HC Deb 17 February 1960 vol 617 cc1359-75

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Brooman-White.]

7.5 p.m.

Mr. William Reid (Glasgow, Provan)

. I rise to call the attention of this House to the state of affairs at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow. This prison is situated in my constituency of Provan. Since the beginning of the year, I have received a large number of complaints—(1) allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners; (2) the treatment of a prisoner, one of my constituents, who wished to write to me; (3) the concern of my constituents living in the vicinity of this prison about risks from escapes.

Since the beginning of the year, the happenings at this prison, as reported in the Press, have been astounding—hooch parties, riots, sabotage, assaults, smuggling of whisky, smuggling of cigarettes, and even a plot to murder the governor. This state of affairs is a blot on the fair name of our city and a challenge to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland to take immediate steps to deal with the unsatisfactory state of affairs existing at this prison. The Secretary of State has gone elaborately into these allegations, and I wish to take this opportunity of congratulating him on issuing such an honest and straightforward reply. That reply confirms all the allegations which I have made, although we may differ as to the deductions to be drawn from these facts.

The most serious complaint of all is the one sent to me by a prisoner who is one of my constituents. He made a complaint to me in writing and handed it over to the governor to send on to me as his Parliamentary representative, but that letter never reached me. It was suppressed by the governor. Not only that, but the man was punished for writing it by being put into solitary confinement for six days. These facts have been admitted by the Secretary of State. When I read these admissions, I could scarcely believe the evidence of my eyes. Did anyone in this House ever believe that such a state of affairs—dictatorship in its vilest form—could exist in the greatest democracy the world has ever known? Every citizen in this country has a constitutional right to complain to his Member of Parliament regarding legitimate grievances, but the Governor of Barlinnie says, "Not if I can stop it."

It is alleged that the prisoner, when in solitary confinement, broke all his cell windows. Is it surprising that such a prisoner, being so brutally treated, should go berserk? No one in this House has a greater respect for law and authority than I, but I take the view that prison should be a place for reformation as well as for punishment. Good government should see to it that prisoners are treated with kindness as well as firmness so that when they leave prison they do so determined to go straight and become honest members of society.

One thousand prisoners were confined in their cells for six days in succession. The official reply to this allegation is, "Nothing unusual has taken place". These facts demand an immediate public inquiry into the management and control of this public institution. This prison has outlived its usefulness. It was built eighty-two years ago. When it was built it was out in the country. Now it is surrounded by housing schemes. The inhabitants of those houses are seriously concerned about the happenings there and the possibility of escapes.

I suggest to the Secretary of State that he should agree to the early demolition of this prison. It is now too old to modernise and bring up-to-date. The ground would be eagerly snapped up by Glasgow Corporation on which to build houses in an area where there is a clamant need for them. A new prison could then be built in some country district far removed from this great city's teeming population. I seriously and strongly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to agree to a public inquiry to dispel the fears and anxieties of a great mass of our city's population.

There is one other constitutional point that I wish to put to you, Mr. Speaker. Is it not a breach of Privilege for a governor of one of Her Majesty's prisons to retain, suppress and confiscate a letter handed over to him by a convict to send to his own Member of Parliament? Should this matter not be reported immediately to the Law Officers of the Crown?

Mr. Speaker

The concluding words of the hon. Member appear to be addressed to me. I do not think it would be right to take up the time of the House about it now because, if a matter of Parliamentary Privilege were to arise on the matter he raises, he will appreciate that he is speaking of something which happened some time ago—this alleged suppression of a letter. Therefore, from my point of view the matter would not have been raised at the first possible opportunity.

7.14 p.m.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I understand that the procedure is that a prisoner is entitled to ask for a form so that he can write a letter. I understand that he cannot send that letter to the Secretary of State or to anyone outside without it being censored by the governor. If that is the case, is there not sufficient control over the letters without the governor having the power to prevent that letter coming beyond the Secretary of State to the Member of Parliament?

I think that this point was raised some years ago by Mr. McGovern, who used to be a Member of this House and who had some problems about Peterhead. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. W. Reid) is raising a much bigger question about this prison tonight.

I went to Polmont when I was P.P.S. to Mr. Tom Johnston, to look at what was happening there, where people were to be reformed. At that time there was a great deal of violence taking place among the prisoners. I was of the opinion, having some knowledge of the subject, that shutting up these virile young men in cells at five o'clock at night automatically raised resentment and left them for long evenings to do nothing but nurse grievances.

