HC Deb 27 April 1976 vol 910 cc184-5
13. Mr. Alan Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with arrangements made for young offenders on remand; and what action he proposes to take in this regard.

Dr. Owen

No, Sir. Because of the the shortage of secure accommodation in community homes, juvenile offenders are still being remanded to prison establishments. It is the Government's policy to phase out such remands as soon as possible.

Mr. Clark

But surely this possibility depends entirely on the provision of funds. Will not the Minister agree that it is much more desirable to make financial provision in this regard than to improve the conditions of inmates of long-stay prisons?

Dr. Owen

We have available, specifically under the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, power to direct grants for secure accommodation, and we have made available £2 million for this purpose. We are giving a very high priority to all loan sanction approvals for secure accommodation. This comes off local authority social services budgets, which are already hard pressed with demands for the elderly, the mentally handicapped, and the mentally ill. It says a lot for the commitment of local authorities to the principles of the Act that they are prepared to give this such a very high priority.

Mr. Sims

Will the hon. Gentleman urge upon local authorities the rapid completion of the 200 additional secure places to which he referred so that a date can be given after which in no circumstances will any child be sent to an adult prison?

Dr. Owen

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to announce today that no more children will be going to an adult prison. Concerning children under 14, particularly girls, there is a particular problem in the London area with Holloway. Local authorities are well aware of this and share the concern of the House and of others outside, but secure accommodation cannot be conjured up overnight. It would be ridiculous to make such a pledge and then not be able to fulfil it.