§ 4.27 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Report of the Inquiry into Prison Escapes and Security (Command Paper No. 3175).The Mountbatten Inquiry was set up on 24th October last year in the immediate aftermath of the escape of George Blake. In asking a figure as distinguished as Lord Mountbatten to undertake the inquiry I was considerably influenced, not merely by the Blake escape, but by my own uneasiness about prison security generally. It was not that the number of escapes was increasing. For closed prisons, which is the most significant figure, we have not since got near to the peak of 114 for 1961.
The final figure for England and Wales, for 1966, with a prison population about 15 per cent. above that for 1961, was 86, which was higher than the 78 for 1965 but lower than the subsidiary peak of 93 for 1964. Nor do the figures for total escapes and abscondings, despite the flurry at the end of the year, show any significant recent increase. What was worrying, therefore, was not a sudden deterioration but the fact that a bad security situation had persisted for a long time.
This contained at least two dangers. First, it was bound to be bad for the morale of prison officers—a very heavily burdened body of men. When prison escapes dominate the news to the extent that they have done at times in the recent past, it is not altogether pleasant being Home Secretary. But I suspect that it is a good deal worse being a prison officer, particularly at one of the gaols which is attracting most attention, and where the most difficult problems have to be faced.
Secondly, it is inevitable that if our general prison security is indifferent we shall lose some prisoners who are either of considerable importance to the State or a real menace to the public. I am, therefore, quite sure that, contrary to the view which some right hon. Gentlemen opposite took at the time, it was right to charge the Mountbatten Inquiry with the 829 general problem as well as with a specific inquest into the Blake escape. I never saw the one as being the enemy of the other and I found it difficult to understand why anyone who has read the Report would now take this view.
Lord Mountbatten conducted a searching inquiry into Blake, and to believe that a judicial inquiry could have told us more would demand an even greater respect for judges than I, at least, possess. I do not intend to go into great detail about the escape of George Blake, which was debated very fully on 31st October. If there are any particular points on Blake which hon. Members wish to raise I shall be glad to deal with them when, with the permission of the House, I answer the debate tonight. I made no secret of the fact, in my speech on 31st October, that serious mistakes have been made. the most basic being the fact that Blake was at Wormwood Scrubs at all. The House will have noted in the Mountbatten Report the conclusion that Wormwood Scrubs as constructed and administered had little chance of holding Blake once he had determined to go. To that extent, Blake's escape was a particularly striking example of how out-of-date prison buildings, coupled with mistakes in the categorisation of prisoners, lead almost inevitably to escapes.
But Lord Mountbatten, in one of the swiftest and most vigorous investigations which can be recalled, did more than deal with Blake. He also provided, with the help of Mr. Robert Mark, a detailed investigation into the case of Frank Mitchell, as well as into that of certain other notorious escapees of the past three years. Still more important, however, he provided an analysis, at once ruthless and humane, of the problems of the modern prison service, and a blueprint for its improvement in future.
To have done all this within two months was a remarkable achievement, and I think that the House and the nation are once again deeply in the debt of Lord Mountbatten. In addition, I believe that we would wish to extend our gratitude to the three assessors who worked so closely and energetically with him. The analysis pinpointed the difficulty of trying to run a modern penal policy within a framework of buildings constructed mostly 100 years or so ago 830 for an entirely different sort of regime and with a prison service which had suffered from a good deal of neglect from successive Governments.
The blueprint took the form of 52 recommendations. I immediately announced that I hoped to be able to carry out almost all of them and I think that it can be said that we have not, so far, made bad progress. Within two or three weeks of the Report's publication, despite the intervention of the Christmas holidays, we had set 34 of the recommendations in train. This was partly but not wholly because we had already been thinking and working along the lines of the Report.
We have, for instance, already been working on the more effective categorisation of prisoners along the lines of recommendations 1, 4, 5 and 11. We were, therefore, able to start on a scheme very quickly and within two weeks from now this will be brought into full effect as regards new prisoners. It will inevitably take time to complete the assessment of those already in prison, but a review has already been completed of prisoners in the categories of highest risk—category A, and the borderline between category A and category B. Where necessary, transfers have been ordered to make the best possible use of such highly secure accommodation as exists at present.
The Mountbatten recommendations on categorisation need to be read in the light of Lord Mountbatten's general statement that the 19th century buildings, particularly when there is severe overcrowding, will inevitably enable some prisoners to escape. Account should also be taken of his view that it is not unreasonable for certain risks to be taken in allocating prisoners to open prisons. The principles on which we have been working took into account not only the likelihood of an escape being attempted by a particular prisoner, but also the seriousness of the consequences if his escape were successful.
I must, however, give two warnings to the House. The first is to stress that no system of categorisation will ever be perfect. We shall make the best possible judgments we can on the basis of expert and experienced advice, but we shall have to do so on the basis that, if category A, the maximum security category, is to 831 have real meaning, it must be used very sparingly. That means that some pretty ugly characters will be in category B—and rightly in category B, because they could only be in category A at the expense of moving from that category some still notorious or potentially menacing prisoners.
There may be occasional misjudgments, and what may seem good judgments when they are made and would be held by the House and the public to be very good judgments in the vast majority of cases in which they work out well, may look very bad judgments in the tiny minority of cases in which they go wrong. The difficulties of categorisation are well brought out in that section of the Report dealing with the case of Frank Mitchell. This section exposed certain abuses relating to the so-called "honour party" at Dartmoor.
That party was immediately called in, as, for a short time, were the other outside working parties. The honour party, as opposed to the other outside parties, has not since been resumed, although it will be as soon as arrangements for better supervision are made. Lord Mountbatten thought it a mistake that Mitchell was allowed on the honour party, as the House will recall, not because of his record, but because he had not been given a release date.
I agree with that. But Lord Mountbatten also thought that there was much to be said for allowing Mitchell on a more closely supervised working party outside. This, he thought, would have been the logical development of decisions made about Mitchell's treatment over a number of years. This greater supervision on a normal outside working party would have avoided Mitchell's indulging in most of the headline-catching abuses, but it would not necessarily have prevented his escape.
No outside working party can approach conditions of really close security; yet if Mitchell had been treated strictly in accordance with the ex post view of this independent inquiry, his escape would still have attracted great public concern and some substantial criticism. However, had his treatment gone well—the treatment of many men with pretty horrible records does go very well—there 832 would, of course, have been no public acclaim or notice, merely a certain sense of quiet satisfaction among some devoted and courageous members of the prison department and the prison service.
This illustrates the dilemma inherent in any system of classification. I can assure the House that I have many such dilemmas on my hands at present. Decisions which look perfectly sensible when taken, quickly cease to look sensible if they go wrong.
The second warning which I must give the House relates to our present lack of adequately secure prison accommodation. Lord Mountbatten went so far as to say that we have no really secure prison, and there was some evidence that a number of prisoners immediately took him at his word. We do, of course, have the three maximum security blocks at Dartmoor, Leicester and Parkhurst, and I am ensuring that, subject to keeping the minimum of elbow room for high security new arrivals, we are using these to the full, but they are not really suitable for long-term confinement. A very delicate balance has to be struck, as was perhaps illustrated at Durham last week, between the demands of strict custody in unsuitable accommodation and the avoidance of dangerous tensions.
It is, therefore, crucially important to press ahead with the building of the new maximum security prison in the Isle of Wight. This was dealt with in recommendations 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 29, 42 and 45, of the Mountbatten Report——
§ Mr. Mark Woodnutt (Isle of Wight)
Although Lord Mountbatten is doubtless correct to say that no prison is secure, would the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that these top security blocks within the prisons at Parkhurst, Leicester and Durham are highly secure, as it might give rise to a good deal of gloom and despondency otherwise?
§ Mr. Jenkins
Lord Mountbatten, of course, made his own judgment. These are the most secure accommodation we have, and we believe them to be pretty secure. We have not lost anybody from them, but, as I stressed to the House, they are unsuitable for long-term confinement and this is our problem. But, of course, they do offer conditions of pretty high security. There is no question about that at all. 833 The eight recommendations of the Mountbatten Report which I mentioned by their nature stand outside the 34 which we were able to put into operation almost immediately. They relate to the maximum security prison which has to be built in the future. This prison, in Lord Mountbatten's view, cannot be completed before June, 1969. It will be a hard struggle to meet this date, but I am determined that we shall do our very best.
The decision to build the prison had been taken before the inquiry was begun. Final decisions were deferred in case the Report recommended other arrangements. The endorsement of the Home Office proposal in the Report, however, has enabled work to be resumed at once, but the original plan to provide 80 places has been amended in the light of the new assessment of the number of prisoners who need maximum security, and there are now to be 120 places which, to begin with, should provide a small reserve.
If the present volume of crimes of extreme gravity continues, or even increases, a second maximum security prison may be needed. Some preliminary study has been undertaken of its location. Perhaps; I could conveniently add, even though this belongs in some respect to a different group of recommendations relating to the prison service, that the recommendation that there should be a small allowance for duty in the new maximum security prison has been accepted in principle, as has the recommendation that tours of duty there should be short. In the meantime, however—but not merely in the meantime, for we will always have substantial numbers of potentially dangerous prisoners who do not quite qualify for Category A—it is essential that we press on with improving physical security at most of the existing closed prisons. There are a large number of recommendations—I think 17, to be precise—leading to this point.
The measures being taken to improve the physical security of prisons are concentrated on making the perimeter walls themselves more secure, installing devices which will give early warning of any attempt to breach or climb the wall, and communication systems which will enable reserves of manpower, both prison officers and police, to be directed urgently to the point at which an attack is being 834 made, whether from the inside or from the outside.