I suggested at that time that their energy ought to be used in something else, that their cells ought to be opened and physical recreation and other education provided, and that they should be treated as human beings so that when they came out they would at least have been acclimatised to behaving properly. When they were under control they could be educated to proper behaviour, because many of them were like children.

These reforms were carried out and I am very glad that they have been extended. I was also anxious, when I had the responsibilities which the Secretary of State now has, to try to get some of these reforms introduced into the prisons themselves. I am very glad that some of the governors were anticipating this by allowing people to engage in normal work. In Perth Prison, at that time, many prisoners were allowed to go out and work in the open country, under guidance, on parole. To a large extent that was successful. Since then the right hon. Gentleman has inaugurated an open prison in Kirkcudbrightshire. I understand that that has been quite successful so far as it has gone.

I believe that the time is coming when much more of this must be done. If people are shut up in cages they develop all sorts of grievances against society and against the warders. Bad blood develops and the kind of violence which my hon. Friend has explained often results. Sometimes a prisoner and a warder become positive enemies, just because they get on each other's nerves. A great deal of the violence my hon. Friend has mentioned arises simply because of this solitary confinement and because of the conditions inside prisons of that kind. One of these days the Secretary of State ought to make a policy statement about the general development of prisons.

There is nothing like fresh air for getting rid of bad blood. I agree with what my hon. Friend said. It would be much better if we got prisoners away to one of the islands off the West Coast that are used for sporting purposes. There they could engage in open air work and do something to restore the land to its proper use. It would be a civilising medium for many of these prisoners. Many of them have been brought up in slums and have had no experience of the countryside and fresh air.

Many years ago my German professor used to tell me how the Germans had been working on this problem. I was anxious to see if we could adopt something of the same kind. They built a house for the prisoners, who reclaimed land from peat. After they had reclaimed the land the house which the prisoners had built became a farmhouse and the land became a farm. The prisoners moved on to reclaim more land. We have a great deal of land of that type in Scotland and methods of reclaiming it have been found. If the prisoners could be out doing a useful job such as this. instead of being shut in prison, many of the episodes and incidents to which my hon. Friend referred might be avoided.

In addition, there ought to be some selection of prisoners. Obviously, they are not all criminals. People who are sent to prison for some offences are never likely to be violent. They will accept their punishment. That is the type of man who is being moved to an open prison. There ought to be more accommodation of that kind, and many of these out-of-date institutions ought to be closed. It would be a great step if this institution were taken at least some distance out of Glasgow. The only difficulty is that my hon. Friend might find that the relatives who want to visit their sons and husbands in prison would find it inconvenient to travel to the Western Isles, but whether that would not be an additional reason for taking the prisoners to the Western Isles is a matter for consideration.

Our prisons are not in a good condition. We have seen many escapes, both in England and in Scotland. The warders' conditions have a little to do with this, and there may be a shortage of warders. Has the Minister sufficient warders? Is he getting the right type of people to be warders? Is he giving them the necessary remuneration to compensate them for being themselves virtually prisoners? When a warder is in prison he is almost as much a prisoner as the criminal himself.

Conditions ought to be such that these people can live in a certain amount of good will, because if enmity develops then danger results and anything may spark off a tragedy in prison which everyone would regret. I hope that the Secretary of State will go beyond explaining the details of the Barlinnie incidents and will tell us whether he has any positive reforms to propose, or whether he is considering any positive reforms, to bring about a better state of affairs.

7.23 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

I understand very well the very proper concern of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. W. Reid) about what has been happening in Barlinnie, and I appreciate the way in which he put the matter before the House. I am, however, anxious to keep this matter in its proper perspective, because it can get a little out of perspective if we do not try to explain in a little detail what happened, what led up to it and what is the position today. I hope, therefore, that the House will forgive me if I seek to cover a certain width of ground, which I think will meet some of the points made by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn).

I do not propose to devote much time to the incidents at Barlinnie in the New Year, because when I wrote to the hon. Member on 3rd February I set them out in considerable detail, and I understand that, with his agreement and mine, that letter received considerable publicity. What I had written to him became common knowledge.

