HC Deb 25 May 1972 vol 837 cc1601-3
4. Mr. Terry Davis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made in alleviating overcrowding of people who are remanded in custody.

42. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a further statement on the steps he is taking to reduce overcrowding of prisons by persons remanded in custody.

Mr. Maudling

I am pursuing a number of measures aimed at reducing the number of persons remanded in custody; my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is taking steps designed to enable cases to be dealt with more quickly; and I am continuing action to improve conditions in remand prisons wherever practicable.

Mr. Davis

Will the Government consider hostels for people who are remanded in custody only because there is nowhere else for them to live?

Mr. Maudling

Certainly, and recently I went to the opening of the first bail hostel in East London. The Criminal Justice Bill gives the Government power to provide money to support these activities.

Mr. Lipton

Is it any wonder, with 684 prisoners on remaind in 476 cells in Brixton, that demonstrations are taking place on a scale not known for years? Will the Home Secretary really exert himself and do something to improve conditions, because these demonstrations will continue and the task of prison officers be made even more difficult unless they are improved?

Mr. Maudling

I made a statement about conditions in Brixton some time ago. These conditions are being improved. One thing should be made clear about the demonstrations to which the hon. Gentleman referred. There were no demonstrations at all inside Brixton prison yesterday, and outside demonstrators were outnumbered by Press men.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Can the right hon. Gentleman make any comment about the recent disturbances at Strangeways gaol in Manchester?

Mr. Maudling

Not without notice.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

While welcoming the steps which the Home Secretary has been taking to deal with this problem, may I ask whether he has been able to take any action to persuade the courts not to refuse bail except in cases where they have reason to believe that, as a consequence, the person in question might not answer bail or might be a danger to himself or the community? Is there any possibility of opening remand accommodation in any of the existing training or open prisons to give some immediate relief in the present difficult situation?

Mr. Maudling

I will look into the second point made by the hon. Lady and communicate with her. There are subsequent Questions on the first point.

5. Mr. Peter Archer

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons were in custody awaiting trial on 1st April, 1972; and what was the corresponding figure on 1st April, 1971.

Mr. Maudling

In England and Wales, 2,781 on 31st March, 1972, and 3,007 a year earlier.

Mr. Archer

Without wishing to preempt tomorrow's debate, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to assist by saying whether the difference is represented by the numbers of crimes committed, by delays in the hearing of cases or by a reluctance to grant bail?

Mr. Maudling

I do not think I can give an analysis of the position. The figure is encouraging, but offhand I cannot give an analysis of the various reasons.

27. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what instructions he has issued relating to complaints by detained individuals awaiting trial who have been denied certain personal facilities.

Mr. Maudling

Prisoners who wish to complain about their treatment in prison have the right under the Prison Rules to see the Governor, a member of the board of visitors or a regional director. They may also address a petition to me. If they are not satisfied they may then write to a Member of Parliament.

Mr. Molloy

The question is not about prisoners but about people who have been arrested but not tried. The Home Secretary has got it wrong. I am concerned about those who have been arrested and who complain that while they are remanded in custody they have not been provided with proper facilities to maintain themselves in a clean and respectable way.

Mr. Maudling

My answer covered all prisoners. Whether people are detained awaiting trial or convicted, they are prisoners because they are in prison.

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