A survey has been completed of the perimeter walls of all closed prisons. Over many years—in some cases over a century—buildings have been put up either abutting the prison walls or adjoining them, which compromise their effectiveness as a barrier to ecape. Some of these constructions can be got rid of at comparatively little cost. Others involve longer-term projects before the prison wall can be considered secure, and in other cases we shall have to decide to classify the prison, because of these abutting buildings, as suitable only for Category C prisoners—those who need minimum security.
To give early warning of any attempt to breach perimeter walls, we are using a combination of mechanical devices and additional manpower. Floodlighting of walls and yards will be installed at a large number of closed prisons, electronic warning devices will be installed on the walls themselves, and there will be prison officers on patrol in the yards and on the perimeter at night, as well as during the day, equipped with pocket radio to a control room in the prison and supplemented by patrols with dogs and dog handlers.
The prison control room will have a direct v.h.f. radio link to the police headquarters of the force in the police area in which the prison is situated. Where this is appropriate, the electronic warning devices, as well as giving an alarm in the prison control room, will give an automatic alarm to the information room in police headquarters.
It will inevitably take some time, as Lord Mountbatten indicated in his Report, before this programme of work can be completed, but good progress has already been made. At Wormwood Scrubs and Wakefield, all the measures I have described are now installed, except for the clearance of some obstructions in the area of the prison walls, and work is in progress on the site at several other prisons. Direct v.h.f. links with the police are now in operation at 36 establishments.
I am very grateful indeed to the Commissioner of Police in the Metropolis and to Chief Constables throughout the country for their ready co-operation, especially as some of the help they are 835 giving, particularly with dog patrols, while the prison service is building up its own team of dogs and handlers, has placed a heavy additional burden on their own resources.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
In the Mountbatten Report there was a reference to night guards. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has anything to say about them. Those men are very old, underpaid, and clearly not up to their duties.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I have indeed something to say about that. Although I agree that on one showing it could come logically at this point, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would allow me to develop it in another part of my speech, where I think it fits in even more logically.
I would not wish our approach to the inadequacies of existing prisons, however, to be thought of exclusively in security terms. Custody is an important part of a prison sentence, but it is by no means the only part. The central purpose must be, if I may quote the prison rules of 1964, to encourage and assist men to live good and useful lives afterwards. This is much less likely to be achieved with archaic buildings, gross overcrowding, inadequate work facilities and disgusting sanitary conditions, than with good modern facilities.
I am particularly glad that Lord Mountbatten was as shocked as I have been on the last point. The gaols of most other advanced countries are well ahead of ours from a sanitary point of view. "Slopping out" finds no place in the prison regimes of the United States, Germany, Sweden or Switzerland, and it is an astonishing commentary on our late 19th century civilisation that when Pentonville was built as the first of the "new model" prisons in 1842, it was provided with proper lavatory facilities in the cells, but some years later those lavatories were taken out at quite considerable expense.
Since then nothing has been allowed to interfere with the sacred practice of "slopping out". Even the new prisons at Blunderston and Gartree make no improvement in this respect, nor, I greatly regret to say, does the new Albany prison, to be opened this April. But we shall be able, if I may use a piece of 836 old Ministry of Aviation jargon, to retrofit it, and this we propose to do at the earliest opportunity. With the new maximum security prison, there will be no need for a retrofit because it will be done from the beginning.
Sanitary problems are, however, by no means the only problems associated with our old prisons. They are also totally unsuited to a modern constructive penal régime. They were designed for security in the cell rather than at the perimeter, and that can only be effective if a semi-dungeon régime is to be the order of the day. Furthermore, our old gaols are really bogus Bastilles. They combine insecurity with presenting a lowering, depressing appearance to the areas which surround them. Dartmoor was built for Napoleonic war prisoners, and should be closed down as soon as possible. Our big city local gaols were mostly built half a century or so later, but are almost equally unsuitable today. They also occupy most valuable land. There would be many advantages if they could be re-sited and re-built outside the urban areas.
Since the White Paper of 1959, which came at the end of a long period covering the whole of this century up to 1959, during which virtually no new prison building was done, a substantial amount of new construction has been undertaken. Forty-six new establishments of all sorts, amounting to an additional 7,360 places, have since been provided, but the prison population has gone up faster. There has, therefore, been no significant replacement of out-of-date establishments. Today my dilemma is still more accute. The prison population rose by no less than 3,642 in 1966. A present forecast is that it will rise by about another 4,000 before we get to the autumn of this year.
Then the Criminal Justice Bill should come into operation. In that Bill we are doing everything we can to swim against this tide. Apart from the detailed provisions of the Bill, 1 cannot stress sufficiently the self-defeating nature from a whole variety of points of view, of any unnecessary decision by a sentencing authority to send a person to prison. But the Criminal Justice Bill, in the short run at least, can do little more than take a few determined steps down an escalator which is moving rapidly upwards. This year, therefore, as an emergency 837 measure, I am having to give urgent consideration to taking over certain existing military camps and using them to house about 1,200 category C prisoners after the installation of basic perimeter security.
In these circumstances, immediate replacement of out-of-date prisons is not possible, but I shall be very disappointed if, despite the exigencies of the present financial situation, I cannot start something worth while in that direction. It is an essential ingredient of an effective modern penal system.
I turn now to a separate and most vital group of Mountbatten recommendations, those for improving staff structure, conditions and training. No fewer than 22 recommendations fall within this category, and that is as it should be, for the efficiency of the prison system depends tremendously upon the morale, skill and devotion of those who work within a service which inevitably presents many difficulties and problems. Those in this service—governors, assistant governors, prison officers and others—have had and are having a pretty hard time. In advance of the physical measures, they have been making determined and successful attempts to improve security by their own efforts, and the results so far this year are pretty good, although I do not want to place too much reliance on six weeks' experience, because we are far from out of this wood yet. But the efforts which they have been making, and making successfully, impose great strains upon them.
As the short-term physical improvements, such as floodlighting, come into operation, the strain upon the staff will become somewhat less. More important, the Mountbatten Report holds out to the prison service the prospect of a substantial improvement in career prospects and public esteem. Lord Mountbatten was particularly concerned with the absence of promotion prospects for as long as 16 years, and he recommended the introduction of a new intermediate rank of senior prison officer. The Government accept that recommendation, and I hope that the rank can be introduced in the autumn.
Promotion, Lord Mountbatten thought, should be more on merit and we accept that, too, as we do the recommendation for a special allowance for those who are trained in and undertake special security 838 duties. Equally, we want night patrols to be undertaken increasingly by prison officers themselves, and this, too, will involve an allowance. We are also considering an allowance for those trained in dog handling, a most useful security device. Security training courses in sophisticated security techniques are being currently set up. On all these matters we clearly need discussion with the Prison Officers' Association, and these discussions have already begun.
Lord Mountbatten also recommended that staff establishments should be realistically reassessed. That has started and will be complete at all closed prisons by the end of the year and earlier at those of high priority from a security point of view. We shall, in any event, need to recruit 3,800 discipline officers over the next three years to take account of normal wastage, the needs of new establishments, new security duties and five-day week working at single-shift prisons. Fortunately, recruiting is currently going well and 180 officers joined in the first six weeks of this year. Applications are nearly double the rate at which they were last year. Staff housing, with which we are pressing on, is clearly of great importance in this connection.
Lord Mountbatten also recommended—and attached great importance to this—a new professional head of the prison service with the title of inspector-general. I am very glad that Brigadier Mark Maunsell has agreed to be the first holder of this post. For the head of a disciplined service and yet one whose problems are very different from those of an Armed Service, his combination of a successful Regular Army career followed by a decade of high executive work in industry and commerce was, I thought, just right. The House will recollect that Lord Mountbatten specifically recommended that this appointment should in the first instance be made from outside.
The general picture, therefore, is one of what I think we can call vigorous implementation of the Mountbatten recommendations. The number on which we are currently acting has now increased from 34 to 46. The remaining six are all necessarily longer-term, because they are concerned with the procedures when the new maximum security prison in the Isle of Wight is ready. 839 It is right that we should pay great attention to all these security matters at the present time, but we must not and will not do so at the price of in any way turning our backs on the advances towards a more humane and constructive penal system which have been made under successive Governments in recent years. That was Lord Mountbatten's attitude, and it is certainly mine. if it is not that of any hon. Member in any part of the House or of any people outside, perhaps I may remind them of some words of one of my most distinguished predecessors at the Home Office, Sir Winston Churchill, who, when Liberal Home Secretary in 1910, and after, I may say, he had involved himself and not only himself, but Mr. Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer—which I have not yet done—in even more trouble over a gentleman known as "The Dartmoor Shepherd" than I have been in over Frank Mitchell, said:The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused …and even of the convicted criminals against the State, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerative processes, and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man—these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in R."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1910; Vol. 19, c. 1354.]I agree that, whatever the climate may be from time to time, that is the consistent purpose which should inspire all Home Secretarys. It is certainly the purpose from which I have no intention of deviating.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
Obviously, to follow a Minister who has covered a great deal of ground with a great number of separate points of policy is something of a meal to undertake and there are, therefore, only a limited number of comments which I can make at this stage upon the announcements which the right hon. Gentleman has made, except, of course, to congratulate him un- 840 reservedly on the piece of Churchillian prose with which his speech fittingly concluded.
There can be no question of voting on a Motion or Report of this kind. It would have been easy to devise an Amendment covering many of the points which the right hon. Gentleman, in the inevitable sequence of events, has covered. If I am a little more critical both of the Report and of his speech it is not because I desire either to make the right hon. Gentleman's task more difficult or to oppose for the sake of opposing. On the contrary. I shall conclude by stressing that the task which the right hon. Gentleman has set himself—whatever criticisms we may feel—is one in which he deserves the active support of not only this House but of all right thinking people.
