HC Deb 25 May 1972 vol 837 cc1613-4
21. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many remand centres for women there are in England and Wales.

Mr. Maudling

Three, Sir. Women and girls on remand are also held at Holloway prison.

Mr. Cox

I understand that reply and appreciate that in certain cases it is necessary to remand women in custody, but does the Home Secretary agree that, in view of the time, the cost and the social difficulties that are often involved in transporting women very long distances from the courts to remand centres, either remand centres should be established nearer to the courts or, better still, efforts should be made to reduce the number of remands, especially for minor offences?

Mr. Maudling

This is a problem but, fortunately, the number of women and girls who are remanded or committed in custody is few. We cannot justify more than these three centres. There are other priorities in the prison building programme which are more urgent. The question of avoiding remanding in cutody, wherever possible, is well in the minds of magistrates. A working party is at present considering the whole subject of bail, and it will consider this aspect.

Mrs. Knight

Does not the paucity of the figure my right hon. Friend mentioned illustrate once again the extreme folly of the Home Secretary in the last Government closing down Brockhill remand centre for women in the Midlands? Will my right hon. Friend seek to get over the problem of a remand centre for the Midlands, for which we have constantly appealed?

Mr. Maudling

I know that there is a particular difficulty in the Midlands. I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State on 27th April.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Will the Home Secretary take a particularly close look at the position in Holloway, where a very high proportion of women who are remanded in custody are subsequently either discharged or sent for non-custodial treatment? Does not this indicate that far too many women are being remanded in custody who might well be given bail?

Mr. Maudling

I am not entirely convinced about that. This is a general problem affecting men prisoners as well as women prisoners. I see the desirability of not having people committed to gaol wherever possible and there are provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill in this regard. On the other hand, I often receive representations from the police to the effect that people who are released on bail sometimes commit other offences or intimidate witnesses.