HC Deb 18 June 1992 vol 209 cc1024-5
4. Mr. Devlin

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the progress of the prison building programme.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Sixteen of the 21 new prisons in the Government's building programme have now opened, providing 8,000 additional places. Within the next 12 months, four of the remaining five are due to open, providing 2,250 places. In addition, this year we shall be spending nearly £200 million on improving the existing prison estate.

Mr. Devlin

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on that wonderful answer—[Interruption.] It is in sharp contrast to the 20 per cent. cut in prison building under the last Labour Government. We look forward in Stockton-on-Tees to the imminent opening of Holme House Farm prison. I suggest that the police in Stockton-on-Tees, who have faced a spate of riots among drug gangs on the Ragworth estate, should be given every encouragement to apprehend all those behaving so disagracefully and to ensure that they are thrown into the new prison as soon as possible.

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend may certainly congratulate me on my answers in those terms as many times as he wishes. It is true that there has been a spectacular prison building programme during the 1980s, after decades in which the prison service's needs were sadly neglected, which is why we still have so many old and unsatisfactory buildings. The new prison in Stockton opened this year and is a valuable addition to the service. I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the police on their handling of the disorders in Stockton. The disorders began when the police made arrests in an attempt to tackle a drug problem on that estate. I am sure that the police have the support of the vast majority of the inhabitants of the estate in dealing with the trouble caused by those young hooligans coming to the town.

Mr. Maclennan

Will the Home Secretary discontinue the practice—some people would say the sharp practice—pursued by his predecessor of holding up the publication of Judge Tumim's reports for so long that their criticisms are somewhat blunted? Why has he not accepted the report in respect of the young offenders institution at Feltham, which is a damning indictment?

Mr. Clarke

I refute the suggestion that Ministers have ever deliberately held back Judge Tumim's reports. My predecessor did not do so; nor have we. Delays have not been the result of ministerial decisions. I welcome Judge Tumim's reports, despite the fact that he is often outspoken in the public interest about the conditions that he finds in prisons. He describes the difficult situation in Feltham, which is being tackled by the prison authorities. Judge Tumim's reports are helpful to us in identifying problems and stimulating the efforts of the governor and his staff to deal with them.

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