HC Deb 22 June 1961 vol 642 cc1667-9
24. Mrs. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the continuing shortage of places in remand homes and the undesirable alternative of remanding persons in prison or police stations when it is necessary to retain them under supervision; and what further progress is being made to provide additional places in remand homes.

Mr. Vosper

It is only lawful to remand a young person over 14 to prison if he is too unruly or depraved for a remand home and police stations are not used for remand except where the difficulty of an overnight journey to the remand home makes it unavoidable. My right hon. Friend is very much aware of the shortage of places in remand homes and replies to Questions by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) on 15th June and the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) on 13th April indicated what is being done to relieve the pressure on the remand homes.

Mrs. Hill

Is the Home Secretary aware that a fortnight ago there was only one remand home vacancy in the whole of the country, and that the person involved in the case before the magistrates at the time could not be sent there because it was not a suitable one? Is not the Minister able to do anything, even as a temporary measure, until this peak is passed?

Mr. Vosper

I am very much aware of this problem, especially as it exists in north-west England. I am not unhopeful that the authority which my hon. Friend represents may be able to help us in this respect.

Miss Bacon

Is not the Minister aware that it is not only the north-west of England but the whole of the north of England which is concerned? Children's officers sometimes spend hours on the telephone trying to get places, and sometimes the only place available is as far away as Taunton or Plymouth. In future could not there be some modification of the financial arrangements, so that local authorities were not required to pay quite as much towards the provision of remand homes?

Mr. Vosper

I am aware of the situation referred to in the first part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question. As for financial arrangements, she has a later Question on the Order Paper, but they are not necessarily the only factor which causes difficulty.

Mr. Lagden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the position at the moment is so bad that many magistrates are informed by the clerks of their courts before they hear cases that it will be quite useless to send people to remand homes, because no places exist. Is it not a farcical situation that magistrates should sit in judgment on people knowing full well that they cannot administer the necessary punishment?

Mr. Vosper

I fully accept what my hon. Friend says. This is a serious position, which arises in part from a shortage of places at approved schools. We are taking emergency measures to find extra remand accommodation.

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