons. If this could be done, there would be the beneficial effect, in a curative sense, of longer and more regular working hours and the product of a greater number of man-hours for government work. There would also, when the saving on overtime in excess of the Morrison hour is taken into account, is a financial saving to the Exchequer …I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, in his new incarnation, will not be discouraged by the Exchequer from implementing the wholly admirable ideas he has laid before us today.
One thing in the Home Secretary's reference to work in prisons gave me particular pleasure. It was that he did not seek—as Ministers so often have done in the past—to make the trade unions the "whipping boy" in this respect. If there is opposition to work done in prisons, I am sure that it comes just as much from the employers as from the trade unions. But from whatever source opposition comes, I am sure that it is exaggerated and I think that the general experience has been that the trade unions have taken, on the whole, a most liberal and enlightened view of this problem. If the Home Secretary hopes that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will co-operate in discussing this problem, I know that many of us would be delighted to do so, and I am sure that representatives of the trade unions would share our readiness to co-operate in that respect.
The announcement of the Home Secretary about the building of remand centres was very good news and we are glad that it is being given some priority. I confess, however, that I was a little surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to Subhead J, which relates to the treatment of discharged prisoners and the whole question of the Maxwell Report. Today, probation officers, in ever increasing numbers, are undertaking aftercare for discharged prisoners. Most of this work is for prisoners or Borstal 1163 inmates released under licence who are, therefore, under statutory supervision. That work is centrally organised by the Central After-Care Association, to which we are voting additional money under Subhead J. But there are a large number of prisoners in the ordinary local prisons, and even in the long-term prisons, who are released to the care of the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies.
I am not altogether happy about the working of these societies in various parts of the country. I think that many of them still regard their duty as being purely to give some small financial aid to the prisoner on his discharge, and they have little conception of what constructive after-care work ought to be. Many of us hoped that the Maxwell Committee's Report would bring about a real improvement. It gave grounds for hope. It suggested that the societies were not all geared to modern case work and that monetary grants were unnecessary in the Welfare State. The Report further proposed that trained social workers, to be called prison welfare officers, should be appointed in every prison. The members of the Committee said that they hoped that these officers would have qualifications and training similar to those of probation officers, and added that the function of these officers would be to prepare prisoners for discharge.
I think it very necessary that in prisons there should be skilled social workers able to help prisoners with their personal and domestic difficulties and to prepare them against the day when they are discharged. The result of the Maxwell Committee's Report however has been very disappointing indeed. Numbers of probation officers looking after discharged prisoners find it difficult to get proper information about the behaviour and conduct of a prisoner during the period of his imprisonment.
Speaking in another place, on 31st July, last year, Lord Mancroft raised our hopes in this respect. He said:… all the recommendations made by the Committee have been or are being, put into effect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 31st July, 1956; Vol. 199, c. 485.]I should like to know what progress is being made in implementing the recommendations of the Maxwell Committee. So far as I can discover only four or six prison welfare officers have been 1164 appointed and I should like to know how seriously the Home Secretary proposes to take that Report.
I wonder whether the Joint Under-Secretary, when he replies to the debate, would tell us, for example, why there has been no such appointment in the big London prisons like Pentonville, Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs. I hope that I am not being unduly suspicious, but I suspect that the explanation probably lies in a Written Answer which the then Home Secretary, now Viscount Tenby, gave on 3rd February, 1955, when he spoke of making three pilot appointments where local aid societies… would welcome such an appointment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1955; Vol. 536, c. 147.]The difficulty is that a not very progressive local aid society may object to the appointment of a prison welfare officer of this kind, and yet it is just when the local aid society is not very progressive that the services of such an officer are most required. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to assure us that local aid societies are not, as it were, vetoing appointments of this kind.
I wonder whether the fact that no appointments have been made in Pentonville, Wandsworth or Wormwood Scrubs is due to an objection having been made by the Royal London Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society? To reassure us on that point, will the Home Secretary tell us how many of these prison welfare officers are in course of appointment; what efforts the Home Office is making to try to secure further appointments, and what is the ultimate number of appointments expected to be?
Those are the points that I wanted to raise this afternoon. Many of my hon. Friends with much greater experience of these matters than I will no doubt have different points to bring to the attention of the Home Secretary, but I think that I can speak for all of us in saying that in spite of the criticisms that we make we are not at all defeatist about the future of the Prison Service. We believe that great progress has been made, and we think that if they are given a chance the Commissioners and the prison officers can make great progress in the future. It calls, however, for that quality of courage in these matters which the Home Secretary himself has shown this afternoon. It 1165 calls for courage on the part of the Government, and for a new approach on the part of many of our fellow citizens both inside and outside the House of Commons.
On 7th August last year, in a leading article, The Times said:Prison reform has always been dogged, not always consciously, by what is sometimes called the principle of less eligibility: the offender must always be worse off than the innocent. If there is only limited money to be spent, for instance on building, it must go to the shelter of honest men rather than the comfort of thieves. But if that line is followed, the prisons must be permanently at the end of the queue and no reform is ever possible.It is because the right hon. Gentleman rejects what we might call the "last in the queue" approach that we shall await his efforts with sympathy and promise him any help that we can give in bringing about the reform of our prison system.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
After listening to the agreeable speech of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), and especially after the very liberal speech made by my right hon. Friend the Home-Secretary, I do not think that there will be any feeling of party in the Committee. I have recently visited three prisons, but I speak with diffidence because I know that many other Members know much more about the problem than I do. But certain things have struck me very forcibly. The first is the Victorian atmosphere that still pervades many of our prisons—the feeling, as my right hon. Friend said, of punishment being paramount. The second is that only a small emphasis is laid upon a reward to the State and a claw-back from the prisoner for the benefit of his own family or the family which he may have robbed. The third is that so little is done to qualify a prisoner to be a good citizen upon release. I therefore very much welcomed what my right hon. Friend said earlier this afternoon.
I want, first, to deal with my second and third points, namely, the reward to the State and the qualification of the prisoner as a reasonably good citizen when he is released. I know that a relative number of prison officers and prisoners make the problem very difficult to solve, but under a Bill introduced by 1166 my hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port (Miss Vickers) we hope that the number of prisoners will diminish.
There is another class of prisoners, however, who I think could be used much more usefully than at present. I speak as a happily married man, with my wife listening in the Public Gallery. I have never been able to understand why there is a rather fierce law for the male pervert and not for the lesbian. There is no danger to life or property from the homosexual who, I believe, accounts for 4 per cent. of the prison population. Such persons could be used for work outside prisons to a far greater extent than they are at present. I understand that between 600 and 700 indictable cases of this nature occur each year, where the offenders are sent to prison.
§ Mr. Hale
I do not know if the hon. Gentleman appreciates that when he uses the figure of 4 per cent. he is quoting the figure which is always given officially and which relates to the number of persons convicted for that offence. It does not relate to the number of homosexuals in prison. As I understand it, no inquiries have ever been made about that, and no one has ever tried to discover the number or attempted to classify the types of sexual perverts in prisons, except by reference to their convictions. We are now making these experiments in psychiatric treatment, but if a prisoner is treated by a psychiatrist and classified as cured he must still hang on for the rest of his long sentence because there is no power to let him out, and he is likely to go back after the treatment is ended.
§ Mr. Tilney
It is rarely that I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), but I agree with him in this respect. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will look into the point that he has raised.
§ Mr. Tilney
I should not like to argue with someone who is so well qualified in the law as the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen), but in my visits to prisons I have noticed what a very small amount of work is done during the week. My right hon. Friend has already referred to that fact. People 1167 are undoubtedly very much happier if they have a lot of work to do. Not only do they produce more for the State, but they become better citizens. So much of what is done in prison today stems from the old days of unemployment. I know that there a problem is caused by the short-term prisoner and the lack of prison officers. When I visited one of our prisons in the North the other day I heard that there was a demand by a local farmer for between thirty and forty prisoners to lift potatoes, but that demand could not be met because the necessary officers to act as guards could not be provided. That is a great difficulty.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider not so much the priorities but what can be agreed with the trade unions about work which would not normally be undertaken, such as land drainage or afforestation, and which would be of value to the State. I hope that he will also look into the question of work done inside prisons. There is no doubt that a lot more could be done than is being done at present. If one visits a prison one is apt to see that a lot of painting has been done to a small section of the prison while woodwork is unpainted and rotting in other sections. I have heard that more buildings would be erected if only the capital were available. For most building work the cost lies in the provision of labour—and labour is available inside prisons.
