HC Deb 04 April 1963 vol 675 cc603-4
2. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further progress has now been made in enabling prisoners to earn adequate wages for work done while they are serving their sentences, in order that they may help to compensate the victims of their crimes and be able to leave prison with fully stamped National Insurance cards.

Mr. Brooke

I have nothing further to add to the full Answer which I gave to the hon. Member on 7th February.

Mr. Driberg

Was not that only an interim Answer? Can the right hon. Gentleman say when some real progress is likely to be made which he can report to the House? In particular, now that the Prison Commissioners no longer exist, will he try to prevent under-cutting of the kind practised by the Prison Commissioners, as reported in today's Daily Mail, in tendering at less than one-eighth of the price required by the Birmingham Blind Workshop for a War Office job?

Mr. Brooke

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would table a Question on the latter point. As to my previous reply being an interim one, I have more than once explained to the House that I am very anxious indeed that a greater number of prisoners should be able to work a full working week, but the bottlenecks are at present lack of workshop space and shortage of prison officers. We are doing everything we can to make good both of these deficiencies.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that this underlines the point raised in the first Question asked today—that it is highly desirable that, in the first place, this compensation should be paid by the guilty party and only in default of their ability to collect should the State itself become liable?

Mr. Brooke

That is one of the matters to which consideration has to be given in relation to the subject of the first Question.

Miss Bacon

Apart from the payment of adequate wages, would the right hon. Gentleman make a statement about the main purpose of the Question concerning fully stamped National Insurance cards, the lack of which militates against a prisoner getting work when he leaves prison?

Mr. Brooke

I am not sure about the latter point, because I do not think that it should be concealed from any employer that a man has come out of prison. For the purposes of insurance, the National Insurance Scheme presupposes the existence of wages and a contract of service. Neither of those exist, at any rate at present, in prisons, so it would be anomalous to stamp prisoners' cards.