HC Deb 07 May 1969 vol 783 cc435-6
18. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if his review of the conditions and opportunities of work in Naval detention quarters is now complete; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. David Owen

We have decided that the number of hours spent by detainees in their rooms will be reduced. All detainees will have discussion periods as well as lecture periods. Detainees will in future eat and talk together, and the standard of food has already been improved. More visitors will be permitted. The effect of these changes, which will be introduced over the next few months adds up to a considerable modernisation of the Royal Naval detention quarters.

Mr. Driberg

I thank my hon. Friend for that welcome announcement of improvements. Can he say something about the tasks performed in these detention quarters? May we take it that it is not now only the archaic task of picking oakum which is available to some of these men?

Dr. Owen

I assume that my hon. Friend refers to the teasing out of short pieces of ordinary stranded rope. As I have said in the House before, what is done in this establishment is to make mats and fenders which are used by Her Majesty's ships. This work is, therefore, productive and of assistance to the Fleet. In any case, men do not remain indefinitely on this work but go on to perform other duties around the establishment, and on entering stage IV, which is after about 84 days, they go out daily to work at their trades on Her Majesty's ships in the dockyard.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Will the hon. Gentleman pay a tribute to the staff at naval detention quarters for all that they do to help the men who have to serve sentences there and for the results which they achieve?

Dr. Owen

I gladly do that. The Report of the Working Party which looked into the whole question of detention quarters concluded that very valuable work had been done in the past.