To me, the most peculiar omission from the Report—and from the right hon. Gentleman's speech—was its failure to highlight what seems to be the common feature of all the escapes with which the Report began—Wilson in 1964; Biggs in 1965; McVickar and a number of others from a coach in 1966; Mitchell, while the investigation was still proceeding in Dartmoor in 1966; Blake, who was mentioned specially in the terms of reference; and the six prisoners who escaped from the Scrubs in June, 1966.
The common feature of all those escapes, with the possible exception of McVickar, is that it was not the people inside the prison who escaped so much as professional organisations outside who rescued them. This is the nub of the problem. I agree—and I will say more about this later—with the right hon. Gentleman's and the Report's criticisms of the structure, design and siting of our prisons. But the fact of the matter is that the question of security, with which we are confronted today, is only one aspect of the war against organised crime which we must face in considering the penal system as a whole.
If these prisoners had simply been delinquents and if they had had no friends outside, either they would not have been rescued or, having escaped, they would have been quickly recaptured. It is the fight against crime which must be solved, and we will not solve any of the fundamental problems simply by altering the design and siting of our prisons or even 841 by improving the morale of the Prison Service. Yet of course I agree that the picture which emerges regarding the physical buildings—designed for solitary confinement as their principal means of penal treatment; and their use now as instruments of a more liberal policy, for which they were never intended—a picture of prisons sited on the most valuable sites in urban areas and casting an atmosphere of gloom all around, of prisons overcrowded, squalid and insecure, is a picture which it is extremely unpleasant to have to face.
I was particularly glad that the Home Secretary took, as a special point of attack, the question of their sanitary arrangements. I had been designing to do so. I was afraid that, if I did, I would be accused by hon. Members of selecting the trivial at the expense of the important. Personally, I attach the greatest importance to this matter and I am, therefore, glad to know that the right hon. Gentleman does, too.
One cannot rehabilitate a man by degrading him physically. The sanitary conditions in prison must shock anyone—and many hon. Members know the truth of this—who has been to see them; and seeing is not the only sense which is affected. It is no good talking about rehabilitating people when we compel them to live three in a cell, of nineteenth century design, designed for one, and then compel them to queue up in the morning carrying chamber pots at the slopping out. This must be stopped because it is cruelty—and I stress that it is cruelty—of which a decent society should be ashamed when dealing with even the most desperate characters. And many of the people we send to prison are not desperate characters, a subject to which I will come shortly.
What about the Service itself? 1 respectfully suggest that it is undertrained—without any form of staff college, or course. And, secondly—because the recommendation of the Report has been accepted—it is under-inspected—the fundamental rule of all administration. public and private, being that where there is no inspection there is no efficiency. It is under-manned and probably underpaid, with inadequate prospects of promotion and with no proper provision for welfare. This, again, is a vision of a 842 social service which it is not pleasant to contemplate.
A point of criticism of the Report is that the prison service has not yet been properly slotted into the need for social work generally. Prison warders may be said largely to be a service apart. Perhaps they always will be. However, there ought—and this is a general problem of social policy with which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues must concern themselves—to be a larger organisation of social workers in the community with a closer liaison between the prison service and other forms of social work which may be allied to it. Probation officers form an obvious example. There should also be a breaking down of the isolation that exists between the prison service and other forms of social work; the provision of adequate training courses on which they will meet other social workers, and so on. These things should be considered not only in the context of prison security—although they are clearly relevant in that context—but in the general context of the kind of society which we are slowly trying to build.
In spite of the conciliatory language of the Report—and I absolutely agree with Lord Mountbatten's approach to avoid the allocation of blame, except where blame is obviously appropriate—there were a series of deplorable errors of judgment, for which I do not seek to make the right hon. Gentleman personally responsible. Some of them did not even take place during his period of office. However, in Wilson's case, the keys were counterfeited and the counterfeits tried and tested in the locks before actually being used. In Biggs's case, information about which exercise squad Biggs would be in was available outside the prison probably within minutes of his being allocated to that exercise squad.
In the McVicar case, adequate warning was given of the approaching trouble before the journey began. Unsuitable transport was used, the prisoners had keys to their own handcuffs, and three out of the six modern sets of handcuffs available had no keys and could not be used. As a matter of efficiency, that is really not good enough.
In the Blake case, the governor suggested a transfer in 1965 and got no answer out of the Home Office, although 843 accommodation in a secure prison was available at that time for him without displacing anyone else.
In Mitchell's case, one can only say from the very clear statement of facts which appears from Mr. Marks's Report, the governor, the deputy governor, the chaplain and the medical officer all reported at length on the prisoner, apparently without being in the least aware that he was terrorising the warders, enslaving his fellow prisoners, regularly visiting two public houses, returning to the prison in hired taxis, and buying budgerigars in Peter Tavey.
The answer must be that, in the short term, the Home Secretary should concentrate on the improvement of morale in the Prison Service and the administrative machine in the Home Office.
May I say a word about that administrative machine? The nature of the party struggle in this House rather tends to divert attention from the Civil Service. In the last debate that we had on the subject, at one point we seemed to be arguing how many more prisoners escaped under the Tories than under the Socialist Government. I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman was wholly innocent of drawing up a league table in that respect.
That is hardly the way to approach the matter. One cannot overlook the fact, and one ought to say, that there are features in these escapes and in the Report itself which indicate that the Home Office has let down successive Home Secretaries of different complexions. We are living with prisons disgustingly overcrowded, with a Prison Service inadequately trained and whose morale could be better, and with an administrative machine which has been outgrown by the prison population. Those are not matters which have occurred overnight. They are matters which it must have been the duty of a properly organised Department to warn successive Ministers of both parties about, and I doubt whether they were adequately warned.
No one envies the position of either a Department or a Home Secretary. At about the time when Mr. Butler brought forward the rolling 10-year plan, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred obliquely, I can remember saying to one of 844 my colleagues, "It is difficult in a democracy, when we are short of roads, schools, houses and hospitals, to ask the public to vote for a new range of penal institutions provided at enormous expense"—which is what they cost. No one envies the Home Secretary or his Department the task of trying to sell that kind of programme to the public.
Here, 1 wish to make a point in a sentence or two, although I appreciate that I cannot develop it. We find that the various construction industries are one of the principal limiting factors on good government. The capacity of the construction industries of all sorts competing for necessary rebuilding in all directions is, far more than money in some ways, the limiting factor on good government. The Home Secretary is bound to some extent to be the Cinderella when people without homes and who have votes are expected to postpone their homes for the sake of a new prison with adequate security within sight of the lodgings where they are dwelling uncomfortably. These are the realities of democracy.
Before turning back to the Report, there is something else which I should like to have seen in it but which I did not see, perhaps inevitably. The right hon. Gentleman referred to it in the latter part of his speech. Why do we send people to prison? It is all very well to say, in noble prose, that the object is to rehabilitate them. But is anyone rehabilitated by being deprived of his liberty? A solicitor embezzles his clients' money. A Sikh pub-keeper makes a false declaration to the Income Tax authorities. A clergyman is caught yielding to carnal desires with some of his male staff. What do we do to them? We send them to prison.
If one goes to the Court of Criminal Appeal or its present equivalent and says that that is a bad idea, one is laughed at. But why do we send them to prison? What have we in mind, and what has Parliament in mind when it sustains the law which says so? What has the court in mind when it say, "We cannot overlook this offence"? It is very important to realise that it is no good deceiving oneself with sentimental nonsense about rehabilitation. We send them to prison because we do not know what else to do with them.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way in what is a very interesting part of his speech, but what does he think that a learned magistrate in the Midlands had in mind the other clay when he sent a girl of 22 to gaol for three mouths for driving a car four days too early?
§ Mr. Hogg
I do not want to comment on individual cases. It might be that such a case could be dealt with on appeal, and it might be that it was wrong. I have mentioned cases which are ordinarily dealt with by a prison sentence by any standard court. In fact, if I were a Recorder, as many hon. and learned Members are, probably I should visit such cases with prison myself.
What good do we get out of it? The answer is that the courts and Parliament send such people to prison because they feel that their offences cannot he overlooked, as they are far too serious and yet they do not know what else to do with them.
The truth is that we have to find something else to do with them, and, until we find something else, we shall not solve the problem of prison security. As I said at the beginning we have to isolate the problem of professional and dangerous crime to deal with the security of our prisons. At present, they are cluttered up with people who have committed serious offences but who present no security problem, and who are rotting their hearts out, deprived of their liberty, in overcrowded and disgusting conditions, without any constructive work, simply because we do not know what else to do with them. It really is not good enough.
Some people talk in the most sentimental way about providing work in prisons, but a prison cannot be turned into a factory. The physical conditions are impossible. The fact is that prison treatment must be supplanted at some stage by a more constructive method of penal treatment, and it was precisely for that reason that I thought that it was the greatest of calamities when, in the early days of his period of office, the right hon. Gentleman connived at the murder of the Royal Commission on Penal Reform, though I do not believe that he would do it now.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
My right hon. and learned Friend has said that a prison cannot be turned into a factory. I have visited prisons in many countries. Quite the most successful prison I have ever visited was one in Yugoslavia which was indeed a factory. The sanitary arrangements, which are usually unpleasant in prisons, were perfect in that place.
§ Mr. Hogg
I agree that the bad sanitary arrangements are not necessary anywhere. But a factory requires a proper flow of work, a properly designed layout, the proper proportion of persons with suitable skills, the proper machinery, and the proper product to be sold on the market. None of these conditions is present in prisons.
