HC Deb 16 February 1967 vol 741 cc877-934

Question again proposed.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Dance

You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that I was crossing swords with the Home Secretary and perhaps for clarification I ought to read out the Question again. 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 Home Secretary's reply was: No, Sir. Apart from any other considerations, the hon. Member is under a misapprehension if he thinks this was recommended by Lord Mountbatten But that was not the point I was making. The Mountbatten Report had said that there were not totally secure prisons and I was suggesting that we should take what steps we could to ensure that they were as secure as possible. I suggested electric fences because I thought that there might be something in the idea. I am not saying that I was completely right, but I got the brush-off when I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that It is his own feather-bedding of the criminal classes that has done so much to undermine the morale of police and prison officers and to raise the rate of crime, on his own admission, to an all-time record level". The right hon. Gentleman's reply was to say that it was a pity that I should have tabled a Question apparently based either upon a misreading or a non-reading of a most important Report …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 26th January, 1967; Vol. 739, c. 1758.] That was rather unfair of the right hon. Gentleman, because an hon. Member cannot come back with a second supplementary question and so I had to sit there and look a complete idiot.

Mr. Jenkins

Now that the hon. Gentleman has put it so charmingly I hesitate to interrupt him on this occasion at some length, but I want to indicate that my reply was what it was because the words "following the Mountbatten Report" appeared to indicate that this had been one of the recommendations. With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, confronted with 52 recommendations from Lord Mountbatten after two months' study, I would prefer to study those rather than make a study of one of the hon. Gentleman's recommendations without two months' study.

Mr. Dance

That is fair enough, but I wanted to make the point that in a way this came within the scope of the Mountbatten recommendations when Lord Mountbatten said: I recommend there should be an immediate survey of all perimeter walls. In other words, he was saying that security of the perimeter walls was one of the great problems and I was trying to be helpful with my suggestion.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), with whom I agree so much, was perfectly right to say that criminals must be put into different categories and that an extremely violent and potentially dangerous man must be in a category different from that of others. Something has to be done to protect the public against very dangerous criminals who are a menance if they get out of prison.

I must be fair and say that I am one of those who signed the Motion asking for the Home Secretary's resignation. I sincerely hope that he will listen to the points made today. I am all for humanitarian treatment in prisons, but we can have too much feather-bedding of the bad and violent criminal, and I hope that in future the Home Secretary will take a more positive and powerful stand on that issue.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Eric S. Heifer (Liverpool, Walton)

Among many enlightened speeches today we have had two particularly enlightened speeches from the Front Benches. Anyone who has been present throughout the debate and who has heard my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) will know that on both sides of the House there are hon. Members deeply concerned with trying to find the solution to the problems of penal reform. I was fascinated by some of the proposals of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I sincerely hope that at some time we can have a debate solely about how we intend to treat criminals in future and to answer the question of what else we can do except to put them into the existing buildings which we call prisons.

One of the country's very large prisons is in my constituency, Walton Prison. Obviously, as my right hon. Friend said, we cannot be concerned only with security, although I want to say something about security and some other aspects of prison life. I want especially to deal with sanitary conditions. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State knows that I have put a number of Questions to her during the last two and a half years about sanitary conditions in prisons generally and in Walton in particular.

Walton has had many famous prisoners. One of the most famous was Brendan Behan who wrote "Borstal Boy". Con- ditions are no different now from what they were when Brendan Behan wrote these words in his fascinating book. He said: Mornings, we were wakened at six"— I do not say that prisoners are still awakened at six— and slopped out throwing the contents of the chamber-pot into the bucket brought round by the prisoner appointed to this position. There was competition for the job because the same man brought round the breakfast. There was competition for it because he might be able to "nick" a bit more for himself. Then we went down to the recess with an enamel jug and got water for washing. There was only one lavatory on each landing and it was impossible to get in and use it, with another thirty or forty fellows queueing for water for washing, and rinsing round the bottom of the chamberpots to get out what had not gone into the big slop-bucket. This was in the winter, of course. He went on: All the time it was cold and black. In the morning the slate floor was freezing cold, and over the whole huge wing was a cold smell of urine and bad air, like a refrigerated lavatory. Having read "Borstal Boy", I visited Walton Prison thinking that the conditions could not be anything like those described in the book. The sanitary arrangements, I thought, must have improved. But they had not. In the years since Brendan Behan had left the prison—he had been a political prisoner, a member of the I.R.A., and had not been sent there because he was a thief or anything of that sort—nothing had changed. I visited Walton Prison again recently and I again looked at the sanitary arrangements. Hon. Members will be interested to hear that they are still exactly the same.

We have spent a great deal of money in trying to improve Walton Prison. A new hospital block has been built and I agree that that is an improvement. However, should we go on wasting a great deal of money—and it is a waste—on buildings of this kind, buildings which cannot be adapted to modern ideas and techniques? Instead of wasting money in this way, we should push ahead even faster with the building of new prisons outside urban areas so that new ideas and techniques to improve the lot of the prisoner can be implemented. Walton Prison is overcrowded. Conditions there are bad, not only for the prisoners but for those in the Prison Service. If men are forced to work in these conditions they cannot have good relations with the prisoners. I am not criticising anybody for this state of affairs. Three men must live in a small cell. Criminals are bound to be bred in such conditions. Some people have been sent to Walton Prison—I am sure that this applies to other prisons—although they have not been the sort of criminals with whom we are particularly concerned. But they have come out criminals. Under the law as it stands, people can be imprisoned for all sorts of reasons. Hardened criminals are often bred in prison and we must, therefore, do our utmost to get rid of these out-of-date buildings.

Much has been said about making prisons more secure, but is this possible? I agree that steps must be taken to ensure greater security, but many of the buildings inside our present old prisons reach the perimeter walls. In one recent case five prisoners escaped from Walton Prison because of circumstances such as these. The carpenters' shop extended not only to the perimeter wall but beyond it. There were plenty of tools available in the carpenters' shop and the prisoners merely had to walk through a door into the building which lay outside the wall. One ingenious prisoner, using the tools at his disposal, cut a hole in the wall and five prisoners went through it.

Much has been said about prisoners receiving help from outside to make good their escape. On this occasion help from outside was not needed. Indeed, one of the chaps later said, "What would you do? There was a hole staring me in the face, so naturally I went through it". Of course he did. He would have been a model prisoner indeed if he had not, particularly as it was a couple of days before Christmas.

I do not blame anybody for the present state of affairs. These old buildings are the cause of the trouble. Even if flash-lighting were introduced, it would be impossible, certainly at Walton, to have complete security because so many of the buildings extend right to the perimeter walls. The shadows cast by these buildings would make any form of flash or floodlighting almost pointless.

The answer is to use the interim period, between now and the time when sufficient new prisons are built outside urban areas—and we are likely to have a considerable wait—to devise methods which will ensure the best security possible. I hope that prisons will not be placed in places like Dartmoor. Prisoners should not be cast away in such isolated conditions. However, there must be a greater measure of security, if only because the people living near prisons such as Walton suffer great anxiety when there is a break-out. The escapee may not be violent, but the fact that an escape has taken place causes alarm. There must, therefore, be the maximum possible security.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will not accept suggestions like those put forward by the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance). The very thought of electric fences appalls me. I suggest that in addition to increasing the patrols by day and night inside the perimeter walls, there should be additional patrols outside the walls, perhaps by the police, although I appreciate that the Police Force is also short of staff. This may not be a practical suggestion, but I trust that my right hon. Friend will consider it. We cannot hope to solve the problem while we must make do with the old buildings which we call prisons. It would be better for my constituents if Walton Prison were removed and the land used for housing. We have a very serious housing problem in Liverpool.

There are many facets of this problem which I should like to discuss, but many hon. Members would like to contribute to the debate and I will not delay the House. I normally profoundly disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) when debating these issues, particularly when he urges the return of capital punishment. However, I agree with him that consideration should be given to the case of the prison officer who retires, although this does not apply only to prison officers. In my constituency we have a large hospital and when the deputy matron recently retired she had nowhere to live.

It is a scandal that people who give years of service to the community, as prison officers, hospital staff and others do, are not given special consideration when they retire, particularly if their living accommodation is tied to their jobs. We should try to persuade local authorities to reach an agreement with the Home Office to solve this problem, particularly the housing problem faced by people when they retire. I appreciate, of course, that not all prison officers will want to live in council houses when they retire and that some of them may wish to find their own accommodation. It is an important point, because it may be that one of the reasons why it is difficult at times to recruit people is that they fear what may happen to them when they retire.

So far, this has been a remarkably interesting and fascinating debate. As a result of it, I hope that we shall not in future find ourselves involved in a great deal of hot air about prison escapes, with people tabling Motions getting at the Home Secretary. The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone made the very fair point that prison escapes have been going on and wrong advice has been given for a very long time. All these escapes cannot be the responsibility of the present Home Secretary. Everything is being done to make certain that we have maximum security prisons within the context of a liberal régime.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

I wish to echo the compliments which have been paid to Lord Mountbatten and his three assessors for the thoroughness of their Report and the despatch with which it was produced, bearing in mind the point made by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) that something produced so quickly cannot be expected to produce all the answers.

It is tempting to follow those hon. Members who have gone into the whole subject of prison reform, but I shall concentrate the few remarks which I intend to make purely on security. Neither do I intend to go into individual details about Blake or Mitchell, though I will make one brief remark about Blake. Reading the rather scarifying story of his escape, it occurs to me that perhaps he and people like him, who are the undesirable objective of the attentions of foreign Powers with relatively limitless resources, should fall into a somewhat different category from what Lord Mountbatten described as Category A. Such men are, after all, soldiers in a cold but real war. I doubt whether they ought necessarily to be incarcerated in criminal institutions, and it occurs to me that a special military unit of some sort might be set up to deal with that category of prisoner.

The public has been rightly shocked by the inadequacies which the Report has highlighted. It is disturbing to find ourselves, as we do so often in other matters, drifting into a serious situation, in spite of all the warning signs over the years. The rising crime rate, longer prison sentences and overcrowding have been going on for a long time. It seems that always we have to await dramatic events before urgent action is generated, and that is very unfortunate.

Equally, it has been made startlingly clear that the responsibility for the situation does not lie with the sorely overtaxed prison officers themselves but with successive Administrations and with the public, who have been more concerned with the nature of punishment than with the mechanism of carrying it out.

I wish to make six specific points on which I should welcome the right hon. Gentleman's comments. First, I would commend to him those paragraphs in the Report which deal with the status of prison officers and the need to ensure that their morale is high. They are the people who work the system, and it is imperative that they should be in good heart. It is pleasing to hear the Home Secretary say that the recommendation about the senior prison officer grade is to be accepted. He ought also to look carefully at paragraph 219 on the general question of establishment ceilings. The fact that the number of prisoners has increased is not, in the end, so significant as the progressive increase in the range of work and training which prison officers carry out, and this is all linked to overcrowding and the shortage of space.

