§ 16. Mr. Flannery
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken to lessen the number of hours that prisoners in Her Majesty's prisons spend in their cells due to shortage of prison staff and accommodation.
§ Mr. Mayhew
We have arranged both for an increase in the number of prison officers and for a continuation of the very substantial building programme.
§ Mr. Flannery
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts recently inspected educational facilities in prisons and witnessed the conditions there? Does he agree that they are an affront to human dignity and not conducive to good order in prisons? Does he agree also that it would be good experience for all hon. Members to witness three men in a cell for long hours? [Interruption.] Ebullience seems to be arising out of defeat among Conservative Members. Does the Minister agree that it would be good for all of us to understand the gross indignity of, for example, the slopping-out process and men being kept in cells for long hours? Is he aware that judges are sentencing shoplifters to longer sentences than those who have committed rape? Does he agree that the whole system needs to be overhauled? [Interruption.] The time spent in cells is too long for prisoners, even if it is not considered to be too long by Conservative Members.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Conditions in prisons leave a great deal to be desired. That is why it is right that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should have embarked upon the largest prison building programme this century. Present conditions reflect how disgraceful it is that the previous Goverment, whom the hon. Gentleman supported, cancelled or deferred new prison building programmes so that 3,300 new places were either lost or deferred in 1975.