HC Deb 26 January 1967 vol 739 cc1756-8
19. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many of the recommendations of the Mountbatten Report have been implemented; and whether he will make a statement.

33. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to implement the proposals of the Mountbatten Report on Prison Security.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The recommendations of the Mountbatten Report are being worked out in detail and many of them have already been implemented wholly or in part.

I hope to have an opportunity of making a full statement to the House on progress at an early date.

Mr. Lewis

Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to give quick priority to improving promotion prospects within the prison service, which Lord Mountbatten indicated were unsatisfactory and which he thought to have been unsatisfactory for a very long time, and take into account the fact that the first promotion for any prison officer is after about 16 years? Will he do something to improve morale?

Mr. Jenkins

We are aware of the problem to which Lord Mountbatten drew particular attention, which is a problem we have in hand. It clearly requires negotiation with the Prison Officers' Association and some other people, but we are certainly working on this recommendation.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Surely the key to better prison security lies in spending more money on prisons. How can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile his good intentions with the fact that the Government have already cut the prison building programme by £1 million and intend to cut it by a further £600,000 in the coming year?

Mr. Jenkins

The cuts to which the hon. Gentleman refers were decided upon before the publication of the Report. In the case of many things one of the easiest ways to solve the problem involves spending more money, but we are confronted with a real problem here, and within the bounds of reasonable economy I hope that we shall not be too cheeseparing in our approach to what is a major national difficulty.

Mr. Victor Yates

Will my right hon. Friend take special note of the statement made by Lord Mountbatten about overcrowding in prisons? There is a serious risk to security here. In view of the alarming conditions under which prison officers as well as prisoners have to exist today, will my right hon. Friend see that this question receives equal priority with the others?

Mr. Jenkins

Yes. I will take very close account of this because I am well aware that in trying to deal with prison overcrowding we are attempting to walk up an escalator which is moving downwards, as the prison population shows a constant tendency to increase.

Mr. Sharples

Will the right hon. Gentleman give priority to the proper categorisation of prisoners from the point of view both of security and treatment, and also say what steps have been taken to improve the machinery for this?

Mr. Jenkins

We are already putting into effect the plans for categorisation. We were doing that before, and our action has been endorsed by Lord Mountbatten. We are proceeding rapidly on those lines. I would remind the House, however, that the best system of categorisation will involve occasional mistakes as to what is the right category.