I am happy to see the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland present. In Scotland, we have up to 50 per cent. overcrowding in our prisons. Clearly, that is a situation which must be tackled.

On the general matter of status and conditions, the five-day week is of significance. In Scotland, we have the anomalous position that a five-day week operates only in Peterhead and Aberdeen Prisons, and that has not been extended.

The second point which the Report brings out is that there appears to be a lack of any consistent line of guidance from above, and that has instanced itself in several different ways. There seem to be considerable variations in prisons of the same type. In Dartmoor, for example, the regime appears to have been easier—some might say more lax—than elsewhere. At any rate, it appears from all the evidence which we have that Mitchell apparently wanted to go there rather than somewhere else.

There is a reference in paragraph 242 to the need for a security manual. I do not know if that means necessarily that there is no standard security manual, but there is also a reference in paragraph 238 to the need for inspection, which would suggest a lack of any standard approach to both. In general, it appears that decisions which have been taken at the administrative centre, the Home Office, have not always filtered down to prison level and become fully implemented. The recommendation of an inspector general from outside to look thoroughly at the whole situation is to be welcomed.

The third matter was touched on by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor). We have not thought out properly the problem of the long-term prisoner for whom, in the Home Secretary's own words, a life sentence means a life sentence. Such men make up a new category, and many have access to quite large outside resources, which presents another risk.

In looking at the problems which they present, we have not only to consider the structural form of any fortress island prison, as it has been called. It is not just a matter of the sort of institution which might be set up, for example, in the Isle of Wight. An important factor to be considered is the kind of society which will be created inside such a prison. It is pretty scarifying to think of some sort of super prison containing 100 or 120 long-term aggressive prisoners who have nothing to look forward to, no matter how much remission they may earn. It must be extremely alarming for prison officers to contemplate the guarding of such people who have nothing to lose. I was glad to hear the Minister say that he accepted that a small extra payment should be made, but I should have thought that quite a reasonable recompense would be necessary.

It may seem inappropriate for a Liberal to say, but I notice that in paragraph 294, the possibility of armed guards is dismissed by Mountbatten. In the very special case of long-term prisoners, I should have thought that it might be necessary. I do not see any great risk in having an armoury inside a prison.

The same paragraph, having recommended that prison officers should not be armed, goes on to say: Shooting at a helicopter which is landing or lowering a belt from a winch comes into a different category and warning shots could be fired first. I do not quite see how prison officers can fire shots if they have no guns. However that may be, I am not altogether satisfied that very special methods might not have to be taken in this very special category.

Fourthly, although I agree with all the remarks which have been made about categorisation and the necessity for it, we must look to some extent beyond that. As the Home Secretary is so sharply aware, there are many people in security prisons who are in for long-term sentences but who should not be in prison at all. These are people who need to be dealt with, for example, in the manner suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) in his Criminal Responsibility Bill, because they should be in establishments for the criminally insane. Lord Justice Winn said the other day that if a certain individual ever got out he would be a danger to the public. I wish to refer to an incident which occurred in the north of England only last month.

A prisoner was taken from Strange-ways Prison to Baguley Hospital for some medical investigation. The warders warned the doctor. The actual words used were that the prisoner concerned would be liable to clobber the nurses. They made it quite clear that the prisoner was quite unpredictable in his behaviour. The doctor examined the prisoner and found that this was so. He remained in hospital for four days and then returned to Strangeways Prison, where presumably he is likely to clobber anybody at any time. Fifthly, we should like to know whether comparable action will be taken in Scotland. I hope that reference can be made to this by the Government in the winding-up speech, though I also hope that we shall have a separate debate on this subject in the Scottish Grand Committee in due course. Lord Mountbatten was not charged with the task of examining the Scottish system, though he mentions it in paragraphs 258 and 259 of his Report. Will there be a separate Inspector-General for Scotland—a separate supremo? If not, what is to happen?

I wonder about the present building programme in Scotland. Saughton is the very last prison which was built. Some clearing-up is required. We should be told what the situation is. We look forward to the time when there will be no trebling up, as there is in so many prisons today, but when there will be gap room to allow for any increase in crime.

Sixthly, and lastly, I have in my constituency a prison, Porterfield, a wing of which was recently designated as a special unit and which is referred to by Lord Mountbatten in paragraph 258. I am concerned about this, because this is a specific example which I know about Lord Mountbatten says that he found the security precautions impressive at Porterfield. Presumably Lord Mountbatten meant the security precautions for its use as a maximum security prison. He uses the phrase, "maximum security wing". Whether it is a maximum security wing, a segregation unit, or a special unit, is vague. The special unit itself is not completed.

This is a prison bang in the middle of a small town. Next door to it, cheek by jowl with it, is a youth hostel. There is a builder's yard very adjacent to it, with all the implements usually to be found in a builder's yard. It is generally known that one of our more dangerous prisoners, Ellis, has already been transferred to this prison. He is a man who engaged in a bank robbery and shot the bank manager. He was charged with attempted murder. Somewhere there is £19,000 still not recovered.

This represents a serious and disturbing risk. Constituents of mine living round the prison have come to me with a petition and have said that there should not be a maximum security prison there. Nobody particularly likes living near a prison, but I think my constituents now have a just and valid case, if this place is being used in this way without proper preparation.

Tradesmen move in and out. This is another factor which has often been drawn to my attention by prison officers. There seems to be no screening of tradesmen. There seems to be a general disinclination by the prison authorities to use the prison officer tradesmen rather than to take in outside tradesmen. For example, general work is done by people drawn from the labour exchange. I know of a case when the employment exchange actually sent a former prisoner up to the prison to do a job inside. Fortunately, he was recognised, but easily might not have been.

It is, perhaps, unfair to concentrate on a part in this way, but I believe that it emphasises the fact that this particular choice is unsatisfactory. Also it is perhaps generally indicative of how much there is to be done over the whole prison system of the United Kingdom. The Home Secretary has a very big task before him, and I hope that he will do it with all despatch.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I hope that the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) will not think it a discourtesy on my part if I do not take up any of the points he made in his interesting speech, though some of them were challenging enough. My reason for not taking them up is that I want to make only one or two very short general points as my contribution to this very interesting discussion.

I have some excuse for speaking, I think. I think that 1 am not quite the only Member of Parliament with any inside experience of prisons. There are three or four others still left. But I think I am the only one who has listened to, or sought to take part in, this debate. I myself during the First World War spent 27 months in local prisons—six months in Wormwood Scrubs, nine months in a very old prison in Preston, and another 12 months in Preston. Hon. Members will have listened, I hope with some horror, to descriptions of the conditions inside local prisons, particularly the older ones. They were exactly the same 50 years ago. I still have the most vivid recollections of them and I still get nightmares concerning them.

We are supposed to be having today a debate on a Motion to take note of the Mountbatten Report. The Mountbatten Report was about security in prisons. We are, in part, debating security in prisons, but the most important and the most notable speeches in the debate, particularly those from the Front Benches, have not been about security in prisons. They have been about prison conditions, a topic that the House has not debated for many years. I am not regretting the fact that the speeches have been concerned with prison conditions. I welcome it. I only regret that the time we have to devote to the topic is so short and comes round so rarely. I think that it is 17 or 18 years since the House was concerned with a debate on prison conditions.

Why are we debating this topic now? We are debating it because George Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs. If he had not escaped from Wormwood Scrubs, we would not have been debating it yet. It might have been another 20 years before we had another look at these conditions which still prevail, after so many generations, under a prison Act passed somewhere in the middle 1800s.

The Criminal Justice Bill is at the moment passing through the House. In many ways, it is a very good Bill. A large part of the beginning of it deals with who shall go into prison. A large part of the end of it deals with who shall come out, when, and how. There is not a word in the Bill from beginning to end about what one does with the prisoners while they are in. Yet this is the crux of the matter. is it not?

The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) was quite right to say that what we ought to be looking at, even if we are concerned mainly with security, and certainly if we are concerned with penal reform, is what we hope to get out of our prison system. What are we running it for? Until we know what we are running it for, we shall not concern ourselves with how to do it. It is a great pity that there is nothing in the Criminal Justice Bill to deal with what must be the crux of the matter.

We might consider whether we ought to pass a resolution of thanks to Mr. Blake for giving us the opportunity to look at matters which everyone regards as most important, which we are all delighted to discuss, which we all regret not having had an opportunity to discuss earlier and which we all hope later to have fuller opportunity to discuss, but which we should not have discussed had Mr. Blake remained quietly in Wormwood Scrubs. That may be an ironic comment, but it is a true comment. Everyone in the House knows that that is so. We should not have been concerned even now, after so many years, to look at the system of slopping out in prisons if Mr. Blake had quietly slopped during his stay at Wormwood Scrubs.

In making my second point, I associate myself with something else said by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone. I referred to this in my contribution to the Second Reading debate on the Criminal Justice Bill. We must have a serious look at sentencing policy. It is not good enough for infallible old gentlemen wearing red robes and full-bottomed wigs to send people to prison for 30 or 40 years and then for the rest of us to hold up our hands in horror when they try to get out. I do not know what other hon. Members feel, but I feel that if a man is sentenced to what amounts to three or four life sentences—30 years—or five or six life sentences—40 years—we cannot expect him to sit down and do nothing about it. One must expect people like that to escape if they can, and more particularly if we tell them how easy it is.

They have nothing else to do. They have nothing to hope for. It is no good telling a man serving 40 years that he can earn one-third remission by good conduct. From his point of view, he is there for life, however well behaved he is. I cannot help thinking that Her Majesty's judges, sitting with their almost unchallengeable power in the courts and exercising their moral indignation irresponsibly and thoughtlessly in the way they do, ought on occasion to he reminded of the enormity of some of the things they do under the authority which we confer upon them and in the name of us all.

If it is conceded that a man serving a sentence of that kind will escape if he can, it must also be conceded, must it not, that not everyone's sympathy will be against him? Mine certainly is not. If a man successfully escapes from a thoroughly inhuman and unjustifiable sentence, I cannot blame him. I applaud him. My sympathies are not with those who want to hunt him down and bring him back again. My sympathies are with him, and I dare say that a great many Members of the House of Commons will share that view.

Blake did a terrible thing. I am not defending it. I do not excuse him. I am only saying that if we inflict a penalty of that kind, we must expect, first, that he will escape from it if he can and, second, that if he does he will carry a good deal of public sympathy with him.