Mailbags can probably be sewn up much better by machine, but when I was going round a women's prison the other day I noticed that a lot of work was being done on the salvage of telephone equipment. I notice that although £100,000 is clawed back for the Post Office, the amount is only £60,000 for the Ministry of Supply and £25,000 for the Admiralty. Surely the War Office and the Air Ministry have equipment which could be salved in much the same way as the Post Office equipment is salved. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at these points, especially as that sort of work can be undertaken inside the walls without the problem of guards.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend said about incentives and paying more to the prisoner so that he can save for his family and especially for himself when 1168 he comes out: because what hope is there when a man leaves prison and tries to find a job? He goes to the employment exchange and usually it is known where he has come from. It is extremely difficult for him, and, unless he has something to fall back upon, how much easier it is for him to get into trouble again.
There are only two other points of detail which I should like to mention. Prisoners—and this especially applies to those in women's prisons, such as Holloway which takes in an area, I think, from the Wash to the South Coast—have to go immense journeys on remand, so one welcomes the remand centres and one hopes that my right hon. Friend will try, first of all, to put the women in them, where the area is so much larger than that for the men. I hope, too, that he will look into the question of prisoners' aid societies and the reports that prisoners on licence have to make which show that prisoners frequently feel that the societies are working against them rather than working for them. I make the plea, therefore, that more use should be made of the prisoner's potential labour, thereby allowing him to achieve the wherewithal not only to repay the State but to keep his family when he leaves prison.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
It is natural that I should follow the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) because he has made a warm and humanitarian speech and there is no dispute between himself and the Members of the Committee sitting on this side of the House. Inevitably, therefore, I follow the spirit in which he has addressed the Committee.
I owe two debts of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman. One for his speech this afternoon, for its breadth, its understanding and sympathy and its humanity and because, when least week I asked his Under-Secretary whether he would put pressure on the right hon. Gentleman to take a humane line on penal reform, the Under-Secretary said that there was no need to put any pressure upon him. I was glad, therefore, to have these manifestations of the truth of what the Under-Secretary had said. My second debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman is for granting permission to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) 1169 and myself to go to Wormwood Scrubs Prison this morning and for the arrangements that were made for us to visit it before we knew that this debate was coming on. It was extremely useful to both of us. While it has no direct bearing on what we are discussing today, it is already an earnest of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman will—and I am sure that he will appreciate the spirit in which I am saying this—open the doors of the gaols to Members on this side of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman has been most forthcoming in inviting us to contribute to this debate any suggestions we may have to make and I am happy to follow on this invitation. One of the things which concerns me is the way in which our judiciary see to it in every detail that a fair trial is given to an accused man. We properly pride ourselves on the fact that we go to inordinate lengths to prevent an innocent man being convicted and also to give the benefit of mercy to those people who are convicted. It seems to me, therefore, such a pity that our care for the citizen at one time—before the right hon. Gentleman made his speech today—and on many occasions, seemed to stop at the door of the court when the convicted man was leaving in the black maria for prison.
What so concerns me is the view that has been held by so many that we should be thinking in terms of punishing a man instead of thinking first of all of his rehabilitation. We are constantly thinking in terms, so it seems to me, like that. For example, I have read over and over again of a judge saying to a man, "You are a homosexual" or "You are a sexual pervert of some sort or another; I am now going to send you to prison where you can have the treatment that you need." Does the homosexual in fact get the treatment that he needs? Anyway, does the judge know how to treat a homosexual? Has he had a psychiatric report about the man? Does he know the depth of his perversion and the particular hold that his perversion has on him? Does he know that he is going to send a man to a gaol where very often there is no possibility of his getting the necessary scientific, psychiatric treatment and advice which the judge thinks that the man is going to get?
§ Sir L. Plummer
That is all the more reason why the right hon. Gentleman should look with care on the psychiatric service in the prisons.
We met this morning the medical officer of Wormwood Scrubs. My hon. Friend and I were both impressed and relieved by the humanity of this man and by his attention to psychiatric problems. I think that he said that 80 per cent. of the mentally disturbed people who came into the prison hospital were cured by the hospital psychiatric service. What is clearly inhibiting the great development of the service throughout the whole of our prisons is the lack of necessary highly-trained people with the appropriate sympathy which the job demands. It does not seem to me to be any good anyone entering this service unless he has a vocation for it. The trained psychiatrist who has no interest in the end-product, as it were, in the rehabilitation of the prisoner, and who is only concerned in psychiatric experiments ought to stay outside the service. What we need in our prison service is a group of properly trained scientists and psychiatrists who are dedicated to the work they are going to do.
We have been dealing with the problem of the work in the workshops. In two of the prisons, the Prison Commissioners' Report points out, the average number of hours spent working in the week is 22. In other prisons, of which my hon. Friends have had experience, the maximum is about six and a half hours a day. I think that it is fair to say that the harder a man is worked in a prison at some reasonably intelligent occupation—an occupation which taxes either his intelligence or his strength—the happier the prisoner is, and the more likely he is to help contribute to his own rehabilitation.
Is it possible to continue with the organisation of prison work on the present basis? I am not criticising the prison officer, but when he is in charge of the workshop is he interested in the work which is coming out of it, or in 1171 seeing that the Regulations are not broken? Is he standing there as a watchdog seeing that the men behave themselves, or is he thinking of ways of improving the technique of production in the workshop? I do not know. I am not yet sufficiently familiar with this penal problem to know the answer; but I do see the great problem which is facing the right hon. Gentleman if he is to develop the prison workshop.
The other day, the London County Council increased the contract that it places with the Prison Commissioners for the supply of coir mats. Immediately, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, which had been supplying these mats, entered a protest. The London County Council properly decided that if we are to make any progress towards the rehabilitation of prisoners it is necessary that public bodies should give at least part of their suitable contracts to the Prison Commissioners, and it decided to stand by its decision.
Here we have a problem of maladjusted people in prisons trying to find work, blind people trying to find work, and then there are people in Remploy trying to find work. It is folly that these three groups of people, all of whom have to be looked after and are entitled to work, should be in any form of competition with each other. I seriously suggest that there ought to be a discussion on this between the Prison Commissioners and Remploy, and the Blind Institute all of whom are well versed in this problem of getting the maximum production out of people who are not the most expert workers, and who could advise the Prison Commissioners, who are faced with exactly the same problem.
§ Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)
I am grateful to the bon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) for giving way. The problem which he has just mentioned is even worse, because modern treatment in mental hospitals says that it is major therapy to do simple, unskilled work. There are many institutions run by churches which are also seeking similar work for itinerant people, casual labourers. The problem is therefore even worse.
§ Sir L. Plummer
That is no reason why we should not tackle it. The hon.
1172 Member has advanced a further reason why we should stop this competition and set up co-ordination between the needs of the nation and the productive capacity of the people we have just mentioned.
In an age of ever-increasing technological development it seems ridiculous that prisoners are still stitching mailbags by hand and that we are not introducing power operation wherever we possibly can. It is clear that the Prison Commissioners' passion is to teach people bricklaying. I am sure that is very good, but I wish they would go a little further. The Under-Secretary of State, answering me last week, said that one of the problems of recruitment of staff at Pentonville was shortage of houses. Is there any reason why prisoners in Pentonville should not be used for the erection of temporary houses to accommodate staff? There is no reason why a bachelor prison officer coming into the service should not be housed for a few years, until the shortage is met, in the sort of prefabricated house which, in London and other parts of the country, served us so admirably immediately after the war. Trade-union objections could well be answered and satisfaction could be given to trade unions who might protest against this development.
Another thing that the Prison Commissioners might do is to train prisoners in the production of their own newspapers. I see no reason why there should not be a prison newspaper, which would be very good for the morale of prisoners. Why should prisoners not have the opportunity to work linotype machinery and produce pictures, as is done in American prisons? They get a news sheet which tells them of developments each day. It could be used to a considerable extent in the physiotherapy which prisoners are supposed sometimes to get in prisons.
Finally, I would refer to the civil process prisoners, who are crowding our gaols and whose fate will be decided, I hope, as a result of the Bill introduced by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers). From one of the Reports, I see that the number of civil-process prisoners serving gaol sentences has gone up since 1951 from 5,600 to 6,500, an increase of 900. If we are already paying, in the overcrowding of our prisons, for the luxury 1173 of long sentences, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, surely we are also paying for the luxury of committals by the county courts?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Can my hon. Friend tell me whether the figures include imprisonment for non-payment of fines?
§ Sir L. Plummer
I am not sure. I cannot remember now, from the Report which I read. The biggest total of committals was of those from the county courts. In 1951 they numbered 500, and by 1954 they had increased to 1,028. Do these increases mean that judges are now ignoring the power that they have to give people time to pay fines? Are they saying, "We will not give you time to pay your fine but will commit you to prison"?
