HC Deb 06 December 1973 vol 865 cc1431-3
9. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisons in the United Kingdom have facilities for the care of young children while prison visits are taking place.

Mr. Carlisle

Most prisons in England and Wales provide some facilities for mothers visiting with young children. Thirty-two already have accommodation available in which children can be looked after during visits and several others are planning similar facilities.

Mr. Cox

Does not the Minister agree that that is a very small number? Is he not aware that many mothers with young children have to make long journeys to visit their menfolk in prison, and that in the area in which the prison is sited there are often no facilities for eating, or for feeding young children? Is he further aware that often there is no privacy to enable parents to talk on personal or domestic matters? Will he look at this matter with greater urgency?

Mr. Carlisle

I agree that the number is still small but I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is increasing. I fully take the hon. Gentleman's point about the importance of proper visiting facilities. Clearly, there should be opportunities for wives and children to visit prisoners, and it is right, when a wife has to take young children with her, that facilities should be available for looking after them. In all designs for new prisons we are including such facilities.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Having regard to representations on this matter from those concerned with prisoners' welfare, is it not proper that there should now be a comprehensive review of facilities for and expenses of those people who wish to visit their relatives in prison?

Mr. Carlisle

We are carrying out a review with the Department of Health and Social Security on the question of financial assistance for wives to visit their husbands in prison, and we hope to have the result of that review fairly shortly.

Mr. Stallard

Does the Minister accept that we welcome any extension of these facilities, because many of us have been concerned for several years about the lack of facilities in prisons? Does he agree that one interim solution might be to transfer as many prisoners as possible back to prisons nearer their homes? I have in mind prisoners from Northern Ireland who are in Parkhurst. Their relatives in Belfast have difficulty in visiting them, and when they arrive there are very few facilities.

Mr. Carlisle

I am not prepared to comment on an individual case without notice, but I can say in general that of course the ability to receive visits from families is one of the matters taken into account when considering the placement of any offender in a prison. But the hon. Gentleman must realise that this is not the only consideration. Security is another consideration which has to be taken into account, as well as the type of sentence the person is serving and the type of offence for which he has been convicted.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Does the Home Secretary intend to publish this report, when it becomes available, prior to any decision by the Government? It would be helpful if we could see the report and make representations before any decision is made.

Mr. Carlisle

Perhaps I overstated it when I said, "report". I should have said, "review". I cannot answer for certain, although I should think it is unlikely to be the type of review that would be published, but there will be a chance to ask Questions on it in the House.

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