HL Deb 16 February 1978 vol 388 cc1516-8

3.31 p.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government which prisons allow visits to convicted prisoners more frequently than once every 28 days and how many of them allow visits more than once a fortnight.


My Lords, 53 establishments allow visits to all convicted prisoners more often than once in 28 days. Another 16 allow them to certain prisoners, notably young prisoners. No prison allows visits more than once a fortnight, but one remand centre included in the 53 allows visits more than once a fortnight to young prisoners who are convicted but unsentenced. I will, with permission, circulate the lists of names in the Official Report.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Further to it, may I ask him whether he is aware of the appalling conditions for visitors at many of the prisons in London, and of the fact that people have often to wait in the rain before they can see a prisoner for, perhaps, a half-hour visit only? Have Her Majesty's Government any plan to build visitors' centres, possibly outside prison gates, which would in fact help to lessen the security risk, which I know worries many people?


My Lords, the noble Baroness's Question referred to frequency of visits rather than conditions, but I know she has been in correspondence with my noble friend Lord Harris on the important question that she has raised. Without kindling any hopes in her that more money can immediately be made available for the kind of operation that she suggests, I will call her supplementary question to the attention of my noble friend Lord Harris, and he will no doubt be in touch with her again.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, can my noble friend give any reason why visits to prisoners should not be allowed much more often than once a month? Why should they not be allowed at least once a fortnight, to take up the point he himself made?


In fact, my Lords, 42 prisons do allow visits fortnightly. It was the nature of the noble Baroness's particular Question which meant that, in my original Answer, I was not able to bring that fact out; but in fact 42 do allow fortnightly visits.


But, my Lords, my noble friend has not answered my question, with great respect. I asked why prisons should not all allow visits more often than once a month.


My Lords, I had not answered it, but I was just about to do so. As I am sure my noble friend will realise, there is pressure on accommodation; staff is heavily committed in escort duties for the courts; and, then, a strain is placed on resources by daily visits to prisoners who are unconvicted. This means that the resources are strained, and that, basically, is the reason why further improvements cannot be made.


My Lords, the noble Lord has referred specially to young prisoners, but may I ask about long-term prisoners who begin their sentences in local prisons before allocation? Are they caught by the general restrictions on local prisons, or do they get special facilities? If they do not, is this satisfactory?


My Lords, I am afraid I would have to ask the noble Lord to give me notice of that particular question. I will make sure that inquiries are made and will write to him on the subject.

The following is the list of names referred to:

Fifty-three establishments allow visits to all convicted prisoners more often than once in 28 days. These are:- Acklington, Albany, Appleton Thorn, Ashford, Ashwell, Askham Grange, Aylesbury, Blundeston, Brixton, Brockhill, Camp Hill, Canterbury, Channings Wood, Chelmsford, Coldingley, Dorchester, Drake Hall, East Sutton Park, Erlestoke, Featherstone, Ford, Gartree, Grendon, Highpoint, Holloway, Hull, Latchmere House, Lewes, Leyhill, Long Lartin, Low Newton, Maidstone, Moor Court, Northallerton, Northeye, Norwich, Nottingham, Onley, Parkhurst, Pentonville. Portsmouth, Pucklechurch, Ranby, Reading, Risley, Rudgate, Standford Hill, Sudbury, Swinfen Hall, Thorpe Arch*, Verne Wakefield, Wormwood Scrubs.

* allows daily visits to convicted but unsentenced young prisoners.

Another 16 establishments allow them to certain convicted prisoners, notably young prisoners. These are:- Bedford, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Durham, Exeter, Gloucester, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Shrewsbury, Styal, Winchester.