I agree that constructive work must be found for prisoners. When the solicitor who embezzles his client's money, when the parson who goes wrong, when the man who delivers a false Income Tax return, are punished, they must be found, under suitable conditions, with suitable restrictions on liberty, constructive and useful social work to do.
The truth of the matter is that this society and our legal system has never faced up to the fact that the only way of rehabilitating a man is that he should do work, either directly repairing by his earnings the damage which he has done to his individual victim, or do work which identifies him with society once more, making reparation for the wrong he has done to the general public.
The object of prison should be to keep people out of mischief. Prisoners should be mainly there because they have chosen to stay or because they would be dangerous if they were let out. Rehabilitation should, wherever possible, be carried out in different conditions elsewhere. Of course the prisoners inside closed institutions must be treated with humanity. They must never feel themselves, even at their worst, to be wholly outside the range of human compassion. However, anybody who believes that inside a closed institution, in the company that is found there, people can be rehabilitated on a grand scale is deceiving himself. Other methods must be found.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
What the right hon. and learned 847 Gentleman has said largely applies to local prisons. Does he not agree that in the training prisons like Wakefield, where it has been possible to provide a prisoner with a 40-hour week, the conditions have resulted in a correction of prisoners in a very satisfactory manner? Do not we want to make our local prisons more like our regional prisons, as has been done in some other countries?
§ Mr. Hogg
I would not in the least deny that great improvements have been made. However, I do not want to turn this speech into a speech on penal treatment. We must do the best we can so long as we have prisons and prisoners. We can do a very great deal.
I was saying that we must go deeper than that. A form of penal treatment must be found for the man who has gone seriously wrong and whose wrongdoing cannot be overlooked by society. Constructive work must be found for him to do which does not involve incarceration in a closed institution. Until that answer has been found—it will involve legislation as well as administrative action—the problem of prison security will not be dealt with.
For that reason, I would contend that the Report does not go deep enough into the problem it has to solve. It would be grossly churlish of me not to agree with what the Home Secretary said by way of personal tribute to Lord Mountbatten. To produce a Report in that spell of time, with so much in it, was obviously a tour de force, and Lord Mountbatten's undertaking of the work, as I said when he was appointed, was another tribute to his public spirit. What I have to say by way of criticism of the exercise is not to be interpreted, therefore, as intended as an attack on Lord Mountbatten.
As the Home Secretary knows. I was always against the form of this exercise. The right hon. Gentleman rather patted himself on the back at the beginning of his speech for his part in devising it. I do not pat him on the back. I always, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, would have preferred a separate report on Blake.
I think that this Report entirely supports the criticism I have to make. What does it tell us about Blake that we want 848 to know? Who got him out? With what degree of organisation? What was the escape route? Where is he now? What is known about his subsequent movements? Why was not more done to catch him?
This is what the Report says about the time from when Blake reached the prison gate:I have not carried my inquiries further, since the hunt for Blake is the responsibility of the police. I conclude my account of Blake's escape by reiterating that Wormwood Scrubs Prison as constructed and administered had little chance of holding him once he had determined to go and that he had ample time to make good his escape before any effective search for him began.I could have told the House that in October. It did not require all the services of one of the most distinguished subjects of the Crown to reach that conclusion about Blake. I asked for a special inquiry from the first. I hope that the Home Secretary will not again quote out of context a remark which I made when he had turned down my request. I then asked him at least to do something about what my right hon. Friend had suggested, that Blake's escape should be an integral part of this Inquiry.
The terms of reference of this Inquiry, that Lord Mountbatten should look into prison escapes, with particular reference to the Blake escape, ensured from the start that nothing that we wanted to know about Blake should ever be known as a result of Lord Mountbatten's efforts.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House what kind of inquiry might have been expected to reveal who got Blake out and where he is now?
§ Mr. Hogg
If there had been a special inquiry into the circumstances of Blake's escape and what was known about it, not stopping at the prison gates we might have got—I cannot guarantee that we would, but at least we might have got—an inquiry which revealed something. What is clear from paragraph 95 of the Report, which I have read in extenso, is that we were debarred by the terms of reference, in advance, from knowing anything.
The other thing I wanted to get—I told the Home Secretary this at the time—was 849 an inquiry in depth into prison security. Although I think that a very great deal has come out of this Report, and certainly Lord Mountbatten has revealed his own humane feelings on the matter, it did not require a great——
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves the first point, I intervene to say that I am a little puzzled by one aspect of his view on this matter. As I understood it, right from the beginning he and his right hon. Friends attached great importance to urgency. I do not take the point that eventually he asked that Blake's escape be made an integral part of the Mountbatten Inquiry, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman might have preferred a separate inquiry. However, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that any form of inquiry could have gone urgently into the question of exactly what the police do or do not know about where Blake is now and have published the findings urgently? That would have been most extraordinary.
§ Mr. Hogg
We cannot speculate about what the inquiry could have inquired into or about what security considerations would have intervened. We were merely told that there was no security question in relation to Blake. I never believed it, but that is what we were told. We wanted a separate inquiry which would have revealed all this. If the inquirer, whoever he had been, has said, "There are certain aspects of this case which cannot be discussed, in the public interest", we might have been satisfied.
All we have, in fact, is the worst of both worlds. We have no report in depth—I think that this is the point which the right hon. Gentleman has not hoisted in—on prison security, because, in two months, Lord Mountbatten had to concentrate on the bare bones of what was known already. And we have no report on Blake which has yielded anything which we wanted to know and did not know already. We would have liked an inquiry which, in relation to prison security and prison treatment generally, repaired some of the damage done by the destruction of the Royal Commission on Penal Treatment, but this also we cannot have.
I have said what I have partly by way of praise for the Home Secretary and partly by way of criticism. I assure the 850 House that we on this side wish the Home Secretary nothing but good in the task which he has undertaken. It was not unnatural, perhaps, when the series of escapes which gave rise to the Inquiry reached its peak at about Christmas time, that some of my hon. Friends should have called for the right hon. Gentleman's resignation. In this, of course, they were taking a leaf out of the Foreign Secretary's book, whose venomous and personal attack on Mr. Henry Brooke, as he then was, in similar circumstances, was one of the least edifying episodes in that right hon. Gentleman's rather chequered career. But I do not propose to pursue in Opposition conduct which I condemned in that right hon. Gentleman when I was in Government.
I do not consider that a Minister should resign every time anything goes wrong in his Department, and for the Home Secretary personally I have the usual love-hate relationship which the shadow must necessarily have for his opposite number. When I am tempted to call for the right hon. Gentleman's resignation, I am reminded of the words in "Cautionary Tales for Children",Be sure to keep tight hold of nurse For fear of finding something worse.I can think of many right hon and hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches who are worse than the Home Secretary.
What we have a right to expect from the right hon. Gentleman is not that he should resign every time something goes wrong but that he should arrange a system which does not go wrong. The Mountbatten Report at least establishes that such a system will not easily be erected and it will not be erected in one or two years.
I say this now both to hon. Members opposite and to some of my hon. Fliends. The Home Secretary has been subjected to a good deal of criticism in recent months. With some of it I agree and with some of it I do not. But if the House and the country want the right to criticise the right hon. Gentleman—we all enjoy the right to criticise him and other members of the Government—if they want him to win the war against organised crime, they must provide him with the tools to do the job.
Not only when we are discussing prison security and escapes but when we are discussing housing, hospitals, roads, 851 schools and the rest, we must remember the right hon. Gentleman's demands upon us. We must provide him with the buildings. We must provide him with the men. We must provide him with the equipment, expensive modern equipment of which the prison service is almost wholly innocent, or so one thought at least until the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon. We must provide him with the money. But not only that.
When the Home Secretary comes back to us, as he will from time to time, to ask for sensible changes in the institutional and procedural framework of the law which may upset established principles and prejudices, both below the Gangway opposite and sometimes on my own side of the House, too, we must not sentimentalise or romanticise unduly about the status quo. We have the right to criticise the right hon. Gentleman as being unduly namby-pamby with the criminal only if we can honestly say that we have supported him in any reasonable demands he may make.
I conclude by proposing what I think he should do in the long term and in the short term. In the short term, the right hon. Gentleman must concentrate on a minimum building programme of security accommodation, on the reorganisation of the prison department in the Home Office, on the provision of an adequate inspectorate of prisons, on the provision of staff courses and security training for the inspectors and for prison officers, on the provision of proper transport, proper equipment and proper communications for the Prison Service, on the improvement of discipline, morale, promotion prospects and welfare in the Prison Service.
In the long term, he must look to replacing and re-siting almost all—or perhaps all—the existing prisons. He must look to creating a totally new method of rehabilitation and penal treatment. He must educate the public to realise the full gravity of the situation as regards organised crime. He must improve communication between the Prison service and the police, and he must largely improve the relations of both with members of the public.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
I shall not follow the right hon. 852 and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) in his spate of rhetoric about the reform of the penal system. That is for another time and another day, and, important as it is, we have far narrower issues to consider in the context of the Mountbatten Report which merit our immediate attention.
My right hon. Friend presented the Report in a factual speech, admitting the shortcomings of the Prison Service and his responsibilities for the future. The strength, or the weakness, of a democracy is usually that it is wise after the event. One may advance strictures about the escapes of all the prisoners referred to in the Report, but we have to accept that those escapes took place. It is right to have recrimination about them and to ask why they happened. It is right to reserve decisions on procedure and to consider what changes should be made by the Home Office in conjunction with the Prison Service and the Prison Officers Association to ensure that such escapes are less frequent and to tighten up security wherever this can be done.
