HC Deb 20 May 1971 vol 817 cc1500-1
12. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has received the memorandum from the Howard League for Penal Reform on conditions at Ashford and other remand centres; and what action he is taking to improve the situation.

Mr. Carlisle

The answer to the first part of the Question is Yes, Sir. The answer to the second part is that, as regards Ashford, overcrowding has been relieved by the use of accommodation at Latchmere House, and as regards the general issue, administrative measures are in hand to reduce the number of persons remanded in custody and the length of time for which they are so detained.

Mr. Jenkins

Is it the case that the number of prisoners remanded in custody and the length of time for which they are detained have been increasing? What measures does the hon. and learned Gentleman propose to reduce the numbers of people detained on remand and the length of time they are detained, and to improve the accommodation supplied for them?

Mr. Carlisle

There is no doubt that there is substantial overcrowding in remand centres. I accept that that is part of the general picture of prison overcrowding. We have sent a circular to all clerks to the court suggesting arrangements whereby, when a person is remanded for reports to be made, the prison can inform the court immediately they have been made, so that he can perhaps be brought back at an earlier date than the date to which he was remanded, or he can be remanded in custody for reports with a clause saying that he can receive bail the moment the reports have been completed. As I said just now, we are also looking at the question of a bail hostel.

Mr. Thomas Cox

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that much overcrowding in remand centres is caused by the long delay during which young people are kept in custody? I know that at Latchmere House one youngster has been kept in custody for five months awaiting trial. This adds to the problem of overcrowding.

Mr. Carlisle

The delay in the hearing of criminal trials is the major cause of the length of time people spend in custody awaiting trial. It is hoped that the Courts Act, which was recently passed, will help to improve this situation. My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has certain building programmes under way to provide more courts in the London area.