Summarising what happened, there was a group of incidents over the New Year period which began with the insertion of shirt buttons into the locks on cell doors. As far as I can guess—and this has been said on a television programme by somebody who is in a position to know, although I do not know whether the hon. Member saw the programme—this was probably intended as a Hogmanay prank. It started like that. After prisoners whose cells were thus put out of use had been allocated to others, there were two disturbances, but the normal running of the prison was resumed on 4th January and eleven prisoners were awarded punishments, ten of them by the Disciplinary Sub-Committee of the Visiting Committee. The other one was dealt with by the Governor.

Between 25th and 27th January there were further disturbances and demonstrations; and communal dining, working and recreation were suspended for the majority of prisoners on 28th January. Normal routine was restored again by 4th February. Hon. Members will realise that the suspension of communal activities may well be necessary for the good running of the prison when there is unrest among prisoners. It is obvious that the inhabitants of Barlinnie are by their nature not the most law-abiding of our citizens in Scotland.

Three prisoners were punished, all by the visiting committee, in connection with these incidents. Another man, who has been transferred to Aberdeen Prison on route to Peterhead, has appeared before the visiting committee there and has been awarded punishment.

The point which I wish to make is that although there have been disturbances, only a very small minority of the prison's population of 1,100 were involved and only fifteen prisoners were put on a disciplinary charge. Step have, of course, been taken to make some of the things which were done, such as interfering with the lights, more difficult in future. As I have stated, certain prisoners have been awarded punishments by the disciplinary subcommittee of the visiting committee.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

The right hon. Member speaks of punishments being "awarded". It is rather strange that prisoners should be "awarded" punishment. Surely punishment is inflicted?

Mr. Maclay

I should not like to argue a point of wording. "Awarding" punishment is a phrase which I have known all my life, certainly since it was awarded to me good and hard. I think it is a normal phrase.

Certain prisoners have been awarded punishments—I think "inflicted" has a different meaning—by the disciplinary sub-committee of the visiting committee. Perhaps I should make it clear that the full committee consists of thirty-eight members appointed by twenty-nine local authorities with, in addition, two ladies appointed by myself. I will repeat that because it is very important to realise what the visiting committee is. There are thirty-eight members appointed by twenty-nine different local authorities plus, at the moment, the two ladies I have mentioned. The hon. Member for Provan has served on this Committee in the past, I think, and certainly the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), who is not in his place, has served on it.

The full committee is meeting later this month to consider reports by the sub-committee, and I have asked it to report to me on the general situation in the prison as disclosed by these incidents. I shall be very glad to tell the House the Committee's conclusions if the hon. Member will put down a Question in a week or two. Perhaps I can discuss that with him. It might also help if I reminded the House of the statutory rules.

Mr. Woodburn

It might be difficult to obtain evidence from people who are still in prison. Would it not be a good idea to find out from some people who have been there, ex-consumers, so to speak, what they think about the prison and whether there are things which ought to be put right?

Mr. Maclay

I think that it is better for me to await what I shall learn from the visiting committee before making any comment or giving any indication of what I might do afterwards.

It might help the House if I reminded hon. Members of the statutory rules, approved by Parliament, under which the visiting committee works. I am doing this deliberately because I feel that the visiting committee's part in these matters, probably inadvertently, has been denigrated in recent weeks. It is a very important body drawn from a very wide selection of local authorities and from men of the highest integrity. They are doing a difficult job only because they know that it must be done. They are completely dispassionate in their approach to the problem.

The Prison (Scotland) Rules, 1952, provide that the governor may, with the Secretary of State's approval, report serious offences against prison discipline to the visiting committee, and that the visiting commitee may, if it wishes, delegate the duty of hearing them to a sub-committee. The Barlinnie visiting committee has a disciplinary sub-committee by which the cases arising this year have been heard. The governor may be present to explain the charge against the prisoner or, as sometimes happens, to give information about his record, which may well be in the prisoner's favour and need not necessarily be the other way. The governor attends, however, only by the permission of the committee, and the committee can ask him to withdraw at any time.

