HC Deb 25 November 1993 vol 233 cc574-5
11. Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress his Department has made in providing more prisons.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

Twenty new prisons have been built and opened since 1979. The 21st new prison, at Doncaster, is due to open in April next year. A further six new prisons are planned. Sites for the first two have been identified at Fazakerley in Merseyside and at Bridgend in south Wales.

Mr. Shaw

Will my hon. Friend accept that it is a commonly held view that more prisons and more prison building will result in less crime, more fear among the criminals and less fear among our constituents? Will he also accept that Conservative Members want the Home Office to get on and build more prisons?

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend is certainly right to say that prison takes the worst criminals out of circulation, while they are in prison, and it certainly serves as a deterrent for a considerable number of those contemplating crime. His view was well expressed in last Tuesday's debate by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) who said: Prison is necessary; those who ought to go to prison should be put there, and if that means more prisons, more prisons should be built."—[Official Report, 23 November 1993; Vol. 233, c. 344.] We are building them.

Mr. Mullin

Does the Minister agree that one way of relieving the pressure on prisons would be to release the innocent? In that connection, when can we expect him to complete his consideration of the Carl Bridgewater case which, it is obvious to most sensible people, has collapsed?

Mr. Lloyd

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is considering that case at the moment.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my hon. Friend agree that when the public realise that, even under this Government's measures, people who are sent to prison are given remission automatically without having to earn it, they find it a scandal? Is it not the case that one advantage of more prison places being available will be that people can serve their full sentence?

Mr. Lloyd

The Criminal Justice Act for which my hon. Friend voted has brought more closely into line the sentences handed down by the courts and the time served. Every prisoner will serve at least half of his sentence and, in addition, time is spent on supervision after the prisoner is released. It is essential that prisoners re-enter society being supervised to ascertain the kind of life to which they are returning. That is not possible if they serve the whole of their sentence in prison.

Ms Ruddock

Will the Minister confirm that the present crisis of prison overcrowding in the north-west has led to the renewed use of police cells? Does he recall that, between April and July last year, the Greater Manchester force spent £7 million paying police officers to guard prisoners in police cells? Does he think that that is the best way of mobilising police officers in the fight against crime?

Mr. Lloyd

It is not the best way of using police officers' time, but the Prison Service and the criminal justice system has to accept those prisoners sent to it by the courts. That is why we have announced an extra prison-building programme, why we are building new house blocks, why we are using the estate far more effectively and why we are considering other alternatives in the short term. We now have far fewer prisoners in police cells than two years ago and there is far less overcrowding. I hope that the hon. Lady will accept the great advances that have been made.

Mr. John Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that the new private prisons at the Wolds and Blakenhurst have been an outstanding success? Does he share my confidence that the six new prisons, which he and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary plan to build, will be more successful if they, too, are private sector initiatives?

Mr. Lloyd

I am sure that use of private management within the Prison Service is raising standards across the whole service. What my hon. Friend says about standards in the Wolds was borne out by the chief inspector's report. Blakenhurst will be inspected next year, and I have no doubt that the chief inspector will have equally complimentary things to say about it.