HC Deb 14 April 1986 vol 95 c236W
Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the present conditions in Her Majesty's prisons.

Mr. Mellor

While many training establishments provide reasonable conditions and a full regime, the quality of life in local prisons and some remand centres is less satisfactory, and the Government are giving them priority. The current prison building programme, the largest this century, will provide 11,700 new places by the early 1990s in existing and new establishments. Additionally, we are undertaking extensive modernisation and refurbishment at about 100 establishments, including almost all the Victorian prisons. Some of the work has already been completed and has made a significant impact.

Since 1979, the number of prison officers has been increased by 18 per cent., compared with a rise of about 10 per cent. in inmate numbers, and further expansion of the prison service is planned. We have to ensure effective use of the resources which we already have and we are studying prison officer attendance systems and court escorting to see whether efficiency can be improved.

Both regimes and physical conditions will benefit substantially from this programme of work over the next few years. The Government are committed to the goal of eliminating overcrowding and will keep the building programme under review in the light of long-term projections of the prison population.