In the present state of the nation's economy, there is, so to speak, an element of competition: every section of the community thinks that it deserves a good or better reward or that it has an equal claim on the Treasury for the services which it rightly renders to the State. The tinker, the tailor, the candlestick maker, the bricklayer, the toolmaker, the carpenter—all these have great organisations to look after their interests. But the services which help us to conduct our civilised society present another problem. They, too, are now demanding, in equity, an equal share or a greater reward for the services which they perform.
It is instructive to look objectively at the kind of men who enter the services we are now considering, the police or the Prison Service, and why they do. It is incumbent upon the House to promote schemes of recruitment, promotion, reward and welfare which will strengthen that recruitment and retain it. That is where the Home Secretary will have his biggest fight with his Cabinet colleagues, and he will have to fight rather hard. He is in charge of two vital services—the police and the prison officers—which are responsible for the continuance of our fabric of civilisation. Our record in humane treatment in police supervision 853 and apprehension, and in the administration of justice, is good compared with other countries, but it could be improved in some ways.
It is the job of the House to digest the Mountbatten Report, which is a good report—concise, quickly gathered and quickly presented, dealing with the facts and leaving the arguments to be settled by the legislators. It makes recommendation on the future conduct of the service and it is for the Treasury to find the money. That is where the snags will arise. My right hon. Friend will have a fight on his hands both with the D.E.A. and the Prices and Incomes Board on the question of the just reward for prison officers.
Wormwood Scrubs is in my constituency. The prison officers there are a responsible body of men, and I do not receive many complaints from them. But one receives the occasional responsible letter pointing out the difficulties of maintaining morale in the service and the problem of the career structure, the rewards, the pension at the end of service, and the necessity for them to remain in the service and prevent wastage. That brings other problems. Any modern economic civilisation must look after its police, tax gatherers, and prison officers. What are we to do on some of the basic problems of pay to improve the prison officers' position.
Even today, my right hon. Friend has not accepted the Mountbatten Report in toto. He probably has reservations or is taking time to reconsider some of the proposals, some of which are very sweeping. There are several matters affecting the duties of prison officers, such as night patrols, where staff are not available, especially at Wormwood Scrubs, and the necessity for housing, which has been mentioned both by my right hon. Friend and the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone.
I am concerned about the problems of continuance of service to the day of retirement, because when prison officers retire they must surrender the tenancy of their present house or flat. They have no great amount of capital available and no prospects of securing a house from a local authority. They are thrown on their own resources and are at the mercy of the housing situation.
854 That is why I ask my right hon. Friend to fight with his Cabinet colleagues, and he will have to fight very hard. It is important to have a scheme to increase recruitment, extend service to retirement, and improve morale. I would like him to open discussions with local authorities wherever prisons are sited to make some arrangement so that when a man has finished his prison service, when his family will be in their twenties and the need for accommodation is at its greatest, he shall have a place on the waiting list for a council house assessed on the years of his service.
Alternatively, my right hon. Friend could consider some kind of insurance policy, perhaps contributory, over and above the ordinary emoluments. I suggested such a scheme previously in regard to the police It would allow a man to take at the end of his service a capital sum which would place him in a favourable position in the housing market and would allow him to purchase a house on his retirement. It is not a big investment, spread over 20 to 35 years' service, and we should do well to consider that.
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, we are dealing with organised crime which is steadily and alarmingly growing year by year. The escapes from prison, on which I shall not dwell, show that there are highly organised, determined men with funds available to put their will into operation. I think that the case of Blake was the only escape in the history of any nation, at least in the Western world, organised for political reasons, and that is what is alarming. As I said in a Question to my right hon. Friend in October, the train robbers were one thing but a coldly calculated rescue for political reasons was another. The public was alarmed at the time.
Non-involvement of the public in dealing with crime is a steadily growing factor in British public life. There was a time when the public felt more responsibility towards the police in the exercise of their duties, but it is not apparent today. Violence is afoot, and violence of a wicked and destructive nature which knows no respect for age or person, young or old, and is prepared, possibly with the use of weapons, to take the 855 ultimate risk of killing in pursuit of its ends.
That is a new chapter in British crime. In turn, it imposes an additional strain on prison officers because it is in Category A that one will in future find the greatest number of prisoners. Therefore, the suggestions of the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the extension of the Prison Service and his request for a programme of new prisons are urgent and necessary. To judge from the attitide of the House today, my right hon. Friend will have full sympathy in his efforts to put the situation to rights as quickly as possible.
I now turn to the document which has been submitted to my right hon. Friend by the Prison Officers' Association, and the recommended scales of pay, promotion prospects and the new officers' status which it contains. The Association has accepted the Mountbatten Report in toto. Looking through it and the Circular sent by the Association, I see no reason why my right hon. Friend should not also go the full way. The service must be adequately manned. It is not the calling of just any kind of people; it requires a special person to volunteer for that type of service. It is my right hon. Friend's job to see that his status is commensurate to the risk and responsibilities involved and that the remuneration compares with that for work of a freer and more amiable nature performed by professions outside. If he does that, he will serve the interests of the whole country.
The Report is valuable; for the first time it gives some of us an insight into prison conditions, the service we would like to see and methods of escape. These detailed technical matters are best left in the hands of those who will be able to deal with them in the future, but the general outlook on the service—both towards the police and the prison officers—is a matter of urgent consideration.
As the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone said, the biggest job now is to restore the confidence of the public, which was seeping away, and to show quite firmly that the Home Secretary is on top of the job, together with the police and prison officers, in regaining control of a situation which appeared to he slipping from our grasp.
856 If my right hon. Friend does that during his tenure of office, we will all wish him well. It is a job for which every Home Secretary has borne criticism. Indeed, the office has been called the graveyard of politicians. I hope that it will not be so in his case. I hope that he will accept the very responsible and constructive paper submitted by the Prison Officer's Association as well as the Mountbatten Report, and that he will also consider my suggestion of providing, by insurance or by some other way, a capital sum to enable prison officers to be able to purchase houses or flats on retirement or, alternatively, providing for their being able to accumulate points on local housing lists.
This applies not only to prison officers but to the police and long-serving soldiers. The British Army is run by its non-commissioned officers, but they do not get a lot of money and certainly do not come out with a fortune. If we are to maintain our essential services these are the sort of things we must think about. I know my right hon. Friend well enough to realise that he will give them serious consideration.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I think that I agree with practically everything the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) has said, and particularly with one remark—that the Home Secretary has a fight on his hands. It is for that reason that I am bound to say that I was a little disappointed by the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), I do not want the Home Secretary to resign, and I am sure that he will not. But I find myself unable unreservedly to accept his rather bright picture of the Prison Service now in a happy state of vigorous—as he called it—implementation of the Mountbatten Report.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman would have given a more convincing picture of what should be done if he had been willing to accept a little more critically and frankly some of the difficulties we know that he has on his hands—difficulties which the public should be invited much more freely to share with him so that they may consider them for themselves and in general be a little more co-operative. 857 None of us dispute the ideals about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. But they did not originate with his régime. For some of us they were strongly founded in the régime of Lord Butler at the Home Office. Some of us are entitled, however, to dispute the best means by which these ideas will be fulfilled. I do not think that any great purpose is to be derived from pursuing in detail the escapes of either Blake or Mitchell. If they represented anything, they were symptomatic of certain weaknesses in the system and are isolated scandals. It is not the least merit of the Mountbatten Report that it perceived this and went further than any of us expected when the inquiry was set up.
While I consider that the remit given to Lord Mountbatten in the circumstances was unfairly onerous, reflecting no credit on the Administration who had to throw the inquiry forward in this way, it has been brilliantly discharged. My only serious reservation is that work done, perforce, within two months should not be regarded as a blueprint for the future of the Prison Service. It is beyond human endeavour to provide in two months of rapid work all the thinking that we shall need in the course of the year or two ahead.
These principal escapes and the others which caused such interest over Christmas seem to have arisen through the concatenation of two circumstances, the one largely beyond our control and the other, I believe, attributable to serious mis-judgment. The first is what is described in the Report in paragraph 206 as… the spectacular growth in the prison population in recent years.This growth has largely negatived—more than negatived—the not inconsiderable building programme. About £34 million worth out of £42 million of the estimates has been completed in a decade.
How far this size of population in our prisons should have been foreseen is arguable. There has been a tendency—and we are all guilty—to talk optimistically about the crime rate and to believe that at any moment it will turn a corner, which it does not. There is room for doubt there, but there is no room for doubt about the consequences. We can see one consequence, and a grave one, in the Criminal Justice Bill. In that Bill, 858 we are having to reshape part of our system of justice in order to meet the exigencies of the prison administration. It is not unfair to say that magistrates and others are being required to revise former concepts of appropriate punishments not least because we have to economise on prison space.
Some people may say that there is nothing to take exception to in that but we must beware of it. We have always taken great care that the Executive should not influence the judiciary but have now been forced into the position where prison administration is influencing the judiciary. I shall not dwell on that, but we should take note of it.
The second situation, which I believe is attributable to serious misjudgment, is described in paragraph 202 of the Report, which says:A constructive liberal prison regime and secure prisons are not necessarily incompatible, but conflicts will arise if an attempt is made to conduct a liberal regime in buildings designed in accordance with the 19th century philosophy of prison treatment.What this really means to me is that we have allowed our ideals in prison reform to outpace the means that we are prepared to find in order to implement them. This is not new in public administration. Most of us live by this method. But when public security is involved it constitutes a grave misjudgment. It is a miscalculated risk. I think that it imposes a very unfair demand on the prison administration.