My third point also arises in part out of something which the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone said in what I thought a very wise, civilised and humane speech. He said that one could not make a prison a factory. I do not know whether one can make a prison a factory—we succeed in making a good many factories look like prisons—but I entirely endorse, so far as I may without being thought patronising, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view that if we want to rehabilitate a man who is at odds with society, we really must give him something constructive to do. If we take a substantial part, most or all of what he earns and we use it by way of compensation to his victims, even that is better than keeping him either unemployed altogether or employed on soul-destroying activity with no constructive value, without any interest and without any inducement to do the work well or to take a pride in doing a good job.

There are difficulties here, I know. In the past, one of the principal difficulties has been the attitude of the trade unions. I am not blaming them. That attitude was taken in days when mass unemployment was the rule and unions were concerned to protect their members' right to work. Naturally, they objected to unfair competition from people who had done nothing to deserve favours from society. Unfortunately, there is unemployment still. But we hope, do we not, that we shall be able to get back to full employment, that when we have rescued ourselves from our economic disasters we shall be able to maintain full employment as one of the basic rights of man?

When we do, will it be impossible to devise a system whereby prisoners, particularly long-term prisoners, can be employed at trade union rates of pay, under trade union conditions, doing useful work and producing goods which are useful to the community? There will be much less inducement or incitement to escape if men in prisons—or factories, labour camps, whatever one cares to call them—are allowed to live in decent reasonably dignified human conditions, doing useful work, making a contribution by their labour to society, and perhaps making good some of the damage they have done out of the earnings which they are allowed to earn.

Those are the things we should be examining. I hope that when we are through with this debate, through with the Criminal Justice Bill and half a dozen other things with which the House is greatly concerned, and which keep cropping up from time to time, we shall have another opportunity to look at our prison system, before another 20 years have gone by, and see if we cannot create at long last a civilised form of it.

If we do, we shall not need to concern ourselves with escapology, maximum security prisons, outside organisations or popular sympathies on the wrong side, because we shall have created a situation in which none of those things would be worth while.

8.1 p.m.

Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)

We have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), who has taken us further along the path the debate has followed during the day, a path which I did not expect but which I welcome. We heard from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and the Home Secretary a fascinating development of what I may perhaps describe as prison philosophy, and I, too, hope that the House will return to a detailed debate of the human problems involved before many months have passed.

I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not follow him in more detail now but come at once to one or two points that I would like to raise, because I have observed that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has been present during the debate. A number of questions arising from the Report come within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I hope that hon. Members will bear with me if I raise those Scottish points, because some have a wider application. As the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) said, a brief section in the Report refers to Scotland. In fact, there are two paragraphs—paragraphs 258 and 259—and not one, as he suggested, and one or two questions arise from them.

Many of the general observations and some of the specific recommendations elsewhere in the Report will be seen to apply to Scotland, but there are some specific Scottish points to which the hon. Gentleman may reply if he is fortunate enough to catch the eye of the Chair. I see that Lord Mountbatten visited Inverness, and I shall not develop that further now. In discussing the security wing question, his Report suggested that the new maximum security prison to be built in the Isle of Wight might be used for Category A prisoners from Scotland. Has that suggestion been considered by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and if the new Isle of Wight prison is to be used in that way under whose jurisdiction would Scottish prisoners lodged there come? Would they be under the Home Secretary or remain under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for Scotland? There may also be some legal implications in that point, which I have not yet studied, in view of the differences between Scots and English law. Will he give that some thought?

In paragraph 259, the Report takes up the point touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness in that Lord Mountbatten suggests that the professional head of the English Prison Service might well be invited by the Secretary of State for Scotland to extend his visits to Scottish prisons, once he has settled into the English role, in conjunction with the Scottish Inspector of Prisons. That is a valuable suggestion, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will comment on it.

Several right hon. and hon. Members have touched on the most important question of morale in the Prison Service. When he opened the debate, the Home Secretary quite rightly paid some attention to that, and referred to the need for better public relations for the Prison Service. Indeed, at paragraph 25 Lord Mountbatten states: I hope therefore that really good public relations will be built up for the Prison Service. But, of course, public relations are by no means the whole story. Important as that form of communication is in presenting the prison service in a favourable way to the outside world, it cannot fill the enormous gap which must still be filled in terms of public respect for the prison service and anxiety to join it. Public relations can call attention to the hard, unglamorous, and often thankless work of the prison officers, but the way to improve the service's standing is not only through public relations but by improving the service's condition of work, its pay and its career structure.

I was glad to see that the Report states, at the end of paragraph 223: But the external presentation of the work of the Prison Service and the consequent improvement in an already high morale will only be effective if the internal arrangements within the Prison Service are right. Will the hon. Gentleman turn his attention to some of the internal arrangements in the Prison Service in Scotland?

In the Scottish paragraphs of the Report, Lord Mountbatten suggested that the new promotion structure and new officer grade which he proposes for England might also find their place in Scotland. I hope that that will be so, because clearly the career structure and promotion prospects of the service are important factors in making the service attractive to people outside.

The prison buildings in Scotland are unsatisfactory. The hon. Member for Inverness reminded us that they are grossly overcrowded. It is hard to see how any process of rehabilitation can be successful in the surroundings in which prisoners are housed at present, and how prison officers can do their work most efficiently if they are subjected to conditions of that kind.

In a reply to a Question earlier this month, the Secretary of State told me that work in hand on prison building would provide 10 per cent. more places. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what sort of places those will be? Will they be sufficient to keep up with the increase in the prison population, which is a reflection of the depressing increase in the rate of crime, or will they go some way towards easing the present overcrowding from which we suffer in Scotland?

The right hon. Gentleman also told me in a Written Answer that negotiations were going on for three sites in Scotland for new prison buildings. He said in a written answer: Negotiations are in progress for the acquisition of sites for three new establishments to provide about 900 places."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1967; Vol. 740, c. 160.] What effect will those 900 places have on overcrowding? It would also be interesting to know where those sites are, how the negotiations are progressing and what sort of building programme is envisaged. Perhaps they could be used as an experimental development of the new type of prison we all look for.

There is also the question of recruitment. According to Answers which the right hon. Gentleman gave me on 2nd February to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) some time in January, the Scottish Prison Service is about 10 per cent. short of men at present. I understand that there are 1,432 men in the service and that about another 140 are needed to maintain present standards and eleminiate excessive overtime. Is that figure sufficient? If we are to implement the terms of the Report there will be a need for more prison officers to provide the security for which we look. I fear that the 140 forecast by the right hon. Gentleman in January may prove to be an under estimate.

Secondly, the excessive overtime we have to get rid of is indeed excessive. I learnt in another reply that these 1,400 prison officers worked about 320,000 hours overtime last year. That is far too high a figure. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to tell us what steps are being taken to improve recruitment and so to reduce overtime in Scottish prisons. I hope that he can say what prospect there is for a five-day week for the service.

I understand from the Secretary of State that the advertising campaign is to be increased over the coming months in order to improve recruitment which I gather has been going ahead reasonably well over the last months. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us the recruitment target for the coming months so that we can see from time to time how things are going.

I now want to refer to a constituency question which has given me a great deal of concern. I am glad that Perth Prison takes part in the "training for freedom" scheme. This is a valuable way of rehabilitating what one might call trustworthy prisoners for return to civilian life. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone referred to deficiencies in the administrative system and I am sorry to have to tell the House of a grave deficiency which came to my notice some weeks ago.

A man from Perth Prison was working in the scheme in December and I learnt some weeks later by pure chance that he had escaped from the building site he was working on as part of the scheme. To my astonishment, I discovered that, although Perth Prison immediately informed the Scottish Office Prison Division in Edinburgh, no action whatever was taken to inform the Press or the public of the escape. So some weeks passed before anyone knew that a prisoner was on the run.

I believe that there has been some confusion as to whether or not he has been caught. I understand that he has not. If that is so, is it not likely that he might have been caught had the public been alerted to the fact that he had escaped? I regard this as really a very worrying deficiency in the administrative system.

I must say at once that I wrote to the Secretary of State for Scotland at the beginning of January and had a letter from him a few days ago in which, it is only fair to say, he apologised for this grave error and recognised its seriousness. I understand from the letter that action has been taken to stop this grave error from happening again. I am glad, too, that the right hon. Gentleman made it clear that this extraordinary oversight was not the responsibility of the prison authorities in Perth or of the prison officers. Very rightly, he pointed to his own Prison Department and thereby, I presume, acepted the ultimate responsibility himself. This is a serious matter and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to reassure us that this sort of mistake will never happen again because, obviously, we cannot tolerate a situation in which a prisoner can escape even from such a scheme as "training for freedom" without the Press and the public being alerted. It is extraordinary that this error occurred, particularly as it came hard on the heels of a succession of spectacular escapes from prisons in England.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

As my hon. Friend knows, I have had this type of escape from the Dumfries Young Offenders' Institution in my constituency. Does he not agree that the impression is abroad in Scotland that, in the matter of publicity, very often the Secretary of State has come down on the side of the prisoner rather than on that of informing the public?

Mr. MacArthur

That impression has been given, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to tell the Secretary of State of our concern about this matter and that, in the course of the review which I understand is being undertaken following publication of the Mountbatten Report, he will study not only the whole question of public relations for the prison service but also the conditions in which the prison officers work and take steps to improve the whole pattern of communications between the authorities and the public in relation to the prison service, prison escapes and the whole climate in which the Prison Service in Scotland is conducted.

8.15 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)

It would be wrong of me to go into too much detail on the points raised, for if I were to do so my speech would be a major one and this is only an intervention to deal with some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) and the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur).

One should be clear that the kind of problem existing in Scotland is very different from that which gave rise, in a sense, to the Mountbatten Report. In this sense, we are all pleased that Scotland is not involved in that imme- diate problem so that we can discuss this situation in general. There is no spy problem in Scotland—nothing of the nature of the 42-year sentence in the Blake case, no international security problem or development of highly organised groups outside organising escapes. It seems that most sophisticated Scottish criminals tend to drift south—possibly another example of the brain drain and one that we might welcome. So it is very much a kind of normal prison problem that we are dealing with.

I will first deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Inverness in relation to Inverness Prison. It is important to keep in mind that the Mountbatten Report gave a very favourable comment on it. Lord Mountbatten said: I found the security precautions impressive. That was a flat, definite and absolute statement.

I recognise the hon. Member's anxieties, however. We had to find a place where a small number of maximum security prisoners could be accommodated. Inverness is a small prison. It already existed and there were factors within the building which made it possible to adapt it to what the hon. Gentleman wanted to have more closely defined but which Lord Mountbatten called a "security wing". There were very good reasons why the wing should be there. I recognise the hon. Gentleman's anxieties, as I have said, but he would not expect me to shift a prison at the relative cost in terms of a youth hostel.

