HC Deb 15 November 1977 vol 939 cc119-21W
Mr. Alexander Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has received the report of the public local inquiry into the tragic incidents at the State Hospital, Carstairs, last November; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Millan

The report has been published today and copies have been placed in the Library. The report is based on the evidence taken in both open and closed session and is published in full. Sheriff Reid also presented a short confidential report on certain security matters to which he refers in paragraph 1.5 of the published report. I have asked the Chairman of the Management Committee to pursue urgently the action points in this confidential document and to report to me.

I would like to record my appreciation of the valuable work done by Sheriff Principal Reid and his three assessors in presenting so thorough and painstaking a report. It describes clearly the events leading up to the escape last November, analyses how the escape was possible and makes 47 recommendations most of which relate to the management and security in the hospital. I accept in principle the findings in the report. Many of the recommendations, however, will require consultation with interested parties, particularly the Hospital Management Committee and the staff interests; and the detailed implementation of some others will need careful consideration. This consultation and consideration is being put in hand urgently.

Perhaps the most important recommendation in the report is that a second perimeter fence should be built round the west wing. I accept this recommendation. Consultation about details and planning will, of course be needed, and I have asked the Hospital Management Committee to consult the Property Services Agency immediately on the type of fence required, its line, its height, and other important points of detail.

I also accept the recommendation that a security adviser should be appointed to the Hospital Management Committee, and hope to make this appointment shortly. I accept, too, in principle, the recommendation that a security officer should be appointed to the staff of the Divisional Nursing Officer of the hospital: but the Hospital Management Committee and staff interests will have to be consulted about the precise duties and responsibilities of the holder of this post.

The report draws attention to the problems of providing an effective warning system to local residents and recommends consultations about systems which offer a possibility of improvement. It recommends that local residents should organise a system of "self alert" in the event of an escape. Informal consultations have already taken place with the Scottish Telecommunications Board and the local community council will be consulted before firm decisions are taken.

The report draws attention to the need to improve the general level of lighting in the built-up areas of the hospital. Part of the additional money I was recently able to make available to the hospital is already being used to improve the lighting. This work will continue.

In July I received an interim report covering three points on which Sheriff Principal Reid felt that early action might be taken, namely, the reintroduction of study in individual rooms, of parole, and of television viewing in parole wards. There has been full consultation between management and staff on these three recommendations. I am glad to say that the educational activities have now been resumed. A scheme for the reintroduction of parole has also been prepared: and I hope that consideration will be given to the implementation of that scheme now that the final report is available.

In the final paragraph of his report Sheriff Principal Reid pays tribute to all who work at the State Hospital. He recognised that there are criticisms of some members of the staff in the report but says no institution of comparable size could be subjected to the kind of detailed investigation to which the State Hospital has been subjected and emerge unscathed".

I readily associate myself with the tribute to the staff at the State Hospital for the work they do often in exceptionally trying and difficult circumstances. In recognition of this I have been happy to make available, in recent months, additional funds up to £200,000 to enable a number of improvements to be carried out at the hospital. This money, which is additional to that which was already available for the ongoing programme of capital works and improvements at the hospital undertaken by Property Services Agency, will enable work on improving the area lighting, to which I have referred, to be expedited and also to make some improvements to the staff houses, again additional to the work already in progress.

I very much hope that the report, following on the tragic events of last November, will be a basis on which both the management and staff will be able to open a new chapter in the life of the hospital and fulfil even more effectively the unique role which it plays in Scotland.

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