The right hon. Gentleman—deservedly, in my view—gets great credit for what can be regarded as an enlightened and liberal approach to penology. Yet, in some senses, the price has to be paid by those responsible for maintaining prison security. Between the ideals expounded by the right hon. Gentleman and what can be provided by way of a more liberal regime in prisons, a large gap exists. It has to be filled by the Prison Service itself, and it is grossly unfair that it should be blamed, even inadvertently, for failing to do it.
I thought that it was unfair of the right hon. Gentleman, as he did indirectly at Christmas time by a directive to prison governors, when many escapes were being made, to suggest by implication that they were falling down on the job. I am sure that that was not his intention, but the impression one got from the directive was 859 that they had better smarten themselves up. It was not their fault that the spate of escapes took place, and I am sure he accepts that.
It is not altogether surprising that in paragraph 17 of his Report, Lord Mountbatten says:… I do not believe the morale of the Prison Service as a whole is as high as it should be.The Prison Service is, within my knowledge, well aware of what is happening. They are conscious that unfair demands are being made on them from which, if all went well, the administration would derive a certain amount of credit. If things do not go well, then the prison administration carries the can.
So much for the general background. Before I turn to the constructive possibilities, there is one other matter on which perhaps we could be enlightened. I confess that I am in a state of confusion here. Lord Mountbatten reports:There is no really secure prison in existence in this country.I think that we knew that. However, what is surprising to me is why the plans for such a prison have not gone further.
Nearly two years ago, in the course of our proceedings on the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill, the right hon. Lady the Minister of State, Home Office, clearly said that a prison for very long term prisoners which would be extremely secure would be built in the Isle of Wight, that the Government were going ahead with that project, that plans were in hand and that it was hoped that it would not be too long before it was built. I am not clear whether this is the prison which has gone into the main block at Albany or the prison which should have been started but which was delayed until after the conclusion of the Mountbatten inquiry. I should like enlightenment on that. It must have been foreseen before Lord Mountbatten conducted his inquiry that there would be a need for a prison for long-term prisoners combining security with more comfortable conditions for long-term prisoners than are normally enjoyed.
I turn, perhaps more constructively, to what is perhaps the most important of Lord Mountbatten's recommendations. This is the proposal to divide prisoners into four categories—A, B, C and D. 860 This is right. What I question is whether Lord Mountbatten and his team or the Government fully comprehended what would be required to implement this very important proposal. It cannot be done by drawing names out of hats. Lord Mountbatten says little more than that the proper machinery must be set up to ensure that prisoners are allocated to the correct category. He does not return to it in the other paragraphs on prison security save indirectly in paragraphs 211 and 218.
I regard classification as absolutely central to the regime which I hope will come about through the Report. It is a science, and a constant science. The best examples which I have seen in Europe and America suggest that it is the most expensive part of prison administration. I saw not long ago a reception guidance centre in the southern part of the State of California where an expert staff of about 100 people of diverse gifts was required to look after a population of approximately 600. The time spent in classifying and diagnosing the prisoners and deciding to which prison they should most appropriately be sent occupied about 90 days.
I know that we have an arrangement of that kind in this country. I am not clear how many prisoners have been subjected to it. There is a refinement, namely presentence reports for judges, which the same institution, if properly organised, can provide. Incidentally, it may also ensure, which we are not ensuring now, that cases involving mental health which have slipped through can be picked out and appropriately dealt with.
Classification does not end there. As Lord Mountbatten observes in a later paragraph,The allocation of prisoners to the categories I have described needs to be kept under continuous review and subjected to careful research to ensure that allocations arc being made correctly.Therefore, there will have to be posting and cross-posting later. This diagnosis is unending and it is an essential concomitant of the more liberal and enlightened régime to which the Home Secretary has pinned his colours. I do not think that this régime can be secured by asking too much of the prison building programme or of our prison administration. It must be increasingly secured by the continuous 861 scientific evaluation of prison inmates. This will be very expensive. It is difficult to achieve it at cut prices. It is indispensable to probation and parole. It seems to me in every sense the only secure road to a more liberal régime.
We should not fool ourselves about this. It is plain nonsense to assert, as it was asserted last year, that prison escapes are part of the price which must be paid for more enlightened penal policies. That is rationalising mismanagement. It is a most foolish doctrine because it is calculated to harden public opposition to the sort of enlightened steps which we should be taking. I do not think that the public are unjust or foolish about this. They have a very fair balance in their minds. They know very well that it does not make sense to go on talking about the war against crime, the need to strengthen the hands of the police and to ensure that the guilty do not escape justice, and, at the same time, to plead that we must accept a proportion of escapes as the price of penal reform.
This has an even more important effect on the morale of the prison service. The structure of this service must be considered much more carefully than Lord Mountbatten had time to do. I am not sure that in the long term the aim should not be an inter-related service—I do not say integrated—through the whole field of what the United States call corrections—in other words, breaking down to a degree the present watertight compartments between prison officers, probation officers, parole officers and the kindred services. These bodies will have to be extended and expanded.
Why should not prison officers be eligible to transfer to these services more freely? This would widen the scope of promotion, encourage men of quality who have an inclination for the public service and prevent the institutionalisation of prison officers. I hope that thought will be given to that matter.
Lastly, I echo what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone said about the Home Secretary's own organisation in the Home Office. It is no reflection on the Civil Service or anybody else to say that it is not right. The Mountbatten Report makes it clear that it is not right. At the time, I was strongly opposed to the 862 transfer of the Prison Commission to the Home Office. I thought it a mistake, and I think now that it was a mistake. It is no reflection on people in the present set-up, but the sort of appointments and transfers made in the light of Lord Mountbatten's Report will not of themselves provide the sort of service which we had in the Prison Commission under people like Sir Lionel Fox some years ago. I accept we cannot go back to that.
The Home Secretary, however, is confronted with a real difficulty—the same difficulty which he faces in respect of the police. The top echelon, the general staff, is not yet broadly enough based to discharge its new and very large responsibilities. That is not simply my view; it is also Lord Mountbatten's view. In paragraphs 236 to 238 he refers to the growing complexity" of the problem and goes on to speak about the difficulties of combining the functions of the professional advisers to the Home Secretary and the administration of the prison service. These difficulties will not be met by appointing strong-looking men designed to create a good public appearance. The Home Secretary must recast his general staff and its system of communications with the establishment.
Let us tell people more of what is going on. There is a case for telling people far more about our prisons and what we are trying to do. The Home Office—and I speak as a former inmate and great friend—is still far too security-minded. It is perfectly true that cameras and reporters have gone into prisons whereas they would not have gone in a year or two ago. In a sense, however, that only obscures what is not being disclosed.
Bold, fascinating and most acceptable experiments are going on in penology. They may not succeed, but that is no reason why they should be kept a dark secret until we know positively whether they will work. If the public were to share this knowledge, it would enlist a great deal more public sympathy. People would not lose their nerve by being told that men were being released in certain circumstances during their sentence to assist them in certain ways. There is far more likelihood of panic among the public when people discover something has gone wrong with an experiment of which they 863 know nothing. Let the public feel involved in what is going on, and let the prisoner feel that the public are involved, because at least one consequence would be that the transition of a man back to a normal life of work was considerably eased. My last word, therefore, is to ask the Home Secretary for more light.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
I am glad to have the opportunity of taking part in this debate because this is one of the most important subjects which we have debated for some time. I was particularly impressed by the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), which was not only powerful, but very interesting. It limits, however, what one can say afterwards, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said so much of what one would wish to say. In paying tribute to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I would like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for accepting the Report. My right hon. Friend was rather limited by reason of the fact that he has to find the money for these things, whereas the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not.
These reforms cannot be bought on the cheap. It is a question not of whether we can afford the money, but whether we can afford not to find it. To reform one person could save the country many thousands of pounds in the years to come, and yet we spend so much time on keeping prisoners in the conditions of which we have heard today with so little reformation.
I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) that the Criminal Justice Bill is being twisted to keep people out of prison because we cannot find places for them In my view, too many people have been kept in prison over the years who should never have gone to prison in the first place.
I believe that it is necessary to categorise prisoners the moment they start imprisonment. I cannot, however, see why it is necessary to have four categories as given in the Report. I agree that Category A is essential and that the public must be protected from certain people. The nation must be protected from certain people such as spies. In that regard, it is necessary to have high security 864 prisons. The other classes of prisoners, however, need not be divided into more than two categories.
The ordinary category would denote a person who went to an open prison. It will be said that these people will escape, but I think that the reason why they escape is that in doing so they lose so little. If these were many privileges that prisoners could acquire but which would automatically be taken away from them in stages if they escaped or committed an offence, I believe that prisoners would respect these rules and would not wish to lose their privileges. In this respect they would not need the close security which is exercised today.
I know that many people disagree with me. There are those who say that prison would be made so attractive that prisoners would like it. I have always believed that there were three purposes in putting people into prison: punishment, the protection of society and the reformation of the wrongdoer.
If I had to choose from those three, I would put reformation first and punishment last. It is necessary to protect the public and this would be done, if necessary, by putting prisoners into a category A prison. After that, every effort must be made at reformation. This cannot be done by keeping people in prison under the conditions which many of us knew existed and which the Report highlights—conditions of degradation, with men going into prison for what might be termed a trivial offence in comparison with most people who are in prison and from which, because of close association for long hours in cells, they come out knowing all the tricks of the trade and bent on a criminal career, as well as men who go into prison and who come out as homosexuals. These are the things to which we should be paying more attention rather than considering how we can make our prisons more secure.