We have been thoroughly checking the problem that is mainly exercising the people of Inverness—the perimeter problem—and I expect to receive a report shortly. A number of questions have been raised in the past by the hon. Gentleman and the local council on such matters, and the hon. Gentleman can rest assured that, no matter what steps we take arising out of the review, we shall consult the local authority.

Mr. Russell Johnston

But why the decision that dangerous prisoners should be put there before the security wing is ready? It will not be ready for 18 months?

Mr. Buchan

They were put there because the security arrangements were found to be impressive. The answer to the hon. Gentleman is in the Mountbatten Report. He cannot have it both ways.

The other question he raised, in common with the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire, was that of the "supremo"—the Inspector-General. In a sense, this may be something on which we in Scotland are already ahead of England. We have had an inspector of prisons for the last two or three years, and it may be that the Mountbatten inquiry learnt something from this. We shall be continuing with our inspectorate, but we should certainly welcome visits by the "supremo", who may also learn from Scottish experience as well as teaching something. We will welcome his presence, but we shall maintain our own inspectorate system.

Hon. Members referred also to the question of the five-day week in the Prison Service. I understand that it has not been put into practice in Inverness but that it is in practice in Peterhead and Aberdeen. The five-day week at Aberdeen worked very successfully. We have not been satisfied with what has happened at the other prison and we shall recast the scheme. I should be very optimistic in the present situation if I were to suggest that we shall have a five-day week in all prisons. The 320,000 hours overtime mentioned by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire gives some indication of the size of the problem.

I am glad that the hon. Member referred to the incident at Perth in the terms in which he did. Sometimes we are not very helpful to prison officers, to security or to the public when we raise matters too sharply. I thank the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he dealt with this matter. The letter from the Secretary of State has been sent to him. We accept the error. It was not in prison arrangements or in information to the Prison Department. It was purely that it was not notified to the information officer. Whether if this had been done it would have led to the arrest of the prisoner, I cannot say. The hon. Member asked whether I could guarantee that it would not happen again. This reminds me of Shakespeare—"How absolute the rogue is". We cannot be as absolute as this. We are making every effort to ensure that it will not happen again. We regret the incident.

It does not follow that there is a general tendency to believe that we are more concerned with the prisoner than with the public. This is not the case. The public must be our No. 1 priority. Security must come first. Following on that come the needs of the prisoner. But neither point arose in this case.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the question of public relations. We have been looking at this very closely. The promotion structure is part of the same thing, and we hope to be able to say something more on this very shortly.

We have been fairly happy about the recruiting campaign. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen the figures. The campaign started in August. There have been 2,258 inquiries about the Prison Service. The high point of the campaign was reached in September. There were 834 inquiries—that is, roughly a third of the total—in the one month. This is an indication that a campaign of this kind can bring results. About 115 people have been successful in their applications. In a sense there is no target figure. In certain respects "infinity" is the wrong word but we can use all the officers we can recruit.

I come to the question of sites. We are talking about three sites. There have been difficulties in negotiations about the acquisition of land and access to land. We are now in at least two cases coming to the end of that kind of preliminary difficulty. One site will be the new place for women prisoners which, we hope, will be run on slightly better lines. The other will be for adult male prisoners. We shall be drawing on experience and the kind of discussion which has taken place in the House tonight before we go ahead with it.

I have been pressed on the question of dates. It is very difficult to give dates, but I should be misleading the House if I were to suggest that these new buildings will come into being shortly—certainly not before 1970. We are concerned with the early 1970s.

I hope that I have dealt with most of the points which have been raised. The key thing for which we are waiting in terms of security is the new review on perimeter security.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. Mark Woodnutt (Isle of Wight)

I cannot match the record of time spent in British gaols of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) but I can claim that I have spent an equivalent amount of time in Greek and German gaols, and I can appreciate the first point which he made in his excellent speech. I should like to refer to his last point and to say how much I agree with the need to give long-term prisoners, in particular, a worth-while job to do. This is important from the point of view of security, of rehabilitation and of reintroducing into them some form of self-respect. We should not only give them a job but pay them the rate for the job as long as a suitable deduction is made for the cost of their keep and as long as they pay some sort of compensation to the people who have suffered at their hands.

I wish to add my congratulations to Earl Mountbatten on the thoroughness and common sense of his Report and the speed with which it has been produced. We should also congratulate the Home Secretary on matching this by the speed with which he accepted the Report's main recommendations. I am particularly concerned with this matter because we already have two prisons in the Isle of Wight—Parkhurst and Camp Hill. A third—Albany—is under construcion and we are to have a fourth, the maximum security prison. They will all be contiguous in the same perimeter. This has been accepted locally with great difficulty. Nevertheless, the wisdom of the recommendations in the Report is recognised. All the local authorities are assisting by co-operating with the Home Office in ensuring that these plans come to fruition.

The paragraph which horrified me was that it was recommended that the name of the new prison should be Vectis, which is, of course, the Roman name for the Isle of Wight. This is wholly unacceptable to people on the island. Sixteen trading organisations use this name. It is used in our publicity. If it were used in other contexts, people would think of prisons. I was going to table a Question to the Home Secretary asking him to give an assurance that he would not name the prison Vectis, Wight, Jenkins or Mountbatten, but today I received a note saying that he had agreed that it should not be called Vectis. I thank him for meeting me on this point.

When areas co-operate with the Home Office in putting up prisons, the Department should be a little more forthcoming when it is asked to make a simple concession like this and should not make people wait six weeks before giving agreement.

Paragraph 14 of the Report says that there is no really secure prison in the country. I have no doubt that that is correct, but it could have been a little better worded. It caused quite a lot of alarm and worry in areas in which there are top security prisons, particularly in the Island, where we have people like Straffen, the child murderer, and the train robbers. Having been in and seen the top security block, I have spent the last year assuring people that it really is top security and that it would be very difficult for prisoners to get out.

The qualification should have been included in the Report that although prisons as a whole cannot be considered as secure, in the top security blocks every device has been used—electronics, various mechanical aids, closed-circuit television, everything possible—and although it can never be made completely impossible for someone to escape, in such places escape is almost impossible.

It so happened when I was last in Parkhurst Prison that I was present when two prisoners escaped from the outside part of the prison and I was able to see the whole of the security arrangements brought into operation. I have nothing but praise for the speed with which the Governor controlled the operations and all the men who were not working at the time immediately came back on duty, pulling on their uniforms as they rushed into the prison. The prisoners were recaptured within two hours.

These things also should be remembered, because people in the locality of prisons become very worried when they see headlines to the effect that no prison is secure. The scheme which immediately comes into force as soon as a prisoner escapes from a prison like Parkhurst is extremely efficient. I understand that only two prisoners from that prison have ever succeeded in getting off the Island. This is worthy of congratulation all round for all those who have anything to do with it.

That brings me to my main point, which concerns prison officers. I regard as the most important aspect of the Report of Earl Mountbatten that dealing with prison officers. The most important factor in ensuring that we have adequate security and a good Prison Service in the future is to make certain that we maintain high morale in the prison service. I endorse what was said by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) when he asked the Home Secretary whether he would accept the recommendations and the memorandum put forward by the Prison Officers' Association.

These men are always on risk. They are on risk much more than a policeman, because they are there in prison, particularly a place like Parkhurst, with criminals the whole time. I do not lack courage, but when I go round Parkhurst Prison and find myself locked in one of the working shops with about 30 men and only two prison officers, to say the least I feel apprehensive. I certainly have great admiration for those two officers who stand there all day, with the criminals in their care outnumbering them by 15 to 1, who could easily turn on them and, if need be, kill them.

We must accept all these recommendations. It is quite wrong that a man in the prison service has to wait 16 years for promotion. He must in future be promoted on ability and not solely on seniority. The level of pay should undoubtedly be at least the same as for the police. The compensation for widows should be increased and compensation to men who are injured during their duty should certainly be adequate, which at present it is not. The suggestion by Lord Mountbatten of a new rank of senior prison officer is first class, because this is a way of recognising ability and of giving a higher rate of pay to men who prove themselves worthy of it.

Our liberal attitude and the liberal attitude of the Report to prison life is right. It is clearly wrong that men, however evil they may be, should be treated like animals. It is right that prisoners should be rehabilitated and that they should be prepared to rejoin the outside world as decent citizens. It is also right that they should not be allowed to stagnate and suffer acute boredom inside prison. My worry always is that the do-gooders will go too far in what they want to do for the prisoner. It is extremely difficult to maintain the right sort of balance. All I ask the Home Secretary to remember is that punishment is an end in itself and not just a means to an end.

8.35 p.m.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, East)

The kernal of the problem that we have been debating today is that of achieving swiftly a large number of modern prisons. It is quite clear from the Mountbatten Report that it is impossible to have a proper liberal regime in an old-fashioned prison and, at the same time, to have security.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) demanded civilised prisons, and civilised prisons mean modern prisons. Prisons in this country fall into three categories. There are those which are not the property of the State, including Dartmoor and Preston prisons. There are only four of these altogether. The remainder in the other two categories are the property of the State. They are those which have been built since 1878 and are owned legally and beneficially by the State, and those built before 1878 which were nationalised by the Conservative Government of that time in the Prison Act, 1877.

The city prisons about which we have been hearing—Pentonville, Armley and Walton—were built before the Prison Act, 1877, and were nationalised, but perhaps the Conservatives lacked experience for they were not nationalised in a very sensible way. Although the legal title was transferred to the State by that Act, it was said that whenever the State closed one of those prisons—there are still 33 in existence in our principal towns—it had to offer the prison to the local council in whose area it was and that local council would buy it back from the State on a basis of compensation calculated on £120 per cell in respect only of those cells occupied by people sentenced by that local authority.

If within a few months of the closure of a prison the local authority does not avail itself of the right to buy, the State sells and has to return to the local authority all the moneys it obtains by the sale except for the compensation calculated at £120 per cell. It is calculated that to replace Wandsworth Prison would cost £4 million but all the State would get out of the sale would be £1,056. There has been a deterrent throughout the century for the State to build new prisons because it could not obtain more than a token payment in terms of site value. We have heard a great deal today about how valuable prison sites are, but they are not valuable to the State. They are valuable to the local authority—in the case of Wandsworth, to Surrey County Council. The State would get £100,000 but Surrey County Council would be made very wealthy indeed.

What incentive is there to the State, looking purely at the value of the site, in hastening to build many more prisons? Looking at the law, one finds that in 1952 the provisions about compensation were re-enacted precisely in the Prison Act that year. The trouble with that is that £120 in 1877 was worth a great deal of money. By 1952 it was worth a great deal less, and now it is worth less still, so the compensation which the Government are getting grows less and less, while the value of the sites goes up and up. I suggest that the Government should bring in a Measure designed to ensure that the equity in these prisons reverts to the State and not to the local councils. All that it needs is a small Bill saying that Section 38 of the Prisons Act, 1952, shall not have effect. Once that is done, the State will have in its pocket a great deal more in the way of assets than it has now and will be able to use that money—and it should be so stipulated—as a building fund to help in the building of new prisons.