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
May I point out to my hon. Friend that judges in county courts do not impose fines? A man is committed to prison by the county court judge because, in the judge's view, he can pay and will not pay.
§ Sir L. Plummer
if these prisoners are not given an opportunity to pay their financial penalties—whether they are debts or fines is immaterial at the moment—are they being sent to prison instead of being given an opportunity to meet their obligations in some other way? These figures are astonishing, and the prisoners are cluttering up accommodation and putting extra work upon an already overburdened staff. I do not want to delay the Committee——
§ Sir L. Plummer
I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State will take that point into consideration.
When I was in the gaol this afternoon, I found it extremely difficult to look the chaps who were behind those walls firmly in the eye. I felt I had some responsibility for their being there, in that somebody, on my behalf, had made the decision that they should be robbed of their most precious possession, their liberty, and, in addition, should have inflicted upon them time after time a number of 1174 indignities. I felt that this was a responsibility which I could not accept without making a contribution to a solution of the problem.
In the last hundred years our prisons have altered from being the vilest places of incarceration to something incomparably better. A great deal of that improvement has resulted from the individual work of individual governors. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with that statement. Comparatively happy is the prison that has a good governor. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will unceasingly try to find men that have this vocation of wanting, above all, the rehabilitation of the men under their care, and who will find in their work the satisfaction that comes from good deeds well done.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)
I wish to apologise to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee for my unavoidable absence during the first part of the debate. I have already apologised to my right hon. Friend for my absence. I understand that he gave a constructive and inspiring opening to the debate. It is, therefore, unlikely that the few points I wish to make will be new, but I wish to touch briefly on three main problems.
On the problem of staff, I wonder if it is possible to use a modern managerial technique to see whether staff can be helped. There is a system called "job analysis" which I believe has been tried in one or two prisons. I wonder if the Home Secretary will consider finding out whether that experiment was successful and, if so, extending it throughout the service, not only to help on the question of manpower, but to increase the enthusiasm and dignity of the staff.
The second problem is the interrelated one of morale, earnings and savings. I think it is very hard for civil servants, however enthusiastic and conscientious they may be, to find work for prisoners, particularly in the conditions which have been outlined by the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) when there are many competing demands for this sort of work. I wonder if it would be useful to harness the good will and enthusiasm of local industrialists, even going so far as to try seeking such work in one region by the employment of a local or regional works manager. He could be 1175 an industrialist of retired age, but enthusiastic and with knowledge of the work, who could help the Civil Service in this problem.
The third problem I should like to touch on is, perhaps, the most poignant of all, the problem of the families of prisoners. We either punish or reform the prisoner, but there is little doubt that the persons most punished are the wife and the children left behind at home. Would it be practicable to consider prisoners' families in relation to some scheme such as the S.S.A.F.A., which deals with the families of Service men? This is not within the sphere of the Government, but perhaps it is the sort of thing the Home Secretary could bear in mind in his frequent contact with voluntary bodies dealing with penal problems.
To come from a large suggestion to a much smaller one, I noticed when I was a visiting magistrate that there was no procedure whereby a wife was informed of her rights when her husband went to prison. She is left to find them out for herself. Often she is embarrassed about consulting neighbours. She may go to the Citizens Advice Bureau, but that organisation may not know the answer. Would it be possible for the Prison Commissioners to issue a small leaflet giving her information about her rights—the numbers of letters she may send, the number of visits she may pay to the prison and things of that sort? The prisoner could be asked whether he would like such a leaflet sent, and if so, to whom. That would be a small, human touch which might alleviate to a minute extent the pangs suffered by what frequently is an innocent family.
These are small suggestions which I make to my right hon. Friend. They might achieve much, and certainly they would cost very little. I hope that they will be considered among the larger reforms he has in mind.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. George Benson (Chesterfield)
The remarks of the Home Secretary on the subject of research were most heartening. Probably they formed the most important things he said. One of the main troubles of the penal system has always been that everybody knows exactly how to treat criminals. The re- 1176 suit is that nobody has ever troubled to find out anything and probably we know next to nothing.
I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, having made that most important announcement, slipped off rather into the old attitude of mind by suggesting that the Committee should express its opinion on the Norwich Scheme. The Committee knows nothing about the Norwich Scheme. We shall not learn anything about the Norwich Scheme unless we regard it as a controlled experiment and the basis for research. We are here dealing with one of the most complex and difficult problems it is possible for us to tackle—the changing of the personality of men who have proved anti-social. The idea that we can do that easily or that we can know how to do it without the most elaborate and prolonged research seems completely unrealistic.
I was very pleased to hear that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to expand the earnings scheme. The original intention of that scheme, he said, was to stimulate industry. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong. The scheme was started by £500 raised by the Howard League for Penal Reform and presented to the Prison Commissioners for the purpose of starting an earnings scheme, for which the Howard League had a very much wider motive. In passing, I note that the Prison Commissioners in references to the scheme in their Reports never referred to its origin.
I turn to the Supplementary Estimate. I notice that the two main savings are under the headings of "New Buildings, Alterations, &c." and "Materials and Services for Farming, Manufacturing and Training". Unfortunately, those are the two things on which we should try to save least. This means that there has been a slowing down of essential work. On new buildings there is a saving of £270,000. The right hon. Gentleman gave us very good news when he said that Everthorpe is to be finished at the end of next year.
§ Mr. Benson
That is even better. I wish to call attention to the immense number of items which in the original Estimate were comprised in the section dealing with new buildings. Everthorpe is one prison, but there are forty or fifty 1177 prisons. Every one of them either needs most drastic alteration and modification or rebuilding. We have a programme for rebuilding which would take years to accomplish. It is very disturbing to find that this year we have not even reached the very modest target the Commissioners set themselves.
We are doing nothing like what we might to utilise prison labour for building and building works in prisons. We want another Joshua Jebb in the prison service. Joshua Jebb was the architect of Pentonville. Whatever our views about Pentonville now, when it was built it was an enormous improvement on any prison built before in this country. Joshua Jebb was not satisfied with building Pentonville, but, in the six years following its erection, fifty new prisons were built, comprising something like 11,000 cells.
In 1850, when Jebb was in control, Dartmoor was built, not by skilled labour but by the unskilled labour which came from Newgate. If we are to tackle the two problems—the problem of our prisons and all the necessary buildings, including officers' houses and the like, and the problem of the provision of adequate, reasonably interesting work for the prisoners—there is no reason that we should not do what Jebb did; in other words, start trying to rebuild our prisons with the use of a very much higher proportion of unskilled labour than we normally use now. Dartmoor was built by unskilled labour in twelve months, and I do not think anybody who has any experience of Dartmoor would describe it as jerry-built. It is extraordinary how good the quality of the work which is done by unskilled labour can be.
At the moment the Prison Commissioners are modernising Lancaster Prison. I think Lancaster Prison is perhaps unique among English prison buildings. It was built in the eighteenth century in the middle of a fourteenth century castle. In the middle of the fourteenth century castle is a great Norman keep. The penal history of Lancaster goes back a long time, because under the walls cut in the living rock is an underground cell with great iron rings let into the stone; they took the Lancashire witches there and held them until they took them out to be burned outside the castle walls.
1178 The Commissioners are modernising Lancaster Prison and making an extraordinarily good job of it. It is being done by unskilled prison labour. From the point of view of surveillance, Lancaster Prison must be a governor's nightmare. It is all corridors, turnings and staircases. The prisoners there are not stars, not first offenders, but the ordinary prison scallywags. Nevertheless, they are working with the minimum supervision, frequently without supervision, and are turning out extraordinarily good work.
Already the sanitation position in Lancaster Prison is streets ahead of that in any other prison in the country. It is the one prison which has hot and cold water laid outside the cells, with one wash-basin to every five prisoners. There are one or two skilled men in charge and a large number of unskilled prisoners, working well because they are interested in the job they are doing. It must be borne in mind that from the building point of view modernisation and alterations are very much more difficult than straightforward new building. If they can do that, then we can employ a large building force of our own unskilled labour in building our new prisons and observation centres, and in building Grendon Hall and anything else for which the right hon. Gentleman can screw money out of the Treasury hoard.
A point which has been mentioned by several hon. Members concerns working for industry. Although there are many difficulties in the way, the problem is not a very large one, even if we take into consideration the blind, Remploy and the mental hospitals. The Prison Commissioners are best placed of all, because the blind, Remploy and the mental hospitals are all employing people who are defective in one way or another. If we take them all together and compare the number with the number of people employed in our industrial cities, we see the size of the problem.
