HL Deb 25 March 1970 vol 308 cc1404-5

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why, and for what class of criminal, they propose to open a prison at Denbury, South Devon.]


My Lords, many new prisons are needed to relieve over-crowding in existing prisons and to accommodate the expected increase in the prison population. The disused camp at Denbury, which is already Government property, could be converted relatively quickly and inexpensively for prison use. The possibility of adapting it as a closed prison for men not in the highest security categories has been raised informally with the local authorities concerned and a meeting with them has now been arranged. Their views, and any others that may be expressed, will be taken fully into account. No decisions have yet been taken.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. While appreciating the Government's difficulties in coping with the record crime wave since they took office, may I ask him the following supplementary questions? Why has the Home Office picked on Devon, which already has more than its fair share of national corrective establishments, when there are other counties with none or next to none? Why choose a holiday area full of retired people who are naturally very apprehensive? Why choose an area now suffering from a record number of unemployed, which would make rehabilitation more difficult? Is he aware of two facts which affect the situation; that only a fortnight ago a prisoner from—


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow my noble friend to answer at least his first four supplementary questions?


My Lords, I am aware that the Government are tackling the crime situation. I am equally aware of the support that the noble Lord is now giving to us. It seems to me, on the general question, that prisons have something in common with airports—everybody thinks that they are essential, and nobody wants them in his county.


My Lords, would my noble friend agree that the Government would make every attempt to have those on the highest social standing in such a prison?