I should like the Home Secretary to cause investigations to be made into the market value of those 33 prisons in this country, to calculate—and it is a fixed calculation—how much the State would obtain from local councils by way of compensation, and to enable us to see the difference between these two figures. My feeling is that it will prove to be colossal, and the money could be used by the State in due course to replace these old existing prisons which are a blight on the community.

There is a reference in the Mountbatten Report to the security situation in the new security prison on the Isle of Wight. On looking at the plans of the new prison, Lord Mountbatten considered whether he could organise an escape from it. He envisaged that there were still two ways in which it could be done. One was to use a helicopter, together with an aeroplane, guns, and a motor car. Using those four items, he could see a way of beating the precautions in the new security prison. An alternative way, he said, was to use a helicopter with a winch attached, coming low over the prison.

The fact that Lord Mountbatten, who is not given to flights of fancy, should consider that it is within the resources of organised crime to arrange an escape by using an aeroplane and a helicopter shows how serious the problem of top flight organised crime has become—this is yet another argument for majority verdicts—and therefore the State must be prodigal if necessary in the expenditure of money to defend our security, because prison security in the long term is our security.

It is suggested that we should install in our prisons not iron bars but layers and layers of glass which would take a man with a pick axe two hours to break through to the extent of making a 2 ft. aperature. This would be a very expensive substitute for iron bars, but the fact that these matters are being considered shows the degree of the problem, and I would always be 100 per cent. behind the Home Secretary in whatever demands he made on the public purse to achieve this kind of security.

8.44 p.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

Since Christmas I have visited Wormwood Scrubs, Pentonville, Winchester, Bristol, Dorchester, Shepton Mallet, The Verne training prison, Portland, Guy's Marsh and Reading Borstal institutions.

During the course of my researches, I have received the helpful co-operation of the Home Office and the help and encouragement of the many members of the Prison Service whom I have had the pleasure of meeting. This would also seem to have aroused considerable curiosity in the Press and broadcasting organisations. Some of the reports have been somewhat ill-informed and verging on the sensational. This would be a fault in the sort of reporting which one gets on debates like this and on some of the more spectacular escapes which have taken place.

This can be remedied by the Home Office providing more information of a digestible kind for the information services. By so doing the public would be very much better informed about what was going on inside prisons and inside the Home Office in its attempt to make our prison system more workable and effective in its task of rehabilitation.

The public have a very poor appreciation of conditions within the prisons and of the conditions of the inmates. More particularly the public know very little about the devoted work of the many members of the Prison Service. They could be better informed if more information came out of headquarters, and I hope that this will be attended to. The public are naturally more concerned with security than anything else. That is supported by the Government White Paper on The Adult Offender, which says that: The first need is to protect society against the dangerous man or woman who by crime will disturb its peace if at large. The idea that any one is incurably wicked is distasteful and hard to accept. But experience shows that there are some who will not make friends with society ever. I would ask the House to bear that in mind in our discussions on this very difficult subject. We are faced with a shortage of staff, inadequate buildings and terrible overcrowding in many places. The solution is not just to build more and more prisons. We must do what we can to reduce the intake, and the Criminal Justice Bill is seeking to do that among other things. There is the alternative sentence for the person who might find himself inside for a very short term.

A point which has not been dealt with so far is the way in which young persons graduate into a life of crime. The system by which they move from approved school to borstal, in and out of borstal and borstal recall, because they are not old enough to go into prison. They almost gain distinctions along the way, in the eyes of the rest of the prison community. There is something very seriously wrong here, and if we are faced with this hopeless overcrowding of the expanding prison population this is where it ought to be tackled.

I am told that in many of the open borstals the people running them have no difficulties because they can send on the impossible case to some other place. But there are borstals which have nowhere to send a person and life is very difficult indeed. Statistics prove that the borstal system was designed for a very different type of inmate, and that a much poorer quality and more difficult class of person is finding himself inside the borstals. The shorter sentence, which I believe is designed to expand the facilities and get more people through the machinery is not as effective as the longer sentences previously imposed.

There is a third class of person—what one might call the persistent public nuisance. This is the person who is in and out of prison all his middle life, having followed a life of petty crime. These are surely not the sort of people whom we should imprison for ever. I propose camps or farms or communities of some kind or another where these people can become part of something like the outside life for which they are so unfitted. This would be better than locking them up in prison. These people are often inadequate, friendless and old, and they need the companionship that such places can give them. This is a problem created by the Welfare State, because in days gone by these people were the hangers-on of large households or benevolent institutions of one sort or another. Many of these have perished because of the onset of the Welfare State and high taxation. There are the special cases of alcoholics and the growing number of drug addicts. Surely the answer here is treatment. I wonder how many chronic alcoholics who are in and out of prison all their lives have ever been treated with aversion therapy, which is the only way to handle their trouble. One cannot cure the disease, but this method will keep them off alcohol, perhaps for good.

I do not underestimate the difficulties, but, with a reduced prison population, we would not need a vast increase in staff and could achieve better and more secure conditions within the existing system. Whatever we may want to do, it is unrealistic to think that we can tear down our Victorian prisons and re-build them in this generation, with all the other demands on our resources.

Another important aspect is the allocation of prisoners, on arrival in prison, to the institutions which can do them most good. Half our prison problem is that we do not sort them out efficiently enough. Apart from security considerations, one must consider a prisoner's mental state. I am not impressed with what the Report says about Frank Mitchell, because his mental classification is changed several times and the relevant paragraph contains contradicting medical terms. If that can happen in Mitchell's case, no doubt it happens in others.

A small percentage of difficult prisoners can completely upset all the reform and improvement in a prison. We cannot tolerate the possibility of good work for the majority being upset by a small minority who are in the wrong place. Many prisons are trying to perform too many different functions. We know that at Wormwood Scrubs there are five different types of prisoner, from borstal allocation to the attempt to keep secure the really dangerous criminal.

I spent some time yesterday in Worm-wood Scrubs and was most impressed with the new security measures, although I still believe that the circumstances of Blake's escape were incredible. The perimeter is now well defended, but why have not the Home Office thought of making secure enclosures within it? Why are there not wire fences linking some of the parallel blocks, forming enclosed exercise yards? Surely that would produce the conditions for which Lord Mountbatten asks.

Why the delay in demolishing the temporary buildings, which are a security hazard, and why have the covered ways between the blocks not been wired off to avoid the need for supervision when moving prisoners? These things would not cost a great deal and could be done with prison labour. Surely this should be proceeded with without delay. This applies in other older prisons, too.

I turn from Wormwood Scrubs to security in general. I have seen a number of weaknesses which I will pass on to the Home Secretary. I think that that would be more public-spirited than ventilating them now with others listening. I hope that he will consider them and perhaps give me an answer. I get the impression that some of the general Home Office directives to prisons are impracticable and that a more individual direction for each establishment might be necessary. Perhaps that will be done under the new arrangements.

I will give some details of the need for improvement. There are now radio links with the outside, although not in every prison, and some prison officers are linked by radio with their control rooms in the prison. The right hon. Gentleman said that that was all fixed up at Wormwood Scrubs, but it is not universal in the prisons in which we are trying to improve security. That should be speeded up. Other points are the use of manganese bars, which cannot be cut with a hacksaw, and which have been introduced in a number of establishments—out not everywhere—and bandit glass. There is the question of dead ground outside the prison. There are obviously houses which must be acquired in the interests of security. I make no secret about the fact that there is one in Bristol only four feet from the top of the wall. It is a well-known hazard. The house belongs to a private individual, and perhaps we could negotiate for its purchase.

I have found cases where new locks on prison doors have no keys, and even prison doors which have as yet no locks. This is extraordinarily irritating and demoralising to the Prison Service. I hope that we shall see some action without delay.

Allied to the question of security is the factor that perhaps we do not have sufficient deterrents against escapes, at any rate for the short-term prisoner. In 1966, of the 86 escapes from closed prisons, 25 prisoners had sentences of five years or more. It is therefore understandable that they should try to break out. But the other 61 might have been deterred from escaping by the prospect of increased sentences for escaping. This might be something which could be taken into account in the Criminal Justice Bill in which additional deterrents could be embodied.

There will be extenuating circumstances. A man who found that his wife was being interfered with would make every effort to get out, however long he had to serve, even if it were only a few weeks. But increased sentences for escaping might deter short-term prisoners from trying too hard to escape.

Prison conditions have been an important subject in the debate. The overcrowding is simply terrible in many places. On the whole, prisoners are well fed, well clothed, heated, and exercised, and in some prisons a wide variety of work is available, not all of it of a monotonous nature. More must be done in that direction. Periods of association provide for a social life of a kind. Prisoners have television, broadcasting, newspapers, books, and classes, with outside people to lecture them, and visitors from home.

I join with other hon. Members in saying that the one great disgrace is the terrible condition of sanitation, which is degrading not only for the prisoners but for the prison officers. This problem is not insoluble even in the old buildings.

The Home Secretary said that it was a shameful fact that sanitation facilities had been built into Pentonville and then taken out again. He did not tell the House why they had been taken out again. It was because in those days prisoners were allowed no personal possessions, and they hid what little they had down the drain. For that reason the sanitation did not work, and it was taken out again.

With the new techniques which we have at our command, I am sure that we could and should do a great deal—there is no need for this to be expensive—with the new techniques of building which have just been developed.

I hope that we shall see much more constructive work—I do not mean necessarily putting in drains—in construction work for prinsoners, prison industries and training. Some hon. Members seem unaware that there are training prisons where men can learn quite skilled jobs, and have on occasions gone out to work, before they completed their sentences on one day a week in order to get used to the job they will have when they leave prison.

There are many other points that I would like to cover. I am glad that the Home Secretary has entered the Chamber. I am sure that he will deal with these matters when he winds up the debate. He sent me a reply to a Question in which he said that there was £11 million worth of building now in progress. He told me that only £1.83 million of it would be finished in 1966–67, only £5.5 million in 1967–68 and £2.7 million in 1968–69. Although we see quite a big increase in the amount of provision in 1967–68, it would appear that a fairly savage cut has taken place and we now have information that even less is being done this year. I hope we shall see a reappraisal of this.

I would now like to ask him one question which he might find difficult. He told the House that the cuts which were made were made before the Mountbatten Report. They were, but they were made after January 1966 when we had the appointment of Mr. R. C. Lewis as assistant director for security.