How many can the Prison Commissioners bring into this pool of labour? At the very most it is about 4,000. There are 20,000 prisoners, including a large number of old and including the ineffective and the maintenance staff, for a large number of people must be employed on simple routine work around the prison, 1179 apart from production. Our prison population of 20,000 includes women and Borstal boys and girls, and I should be astonished if we could put 4,000 to productive labour outside the prison service or outside the Government service. It is very important that we should develop this work.
There is a very big drop in the Appropriation-in-Aid this year. We must bear in mind in this connection that the Government take about nine-tenths of prison production. Referring to the Estimate—not the Supplementary Estimate—we find that about £120,000 is earned by hiring out prison labour. This is a relevant point because it is on this that we have a deficit. There is about £100,000 worth of sales to non-governmental organisations. Those are the only two of the Appropriations-in-Aid which have not dropped. In fact, the Prison Commissioners have most of their eggs in one basket, and if, as a result of Government policy, there is contraction in expenditure, immediately there is underemployment of prison industry. It is therefore important that we should expand the area over which we can spread the sales and the work.
I want to revert to the use of prison labour for building. I have referred to unskilled labour, but not all the labour in the prisons is unskilled. There are excellent building classes, for instance. Anybody who has seen the work which is turned out in these classes will realise that we have a large supply of bricklayers who should be employed on doing prison work. Excellent work is turned out in joinery in Durham Prison, we have an iron foundry in Wakefield Prison, we have blacksmithing in Dartmoor and in the Verne. Thus, there is a very big nucleus for expanding the work of prison building, modernisation and improvement and for tackling new building jobs. If the right hon. Gentleman can get money out of the Treasury and will utilise the labour available inside the prison system, he will make much more progress than we have made in the past.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)
This is the second occasion on which I have had the privilege of following the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) on this subject. When he addressed the 1180 House on it last summer I found myself agreeing with everything he said, and I do so also on this occasion. I find myself particularly in agreement with what he said about the standard of unskilled labour in the prisons at present. He referred to the blacksmiths department at Dartmoor. I, too, have seen that department, and I know that experts who have been there have been unable to fault the standard of work in it. I have also seen the very high standard of work done in other prisons, particularly in Wandsworth, where the workshops are of the highest order.
That brings me to the point that I should like to make to my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary—the small amount of work now being done in the prisons. I am all for a humanitarian approach and for extending leniency to the first, and perhaps even to the second, offender, but when it comes to someone who is continually going back to prison and persistently offending against society, I believe that the only cure is far harder work than he is now required to do in prison.
The average working week for the persistent offender is from 20 to 22 hours. That is, of course, ludicrous. We know why it is not extended. There is the shortage of working facilities, and the lack of capital expenditure to which the hon. Member for Chesterfield has already referred. There is also a shortage of prison staff. But, more important than that, there is, I regret to say, a great deal of opposition from the trade unions. That is perfectly understandable. As one who has been a trade union official, I can entirely sympathise with that attitude.
It is probably the experience of almost every prison governor that when he has tried to engage upon contracts in the neighbourhood of the prison he has encountered opposition from both the trade unions and the local employers. Therefore, my plea is that my right hon. Friend should reconsider the whole question of labour and the amount of work being done in the prisons and, as the problem can only be resolved at the highest level, to go into it with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer so that the prison policy can be so reconstituted that far more work is done and there can be some deterrent to the persistent offender.
1181 I would most certainly draw a definite dividing line between the treatment of those who are persistent offenders and of those who are going to prison for the first or second time. It is only in respect of the persistent offender that I urge my right hon. Friend to embark on a policy of far harder work. In my view, that is the one thing that will deter these persistent criminals from risking prison by offending again. That, of course, cannot be brought about unless opposition from the employers and the trade unions is overcome at the highest level of consultation between the Government and industry.
I believe that when I last spoke on this subject in the House I embarked on some arithmetical calculations as to the amount of work that would need to be done if the prisons were to pay their own way. I think I worked it out that little more than a 40-hour week would make it quite possible for the average prisoner to make sufficient goods, or give sufficient services, to pay his way to such an extent that, instead of the prisons costing the taxpayer some £6 million a year, they could pay their way and, on top of that, embark also on the capital expenditure which is so necessary. That is my suggestion to my right hon. Friend in a very few sentences, and I apologise if I have repeated the point I made some months ago.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Lady-wood)
The Home Secretary has introduced this debate in a tone that, I think, must be productive of good. I am grateful to him for the announcement he has made, which goes to show that at least he has the desire to accomplish much of what many of us who have been working for penal reform have desired over a number of years.
Today we are examining Estimates amounting to £8,320,693, to which has to be added a Supplementary Estimate of £117,000. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) mentioned the Estimates Committee over which I had the honour and privilege to preside when it examined the Estimates for 1952–53. Those Estimates amounted to £6,332,843 so that, in the past four years the amount has increased by £2 million. When we were examining the state of our prisons then, we had a 1182 record prison population of 23,000 for England and Wales. According to a Parliamentary Answer given last week, that figure has since been reduced to 18,486. The prison population has declined since 1952, yet the expenditure has increased, and we are now to approve an additional £117,000.
In spite of that, we have all the evils to which the Select Committee drew attention then. We have the existing prison buildings; the mediaeval structures to which hon. Members have referred. We have overcrowding. Even though the number sleeping three in a cell has been reduced to 2,000, this is surely thoroughly unsatisfactory. The sanitary conditions in prisons today are abominable. Here I am referring to local prisons and not to the sort to which the hon. Member for Chesterfield drew attention. The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) referred to work. Today, thousands of prisoners are working only from 20 to 25 hours a week, without any hope and without any incentive at all.
The tragedy, therefore, is that not only are we not getting value for our money—and for the additional money which we are now being asked to vote—but the primary purpose—the training and treatment of prisoners—is being completely frustrated. I do not under-rate the improvement in the progress made by the Prison Commissioners in specialised prison treatment, but surely the primary purpose of imprisonment is to enable prisoners to be trained, and to establish in them the will to lead a good and useful life on discharge. We have to admit today that the first and most important duty, the provision of work, is not being met.
The Prison Officers' Association, in a letter which they sent to me this week, made a statement which I would draw to the attention of the Committee. I ask hon. Members to consider the serious charge which is made in this letter. This organisation, which is the trade union of all the prison officers in the country, says:It is the considered view of the Association that in many local prisons, prisoners are being discharged physically and mentally lazy.What an indictment this is.
I have recently forwarded to the Home Secretary a letter which contains the views of the Warwickshire Society of Friends. In that letter which that Society 1183 sent to the Prison Commissioners on 8th December, the Quakers, who have been so interested in this matter and so valuable in drawing attention to the anomalies and injustices of our prisons, said to the Prison Commissioners:The men learn idleness and all its associated evils and no one can say that even one of them has in any sense been improved by his stay in the prison"—That refers to the Winson Green Prison, Birmingham—in spite of all the effort put into the work by the staff and instructors. Mailbag sewing by hand and mat-making by means of antiquated machinery is soul-destroying and degrading to the men, besides being unprofitable and a wastage of manpower of which the taxpayer is almost completely unaware.The Society asks for an effort to be madeto persuade Government Departments to revise their methods of contract placing …which is what the Select Committee on Estimates asked in 1952.
The Commissioners five weeks later replied:Mailbag sewing is the only suitable occupation for unskilled prisoners which is available on a sufficient scale and if they were not to make use of it very many prisoners would have no occupation at all.But is this not an admission of failure? Sir Lionel Fox himself, when addressing the Select Committee on Estimates in January, 1953, said:The Commissioners fully agree in principle that the hand sewing of mailbags should be limited to those prisoners who are incapable of work of a higher grade.I have in recent times been to Strange-ways Prison, Manchester, Wandsworth Prison and Winson Green Prison, Birmingham, and I discovered, as the Select Committee previously found, there are many prisoners in our local prisons engaged on mailbag sewing but who are capable of more intelligent work.
Not being satisfied with the position, the Quakers of Warwickshire and Birmingham asked if pressure could in any way be brought to bear upon the authorities concerned. I realise the problem of the Prison Commissioners. They replied saying:The Commissioners must dissociate themselves from any suggestion of bringing pressure to bear upon these Departments.Why should our officials feel that they are not under some obligation to bring the 1184 utmost pressure to bear? The first duty of the Government is to provide full employment. The failure to provide work for the prisoners means that the Government are permitting conditions which destroy the character and moral fibre of the prisoners. That is quite contrary to all good human government and, in my opinion, is an outrage of our Christian order of society.
