HC Deb 15 May 1985 vol 79 cc318-9
8. Mr. Steel

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, following receipt of the report of his working party studying the Glenochil institutions, he will make a statement.

Mr. Younger

The report of Dr. Chiswick's working group on suicide precautions at Glenochil will be published as soon as possible after I have received it. Fatal accident inquiries into the two most recent deaths at Glenochil have been arranged to start on 28 May and 12 June respectively. I shall consider the determinations of those inquiries, as well as the findings and recommendations of the working group, carefully and as a matter of urgency. I shall inform the House of my conclusions as soon as possible thereafter.

Mr. Steel

I thank the Secretary of State for that statement. Does he accept that there is still unease that there is not a more widespread inquiry into sentencing policy in Scotland? For example, will the workingparty that he has set up be empowered to take evidence from former inmates or the parents of former inmates of the Glenochil institutions?

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his acceptance of what I said. I do riot rule out some form of wider inquiry if we find from the report of Dr. Chiswick or from either of the fatal accident inquiries that further matters need to be investigated. I should not like to rule that out at this stage. With regard to further evidence, it is important that we should not delay Dr. Chiswick's report, or any others, by widening the working group's terms at present. I should prefer to get its results and then make any further inquiries that are necessary in the light of those results.

Mr. O'Neill

I welcome the Secretary of State's comments, which endorse what was said by his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram), in the debate two weeks ago. May we take it therefore that once the sub judice limitations of the fatal accident inquiries are out of the way it will be possible for the Government to institute a wider inquiry, and that that will mark a change in the Government's attitude to wider-ranging inquiries into Glenochil and other young offenders' institutions?

Mr. Younger

I do not think that I would wholly accept what the hon. Gentleman says. It is not really the sub judice position that prevents a further inquiry at this stage—although I believe that it would do so. The point is that we need to get a response to the initial inquiries first, to find out what else—if anything—we need to know. For my part, I wish to be as open as possible about the whole matter. If further matters need to be inquired into, I shall be glad to arrange that in due course.

Mr. Dewar

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said, which is helpful on the whole. The Opposition support the need for a detailed inquiry into the handling of suicide risk patients. The fatal accident inquiries are of course, essential, and I accept that they must be dealt with first. However, there is a strong feeling on the Labour Benches that we should consider the separate but important issue of whether it is right that detention centres should have been established as the only custodial option for many young offenders. That should be high on the agenda once the immediate inquiries into these tragic deaths have been completed.

Mr. Younger

I would be very happy for the whole subject, in its widest sense, to be on the agenda, and to co-operate in any suggestions that the hon. Gentleman has for discussing the matter or inquiring into it more widely, once we have received the preliminary results. There has been considerable widening of the methods of treatment of young offenders in recent years, and I see no reason why we should not examine the position further to see whether still more improvements could be made.

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