HC Deb 20 May 1965 vol 712 cc1647-8
9. Mr. Crawshaw

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for providing work of a more worthwhile nature for prisoners in local prisons.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Miss Alice Bacon)

The efficiency of prison industries is being improved to attract more and better work from other Government Departments and private firms. Progress with the prison building programme is making more workshop space available for the organisation of industries on modern lines. Efforts are being made to expand work outside prisons. Detailed plans, based on a pilot study which was recently completed of a typical local prison, are to be made for the provision of work suitable for all types of prisoners.

Mr. Crawshaw

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Would she agree that even the most industrious man, given a sufficiently lengthy period of imprisonment, will lose the will to work, and that it is vitally important if he is to be rehabilitated that he must have every opportunity of doing worth-while work while serving his sentence?

Miss Bacon

I fully agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. I set very great store by the provision of work for prisoners, but I would remind my hon. Friend, as I said in the Answer, that it is not just a matter of the provision of work from outside prison for prisoners to do. Space in some of our older local prisons is sadly lacking.

Mr. Sharples

Can the hon. Lady say what is the average number of hours worked per week in local prisons?

Miss Bacon

Not without notice, but it has considerably increased over the last few years. Quite a number of prisoners are working between 40 and 50 hours a week. Women prisoners seem to work far longer hours than men prisoners because there is no shortage of work for them.

Mr. Orme

Would my hon. Friend say what the attitude of the trade unions is to this matter? They have often been abused in the past as being restrictive, and this has not been true. What is my hon. Friend's experience?

Miss Bacon

Years ago there were some difficulties, but today there are no difficulties at all. The T.U.C. has representatives on a committee which advises my right hon. and learned Friend about work for prisoners, and representative trade unions sit on similar committees in the localities.

Mr. Tilney

Would the hon. Lady consider giving higher pay for such worthwhile work so that money can be put aside to benefit the prisoner when he leaves the prison and possibly to compensate his victim?

Miss Bacon

That is being considered as a result of the report which the working party made some time ago. Until we can provide adequate work in all prisons, it might be unfair to prisoners to introduce such a scheme prematurely because the amount earned would depend, not on the prisoner's skill, but on the work available for him in the prison.