HC Deb 21 July 1958 vol 592 cc5-7
15. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Health when he expects to get the report of the Board of Control inquiry into the recent escape from Broadmoor.

23. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the anxieties of local residents about the security measures at Broadmoor, he can now make a statement on the findings and recommendations in the report of the Board of Control on the events at Broadmoor on 8th July.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Though I have not yet received the full report of the Board of Control inquiry, I have received a summary of their main findings. They confirm that the method of escape was as stated in my reply to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) on 9th July, and they found that the saw used by the patient had been introduced into the Institution from outside. They recommend that:

  1. (1) Search of patients after visiting days should be intensified.
  2. (2) There should be no exception to the rule that the siren is to be sounded immediately the escape of a dangerous patient is known.
  3. (3) The strength of the night staff on duty in the Block from which Mitchell escaped should be increased at once.
  4. (4) Alterations to the walls of the Institution to increase their security at strategic points should be begun immediately.
They have already given instructions for the implementation of these recommendations.

Mr. Lipton

Is the Minister aware that the local authorities in the neighbourhood have registered anger and dismay at this recent escape? Is he aware that public confidence will be best restored by an independent inquiry rather than by the Board of Control, which is regarded by the public as being partly at fault and whose approach to this matter must obviously, as the Minister admitted last week, be narrower than an independent inquiry would ensure?

Mr. Walker-Smith

No. Without any disrespect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that perhaps the value of his supplementary question is diminished by the fact that it was evidently prepared before he had heard the answer to which it was supposed to refer. If what he says is right about the reactions of the local authorities, no doubt they will be correspondingly gratified at the speed and effectiveness with which these recommendations are being put into effect.

Mr. Hurd

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the local authorities and residents, who are constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant), have been most reasonable and understanding in this, and that they will welcome the practical measures which are to be taken immediately to improve the security arrangements? Will my right hon. and learned Friend also please see that the further suggestions which have been made by the local authorities and residents in their petition will be fully considered by the Board of Control and, if needs be, have an independent inquiry?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Yes, I will certainly study with sympathy and attention any constructive proposals put forward by the local authorities or residents whose point of view has been most temperately put by my hon. Friend on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant). As for an independent inquiry, I very much doubt whether that could add anything material to what has already been elicited by the Board of Control inquiry in this case.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is there in fact any evidence that escapes from Broadmoor are any more frequent than escapes from various prison institutions? They are rather fewer, are they not?

Mr. Walker-Smith

In fact the converse is the case. Escapes from Broadmoor over a long period are, I think, fewer than escapes from closed prisons.