The Home Secretary has made an important announcement. Of course, the problem of production is bound up with earnings, and I am pleased that at long last we have some statement that follows the line that the Select Committee of Estimates recommended. But although the Home Secretary has suggested an improvement, the average amount earned weekly by workers in prisons on flat rate is 2s. 6d, a week and the average piece-rate worker earns 2s. 9d. a week. The former Home Secretary gave me a promise a year ago that a scheme had been prepared which he hoped would increase output and would be put into effect as soon as financial conditions permitted. Financial conditions have not permitted until this afternoon, when the Home Secretary made that welcome announcement. But it is not sufficient.
I would call the attention of the Home Office to conditions at Winson Green, which is typical. When I visited Winson Green a few weeks ago there were 538 prisoners of whom 281 the week before had earned 10d. The prices of everything have increased. Prisoners are allowed only one ounce of sugar per day. Therefore, the prisoners spend a good deal of their earnings on buying sugar. But sugar has gone up to 10d. a pound, and if prisoners buy one pound of sugar, that takes one week's wages. By the new improvements only half a week's wages will be required for such a commodity, but this is not a great deal better. Therefore, I am very interested in the Home Secretary's announcement relating to a review of the wider question of reform.
Surely, this country ought at least to be up to the standard of the Scandinavian countries. I will not go into the details, but I should like to mention that I had an opportunity during the past year to visit some prisons behind the Iron Curtain. I visited two prisons in Eastern Germany, and I shall be delighted to send the Home Secretary the full details 1185 of my investigation into those prisons because they are very interesting. One of the prisons in East Berlin was turning out complete bacon-slicing machines. Men were being trained in skilled work. I do not intend to argue whether or not a number of the prisoners ought to have been there. The crimes for which they were imprisoned are another matter. But these prisoners are doing something really valuable.
What is more important, I understand that in East Germany the rate for the job has been approved. Therefore, there is no question of this absurd system which we have in our prisons of paying a prisoner 10d. or 1s. 8d. a week. A prisoner in Eastern Germany is paid the normal rate for the job, as approved by the labour standards there, and he is expected to support his family and must pay to his wife and children. He must also save for the time when he is discharged from prison.
I was very interested in the article written by Mr. C. H. Rolph in the New Statesman, in which he suggested that at least a prisoner ought to be able to save enough to keep himself for two weeks. In my opinion, that is absolutely absurd. If a prisoner has been in prison for a number of years, he ought to be able to rehabilitate himself to a far greater extent than that. Therefore, if the Home Secretary will look at this wider question of reform, he will find that he has a very difficult path to tread, because it will probably be more costly to begin with. Nevertheless, I think he will earn the gratitude of all hon. Members of this House, and will be able to fortify himself with the support which he will receive from both sides of the House, if he will pursue it.
§ Dr. Stross
I was interested in what my hon. Friend has said about the rate for the job being paid in Eastern Germany and about the payment of subsistence allowances for a prisoner's family and saving for the future. Did my hon. Friend ascertain how much was left for the prisoners themselves for their weekly pin money or their own comforts?
§ Mr. Yates
It was very interesting to walk into the canteen with the prisoners and see the way in which they could purchase sometimes food or sometimes drink much more easily, of course, because of 1186 the amount that they were able to retain for this purpose while in prison, which was a very considerable improvement on anything we know.
§ Mr. Yates
That may be so, though I cannot say, speaking from memory. I took full details of the scheme and what they were expected to pay, and I think that, in fact, that would be preferable to the present system.
In the case of a prisoner in our British prison who is a smoker, for example, what can he do with the small amount that he receives? He can buy a 3d. packet of cigarette papers and a quarter of an ounce of the cheapest shag tobacco, but that is all that he can possibly do, and, therefore, we get these "tobacco barons" and a black market being encouraged, which in my view is an absurd situation.
I wish to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the cost, which is included in the figures now before us, of the preventive detention prisons. The Home Secretary, in his opening statement, asked what we could do to reduce the number of prisoners serving long sentences. I am told that the average cost of all our prisoners is £294 per annum, which is approximately £6 per week, but the average cost at Parkhurst of a preventive detention prisoner is £384 per annum, which is nearly £8 a week. I want to ask the Home Secretary whether this cost could not be reduced by a more sensible arrangement, which might ultimately involve legislation.
I am of the opinion that the preventive detention system has completely failed. I understand, from figures which I have obtained from the Prison Commissioners, that in the last four years, from 1953 to 1956, the number of long-term prisoners who have been seen by the Preventive Detention Board is 572, and that the Board could only agree to 62 of them being admitted to the third stage. That surely shows that in fact there is something wrong with our system.
1187 I am bound to say that the Preventive Detention Board is given a task which I believe is the prerogative of God. I do not see how this Board can possibly assess the character or prospects of an individual in the way it is expected to do, and with the material which it has available. Certainly, in 1956, only 19 prisoners could be admitted to the third stage out of 151 prisoners seen.
I asked the Home Secretary two years ago if he would release one of these long-term prisoners, a blind man who was sent to prison for eight years' preventive detention. He has no home, and he was then 72. Surely, it would have been better if the Board could have found a blind institution to which this man could have been sent, but no, he could not be admitted to the third stage and so he had to remain. He is being released this month, and he is going to an institution which is not the one to which he wanted to go. Whether that is going to help him to be rehabilitated at the age of 74 I do not know.
Of the number of preventive detention prisoners who were discharged in 1954 and who have been admitted to the third stage, four have been reconvicted, and when we look at those not admitted to the third stage, but who have to serve the full term or five-sixths of their term, out of 83 discharged, 45 were reconvicted. It seems to me that the longer we keep prisoners in these conditions, the worse they become, not the better, and I am convinced, having seen a few prisons in the United States, that the long sentence is not the solution. All the prison authorities are now coming round to the view—and they have had very long sentences in America—that the long sentence will not solve the problem. Therefore, if we are to reduce these figures, we must do something to get some of these prisoners released, and certainly not keep them in conditions which embitter them and make them into worse criminals.
Finally, there is another point on which I want to question the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman has made a statement that he is interested in research, and that he will spend more money on research, but why does he not lift the veil of secrecy from our prisons? Why cannot the Home Secretary do that? I was talking to a prison chaplain in one of 1188 the London prisons, and he said to me, "Of course, I am bound to admit that there are conditions to which I, as a Christian minister, would like to draw attention, but, of course, I am sworn to secrecy. There is the Official Secrets Act, and I cannot talk freely." We never hear these Christian ministers coming out into the open and saying what they think ought to be done in order to rehabilitate a prisoner.
Why not lift this veil of secrecy, and why not allow hon. Members of this House greater freedom to find out the facts? For instance, why did the former Home Secretary prevent me seeing a prisoner and a prison officer in order to obtain the facts which I think are necessary if we are to do our job properly? Why must there be all these petty restrictions?
If I want to find out the facts why should I be prevented from doing so? Why, for instance, did the former Home Secretary prevent a long-term prisoner, a man who had been in prison for many years, from writing to me to give his full impressions of penal servitude followed by preventive detention? I, as a Member of Parliament, had asked him to give me a history of his impressions and an account of his long experience. He applied for six sheets of foolscap paper in order to write that essay for me, and the then Home Secretary, Major Lloyd-George as he then was, refused to allow him to have the paper to do it. The Home Secretary told me he could give me all the facts. But I do not want the Home Secretary's view alone, nor do I want only the view of the Prison Commissioners. Why should not a prisoner be allowed to write his views fully, honestly and frankly to a Member of Parliament, especially when he has long experience?
If the Home Secretary would remove such restrictions as those, I believe that we should have a more open and frank consideration of the problems of our prisons. The prisons would then become more like the mental hospitals today; they are not taboo, and their doors are not closed to the public. We can get reform only so far as we are willing to have the facts and then, from those facts, draw the conclusions which lead us to reform.
1189 I very much regret that even today, with all the improvements for which I am most grateful, our prisons are still manufacturing damaged personalities. For that reason, following the Home Secretary's advanced speech today, I shall look forward to the prospect of some reform and to the hope of our being able to obtain curative results, so that we may cure our prisoners and not rely upon the horrible punitive measures which today are the experience of the mass of prisoners.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Montgomery Hyde (Belfast, North)
It is with considerable diffidence that I follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates), becase he knows a great deal more about penal reform than I do. He has visited more prisons than I have, and, as he told us, in a very discursive and informative speech, he has visited prisons behind the Iron Curtain, also. I do not propose to traverse what the hon. Gentleman has said, except to touch very briefly on three points which he made.
The hon. Member referred to the tradition of secrecy in relation to prisons, which, no doubt, goes back a long way and in which our penal system is still to some extent shrouded. I hope that, with the promise of a "new look" which emerged from the stimulating speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, the last remaining vestiges of this secrecy will, under his regime, be removed so that there can be no possible cause for complaint.