I have dealt with this point, although it was not raised by the hon. Member, because there has been some discussion whether the governor should be present on these occasions. I repeat that the governor attends only by permission of the committee and that the committee can ask him to withdraw at any time. This applies equally if the committee is hearing a prisoner's complaint against a member of the staff. The Rules provide that the visiting committee shall have free access … to all prisoners and may see any such prisoners as they desire, either in their cells or in a room out of sight and hearing of prison officers". The hon. Gentleman mentioned a matter which is causing considerable concern, namely, the arrangements governing the writing of letters by prisoners to Members of Parliament. The prison Standing Orders on this subject provide as follows: Complaints about prison treatment in letters to Members of Parliament will not be allowed unless the prisoner has already exercised his right of making his complaint through the appointed channels, that is, by seeing a member of the Visiting Committee, or petitioning that Committee, and/or petitioning the Secretary of State. So long as a petition about prison treatment is outstanding he will not be allowed to write about the same matter in a letter to a Member of Parliament. The principle behind this Standing Order was adopted over ten years ago and was explained to the House by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) on 29th July, 1949. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I quote his words, because what he said is very relevant.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

It is on the record.

Mr. Maclay

I wondered if the right hon. Gentleman could bear to hear it again.

Mr. Ede

It was phrased in the way it was partly to protect Members of Parliament as well as prisoners.

Mr. Maclay

In explaining the arrangements which are now followed the right hon. Member said: … if a prisoner is to be allowed to use a letter to a Member of Parliament for the purpose of making complaints about his treatment, which he would not be allowed to make in an ordinary letter, and which he has never made to the prison authorities"— that is the important point— the result would be that a prisoner could by-pass the appointed channels for the investigation of such complaints, and could make with impunity the most malicious and unfounded allegations against particular officers. This seems to be most undesirable and likely eventually to undermine the authority of the Visiting Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1949; Vol. 467. c. 182.] The question of prisoners' letters to hon. Members has subsequently been raised in the House, I think on four occasions. To quote only one of these, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary stated on 21st November, 1957, that he saw no reason to depart from the judgment of the right hon. Member for South Shields in this matter. I have looked at it afresh in the light of what has been going on, and I confess that I still think that this is the right conclusion to reach.

I must admit that Barlinnie, like nearly all prisons, is at present overcrowded. The prison has accommodation for 969 male prisoners in single cells, but a few larger rooms of varying size can be used. About two years ago the number of admissions rose sharply and has since remained at a level much higher than for many years. The highest figure we reached was 1,215 a year ago today. At present the population is kept at a fairly constant level of about 1,100. We have got it down, but I do not deny that the prison is still overcrowded. Overcrowding has been alleviated to some extent by the reconditioning in 1959 of a hall at Perth Prison to which groups of prisoners who would normally be retained in Barlinnie are transferred as necessary. The position should be further improved once a hall of about 130 cells at Peterhead Prison, disused for many years, is reconditioned and brought into operation. That is hoped to be towards the end of this year.

Another way of relieving pressure is to keep offenders out of prison altogether. In this way the construction within the next few years of a remand centre for young people and a remand prison for persons awaiting trial or sentence should further ease the position. Plans for these establishments are now in preparation, and a site is under consideration. As I said in reply to a Question yesterday, the Scottish Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders has been considering the questions of short terms of imprisonment and custodial sentences on young offenders, and its reports will be published as soon as possible. I assure the House that we think ahead the whole time on this problem.

The fact is that there was one of these periodic waves in crime which seem to happen. We are all struggling desperately to discover why they happen and to ensure that they do not happen again. There are signs that at the moment we are at least on a plateau. The trend is not rising. We have steadied it. We hope that we shall begin to see signs of a fall, but it is very difficult to forecast.

Although the overcrowding at Barlinnie will be relieved in the ways I have described, I cannot contemplate closing the prison in the near future. I understand very well that householders near Barlinnie should feel some apprehensions about their large neighbour, but I am sure that so far there is no evidence that there is any real cause for alarm. As I said in my letter to the hon. Gentleman, at no time during last month's incidents was the security of the prison in danger, and, although there have been seven escapes from Barlinnie during the past three years, including the man who absconded last month and gave himself up the same day, there is no record during this period of any prisoner escaping from Barlinnie having attempted to break into any of the private houses in the neighbourhood.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman tried to suggest that the discipline exercised by the governor and his staff is too strict or too lax. He did not make that point. I am not clear whether he has any charges on discipline. This is one of the questions which doubtless the visiting committee will examine when it meets at Barlinnie later this month. I am sure that the House will agree with me that the task of maintaining good order in a penal establishment on the basis of humane treatment is very difficult and that prison governors and prison officers of all ranks deserve all the support that hon. Members can give them in doing their duty in accordance with the high standards expected of them. I am therefore very glad to be able to assure the House that the reports made by members of the visiting committee after each of twenty visits to Barlinnie last year are uniformly good, and that the last one dated 23rd December explicitly commends the satisfactory manner in which discipline was maintained, and the efficiency and courtesy of the administration. It is only right to put that on record.

