HC Deb 03 December 1963 vol 685 cc981-4

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

70. Sir D. GLOVER

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has completed his consideration of the report on the organisation of after-care made by his advisory council on the treatment of offenders; and whether he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)

With your permission Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will now answer Question No. 70.

Yes, Sir. I have for some time been convinced that an essential part of the campaign against crime must be a more systematic development of after-care, to help those discharged from prisons and other establishments to withstand the temptation to revert to crime.

The Government accordingly welcome the valuable study on the Organisation of After-Care made by the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders, and accepts in principle its recommendations, including its emphasis on the continuing need for voluntary effort as well.

On some specific matters arising from the Report I want to consult further those particularly concerned.

Sir D. Glover

Whilst warmly congratulating my right hon. Friend on his announcement, may I ask him to make it quite clear whether he has in mind a new statutory scheme, or intends to tie the statutory arrangements with the voluntary organisations?

Mr. Brooke

Legislation will, of course, be needed to implement fully the recommendations in the Report, but a great deal of progress can be made in advance of legislation. As the Report makes clear, everything depends on the recruitment and training of suitable staff. In addition, voluntary help will be essential to bring about the success of the scheme, and I should like to express my thanks to all those who, over the years, in voluntary capacities and in the voluntary organisations, have given so much devoted service here. I greatly hope that they will find fresh opportunities under the new structure.

Miss Bacon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I find it very interesting that he should answer this Question by his hon. Friend on this day in this way when he found it impossible to answer a similar Question I put to him just over a week ago? Is he aware that we shall a wait with interest to discover what parts of the Report he intends to accept? As he says, the training of social workers is of the utmost importance. Is he aware that if these recommendations are to be carried out we shall need far more tranied social workers? Can he tell us what steps he is taking to see that these social workers will be trained?

Mr. Brooke

In reply to the first part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question, I was not in a position, 11 days ago, to give her an answer, otherwise I can assure her that I would have done so. These things do not depend on the Home Secretary alone; he has to have consultations both inside and outside the Government. I entirely agree with what the hon. Lady says about the importance of training. If she will study afresh the recommendations of the Report she will see the considerable attention it gives to the various steps that would need to be taken to secure sufficient trained social workers in prisons, and also sufficient probation and after-care workers.

Mr. Dance

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it is also vitally important to give some training to the prisoners themselves? This has been done in certain circumstances in the prisons, where certain firms have set up small workshops in which these men are trained and, in many cases, are employed by the firms after release from prison.

Mr. Brooke

We have, of course, the hostel system whereby prisoners, towards the end of long sentences, while living inside a prison in a hostel, go out to work for private employers on ordinary terms. That is a very important development. I think it even more important to try to get the workshop space in prisons extended, so that we can secure for all prisoners something much more like a full working week in prison than is possible at present.

Mr. MacDermot

I welcome the Home Secretary's suggestion, but is he aware that probably the greatest problem in after-care is finding employment for the discharged prisoner? Will he consult those Government Departments that are themselves employing authorities, and the Departments responsible for nationalised industries, to see whether they cannot give a lead in this matter instead of leaving it to private employers? Is he aware of the very strong criticisms that have been made in the courts in this connection recently?

Mr. Brooke

I am always looking for further opportunities of securing employment for discharged prisoners, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman has any specific suggestions or criticisms to make I very much hope that he will let me have them. It is absolutely true, as he says, that the essential part of the successful after-care of the discharged prisoner is to make sure that he has a job, somewhere to live, and a friend to whom he can turn.

Mr. Lubbock

Will the Home Secretary take an opportunity, at a comparatively near date, to tell us in detail which of the recommendations he accepts? While we are delighted to hear that he accepts them all in principle, we should like to go into the details to a greater extent than is possible at Question Time. In particular, has he accepted Recommendation No. 7, that there should be a single service for probation and after-care, and that its primary function should be reflected in its title?

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the recommendation that encouragement— which, presumably, means financial encouragement— should be given to new after-care projects, such as the establishment of hostels for ex-offenders, which may be established by voluntary agencies?

Mr. Brooke

I am very anxious that we should go forward on both those fronts. I have accepted the recommendation that there should be a single probation and after-care service, but what will happen 50 years hence I cannot tell, because the Report itself visualises that a specialist service for aftercare alone might develop. But I am sure that the right thing is to go forward now with the single probation and after-care service. I used the words "in principle", because I think that I should give opportunities for various bodies and organisations which are closely concerned with, and are very knowledgeable about, the matter, to send me their observations, or to come to see me, if they so wish, about specific points in these recommendations.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.