The hon. Member for Ladywood referred to one prison which he visited, in his own constituency, I believe, and quoted certain remarks made by the Society of Friends. Certainly, so far as those comments affect that prison, they are disturbing, and I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary will take note of them. I hope, too, that what the Quakers found in that prison in the way of idleness is confined to that prison and that it cannot be said to be common to all prisons in the country.
The hon. Member for Ladywood referred at some length to earnings. He told us that the average rate was 2s. 3d, a week on flat rate and about 2s. 9d, on piece rate. He might, perhaps, have 1190 added, that these figures can, and do, at any rate, on flat rate, rise to 4s. or even 5s. Admittedly, it is not very much, but before we deride prison earnings we should remember that the favourable comparison which the hon. Gentleman drew with the rate for the job in prisons on the Continent of Europe, including those which he saw in East Berlin, applies to social conditions rather different from those in this country.
A prisoner in the Soviet Zone of Germany is not discharged into anything like the Welfare State conditions which we enjoy. Moreover, he has to pay for various things like stationery and stamps for letters to his family, and also, of course, he has to make provision for his dependants and even for the victim of his crime. All that must, quite naturally, make considerable inroads into his earnings. None the less, it would be a great advance if prisoners here had an opportunity of earning a little more than the comparatively small sums which they can earn today, particularly in the light on the rise in the cost of certain commodities which they would wish to buy, such as sugar, to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
I was very heartened and stimulated by not only the speech of my right hon. Friend but also by the sympathetic speech by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), which followed it. There has not really been a controversial note struck in this interesting and important debate this afternoon. I agree with what has been said by more than one hon. Member, that one of the most encouraging things we have heard is that first priority is to be given to research in the future programme.
Last summer, I had the good fortune and opportunity to attend as an observer the United Nations Conference at Geneva on the Treatment of Delinquency. This conference has taken place each year since 1952, and it is a tribute, if not to our prison system at least to the permanent official at the head of it, the Chairman of the Prison Commissioners, Sir Lionel Fox, that he has in each year since the original conference, been appointed its chairman, At that conference the products of the latest research in European countries and North America are discussed. I hope that my 1191 hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary will perhaps manage this summer to take a week, or a few days, off and look in at this conference, because I am quite certain he would thereby obtain some very valuable hints as to the lines research in this country should take.
There are one or two small points of detail on which I should like to comment. First, under the Subhead B.1, "Prison Staff", we have been told that we still need 1,000 additional officers to introduce a three-shift system into our local prisons, as there was before the war. If my hon. and learned Friend could give some further information about what the Government are planning, it would be most helpful. He told us last Thursday, I think it was, that the prison staff is about 180 below the maximum establishment. That establishment would appear to be not sufficient if we are to have what is required ultimately to return to this three-shift system.
We need in our prisons more staff who are suitably qualified, particularly in the higher ranks. We have been told that the ratio of governors and assistant governors in relation to prisoners is 219 prisoners to one in men's local prisons. We have also been told, however, that in certain prisons this proportion is higher. In Wandsworth, Dartmoor, Stafford, Manchester, Birmingham and Pentonville, the proportion of prisoners to governors and assistant governors is 300 to one. In fact, in Pentonville it is 487 to one. That makes a very startling contrast to the position in Sweden, for instance, where the ratio is only 30 to one.
The way to get the best type of prison officers is to attract people into the ranks by making their job more positive and constructive and less custodial, if I may use that word, than it is today. The aim should be gradually to turn what is now a service run on para-military lines into a profession whose aim is to look after specially difficult people.
Is it really necessary, for instance, to have uniforms in women's prisons? Does not the uniform and all that it implies for wearer and for beholder constitute a negation of the supporting role of the case worker, in which we hope to see more and more of the prison staff?
§ Mr. Tilney
Surely, in women's prisons many of the prisoners wear quite different 1192 clothes. All sorts of different colours are used.
§ Mr. Hyde
My hon. Friend has misunderstood me. I was talking about prison staffs and officers, not the prisoners themselves. I quite agree that rather more has been done about prisoners' clothing in women's prisons than in men's prisons; but I do not wish to be led any further in that digression. Now, probation officers do not wear uniforms. In fact, they stress what is common between them and their charges. By reason of the difference in dress, that is not so in prison.
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied about the training of governors and assistant governors? Should they not at least have training equivalent to that of a probation officer? Are not their charges even more difficult and if treatment is to be really effective do they not require understanding of the motives which cause people to turn to crime? Certainly, that is how probation officers are trained.
What about medical staff. Do we have enough? At present, there are 49 full-time medical officers, of whom only six in the prison service hold the Diploma of Psychological Medicine. Ought not all these prison medical officers to have psychiatric training? I ask my hon. and learned Friend to take particular note of that point.
I turn for a moment to Subhead J, "Aftercare". According to the Estimate, there is a slight increase of £5,000. Following on what was said by the hon. Member for Rossendale, it would be interesting if we could be told what is being done to implement the Report of the Maxwell Committee. I understand that there are fewer than half a dozen full-time trained social workers, yet the Maxwell Committee recommended that there should be at least one for every prison. If the hold-up in this position is coming from the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies, what can be done to bring these societies to heel or are we just to sit down and let nothing be done? Surely, aftercare must be organised so that plans are made, not when a man is about to leave prison, but when he first arrives there, so that the plans can gradually develop and come to fruition during his stay.
What about befriending prisoners after discharge? How much are the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies doing of 1193 that personal case work on which the Maxwell Report laid such stress? How many of them have adopted a selection and training programme for voluntary workers, such as the Marriage Guidance Council has? Again, could not prison visitors be encouraged to do more aftercare with the prisoners with whom they have already established good contacts? And what about the homeless ex-prisoner? Does my right hon. Friend not think that we need more hostels on the lines of Norman House?
Subhead G covers the escort and conveyance of prisoners. It is very satisfactory that one way of moving of prisoners from prison to prison is by motor coach, but when men are sentenced why must we still cling to the old-fashioned Black Maria, which is a stupid and rather cruel anachronism? Reference has been made to the article by Mr. C. H. Ralph, in the New Statesman. In that article, Mr. Rolph quotes a terrifying conversation which he had with a prisoner who spent two or three hours being jolted round from prison to prison in London before arriving at his final destination, unable to sit down comfortably and unable even to get his hand into his pocket. Surely this is something to which my right hon. and learned Friend should pay particular attention.
I am very hopeful that a new era in the approach to prison and penal matters is opening for us in this country. I make one particular appeal to my right hon. and hon. Friends. Let them give a really courageous lead to the country. Do not let them be hamstrung by paying undue attention to the interests of security. Do not let treatment proper be held up unnecessarily in the interests of security. Is it better to make quite sure that a man stays for the full three years to which he has been sentenced in prison and comes out a worse man, or to take some risks and to turn him out a better man? I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will boldly and bravely choose the latter path.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
I think that the Government will certainly agree that they owe some thanks to the Opposition for bringing this subject up for debate today. The hon. Gentleman the 1194 Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Hyde) and I have found ourselves on the same side before on the subject of penal reform, and so, although, to use the customary words, I do not propose to follow him, that is only because I agree with every word that he has uttered.
There has been, fortunately, a good deal of agreement, if not, indeed, unanimity, here today upon this subject. It is a subject which can evoke deep emotion. The people we are discussing are a handful of people—20,000—the prison population; but they are men and women who have suffered deeply for their offences against society and the way that they have been treated in our prisons has never been of the high standard that ought to have marked our treatment of offenders against the code.
We welcome with great warmth the statement made by the Home Secretary today. He brought new imagination to the subject, and new hope to those who have been advocating the cause of prison reform. If he will only implement the speech which he made today he will add another to crown his political career. He has an enormous opportunity to do this work on behalf of a few men. They are only a few. It is not a work which will gain any votes from anybody. It is a completely non-party matter. It is on behalf of a few people who, having broken the law, pay, in my view, a very severe penalty when they enter our prisons.
I turn, first, to the question of preventing people from going into the prisons. The greatest preventative there is against crime, and the greatest deterrent against the commission of another crime, if there has been a first slip, is the stigma of prison. Once a person has gone to prison that great deterrent to the commission of a crime is exhausted.
What a calamity it is, which we who have the duty from time to time of considering whether to send people to prison find, that young people, under 21, who, an Act of Parliament says, should not be sent to prison unless there is no alternative, have, in present circumstances, been remanded in custody to gaol, so that when they go before a judge they bear already the stigma of prison upon them. Though the judge concludes they should be put on probation, nevertheless, they have already been in gaol.
1195 One of the best things that the Home Secretary said today was that he is determined to go on with the remand centre. I know that this country has been through great trials and tribulations since 1939, but in 1948 we passed the Criminal Justice Act, which gave the Government power to build remand centres, and it is really shocking that here we are, in 1957, and there is not yet a single one in the country.