The privileges which I have in mind and which would enable authority to be kept include tobacco. We know that in many prisons the tobacco barons have tremendous power. In some prisons in America, people are allowed to smoke as much as they wish. Why should not they smoke as much as they like if they buy the cigarettes from the pay they receive for doing honest work in prison? 865 Why should not prisoners be allowed to receive as many letters from their wives as they wish or be able to send letters home? What better pastime could there be for a prisoner than to sit down at night and write a letter to his wife? I do not believe that the existing petty restrictions in these ways serve the cause of the nation or of the man in prison. One could list many privileges which people could have in open prisons but which would automatically be taken away from them in stages if they contravened authority.
There will. of course, be people who, no matter how many privileges can be taken away, will still try to escape. For this reason there should be a third category of prison—not a maximum security prison, but a closed prison from which a man who was determined to escape would do so, but where nevertheless the conditions would make it difficult for him to escape.
It might be necessary to send a man to that type of prison when he is first sentenced, because for the first week or so a prisoner suffers from a great sense of grievance and during that period he might attempt to escape whereas on reflection a week or so later he would put the idea behind him. It may be necessary, therefore, to keep him in one of these closed prisons for the first week or two after he is sentenced.
I believe that these three categories would be workable. A prisoner would respond because a certain degree of trust was being placed in him. I believe that such an arrangement would work, because so many fewer people would be required to look after our prison service. What is even more important is that the conditions in which prison officers work would be made much more tolerable than they are today.
I do not believe that any man, however humane, can go into the prison service and enforce the regulations and conditions which have to be applied without something happening to his character. It is essential for the prison service also that these things should be done. Furthermore, if the farsighted policy which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is determined to carry out is backed by sufficient finance, we will eventually save money. It would cost something in the 866 beginning, but we would save in the long run.
My next point concerns the work which people do in prison. I do not accept the assertions of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone that it is not possible to have factories attached to prisons. I believe that it is possible, and it must be made possible. While I consider, however, that we should be lenient in many respects with prisoners, I do not believe in being soft with them. Not only is it essential to maintain their morale in prison by giving them honest and genuine work to do by means of which they can earn money to send to their families with which to buy extra things, but it is equally important that prisoners get into the way of working. Many hon. Members will know that the tendency today is that the less people do, the less they want to do.
That does not apply only to the criminal class but to every class in society that the less one does the less one wants to do. It is essential to find some means to employ these people for long hours. I do not say that they should work a 40—hour week. There should be some punishment in prison; I do not say that everything should be turned in favour of the prisoner. But we must find some means of doing this kind of thing because at present when a man comes out of prison no matter what he was like when he went in he has lost the will to work.
It is essential that from an early stage in prison a man should be allowed to go home for a weekend every so often. This should be one of the privileges. I know that people will say that they will enjoy being in prison. Some people fail to realise that when a man is sentenced to prison not only is he being punished but his wife and family also and in most cases they are completely innocent. As a result often another man goes into the prison and tells Tom Snooks that his wife has been seen going around with another man. The prisoner concerned might have been completely settled in prison and determined to finish his sentence there but in those circumstances it requires a very strong character for a man not to seek to leave prison, to go home to find what is happening.
I found how this affects a man in an incident which occurred during the war. A man who was going home on leave for 867 a week came to me and said that his wife was desperately ill and he did not intend to come back after his week's leave. He told me this because he did not want to let me down. Inquiries were made and it was found that the facts were as he stated and facilities were made for him to have an extended leave. But how many men take that line in such a situation? If it is question of his wife and family suffering such a man will not pay any regard to the penalties concerned but he will go home to see what is happening there.
The welfare services in prison must be tremendously extended. A man must be able to confide to others the difficulties he is experiencing with his family so that welfare officers can make arrangements for him to go home. Many people will say that this is being soft to the prisoner. I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary appreciates the point I am making. I believe that the purpose of a sentence is reformation, not punishment. Punishment is incidental to it. If we could have this enlightened system in which the State could show mercy and prison officers could show compassion and consideration which ultimately leads to hope for the prisoner we should have a Prison Service which we could admire and not one which is degrading and of which we are heartily ashamed.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Hamilton (Salisbury)
That was a very humane and sincere speech by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw). Many hon. Members taking part in this debate have large prisons in their constituencies. I cannot make that claim, but I can make the bold claim that the prison system as we know it today emanated from my constituency.
Originally, of course, the castle dungeon served as a convenient place of detention, but with early crime waves and the increase of population, special arrangements had to be made for the care of offenders.
Three miles east of Salisbury, there are the ruins of what is called Clarendon Palace. It was a Royal palace similar in date to Westminster Palace, but in a more salubrious setting. From there a 868 complete overhaul of the administration of justice took place. From there the order went out directing the building of gaols in the counties and boroughs all over the kingdom. The orders were called the Constitutions of Clarendon, and the buildings went up. Parliament did not debate prison escapes at that time; the prisoners stayed in.
I have read every page and paragraph of the Mountbatten Report. It is a very impressive Report. I found it in many ways a brilliant Report; yet, in other ways, I found it curiously unsatisfying. I like the way in which it is quick, direct, to the point, never boring, never turgid. It was an amazing feat that in the short space of two months Lord Mountbatten should have visited 17 separate prisons and interviewed scores of witnesses from whom evidence was taken, including three former Home Secretaries. That all this evidence should have been sifted, weighed and the conclusions drawn in so short a time was a tremendous achievement.
I was also extremely pleased that this Report praises the Prison Service as it does, and the devotion to duty of the service. The difficulty of its work shines from every page of the Report and it is something of which the general public needs to be reminded. I also liked the tribute paid indirectly to Lord Butler. It was he who started the greatest prison building programme of this century. The Report refers to the fact that £34 million has been spent since 1956 and says:… drive has been put behind the building programme".I remember visiting one of Lord Butler's newest security borstals and being very much impressed. They are far finer buildings than those of any English public school. I was particularly struck by the fact that there were two chapels, one for Roman Catholic boys and one for Church of England boys. I thought that extravagant use of the taxpayers' money, but since I have come to see that, with the wise political touch as Home Secretary which Lord Butler always showed, this decision was right.
It emerges from this Report that the crime rate and the population are rising so rapidly that we are able to keep pace, but certainly no more. I noticed that today the Home Secretary talked about using Army camps. We are not achieving sufficient rebuilding to get rid of the early 869 Victorian prisons. The Home Secretary told us perfectly rightly that Dartmoor was built during the early Napoleonic Wars to house French prisoners of war in 1806, but it was in the middle of the century that the Victorians showed themselves to be the great builders they were. Pentonville, a model prison was opened in 1842. Armley, at Leeds, was built in 1847 for 350 men and today houses nearer 1,000. Wandsworth was opened in 1851 and Holloway in the following year. All these prisons in their day were admirable and served their purposes supremely well. But the Report makes clear that they constitute a very difficult legacy today, and a complete rebuilding of all these Victorian prisons would cost us more than £100 million. If that is not practicable, and clearly it is not, then at least we are not burdening our successors 100 years hence with the problem which we have today, which is of a set of prisons almost all built at the same date, designed to meet a need which in 100 years will have changed.
I think that the Report is right, in that first things must come first. This new maximum security prison in the Isle of Wight must come first, but I find myself wondering whether Lord Mountbatten realises that the wall at Everthorpe Hall cost 10 per cent. of the total cost of the building? It cost £65,000 and is 18 ft. high, and yet here in this Report Lord Mountbatten is advocating on the Isle of Wight a perimeter wall over 1 mile long and 36 ft. high. I think that money is needed and it must be spent, but the taxpayer must have value for money and 1 rather wish that the Report had dwelt a little longer on the desirability of selling existing prison sites and using the proceeds for further fresh building elsewhere. I think that more could have been made of this, and if legislation for it is needed let us have it.
1 promised to be brief. Why, then, is this Report in some ways so unsatisfying? We read in it about Blake, Mitchell, Biggs and Wilson. We put the Report down after reading the 93 pages and we ask, "Who, then, was responsible?" The answer is everybody and nobody, and this coming from an Admiral of the Fleet rather surprised me.
There is, after all, in the Royal Navy a clear chain of command. If a valuable 870 naval vessel is entrusted to an individual officer, and if the vessel is damaged, the officer is sent for. Responsibility is clearly defined. Nobody questions the definition, and if something goes wrong somebody is responsible.
We see Blake described in the Report as "no ordinary spy". It was known that in terms of national security and of international relations his safe keeping was more important than any naval vessel. He was a major security risk, yet his escape from Wormwood Scrubs on a Saturday evening, in the words of the Report, "was easily accomplished". It is true that the Report mentions that there were four occasions when Home Secretaries might have had him transferred from Wormwood Scrubs. It is also true that the Governor recommended his transfer in January, 1966, but the fact remains that he got out, and got out easily. I use the words of the Report.
The impression given to me by this Report is that it was "one of those things". We are told that our prisons are insecure, and, unless we revert to the old inhuman methods, escapes will continue. I confess that I had hoped that an Admiral of the Fleet might have recommended the establishment of a clearer chain of responsibility and that he might have grafted on to the Prison Service something of his naval ideas. But no. If more escape tomorrow, it will be nobody's fault.
The Home Secretary ended his speech with a fine piece of Churchillian prose. Perhaps I can finish mine by quoting a single sentence from The Times of today, to bear out my point about responsibility. There is a sentence which occurs in a letter written by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It says:… these policies are damaging to the nation, not only because of the money they waste, not only because they divert resources from other more important purposes, but because they consistently blur the edge of individual responsibility.I think this is what the Report is in danger of doing.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)
It would be very tempting this afternoon to follow the thread set by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) in dealing with the whole 871 question of retribution and rehabilitation, because one cannot separate a discussion on security in prisons from the whole aspect of and our outlook towards the question of what we do with people who offend against the law. Unfortunately, everything that we have to say about this must come within the confines of the matter which we are discussing, and although, like many hon. Members who have spoken in this debate, I have serious misgivings about perpetuating a prison system which carries with it so many outmoded concepts and ideas, I want it to be clearly understood that what I have to say is for the moment within the confines of this Report, and in the hope of shedding a little light into the darkness which exists among the attitudes which are prevalent about the whole of our prison system.