These cuts were made before the Mountbatten Report, but they were made shortly after what might be called the Lewis Report. I am sure that in the Home Office there is a document, produced by Mr. Lewis, which must contain a great deal of what is in the Mountbatten Report. It must have been in the light of that report that these cuts were made. I am sorry to say, in passing, that Mr. Lewis appears not to have had any conversations with Lord Mountbatten about the production of the latter's report and submitted only written evidence. I hope that the Home Secretary will deal with that. It may be that the Home Secretary was not able to extract from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the money which he wanted—I know how devoted he is to what I might call our cause in this matter—but I hope that we can have an explanation.

I hope that some of the new building is to be modified in view of the reports of Lewis and Mountbatten, because I have seen some mose insecure cell blocks where the architectural artistry would positively invite escape, and I hope that some new materials will be used. I wonder how much consultation there has been with the Prison Service, not just the governors, but even prison officers, because I am sure that we should work up a partnership with the people who have to work the building and who should feel that at least they have had their say about what is constructed. I also hope that the building programme will include ample provision for quarters for prison officers, because they must have their share.

Had time permitted, I would have liked to deal with after-care, but their noble Lordships dealt with that subject admirably last week and I hope that it will always be part of what we are trying to do. I hope that I have not raced ahead so fast that no one has heard anything I have had to say, but I know that two more hon. Members can now speak in the debate.

I have seen the Home Secretary accused of losing the confidence of the Prison Service. I would not accuse him of that, but I would say that he is at least a much misunderstood man and that there is a lack of sense of direction and a lack of communication between him and those who are actually running the prisons, and I hope that he will improve this situation.

Those who work in our prisons belong to a devoted and a largely forgotten service. The Government must devise a much clearer policy and a much more incisive policy and Parliament must provide the means for carrying it out. I hope that the spectacular and serious escapes—and they are serious because of the nature of the prisoners who have escaped—will not be allowed to obscure the underlying problems. Incidentally, I would like to see the figures of the escapes frustrated by valiant prison officers and I hope that we can have them at some time. Let this all not be just a nine days' wonder, but let us ensure that the interest of Parliament and the public is sustained in this vital, but sadly neglected, part of our society.

9.3 p.m.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) is more familiar with the inside of our prisons than the most unfortunate of my clients. I do not claim to speak with his wealth of authority. If I do not comment on all his remarks, he is entitled to assume that for the greater part of what he said, silence implies assent.

Much has been said about the importance of morale in the Prison Service. I should like to take issue with the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) who, in the course of a very forceful but moderate speech, said that in paragraph 294 of the Mountbatten Report there was possibly a mistaken view. This is the paragraph in which it is recommended that the Prison Service should not be armed.

A short time ago, I had occasion to visit a prison in London and after my business was concluded I was invited to the staff canteen. There I met a number of prison officers. After the second sandwich, they began to forget that I was a Member of Parliament, and I learned a great deal about their attitude. One of the matters discussed was the possibility of arming them and, about this, one of them told me, "It would be quite easy for me to sit on top of tower in the centre of the prison at the end of a machine gun. It would certainly be easier than what I have to do now. However, I joined the Prison Service with the idea of making a positive contribution. I have got to know some of the people in this prison and I am sure that if they saw me down the wrong end of a machine gun they would never speak to me again as a human being" There is a great deal in what he said, and for that reason I take issue with the remarks of the hon. Member for Inverness.

Mr. Russell Johnston

I was not suggesting that there should be any general arming, but that it might be necessary in the very maximum security prisons.

Mr. Archer

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying the point. It that is all he had in mind, I am not sure that I take issue with him. The whole question clearly brings out the fact that one cannot divide up the techniques of security and policy matters.

I do not for a moment believe, as the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) expressed it, that prison escapes are part of the price that we must pay for our more enlightened system of penology. However, I do believe that absolute security, if it is possible to achieve, could be achieved only at a price which we, as a society, should not be prepared to pay. One could possibly ensure absolute security if a ball and chain were attached to the legs of every prisoner. One might even keep all prisoners locked in their cells for virtually their whole time in prison. However, this would be the worst possible incentive to the best type of prison officers, and it is clear that some concessions must be made, even if occasionally it means that the result is not absolute security.

If a prisoner is to be returned to take his place in the world, it would be the height of folly to do that directly from a situation of maximum security. It would be asking to have him back again a week later. In these circumstances, someone must take a decision from time to time about which prisoners might be afforded more open conditions and, resulting from this, there is the possibility that, on occasion, mistakes will be made. Of course, I hope that we shall not treat mistakes lightly.

I had occasion not long ago to discuss his job with the medical superintendent of a Broadmoor institution. He told me that the greatest nightmare of his life was that someone whom he had recommended for release would kill or commit some other offence, having been released. He said, "I cannot insure myself against nightmares at the expense of keeping everyone inside. I have to back my judgment". That is basic to any aspect of public administration. We can only insure ourselves against mistakes at the cost of never taking a decision.

I have been surprised to note that no reference has been made to paragraph 318 of the Report, in which, after a masterly survey of the technical precautions which can make for security, reference is made to what might be called "psychological barriers"—and if any hon. Member is put off by the word "psychology" I would be happy to substitute the term "common sense".

If someone is determined to escape, it will be difficult to prevent him from doing so without making life virtually impossible for all concerned. There is room for a great deal of research and thought into the main factors which make people want to escape. In many cases a prisoner will make a cold and rational estimate of the position and will then decide whether or not it is worth taking the risk. Perhaps, in that sort of case, we must accept that one needs to watch him like a lynx. If a man is given such a long sentence and in such conditions that he has nothing to hope for, one cannot be surprised if he breaks out.

The second category is comprised of those to whom the possibility of escape presents a challenge. Anyone who has read "The Prisoner of Zenda" or even "Huckleberry Finn" will know the feeling that exists in all of us, particularly when reading about these matters or when reading stories about escapes from prisoner-of-war camps. I believe that these feelings are sometimes projected into escapes from Her Majesty's Prisons. With the right kind of prisoner, one possible way of dealing with the problem would be to remove the challenge by offering him open conditions. Any challenge having been removed, there are certain types of prisoner who would no longer be impelled to escape.

The third group comprises two categories of men. There is the man with a genuine or imaginary "beef", because he is really innocent or because of something which has happened inside the prison. The other category is the man with a personal problem, possibly to whom some kind friend has indicated that his wife is carrying on with a neighbour. Unless he can be satisfied in some way, he will be impelled to break out.

Until we have a more satisfactory welfare service with more welfare officers a possibility might be to make greater use of those dedicated people, the prison visitors—not the visiting justices, but ordinary lay people who visit a prison. get to know prisoners and go to see their wives and families. The alternative would be for the prisoner to have the prospect of being able to talk it over with his wife for long enough to satisfy himself.

Then there is the man who is unable to resist temptation, and who, if he sees the hole to which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) referred, cannot resist walking through it. In that case, clearly the only satisfactory safeguard is to make sure that there are no holes of that kind left accidentally.

Perhaps the truth of the matter is that if, in all these cases, a man feels that he will be deliberately released within the foreseeable future when the time is ripe, then he is not so likely to be released accidentally before then.

The right hon. Member for Ashford asked who was to allocate prisoners to the categories mentioned in the Report. Possibly a clue might be found in the provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill which we shall be discussing shortly in Committee as to the way in which it shall be decided who are to be admitted to parole, and when, because the factors have a great deal in common.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) said, there is not really any conflict between rehabilitation and protecting society. Society, the Treasury, the Prison Service and the prisoner himself are all adequately satisfied if there comes a time when we can say to a prisoner meaningfully and voluntarily, "Go and sin no more".

9.13 p.m.

Mr. W. H. Loveys (Chichester)

I am sure that the hon. Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer) will understand that, because of the clock, I shall not follow his argument. He made an excellent speech, and I agree entirely with what he and other hon. Members have said about the reasonable treatment of prisoners.

I join in welcoming the Report. It has had a general welcome in the House; it has had a general welcome from the Prison Officers' Association, and I am sure that it will have a general welcome from the public. I have enjoyed reading it, because it is one of the most readable and interesting Command Papers that I have ever seen.

I do not mention the individual escapes, which were described in one national newspaper as reading like a James Bond novel. Indeed, I have not time to talk about anything very much, having come last in the batting order. In view of that, I have thrown away my prepared notes about security. I was going to solve the whole problem, but, unfortunately, the Home Secretary will not be able to hear my ideas on the subject.

I shall confine my remarks to the Prison Service. That has not been covered in the debate as widely as prison security. I do not pretend to be an expert about the Prison Service, but one of the problems with it is that it is perhaps too much of a closed book. Members of the public know a great deal about the Police Force and its forma- tion, and about the Armed Services, but we are ignorant about the Prison Service. That is a great pity.

On the face of things, the morale of the service is high. Looking at the recruitment figures and particularly at the small figures of wastage, that would seem to be the case. However, the public attitude to the service seems to be misguided and misinformed. I have always regarded prison officers as supplying a tremendous public service to the community. I was surprised and shocked to be told in a whisper by a constituent, whose occupation I did not know, that he had spent all his working life as a prison officer but that he kept quiet about it on the housing estate where he lived because he realised that his occupation was looked down upon by the community as a whole. It might well be an exceptional case. I am sure that this is not how all prison officers feel, but it is absolutely wrong that this should be the feeling of this person.

Every step should be taken by means of public relations and Press publicity to put the matter right. Lord Mountbatten was right when he stated in his Report: The safe custody and, so far as possible, the rehabilitation of criminals is not an occupation to be looked down upon. On the contrary, it is one which is entitled to the approval and the active support of the public as a whole. This must be right.

I was particularly struck to learn from the Report of the lack of a reasonable promotion pyramid in the service. It is discouraging that, with few exceptions, the present system necessitates prison officers waiting apparently for 16 years before any promotion in rank. I understand that after 10 years an increase in pay is available if an officer passes the qualifying examination. The recommendation in the Report that an additional rank be created, that of senior prison officer, should be implemented; and I am glad that the Home Secretary talked sympathetically about this matter. I hope also that consideration will be given to promotion on merit instead of solely on length of service. which seems preponderantly to be the case at present.

My last point concerns a matter which I understand worries the service at governor level and, no doubt, at other levels. Since the Home Office took over responsibilty from the Prison Commissioners, there has been a definite feeling within the service of a lack of contact and liaison between the service and the controlling Department. The change-over from the Prison Commission to the Home Office may have had many advantages but, in the old days, people felt that they were in touch with the top of the service. They knew the Commissioners, who were able to visit prisons regularly. They even knew the Chairman as a personality. According to the Report, apparently the Chief Director spends no less than 95 per cent. of the time in his office. He is, therefore, known as a very senior official at Whitehall and not as an identifiable professional head of the service.

That is all that I have time to say. I welcome the Report. Many eyebrows were raised at the appointment of Lord Mountbatten, but he has done an extraordinarily good job in producing this Report in such a short time. The Home Secretary said that he would vigorously implement many of the recommendations. We hope that he will be vigorous. If he is, he will certainly have the full support of the House.

