HC Deb 25 May 1972 vol 837 cc1599-600
2. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the average cost per prisoner of building new prisons at the present time.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

Including the cost of industrial workshops and other associated buildings, a little over £6,000.

Mr. Meacher

As the Home Office has placed a target of that size per prison place on all new prisons, and since the rehabilitating function of prisons is unproven, is it not manifestly absurd that there are only six adult probation hostels? Will the right hon. Gentleman set up controlled experiments in particular areas to see whether a full complement of probation officers and hostels can replace prisons in the majority of cases?

Mr. Maudling

Those are the sort of objectives which are comprised in the Criminal Justice Bill.

15. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the general arrangements at Her Majesty's prisons for visiting; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maudling

I am not satisfied. Considerable improvements have been made, and will continue to be made. But shortage of accommodation is still a problem at many prisons.

Mr. Duffy

Has the Home Secretary looked at a visiting order recently? Is he aware that those of my constituents who have occasion to travel from Sheffield to visit the prison in Leeds can do so only once a month between the hours of 1.45 p.m. and 3.30 p.m.? According to the visiting order which I have, they may do so for only a small period of time—20 minutes. I am not asking the right hon. Gentleman or his Administration to show more humanity, because I know they do that to the fullest extent. But when will it be possible to permit more flexibility in visiting arrangements, particularly for young wives who have to leave children behind and must make special arrangements?

Mr. Maudling

We certainly do what we can. All these problems of the prisons spring from the great overcrowding which has been a problem for several years. This we are tackling with considerable vigour and with the biggest prison building programme ever undertaken in this country, coupled with measures envisaged in the Criminal Justice Bill to ensure that a number of people are punished by means other than imprisonment.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the regulations for visitors to Brixton prison? Some people from Northern Ireland have travelled a great distance and have had great difficulty in visiting remand prisoners there. When a change of underclothing was recently brought for one of the prisoners it was only after an appeal to the magistrates that the underclothing was allowed into the prison.

Mr. Maudling

Remand prisoners have, as is right, greater visiting facilities than convicted prisoners. I should be very happy to look into the particular case the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

Mr. Thomas Cox

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what progress is being made towards provision for the care of young children while visits are taking place? Action on this problem is needed very urgently.

Mr. Maudling

I cannot say offhand what progress is being made, but I shall look into the matter and communicate with the hon. Gentleman.

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