I should not like to end without recalling the aims which guide the staff in its treatment of prisoners. Rule 5 of the Prison (Scotland) Rules, 1952 says: … the purposes of training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall be to establish in them the will to lead a good and useful life on discharge, and to fit them to do so". The object is to inculcate habits of personal hygiene and steady application to work, and, by providing opportunity for prisoners to mix together for a large part of the day while at work, at meals and during leisure time, to instil a sense of self-discipline and responsibility towards their fellows. I hope that the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire will feel that we have the same objectives in this respect as he had in his mind when he had my responsibilities.

Every endeavour is also made to clear up, while a man is in custody, any personal or domestic difficulties which may impede his training and prospects of rehabilitation. The senior staff on the discipline side, the chaplain or visiting clergyman, the medical officers and the welfare officer are all available for approach and assistance on matters of this kind.

I hope that the House will not feel that I am ranging too wide, but it seemed to me to be essential on this occasion to put the whole matter in perspective—not to shirk any of the incidents which have occurred, but to try to explain what we are doing. All this work is done by an adequate but not excessive number of staff, who depend not on rigorous supervision but mainly on moral influence. The right hon. Gentleman asked me if this was a problem of staffing. I am advised that it is not and that the prison is up to establishment. I have been able to visit several prisons during my term of office, and I have always been extremely impressed by the very fine quality of the prison officers I have met on these occasions. That has been universal whenever I have visited prisons.

As the prison staff work so much by way of moral influence and not of repression or with excessive numbers, it is not surprising that they have to face disturbances or New Year pranks of this kind. It is also not surprising if discharged prisoners sometimes take exaggerated reports of such doings out of the prison and give them to the Press. I think that we should keep our eyes not on these incidents, but on the wider objectives of criminal justice. I know that it is not easy to do so, particularly for the daily Press which must be interested above all in news. At the same time, I acknowledge that on occasions the Press has been very helpful indeed. I give as an instance the articles published by the Scotsman last month on the open prison at Penninghame. They were a very useful contribution towards explaining what we are all trying to do.

It is at Penninghame that we see the last stage of "training for freedom" for selected prisoners. Frankly, this is the object of all prison administration; to train the offender so that he will use his freedom, when he regains it, for the good of society. It is one to which the Government intend to give continuing attention, both in the running of the prisons and other institutions and in examination of the causes of crime and the best ways of treating it.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Provan (Mr. Reid) has raised this subject, and I hope that he will feel that I have tried to deal frankly with the points he has raised.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The Secretary of State for Scotland quoted from words I used in 1949 in defence of the policy which I, in conjunction with the then Secretary of State for Scotland, adopted when we had this similar trouble about letters from prisoners to Members of Parliament. There is no need for me to attempt to amend any of the statements I then made because, as I said when interrupting the right hon. Gentleman tonight, it is sometimes as necessary to protect Members of Parliament from undue correspondence on these matters as it is to watch the interests of the prisoner.

From what the right hon. Gentleman said, I gather that if any letter was suppressed in this case it was because it was written, as one might say, prematurely, that is to say, before the channels open inside the prison had been used to attempt to secure redress. It is important that that should always be clearly understood. It should be clearly understood that no offence is committed by the prisoner if, after having exhausted all those opportunities, he still feels that he has a genuine grievance. No proceedings will be taken against the man who, having exhausted what one might call the internal facilities, desires to use his Member of Parliament to ensure that he shall not be unjustly treated, if the Secretary of State believes that there has been some failure in the action of the visiting committee.

That is making no criticism of visiting committees. They are exceedingly conscientious and public-spirited people who, in my experience, do a very great deal toward seeing that justice is done within the scope of the prison regulations. We all know that most of us desire law for other people but justice for ourselves—and sometimes we are very lucky when we escape getting what we wish for.

I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) in what he said about the future of prison life, and the opportunities for making it more suitable for enabling men who have been sentenced to prison to get out of their experiences a sense of personal responsibility for their lives. The most depressing thing in what the Secretary of State has said this evening is that he is bringing back into use some of the accommodation in Peterhead that has been out of use for a considerable number of years—

Mr. Maclay

I may say that it will be very much improved.