9.18 p.m.

Mr. Richard Sharpies (Sutton and Cheam)

The debate has ranged far and wide and has been notable for a number of thoughtful and constructive speeches on both sides, particularly that by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg).

I turn straightaway to the Report which has given rise to the debate. The real background is the main conclusion to which Lord Mountbatten came. He said this in paragraph 6: I must say at the outset that there are clear weaknesses in physical security and in administration at prison level and in the Home Office. The Report discloses—I make no apology for referring to these matters—some significant and rather curious omissions from the Home Secretary's speech on 31st October last. The right hon. Gentleman gave details of decisions which had been taken with regard to Blake's place of confinement up to June 1964. What he did not disclose was that in January 1966 the governor of Wormwood Scrubs Prison had put forward Blake's name as one of those to be trans- ferred to the maximum security block at Parkhurst.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the June escapes were not a new factor, but he did not say that these had been the first escapes from "D" Hall since 1959. The Mountbatten Report, paragraph 71. says: It is necessary for me to describe this incident in some detail"— that is, the June escapes— both because of its importance as an example of a serious recent escape, and because it should in my opinion have been an occasion for a serious reconsideration of the wisdom of keeping Blake in Wormwood Scrubs Prison. There is no doubt that the June escapes constituted an entirely new factor in the security of Wormwood Scrubs Prison. Prisoners were able to escape from "D" Hall, after the police had been given warning that the escapes would take place, by the simple expedient of going out of the window instead of out of the door. Equally, it is extraordinary that, when the right hon. Gentleman himself visited Wormwood Scrubs Prison on 7th June, he was not told, and apparently did not even ask, whether a maximum security prisoner such as Blake was confined in "D" Hall from which the escapes had taken place.

It is true that, after the escapes on 6th June, additional security measures were ordered, but the question which the House must ask, and which the Home Secretary must answer, is why Blake was not moved in the meantime. Conditions of security at Wormwood Scrubs Prison must have been known even before the escape on 6th June. The director of prison security, so I was told in reply to a Question, had visited Wormwood Scrubs, his main visit having been on 15th April. He made his recommendations—I was told this also by the right hon. Gentleman in answer to a Question —for improved security in the prison on 29th April.

The questions which remain unanswered are these. Why was Blake not moved in January 1966 when the security wing at Parkhurst was opened and the governor of Wormwood Scrubs recommended his transfer? Second, why did the Home Secretary not reveal in his speech on 31st October that that recommendation had been made? It may well have been that at the time when it was made the recommendation was not brought to his notice, but it is almost inconceivable that at the time when the right hon. Gentleman was preparing a speech to answer a Motion of censure on himself he was not then told that the recommendation had been made.

Third, why were instructions on the recommendations which the director of prison security had submitted on 29th April not given until 22nd June? It was during this interval that all the escapes from "D" Hall took place. Why was Blake not moved from Wormwood Scrubs when the deficiencies in the security wine at "D" Hall were revealed both by the report of the director of prison security and by the ease with which the escapes on 6th June took place? One major criticism I have of Lord Mountbatten's Report is that it fails to pin responsibility where responsibility lies, and that is the question which really faces us in considering the Report.

I now want to turn to the question of Mitchell.

Mr. Crawshawrose——

Mr. Sharples

I have very little time and the Home Secretary and I agreed to give as much time as we could to back-benchers.

I want to turn to Mitchell's escape, because on 13th December the Home Secretary said: My information is that since the decision … to put this prisoner on an outside working party was taken, as long ago as May 1965, his conduct until yesterday on this working party had been exemplary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1966; Vol. 738. c. 252] I am sure that that was the information the Home Secretary had at the time. But he became, to put it mildly, a little testy when some of us asked questions about the composition of the working party and what had been happening on it. The Home Secretary clearly had no idea at that time of what had been going on.

One of the most disturbing revelations of the Mountbatten Report is the failure in communication between the Prison Department at the Home Office and the Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) refer-prisons. My hon. Friend the Member for red at that time to his constituents' anxiety about what we now know to have been going on on the working parties at Dartmoor.

I wish to make quite clear that I want to see outside working parties. I want to see hostels for prisoners and extensions of the hostel scheme, but I want those things done under proper conditions, and that is what we tried to probe at Question Time on 13th December. It was clear that the Home Secretary then had no idea of the conditions under which the working party had been operating or of the hold—and this is much more important—Mitchell had over the whole of the prison at Dartmoor at that time.

I shall not dwell on the mistakes which have been made, because they are clearly set out in the Mountbatten Report. The Report speaks for itself, and the conclusion reveals a situation from which no one from the Home Secretary downwards can draw any credit. The House wishes to be told the action the Home Secretary is taking to put matters right not only within the prisons, about which he has talked to a certain extent this afternoon, but also within his own administration at the Home Office. There can be little doubt that the right hon. Gentleman's speech about the duration of life sentences had some effect upon Mitchell's decision to escape, and it is very important when making speeches of that kind that we should bear in mind the effect they may have upon those serving very long sentences.

The question of whether Mitchell should have been at Dartmoor at all raises much wider, and in some ways, perhaps, rather more important, issues. Anyone who reads the account of Mitchell's history over the past 37 years cannot be too happy about the ability of our penal system to cope with cases of that kind. One only needs to look at paragraph 125 of the Report. At eight, he was found to be of sub-normal intellect. He was flogged. He was certified to be mentally defective, being feeble minded. He committed attempted murder. He was sentenced to nine years imprisonment. He was certified insane and then sentenced to life imprisonment, after which he was birched.

My concern is that there may well be a good many other potential Mitchells in the somewhat hazy area which lies between Broadmoor and Dartmoor, and as yet we would seem to have no clear ideas of the best way of dealing with these very difficult cases. The House will be interested to hear what ideas the right hon. Gentleman has for dealing with the terribly difficult cases of the kind of Mitchells that there are in our prisons.

But the fact remains that, since the Government took office, Biggs has gone, Blake has gone and Mitchell has gone, and that, apart from some correspondence between the right hon. Gentleman and Mitchell, conducted through the newspapers, we have no idea of what has happened to any of them. My right hon. and learned Friend quoted a nursery rhyme relating to nurses. I am not quite so charitable. The nursery rhyme I would have in mind is to do with Little Bo-Peep.

I welcome the recommendations of the Mountbatten Report with regard to the classification of prisoners on the ground of security. I am glad to learn from the right hon. Gentleman that a start is being made to implement this aspect. But what I hope we may be able to do is introduce some much more sophisticated method of classification covering all prisoners, including the short-term prisoners, not only from the point of view of security but also from the point of view of treatment.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) spoke of the system of classification in California. I believe that, in the end, if we are to get the right answers in our penal system, we shall have to look towards some such system. I do not believe that any effective system of classification, except only of a most elementary kind, can take place in the conditions which exist in our local prisons.

There is a particular problem with regard to the kind of prisoners who would go into Lord Mountbatten's Category A. In paragraph 202 the Report says: The maximum security blocks which have been established at Parkhurst, Leicester and Durham prisons can in my view be no more than a temporary expedient. The conditions in these blocks are such as no country with a record of civilised behaviour would tolerate any longer than is absolutely essential as a stopgap measure. For some time we have been hearing of a new maximum security prison at Albany in the Isle of Wight. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford referred to plans which existed when he was at the Home Office and the report of the Prison Department for 1964 speaks of a special block in the design stage. On 10th February, 1965, in Standing Committee C, the Minister of State said: It is our intention to build a new establishment in order that we may cope with particularly violent people who may or may not have murdered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C 10th February, 1965; c. 98.] I am not clear about two things. The first is whether this establishment is a continuation of the idea referred to in the 1964 Report of the Prison Department and referred to also by my right hon. Friend. I am not clear from what the right hon. Lady said whether this establishment is intended to cover prisoners such as Blake.

But on 3rd March, 1965, nearly two years ago, the Minister of State said this when referring to her earlier speech: I spoke of a prison which would be extremely secure and where very long-term prisoners would be able to serve their sentences. That prison is to be at Albany, in the Isle of Wight. and we are going ahead with the project."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 3rd March, 1965; c. 243.] Today we were told by the right hon. Gentleman that the very earliest date by which that prison can be opened and available for occupation is June, 1969. The stop-gap measure referred to in the Mountbatten Report will have to remain a fairly permanent arrangement for quite a long time.

Like a number of those who have spoken today, I believe that the majority of people who make up our prison population have no intention of trying to escape. They are not all Blakes or train robbers or people of that kind, and they are not all violent criminals or even professionals. I believe that the majority of people in prison are the kind of people referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend—people who have made serious mistakes and are paying the penalty for what they have done. What the majority of them want to do is to get their sentences over with as little trouble as possible.

The hon. Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer) referred to paragraph 318 of the Report. There is, therefore, no need for me to refer to it, but I draw it to the attention of the House. When people escape it is not usually to commit further crimes but because of the overwhelming circumstance of some family or domestic crisis at home. Yet it is people of this kind, combined with the drunks and the inadequates, who make up the vast majority of the population of our out-of-date, semi-secure and wholly insanitary local prisons.

Many of the problems could be resolved by the adoption of a proper classification system and by giving greater opportunities for family contacts, as was referred to in paragraph 23 of the Report. We should take further risks in the use of open prisons for not only longer term prisoners but short term prisoners.

Lord Butler, when he was Home Secretary, started the process of bringing our penal system up to date. "Penal Practice in a Changing Society" was the title of the White Paper produced by his administration. It is, I believe, a landmark in the history of penal thinking. He started the process of rethinking the purpose of our penal system and of producing prisons to meet the needs of a modern society. The tremendous opportunity of carrying forward the work started by Lord Butler has been lost in the disbandment of the Royal Commission on penal reform.

The Government have already had to cut back on prison expenditure. Implementation of the recommendations of the Mountbatten Report will, in the words of the Report itself, cost money—probably a lot of money. There is not only the question of building but the question of an adequate system of classification, referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. Much of the success or failure of the Home Secretary's proposals will depend upon the amount of money which he is able to obtain from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In the few minutes which remain, I want to say something about prison officers. It is no use thinking that we can solve the problems of our penal system simply by building more prisons to accommodate the prisoners. It is just as important to have the prison officers to man them.

In Lord Mountbatten's Report, he states: I would like to leave as my final impression a feeling of profound admiration for the devotion of the prison service as a whole, in the face of tremendous difficulties and much misunderstanding of their work. I join wholeheartedly in that tribute to those in the prison service.

There is, however, no doubt that the Prison Service is grossly under-manned for the work which it has to do. The problems which are posed by the greater liberty which exists in prisons today, association and opportunities for study—all these create new demands on prison staff. We talk about work in prisons. This, too. creates additional demand on the prison staff.

