HC Deb 31 March 1983 vol 40 cc453-4
9. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will set up an inquiry into the handling of prisoners, who have been committed to prison for acts of serious violence against the person, when they undertake visits outside prison for compassionate purposes.

Mr. Mellor

No, Sir.

Mr. Winterton

I am sure that my hon. Friend will expect me to be flabbergasted at that totally inadequate response. Is he aware that the public are appalled that psychopaths and those who have been convicted of violent offences against the person can be taken to see their parents or other people on compassionate grounds, and allowed into a house without adequate provision being taken to prevent them from escaping, the prison officers remaining at the front door and no guards being placed at the windows? Will my hon. Friend and the Home Secretary give the matter more serious consideration? The people of this country expect to be guarded against psychopaths and violent persons.

Mr. Mellor

My hon. Friend has stated his position with his customary restraint. The number of occasions on which category A criminals are released for compassionate visits are few and far between. All prisoners on such visits are subject to the closest security. It is most unfortunate that the events involving Mr. Thynne should have occurred. I assure my hon. Friend that the matter is being fully investigated. The investigation has not been completed and it would be irresponsible of me to comment until it has been completed.

Mr. Waller

Has my hon. Friend noticed the reference in the recent report of the chief inspector of Her Majesty's prisons to the fact that, far from being allowed out of prison, many prisoners are not even allowed outside their cells and have to spend their time in enforced idleness because of a shortage of work in prison workshops? Is that not an unsatisfactory situation and can my hon. Friend hold out any hope that things will improve?

Mr. Mellor

Yes. It is fundamental to the new regime that we are seeking to create in our prisons to make work as widely available as possible. About 12,000 prisoners are offered work every day and we should like, and are making provision for, that number to increase.

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