HC Deb 14 June 1973 vol 857 cc1671-2
1. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his provisional assessment of the six experimental areas for community service orders under the Criminal Justice Act 1972.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Robert Carr)

It was not until 1st April that community service arrangements were in operation in all six experimental areas, and it is too early to make any provisional assessment. I am, however, anxious to do so as soon as possible.

Mr. Meacher

If the community service orders were a relative success and if the Government were truly committed to alternatives to prison, why is the Home Secretary still planning for a 50 per cent. increase in the number of prisoners by the early 1980s? Why is he still proposing to launch a prison building programme costing £140 million over the next four years? is that not a contradiction?

Mr. Carr

No, it is not a contradiction because, however successful we may be—and I hope we shall be—in halting the increase in the number of prisoners, or even if we are successful in reducing that number, there is still a most urgent need for new and better prisons. Already about one-third of our total prison population has to live two and three to a cell, in cells designed in the last century for only one person.

Mr. Fowler

In Nottingham the scheme has made an encouraging start and the courts are making use of these orders. Fifty orders have been made so far, and perhaps the most significant thing of all is that the failure rate is encouragingly low.

Mr. Carr

Although it is too early to make any formal assessment, even of a provisional kind, I am encouraged by what I hear and I believe that this sort of development is one of the most hopeful in penal treatment for a long time.

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