HC Deb 08 November 1973 vol 863 cc1150-1
5. Mrs. Knight

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the state of progress reached in the provision of a remand home for women in the Midlands.

Mr. Carlisle

The Home Office has recently put to Birmingham Corporation proposals for building a women's remand centre on land opposite Winson Green prison, and is awaiting the corporation's views.

Mrs. Knight

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that it is now more than five years since the Home Secretary in the Labour administration, arrogantly ignoring advice from the Magistrates' Association, the police and other interested persons in the Birmingham area, closed the Brockhill remand centre for women? Is he further aware that since then women on remand from the Birmingham courts have had to come all the way down the M1 to be housed in Holloway while on remand? Is the Minister aware that this has cost the taxpayer considerable sums and has also cost the women concerned a great deal of anguish, distress and inconvenience? Is my hon. and learned Friend aware, too, that only a few weeks ago one such woman flung herself out of the vehicle on to the M1 in the face of oncoming traffic? Does he recognise that there is great urgency in this matter?

Mr. Carlisle

I am fully aware that it has been extremely difficult to find an alternative site to the Brockhill remand centre which, as my hon. Friend said, was closed by the previous administration in about 1968. We have approached Birmingham Corporation for a site opposite Winson Green prison. We are awaiting the corporation's views, and we are well aware of the importance attached to a new remand centre. Without being able to comment on the individual case referred to by my hon. Friend, I am sure she will be aware that in January of this year the Home Office made arrangements so that there is now overnight accommodation in Birmingham prison for women on remand.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Does the Minister recall that the main reason for closing Brockhill remand centre at that time, which I believe was in 1968, was the difficulty of recruiting staff? Has his Department reconsidered the allocation of housing to women officers on the same basis as that used for men officers? Is he aware that this inequality is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to recruit women to work at remand centres?

Mr. Carlisle

I seem to recall that difficulty of obtaining staff was one of the matters referred to at that time, but I think it was a question of staff living in rather than with their own quarters provided. I shall consider the matter referred to by the hon. Lady.