I was very interested in one of the points made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He picked out as an omission from the Report that the factor which was common to many of the prisoners who had escaped was that they had some organisation behind them; that they were able to have an escape prepared for them because they had something to go out to. I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman, because I think he will be interested to hear this, that this aspect of the matter was part of the evidence presented to the Mountbatten Inquiry by the Howard League for Penal Reform.
One thing about the Report which struck me was that many of the people about whom the inquiry reports not only had that in common, but that many of them were serving incredibly long sentences, the sort of sentence which it is becoming common for society to impose on particular types of offenders: Biggs—30 years; Blake—42 years; Wilson—30 years. I shall say something about this later, but I hope that when the debate is concluded the Home Secretary will comment on this, because it seems obvious to me at least that whatever the rights or wrongs of the situation, if we are now going to embark on a method of punishment which means that we tell a man that he is to be deprived of his freedom for 30 or 40 years, it will be reasonable to assume that he will try to escape. This seems to me to be fairly obvious.
872 If we are dealing with a man or a woman who is deprived of freedom for five, six, or seven years, the situation is completely different. But if one considers Blake—I do not want to go into this in detail—or the conditions surrounding anybody who is imprisoned for that length of time, it seems obvious that the whole organisation of our prisons and our attitude to the man who is put in prison for that length of time are things about which we have not begun to think, to decide the best way in which we can deal with such a person.
This has as much relevance to the Report as has the point already made, that many prisoners are backed by strong organisations who arrange their escape. I profoundly disagree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), who said that it was only necessary to classify prisoners into one or two categories. This has been our big mistake. We do not classify our prisoners sufficiently. We have not yet devised a system of classification making clear the type of person with whom we are dealing, and the treatment best suited to them. Once we get down to such a system we shall begin to move away from the concept of retribution which many of us abhor, and we shall be able to move toward the concept of rehabilitation.
It might be useful to distinguish, as has been hinted at, between prisoners who will escape simply as a demonstration, or because it is the only method of challenging some of the prisons, or because they have somewhere to escape to. We can also begin to classify people in terms of types and offences. The Report goes on to talk about a maximum security prison and the need to isolate from society people who will be dangerous should they escape or those whom it is undesirable should escape. The attitudes existing within such a prison must be different from those in a prison where one is dealing with men and women who have offended in a particular way, or who perhaps, are in need of a different type of treatment.
I am very much interested in the whole of prison life and the Prison Service. There should be more classification and breaking down of the types of people with whom we are trying to deal, in order to determine whether there is a need for punishment, rehabilitation or 873 merely a need to keep undesirable people, potentially dangerous, away from members of society. Over and above this consideration there is the question of whether disturbed and mentally abnormal prisoners with long sentences should be kept with what one might call normal people who are effective and successful criminals.
The treatment and the attitude towards these people must be different. The Home Secretary has accepted the suggestion to have a maximum security prison, and, although 1 can see the wisdom of this, my worry is that if one tries to devise a system of security, making it absolutely impossible for anyone to escape, the system may become too rigid and security-minded. This would be bound to militate against the efforts of people working within the prison service, wanting to make people ready to return to the outside world and take their place in society. Even long-term prisoners will eventually return to society. If they are not to relax into total despondence, hopelessness, and revert to what they were before they came in, any maximum security prison engaged in keeping people shut off from society for a long time must incorporate within it ways and means of treating people and helping them to return to a normal society.
The more that one isolates people the more this militates against their taking their place in society. I was glad to note that the idea of a maximum security prison on a remote island was dismissed by the Mountbatten Inquiry. It is obvious that it cannot fulfil its function in trying to rehabilitate people and make them part of society once more. One of the reasons why Dartmoor is such an unpopular place with prison staff is because it is so isolated. It produces so many difficulties that the staff must become disspirited and irritated, because they are so cut off.
If there is to be a maximum security prison it must be, of necessity, a small prison. It is much better to have small institutions than large ones. No one can stress sufficiently the small paragraph dealing with hygiene and the references to the tensions which build up within a system when three men are confined together in a cell under those conditions. Perhaps they do not like each other: perhaps they have nothing in common 874 with one another. The tensions which build up under those circumstances must be an added incentive for people to escape.
No one who has read the Report can run away with the idea, which one hears so often, that our prisons are like second and third-rate holiday camps. This is rubbish. Anything that we do now, through the Criminal Justice Bill, and so forth, to try to reduce the number of people coming into prisons must be a good thing, in so far as it will reduce the prison population. Although the number of escapes has been exaggerated, escapes over the last 10 years have risen, but so has the prison population. Unless we take drastic steps to reduce it, we shall for ever be chasing our tail and getting nowhere.
I have given a great deal of thought to long-term sentences and, having abolished the death penalty, I hope permanently, and embarked upon a situation where, for murder and other crimes against society, we will give people long prison sentences, I believe that we are entering a completely new era for the treatment of people, particularly for indeterminate sentences. Part of the incentive for not breaking out of prison is that one knows that if one behaves reasonably well, one will earn a certain amount of remission.
If people are to be in prison for 30 or 40 years, this incentive goes. Unless one questions, as I do, the wisdom of very long prison sentences, except in terms of danger to the community, and unless one can substitute it with real work and rehabilitation, one can expect people to try to escape. A 42—year sentence on Blake did not deter Vassall.
The whole concept of what deters people needs to be examined. Most people interested in the subject know that, under present circumstances, one is unlikely to rehabilitate a person sentenced to six or seven years. By then it is too late; the whole system of running down the individual has taken place. One can only do this rehabilitation in a shorter period of time. If there are to be long prison sentences, which will not rehabilitate people, one must think again.
In our Prison Service and crime prevention, we are not using our labour in the most economical way. We have 875 limited resources and need more recruits for the police and prison services. The Report deals with this. One of the difficulties is that we are using much of our resources to keep people in prison for long periods and not enough to impress on those who offend against the law that they are likely to be caught.
One of the reasons for the rising crime rate is that a person can weigh up the odds on being caught. If he is less likely to be caught, he is more likely to commit the crime and vice versa. We cannot separate our attitudes to society and people who break the law, whether by violence or any other means, from what is in the Report and our whole attitude to prison reform and preventive work.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone questioned the concepts of prisons and how we treat people. This would be a fitting subject for debate and I hope that we may one day debate what is happening in our prisons. We know that financial resources are limited, but if we spent more on housing and education, we might be doing more to prevent crime. Anyone who has worked in the children's service, as I have, and has been a chairman of a children's committee, has felt the apprehension which comes with the knowledge of the deprivation, indignities and misery which some young people suffer in their early years through all sorts of difficulties which one cannot go into.
One knows that it is those people who will be called criminals and punished in 20 years' time. This is outside the debate, but if a little more of our resources were directed to that object, we might reduce our prison population and get a more enlightened attitude to the treatment of people who offend against the law.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
Morale and recruitment in the Prison Service are absolutely vital. This is borne out by paragraph 223 of the Mountbatten Report:Despite the handicaps under which the Prison Service is working, morale appeared to me to be surprisingly high in the prisons I visited, though naturally I have received a number of letters which indicate that this is not universal, and this is also the view of some prison officers I have talked to.There is a remand home and a Borstal in my constituency and I have had fairly 876 close contact with prison officers. Their morale is amazing, but they are dubious about one or two matters.
We live in an age of violence and crime, and our only protection is the strength of our Police Force and the deterrent effect of severe sentences. We all remember the Home Secretary overriding a sentence of birching passed by a magistrate on a young criminal convicted of violence against prison warders and police officers during a riot in the prison. He was serving a life sentence for murder. I do not say that birching is the correct answer, but the right hon. Gentleman must surely advance some alternative to protect warders and police officers from this kind of violence.
We all acknowledge that a strong, efficient and well-paid Police and Prison Service is necessary to control crime. We urgently need more policemen on the beat and many more warders, but we are not recruiting them in the right way. I fear that we are putting too much stress on the views of psychiatrists. A police inspector friend of mine told me that many policemen thought that during their training psychiatrists should spend one year as warders in a prison, which would give them a much more balanced idea of the kind of people they are dealing with.
As the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) said, we have not enough police officers. At Winson Green there is a shop equipped by a firm in my constituency, Harris Brush Works, which employs a large number of prisoners. One of the snags is that, because of lack of warders to supervise, they work very short hours, which is not satisfactory to them or to the people who are encouraging them to do this kind of work. The firm tries as far as possible to take these people into its factory at Bromsgrove when they are released. They are doing a first-class job. More warders are needed to supervise this kind of work.
Another important factor, which was raised by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North, is housing for prison officers when they retire. A prison officer came to see me a month ago when he was due for retirement and said that his problem was that, although he had served at Winson Green and the remand home in my constituency, he was on no housing list. This is a very important matter. 877 These men and their wives, who have served the country so well for a long time, should have some form of security when they retire.
I am very glad that the Home Secretary has returned, because I should like to cross swords with him. On 26th January, I asked him:whether, in view of the fact that there are not totally secure prisons in this country, he will now consider recommending the installation of high-voltage electric fences round the perimeters of Her Majesty's prisons, following the Mountbatten Report.The right hon. Gentleman answered:No, Sir. Apart from any other considerations, the hon. Member is under a misapprehension if he thinks this was recommended by Lord Mountbatten."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1967; Vol. 740, c. 1758.]But my point is that the Home Secretary——