Perhaps I might quote from the evidence which was submitted by the Prison Officers' Association about this problem: … the shortage of staff in Pentonville was such that during the period of special precautions following Blake's escape it was possible on one morning for prisoners to spend only a quarter of an hour actually in the workshops (from 11.15 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.) and the next day there was no workshop labour until the afternoon That is the reality of establishing factories inside or outside prisons for prisoners to work in.

When one considers the question of security from the prison officers' viewpoint, this is what they say: The existing overcrowding and shortage at staff create conditions in which chief officers have no option but to take landing officers from their landings for long periods every day in order to meet urgent day-to-day needs. Our information is that this practice was a frequent happening in 'D' Wing at Wormwood Scrubs, where some 340 prisoners were accommodated at the time of Blake's escape—about 130 of them murderers serving life sentences! The total establishment in "D" Hall at that time was four prison officers.

I would like in conclusion to pay my tribute to the work of Lord Mountbatten in producing his Report so quickly and under such difficult conditions, but I must make it clear that I share the reservations of my right hon. and learned Friend. We still do no know the answers to the majority of the questions which are raised in the Report. We still do not know what has happened to the prisoners after they have gone over the prison wall. We still do not know why the administrative machine has been so ineffective, and we still do not know the extent of the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility in all these matters.

The task of the Home Secretary is enormous. We appreciate that. Certainly, we hope that he succeeds in the task which he has set himself. We must make it clear, however, that we shall judge him by the results he produces.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I speak again with the permission of the House. The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples), apart perhaps from his closing sentences, struck a rather sharper note than we have heard hitherto in the debate. I make no complaint about that, first because I think it is his natural and necessary style, and secondly because he asked some fairly shrewd questions.

He asked some questions about Blake. I think the best answer I can give him to those questions is that in paragraph 76 of his Report, Lord Mountbatten makes it clear that Home Secretaries until my time had never concerned themselves with the personal allocation of prisoners. I believe that the time when that can continue to be the case has now ceased, and it has now ceased. It is a heavy additional responsibility for a Home Secretary but I was following what was the long-established practice until the time I took office and until some time after I took office.

We have in general had an extremely useful, but on the whole an amicable, debate. It has been noticeable that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), who played a very important part in the debate in October and was issuing a great number of statements, as is his wont whenever any issue catches the headlines—for example, at the time of escapes—has not honoured us with his presence for a single moment today. Apart from being deprived of his presence, we have had a constructive debate, and the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) made a very valuable contribution to it. I should like to begin by making one or two comments on the points he raised. If I pick out one or two points on which I wish to reply to him, he must not assume that the greater part of his speech did not command my enthusiastic agreement.

First, he said that no staff college or effective training college existed for prison officers. This is not the case. No doubt, some improvements could be made to them, but there are very good courses at the Staff College at Wakefield, which has been going since 1946. We hope to improve it. He also said—and there is a danger here—that prison officers were a group apart. This was taken up by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). There is a danger of this in all bodies like that of prison officers, but it is a fact that several hundreds of them have recently been engaging in extra-mural courses with people outside. This is a very good thing and a general tendency which we want to encourage.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. Friend, and possibly one or two other hon. Members, also raised the question of the demise of the Royal Commission and accused me of having, not murdered it, but connived at its murder. We have had an exchange on this before. I must try to correct the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not suppose that he will accept my correction. I certainly did not murder the Royal Commission or connive at its murder. What I was forced to do, without wishing it, was to accept the fact that I could not prevent it committing suicide. This is a very different position, but I hope that the Advisory Council which I have set up may perform nearly all the functions which the Commission performed. It would be interesting to consider whether it would be useful to ask it to address itself to some of the wider philosophical questions which the right hon. and learned Gentleman raised and which perhaps we are too anxious to gloss over, and not to ask for a fundamental approach to them.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman, like the right hon. Member for Ashford, had some harsh things to say about the Home Office and the Prison Department of the Home Office. The Prison Department within the Home Office has, in my view, responded with tremendous enthusiasm and speed to the challenge set to it by the Mountbatten Report. I do not think I would have been able to give such a good report of what we have done had the Prison Department not been extremely anxious to make a new beginning, and with great vigour, in the course of the last few months. I have every confidence in the work it is doing at the present time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney)—who told me that he would not be able to be here for the wind-up to the debate—raised an important point about the difficulties facing prison officers when they retire in middle age and lose their "tied cottages". They have difficulties about finding houses. He asked if I would consult local authorities about this problem. I will indeed consider this problem, which is a very real one. On retirement, prison officers get a lump sum gratuity—not enormous, but something which is a contribution towards finding alternative accommodation, and they are not unique in this position. Police officers are often in a somewhat similar position, but I think my hon. Friend drew attention, and rightly, to a real problem, and I will gladly give further consideration to this point.

The right hon. Member for Ashford, who spoke next, made a number of interesting points. He suggested that the directive which was issued to prison governors as soon as the new Deputy Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office took up his job immediately after Christmas was unfair of me in the sense that I was trying to suggest that prison governors had failed in their duty. I do not think that this is so, and I do not think that the directive or the letter in any way conveyed this impression. What I thought was essential at that time was to convey to prison governors that they should in the immediate future give a somewhat higher priority to security than they had been doing in the past, and I think that had I not done this I would have been open to very heavy criticism indeed. There was no question of allocating blame, and still less of trying to shuffle off responsibility. It is noticeable that in all the most notorious escapes which we have been discussing no disciplinary proceedings have been taken or considered against prison officers. There is no desire to shuffle off blame in this way.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked why progress with the new maximum security prison had not been faster than it was. I think that there is here an element of misunderstanding, a perfectly comprehensible one. The prison which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State talked about during the debates on the death penalty Bill two years ago was to be a maximum security wing within the new Albany Prison, a wing which would have been subject to most, but not necessarily all, the disadvantage of the maximum security wings at the three existing prisons in which we have such wings.

It subsequently became clear that what we wanted was a separate prison, and this necessarily involved the drawing up of new plans, and fairly complicated plans, in order to provide the degree of security which we had not hitherto had, and in order also to guard against determined rescue attempts from outside, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman drew attention, and with which we had not hitherto been faced. We had advanced quite quickly with these plans, but I thought it was pure common sense, when we got to the Mountbatten stage, to wait and see whether the Inquiry endorsed our plans. Within two months it did broadly endorse our plans, but asked for a 50 per cent. increase in size, and we are progressing as rapidly as we can with the building of that prison.

Mr. Deedes

I accept that, but the right hon. Gentleman must admit that there was an official mistake in the original concept about this building.

Mr. Jenkins

That may be so, but we are at the present time doing what I think is best, and in fact had we proceeded along the original lines, we would have found that the Mountbatten Report said that we ought to have been proceeding on different lines, so the passage of time has by no means been a total disadvantage, but it is crucial that we should now go as fast as we can.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) has a great constituency interest in all these matters and I am grateful to him for the remarks that he made and for the general attitude that he has taken on these difficult problems. He will, I know, be glad to learn—although I do not regard it as the most important aspect of the subject—that in reply to his requests, and those of some others, and after consultation with Lord Mountbatten in his capacity as Governor of the Isle of Wight, we have decided not to press ahead with the name Vectis, though I am not terribly attracted by the present alternative, which I think is Forest Side, as it is rather too reminiscent of a Californian cemetery to be entirely appropriate from the prison point of view. But I hope we can find some name which suffers from neither of these disadvantages.

Mr. Woodnutt

Why does not the right hon. Gentleman name it Overner, the Island word for mainlanders? After all, mainlanders will be occupying the prison.

Mr. Jenkins

I shall be grateful for any suggestions from the hon. Gentleman, or indeed from other sources.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) raised the question that we perhaps needed three categories and not four.

He said that we needed the maximum security group and beyond that we could divide everyone simply into close or open prisons. I do not entirely agree with him, although I do not think it is a matter of deep principle. In the B category we need people who are fairly dangerous, and in the C category we need people who require some supervision. In the D category we could have people who can be left completely alone. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Michael Hamilton) raised the point, which was also taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons). It was the advantage of selling the valuable sites in the centre of big cities and building outside on less valuable ground. There are two problems, neither of them necessarily insuperable, associated with that project.

The first is that in the case of our city gaols, the sites in most cases are owned not by the Home Office, but by local authorities, which presents a certain problem. Secondly, the problem involved in a big prison building programme is to a large extent one of money, but it is also one of resources. This has to be borne in mind when dealing with capitalising the value of the existing sites. But this approach is a valuable one with which I am broadly in agreement. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) raised the point about the great difficulties presented by very long sentences and the almost inevitable incentive which this gave the prisoner to escape, if he had nothing before him but a very long period of imprisonment.

To some extent our parole proposals in the Criminal Justice Bill offer at least a ray of hope in this respect. One must also face up to, and we have not hitherto done this, the question of dealing with confinement in maximum security conditions for long periods and yet in tolerable conditions. There are examples, particularly in the United States, and I was very struck by what I saw in the Federal Prison at Leavenworth in Kansas. It is possible to do this, compatible with a fairly free régime in the prison, with good security round the prison perimeter and a good deal of effective prison work, in a way that we have not yet achieved here but which I hope we may be able to achieve in the future.

The hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) raised the question of the prisoner Maxwell. I would say to him in passing that people may take different views on this, but I am sure that no Home Secretary of either party in the last 10 years would have taken a different decision to the one that I did on this particular case. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) had some of his points replied to by the Under-Secretary of State for the Scottish Office. He also raised the point about the need for a new security manual, asking whether it did not suggest that we had not applied ourselves to this problem for the future. There are prison standing orders which deal, amongst other things. with security.

We have a new problem, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone drew attention of rescues from outside. This is a new security problem and it is appropriate that we should face up to this. The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), in whose tour we were glad to be able to assist—and I am glad that it gave him some useful points to put before the House—raised the question of Cuts in prison buildings before the Mountbatten proposals. He ought to look at the position now that we have the Mountbatten proposals, and see what we are doing from this time forward. My hon. Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer) dealt with the psychology of prisoners and I take note of what he said. The hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Loveys) made a number of points about the morale of prison officers and the need for the prison service to be looked up to to a much greater extent than has been the case in the past. I think that he very slightly underestimated the extent to which we responded, not merely sympathetically, but positively, and acted upon the proposals of the Mountbatten Report in this respect. We have agreed that the new grade of senior prison officer shall be introduced, and we hope that it will be introduced by the autumn of this year. I believe that in this and other ways we are showing our determination to act upon these recommendations, and are giving a brighter prospect for the prison service and a better hope for an effective penal system in this country.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the Report of the Inquiry into Prison Escapes and Security (Command Paper No. 3175).