The consequence is that when a young person comes before a judge or magistrate, someone, perhaps, without a good home, and who cannot be accorded bail, the judge or magistrate has no alternative to sending that young person to one of the ordinary gaols, incarcerated there for, perhaps, seven, eight, nine or ten weeks waiting trial at quarter sessions or assizes. The new remand centre ought to be priority No. 1 for the Home Department.
The Probation Service has also an important part to play in keeping people out of prison. That service is, among our public services, another Cinderella. Any service associated with the penal system is a Cinderella. Probation officers do an enormous amount of work. As has already been observed in the debate, they now perform after-care of prisoners released from prison and are overwhelmed with work. It is work which has to be done, but they are not as well paid as they should be, and there are not enough of them. More people could be kept out of prison if the quality of the Probation Service were improved and if the number of the officers was increased.
Much has been said about what happens to the people who go to prison, about what the conditions in the prisons are. A number of educated men have had to suffer terms of imprisonment in recent years. It is fortunate in this sense, that they are men able to describe convincingly what those conditions are. What they have said about them has been embodied in some of the literature of our time, and there it is for those who want to read it. I am sure that the Home Secretary will have read the latest book on the subject by Wildeblood. He has written of his experiences in a gaol not far from here. If the right hon. Gentleman has not read it, I commend it to him.
I shall not go into the details of the state of affairs, though I mention for in- 1196 stance the washing and lavatory facilities and the number available. The conditions in our old gaols are a disgrace to our country. I hope that before long they will be remedied. I am sure that the new Home Secretary, if he makes a hard, perhaps a harsh, drive, can do an enormous amount to improve even the present buildings, which we shall have to put up with for some time to come.
Despite the shortness of time for this debate I feel I must mention the detention centres which have been set up under the 1948 Act. I think that there are now two. The first started was at Kidlington, for juveniles under 17, and the other, at Goudhurst, in Kent, is for people between 18 and 21. There are two being constructed in the North and I hear that there is another under way. Those centres were set up when my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was Home Secretary and we passed that Measure.
I had a certain amount of hesitation about the short, sharp sentence when it was suggested. Having seen it in operation for some years I ask the Home Secretary to look into this question to see whether reform is not necessary. I have visited Kidlington. I am far from happy about this latest penal reform system. I was really distressed when I learned, as I did some time ago, that magistrates were sending conscientious objectors to Kidlington and to other detention centres.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields and I, and another member of the Committee, saw the last Home Secretary about this. I know it is a very difficult matter, because the Home Secretary cannot dictate to magistrates what punishments they should impose. However, if the voice of a Member of this Committee is of any effect, and the voice of the Joint Under-Secretary of State, in commenting, perhaps, on what I say, may be of some effect, then I say that when we allowed these detention centres to be set up we did not envisage the sending of conscientious objectors to them.
A detention centre was intended to deal with a young man who, having once or twice kicked over the traces, was showing signs of the need for some discipline. It was to be a place to which he could be sent for a short period, for three months, six months at the outside, to learn discipline and good habits. I hope that no 1197 more conscientious objectors will be sent there from this day forth.
Reference has been made to the treatment of homosexuals. I believe that a special committee is now studying this matter. Ever since I have been associated with the criminal law, I have believed that there is something fundamentally wrong in dealing with those who commit sexual offences and those who commit crimes against property in exactly the same way and in exactly the same place. I am sure that sooner or later we shall be driven to have special institutions for homosexual cases and sexual perverts of all kinds, where they cannot contaminate other prisoners and can receive psychiatric and other treatment by way of rehabilitation.
I think that I have expressed myself on all the subjects about which I feel deeply, and I hope that we shall be given some more encouragement by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department when he replies to the debate.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I hope to say my few words in three or four minutes so that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle), who has been here throughout the debate, as I have done, may possibly have the opportunity to speak for at least two minutes.
I hope that it will be made clear by the Home Office, which has been described today by the Home Secretary as a social service and which we must look upon as such, that when we speak about the fate of those who transgress against our society we must never forget the staffs who have the burden of looking after them. We shall gladly vote the extra sum for which the Government ask today if it brings about a better service, one which the Home Secretary, in his admirable speech, said would deal with prison problem in an up-to-date way.
The Home Secretary said that the problem changes as society changes. We want the staffs of our prisons to be modern and up to date and to feel assured that we have confidence in them. We cannot have full confidence in them if we do not treat them well. Nor can we treat them in isolation without considering the prisoners. To my mind, there 1198 are not two problems here but one only. Staff and prisoners must be considered together. The fate of the prisoner depends upon the staff and the kind of life that the staff lead must depend upon the reaction of the prisoners to them. I have no time to choose my words carefully, and I hope, therefore, that it will not seem condescending of me to say that a great deal of what has been said on both sides of the Committee today has met with my warm approval.
The Estimate includes an item of £20,000 for the extra cost of milk and bread and "etceteras", which, I take it, means sugar and other items of food. Prisoners "grouse" about their food more than about anything else—not so much about its quality as about the way it is cooked and served.
§ Mr. Simon indicated dissent.
§ Dr. Stross
We want to eat it, too, and then we can speak as firmly to the hon. and learned Gentleman as he seeks to speak to us now. We want to visit these places without people knowing that we are Members of Parliament. I know something about nutrition and about the way people think about their food. I know something about their reactions, their "taboos" and superstitions, and how deeply bound people are psychologically to the food to which they were accustomed as children, whether it was good or bad.
Prisoners go to prison, in the main, because they have offended against society and have not been able to control their own impulses. They have lacked self-discipline. In prison, discipline is enforced upon them and, as the Home Secretary made clear, they are not necessarily encouraged to evolve within themselves the self-discipline which will rehabilitate them. If prisoners "grouse" about their food they should be given some responsibility for their own food. Prisoners might be allowed to form their own committees and the responsiiblity for food might be placed upon them. They should be given an interest in the food. Then, if things went wrong it would be their own fault and if they 1199 grumbled they would be grumbling against themselves.
If my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) had been able to hear the earlier part of the debate, I am sure that, as a former Home Secretary, he would have noted that the whole atmosphere created today has been exactly the same as was the atmosphere in Committee in 1948 when we discussed these subjects and there were no divisions between us and the Whips were not on.
§ 6.37 p.m.
Mr. Charles Hoyle (Salford, West)
I am well aware that the debate must end at seven o'clock and that the Joint Under-Secretary should have adequate time to wind up the discussion. Therefore, I will occupy only a few minutes of the Committee's time. All of us would have been very happy to make much longer speeches on the subject, which only goes to show our tremendous interest in it. We are all grateful for the opportunity of this debate. Above all, we are grateful for the Home Secretary's speech, which was very progressive in every respect. Those of us who have been interested in this subject for a long time have been very greatly encouraged by what the right hon. Gentleman had to say.
The right hon. Gentleman opened the debate by saying that there was no accurate knowledge on the subject, but I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will now believe that some knowledge has come out of the debate. I hope that he will agree that on the knowledge that does exist there is plenty of material for immediate action. I hope that he will see the debate in that light.
The Home Secretary said that a new prison was being built in Everthorpe, near Hull, to house 300 prisoners. I know that it is too late to do anything about that prison now, but I hope that the Home Office, when it comes to building more prisons, will consider whether it would not be more desirable to have a prison capable of accommodating about 150 prisoners instead of 300. In a smaller prison of that kind there could conceivably be a better proportion of responsible officers to the number of prisoners. We might then attain an ideal establishment. A prison of 300 is not bad. Compared with present practice it is very good, but I think that we could do even better when 1200 the Home Office comes to consider building other prisons.
My last point is this. I should be very ungracious if I did not refer to the question of remand centres. Some weeks ago I had the temerity to raise on the Adjournment of the House the question of their provision under my right hon. Friend's Measure of 1948. All interested in the administration of the law have been concerned that his Measure has never been implemented. On that occasion, although it was midnight, I was then able to speak at much greater length on the subject. The Joint Under-Secretary gave me encouragement that night, although it was only by his tone and in no way factual.
This afternoon, however, the Home Secretary has gone further. I hope that I may take some credit for drawing attention to the matter, which has been in the public eye a great deal lately. However, I want to be as gracious as I can in expressing my gratitude and deep thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for the fact that in the next year we are to have the first of those remand centres. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) has just said what I feel; if I had to choose between remand centres or detention centres, I would say," Let us pack up the detention centres and have more remand centres", because I am sure that they would serve the ends of justice much better.
That is all I have to say in view of the limitation of time. I finish as I began, by expressing sincere thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for the progressive speech with which he opened this debate.
§ Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. Is it believed in this House that women know nothing about prisons? I have moved from my place here only once during the afternoon, and that was during the last five minutes. I am the only woman who wanted to speak in the debate and I object to having been kept out of it.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)
I am particularly sorry to have risen and to have cut out of the debate 1201 the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock), who has studied this question so closely, especially as I have been working in close and happy association with her for many months.
It is no empty formula if I say that this has been an exceptionally helpful and constructive debate. Tribute has, I think, justly been paid to the breadth, humanity and vision of my right hon. Friend's opening speech. I confess that it was the prospect of being his lieutenant in the work in this field that so much attracted me when I was offered my present post.
We have welcomed this debate in the prospect that it would furnish us with the ideas of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are deeply interested in this important aspect of our social administration. My right hon. Friend stated that he was ready to examine with an open mind every suggestion put forward for the improvement of the Prison Service. I hope I will not be thought presumptuous if I say that our hope and expectation has been amply justified by today's debate.
We have had a number of interesting and constructive ideas, some looking forward to the shape of prison administration in years ahead, others of more immediate import. My right hon. Friend will be deeply grateful for the suggestions that have been made and, perhaps even more, for the spirit in which they have been put forward. I will not have time to advert to them all. I apologise to the hon. Members concerned and assure them it does not mean that their ideas will not receive consideration. This debate is only a first stage, and I can assure the Committee that my right hon. Friend and I will study and ponder everything that has been said today.
I now turn to some of the specific questions that have been asked. I want particularly to deal with detention centres, as they were not dealt with by my right hon. Friend, and I have been asked questions about them, and with work, psychiatric treatment and aftercare.
First, I want to echo what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) about the importance of men even before 1202 buildings. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) was right in saying that the fact that we have old prisons is a severe handicap, but I know that he would be the first to say that it is the men who man them who are more important. It has been said that a school is a teacher with a building round him, not a building with a teacher inside. Perhaps in view of the demands for security one cannot get as far as that in the Prison Service. Yet it is that aim towards which we should be tending, and to which we are now aspiring.
The point about demands for security leads me to thank the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Body), who, I think, echoed it, that the distance we can go in relaxing security depends tremendously upon public opinion. I am sure that if the public is ready to relax some degree of security in the interests of reform, we can take larger steps forward, but as long as a great degree of security is demanded by the general public—and it is so even with open prisons, however much they are approved in principle, so long as planning permission is opposed by local interests on the ground that these are undesirable in their parish—we are limited in the progress we can make.
There are two other matters on buildings to which I want to advert. The hon. Member for Ladywood referred to the cost of keeping a prisoner at Parkhurst compared with a local prison. The reason is that Parkhurst, being a central training prison, is on a three-shift basis, and that inevitably increases the cost. On the other hand, the local prisons are not yet, unfortunately, on a three-shift basis, which is what we want to get, with the resultant difficulty that we all know about of organising work. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the other central and regional prisons are on about the same basis.
The other matter was that which several hon. Members mentioned, namely, the sanitary conditions in prisons. To some extent their condition is inevitable, considering that most of them date from Victorian times, and that the new prison at Everthorpe will be the first new security prison we have built in this country for fifty years. The Prison Commissioners have this point very much in 1203 mind. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) mentioned Wormwood Scrubs. A major programme in that connection is to be carried out there in the next two years.
I want now to deal with detention centres, because a number of hon. Members asked about them. As has been pointed out, these were set up under the Bill which was piloted through the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). There are now three detention centres opened, two junior centres for boys from 14 to 17 years of age and one senior centre for boys from 17 to 21. A second senior centre will be opening shortly. A third junior and also a third senior centre are planned, and are expected to be ready within the next five years. There are to be two more after that, when the whole country will be covered.
I know that the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) would prefer the effort to be devoted to remand centres. On the other hand, if we now stopped work on these detention centres it would probably mean that we would get neither. as I pointed out to him the other night. The importance of covering the country with detention centres is that we shall then be able to envisage no young person under 21 being sent to prison, which is surely what we desire to see.
I have been asked how far they have been successful. It is far too early to say. Research is already being carried out into their success by Dr. Grünhut, of Oxford, whose work on comparative penal reform is probably known to hon. Members of this Committee. His interim report is contained in the last annual Report of the Prison Commissioners. The figures are by no means discouraging. I will not give the figures, because time is short. It will be some little time before that line of research is completed, and even then it will be a little early to express an opinion. As we are at present advised, on the lines of Dr. Grünhut's research, it is far too early to say that the detention centres have not served their purpose. On the contrary, what we have so far learned about them is fairly encouraging.
I now want to deal with the question of work in prisons. First, there is the 1204 amount of mailbag work. Nobody would pretend that that is the sort of work which one would give prisoners if other work was available. On the contrary, it would obviously be desirable that mailbags made in prison should be sewn by machine instead of by hand. On the other hand, it is far better that prisoners should be working on that than that they should not be working at all.
Unfortunately, orders from Service Departments have shown signs of falling off as the result of the economies which have been taking place. There have been repercussions in the Prison Service. We have thought it more important to spread out the work, undesirable as it is, rather than have even shorter hours of work than at the moment as the result of lack of work, instead of the lack of staff from which we have been suffering so far.
The hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) asked whether the officers in the workrooms were there to keep order or for training. The answer is that all workshops have instructors, and they are usually not prison officers. Those people are present as well as the officer who is there to keep order.
The hon. Member for Deptford and also my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) asked about co-ordination between the Remploy, blind and prison organisations. There has already been co-ordination between those organisations, and meetings have been held. The problem of prison work is a serious one which I can assure the Committee that the Home Office and the Prison Commissioners have very much in mind. As my right hon. Friend said, I have already met the employers. The Prison Commissioners had already been in touch with the trade unions, and I hope to meet them, too. However, one must realise that there are legitimate difficulties in the way of the employment of prison labour.
The falling off in Service orders for work inside prisons makes it still more important that we should have outside work, and it is to that that the main objection has come. Therefore, I welcome most sincerely the offers of good will made during the debate, and I will call on hon. Members who have offered to help in these matters, if there are difficulties which I think can be overcome in that way.
1205 There is one very encouraging experiment. I would emphasise that it is only an experiment. The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) rightly reminded us that we should not jump to conclusions on one piece of work. Nevertheless, the employment outside prison of men in preventive detention at Bristol has shown very encouraging results. Speaking from memory, I believe that, in 1955, of 19 such prisoners discharged only two subsequently had come before the courts. By last year, of 37 discharged only three had come before the courts again. One should not jump to conclusions, because they are selected prisoners, but that is very encouraging indeed.
I have been asked certain questions about psychiatric treatment. We have the Wolfenden Committee, which has the problem of homosexuality under review, and the Royal Commission on Mental Health, on which until recently I have been sitting with the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange, will be making recommendations which must have a bearing on the treatment of psychiatric cases in the prison service. We have great hopes of the work which can be done at the Grendon Underwood prison when it is built. I have not time to go into that matter now, but the 1954 Report shows how the Prison Commissioners envisage that centre will work when we have it in hand. I was also asked about the segregation of homosexual prisoners. Great care is, of course, taken about the segregation of prisoners with homosexual tendencies, to avoid contamination of other prisoners.
Finally, the hon. Member for Rossendale asked me about after-care and the recommendations of the Maxwell Committee. The main recommendations have largely been implemented. The first was that the aid societies should be invited to deepen and develop their interest in the field of voluntary after-care to meet the 1206 individual needs of selected prisoners and to assist their general rehabilitation as citizens, and correspondingly to reduce the emphasis which they have hitherto placed upon immediate material aid on discharge. That has been done in the sense that the aid societies are, or ought to be, fully conscious of the new emphasis on their work.
So far as the welfare officers in prisons are concerned, this has been accepted in principle, and four of the new prison welfare officers are in post at Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Winchester. This is a pilot scheme, and we have, therefore, thought it right, rather than to put individual welfare officers in other prisons, to put a second officer at Birmingham and Liverpool in the next financial year. We shall then see whether the work justifies two officers or even more. The report which I have seen of the work of the welfare officer at Bristol suggests that there is ample work at a big prison for more than one prison welfare officer.
As I feared, I have not been able to deal with all the points made in the debate, and I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will excuse me. However, in considering those points, my right hon. Friend, the Prison Commissioners and I will be genuinely animated by the two leading principles which have for some time now enlightened our prison administration and led to a progressive lessening of its rigours. The first is that a man goes to prison as a punishment and not for a punishment, It will, therefore, be our aim——
§ It being Seven o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair, further Proceeding standing postponed until after the consideration of Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for Taking Private Business).
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.