Mr. Ede

And it can do with it.

I am quite sure that all who have been actively associated with these responsibilities realise how much we are hampered by the fact that, in the main, we have to use buildings that were constructed when the whole attitude towards imprisonment was different from what it is today. I hoped very much that before I left office Dartmoor would be a thing of the past. I understand that there are now proposals by which it is hoped that the present Dartmoor Prison will be discontinued.

My right hon. Friend spoke of prisons being put in the country. There is much to be said for that, but staffing problems become much more acute once we get our prisons in the country. The prison officers, their wives and children are put in positions that very often make their social life very difficult to maintain. I once visited Dartmoor Prison unexpectedly. I took good care that I got there before news of my being in the neighbourhood spread around. When I presented myself at the door of the prison and said who I was, the gentleman who looked at me through the wicket gate said, "Oh yes?"

I there had an interview with officials of the Prison Officers' Association. To be eight miles from a doctor and for one's children, if over 11 years of age, to have to go at least that distance to get a secondary education, is imposing on these people conditions that make men reluctant to go there, or to serve there for very long. I sincerely hope that the Home Secretary will be able to find some site other than Dartmoor for the security prison that will have to replace the present building.

I join with my right hon. Friend in expressing the hope that more employment may be provided from which the prisoner can get satisfaction; that the work shall not consist merely of routine jobs that are obviously made so that the person shall be doing something rather than doing nothing. When I visited Dartmoor I saw six men doing an obviously made-up job because I was there. I said, "If I were not here, those six men would be doing nothing. Let them go and do it as well as they would have done it had I not been here".

Perhaps the House will allow me to give an example of what can be done to give men the sort of job from which those who have had no great skilled training in any occupation outside of prison can get some satisfaction, and realise that there is some satisfaction to be got out of a useful job. Hon. Members will recollect that towards the end of the war there was an explosion in an underground arsenal that had been constructed near Burton-on-Trent. The explosion was very violent, there was considerable loss of life, and the whole surface of the earth round about was so disturbed as to be rendered quite useless for most ordinary purposes.

The then governor of Stafford Gaol thought that this would be a good opportunity for outside work for his prisoners, and sent a small party of, I think, fourteen men. They lived on an antiaircraft site in three huts that had been used by the Army. They were there for nearly two years. Of those men, thirteen had been unskilled labourers, and the other man was a draughtsman—not a Parliamentary draftsman, but an architectural draughtsman. He drew a plan of the site as it was, another plan of the site as it was to be when the job was completed, with the terrain restored to its proper use, the roads reinstated, the houses rebuilt, the trees planted and all the rest. At the end of each week he brought the second plan up to date, so that the men could see how they were working towards the end that had been designed for the place.

The greatest difficulty of this experiment was that local people taking an interest in it would break the rules by presenting the prisoners with tobacco. There are occasions when Lord Nelson's principle of turning a blind eye has to be adopted in circumstances which one would not be able to defend in this House, but which one would be able to defend if one were before an even greater tribunal than this one. During the whole of that time, although the men could walk out of the site at any moment, only one man tried to escape and that was in the first fortnight before the experiment really started.

I wish that the Prison Commissioners were able to find similar opportunities in which work that produces results that men can see from the beginning towards the calculated end could be made more plentiful for these men. I am quite sure that it is that sort of thing which has the best reformative effect upon many people who, for one reason or another, have never had the opportunity of getting into that frame of mind when they are dealing with their own problems.

I understand that, in conjunction with the Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland is considering the whole question of penology and the surroundings of crime in this modern, affluent society, as we call it. I hope that they will be able to get from their colleagues the appropriate buildings in which to house people and get the appropriate staff. I am quite sure that there is nothing more likely to bring people into this service than the belief that, if they give their life to this work as a vocation, the surroundings in which they have to do their work will be brought up to date.

We have to face the fact that there has been no great building of prisons during the last fifty years, that our ideas regarding the treatment to be given to people have changed and that the standard of education of the least educated people who get into prison is very much better than it was 100 years ago before, in the case of England, compulsory education had been adopted by the State.

If there is one part of our social services which needs an enlightened view to be taken of the service itself and of the buildings in which it is conducted, it is the Prison Service. I wish the right hon. Gentleman and the Home Secretary every success in their efforts to enable that state of affairs to be brought about.