HC Deb 01 March 1973 vol 851 cc1676-7
3. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners are still engaged on sewing mail bags by hand; and in which prisons this is still being done.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Mark Carlisle)

About 1,500 in England and Wales. I will, with permission, circulate the particulars of the 26 establishments in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mrs. Short

I am obliged for that reply, but a little disappointed at its content. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman recall that as long ago as 1967 the House was told that with the appointment of the Director of Prison Industries and the reorganisation which would ensue this would disappear? It obviously has not. How does the Minister think that it helps the rehabilitation of an offender?

Mr. Carlisle

It has not disappeared, that is true, but in the last 10 years the proportion of prisoners working on the hand-sewing of mail bags has dropped from 30 per cent. of the total work-force to 10 per cent. So we have made substantial progress towards eliminating it.

Mr. John Hall

Despite the reduction of the labour force employed on this work, is my hon. and learned Friend not aware that there are much more efficient ways of making mail bags than by hand sewing? Would it not be better if all prisoners were engaged on much more useful and constructive work?

Mr. Carlisle

As a matter of principle, I entirely agree. Much more machine sewing of mail bags is being done, but I think that my hon. Friend will accept that there is within that population of 1,500 a certain number whose ability to do jobs is very limited.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

When considering the prison programme in general and training in particular, will my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that in Lancaster Prison the training facilities—although every use has been made of every available cranny—are severely limited? Will he therefore consider rebuilding the prison on a new site, so that the castle may revert to its proper use as a castle and tourist attraction?

Mr. Carlisle

I am conscious that there is a shortage of resources for work in many prisons and I note what my hon. Friend says about Lancaster, but I cannot give her any promises about its rebuilding.

Following is the information:

The prisons in which prisoners are employed in hand-sewing mail-bags are as follows:

Birmingham. Manchester.
Bristol. Norwich.
Canterbury. Nottingham.
Chelmsford. Oxford.
Dorchester. Parkhurst.
Durham. Pentonville.
Exeter. Preston.
Gloucester. Shrewsbury.
Lancaster. Stafford.
Leeds. Swansea.
Leicester. Wakefield.
Lincoln. Winchester.
Liverpool. Wandsworth.

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