§ Mr. Fatchett
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, further to his reply of 10 June, Official Report, column 138, if he will give an indication as to when construction work on the main scheme for the extension of Leeds prison is expected to start.
§ Mr. Mellor
For the short term we are continuing to look at ways in which better use can be made of the existing prison estate, having regard to changes that have occurred and are projected to occur in the nature of the prison population.
In the longer term, the building programme includes a total of 16 new prisons which will provide some 8,000 additional places by the early 1990s. Three of these prisons have already been completed, five are being built and the remainder are at various stages of planning and design. Apart from the new prisons, there are some 25 major capital projects at existing establishments and also many other smaller schemes. These projects will provide a further 5,500 or so places over the next few years.
We have also acquired and converted for prison purposes a former RAF camp at Lindholme near Doncaster. This has provided a further 750 places with scope for further expansion if necessary.
We are also continuing to encourage the use of non-custodial sentences for persons convicted of less serious offences.414W
§ Mr. Hurd
The Committee of Public Accounts published its report on the prison building programme on 11 June. It followed a report published in December 1985 by the Comptroller and Auditor General on which the accounting officers of the Home Office and the Property Services Agency were examined in February.
My Department is considering the conclusions and recommendations of the report and, in accordance with the normal practice, the Government's response will be made in a Treasury minute, which we expect to be published before the summer recess. I do not wish to preempt that response except to say that we are studying the Committee's criticisms of past performance and welcome its recognition of the progress we have already made, in conjunction with the Property Services Agency and the Lord Chancellor's Department, to improve our procedures for planning, designing and building new prison accommodation.
§ Mr. Mellor
There are approximately 41,200 certified places in prison establishments, including some temporarily out of use for refurbishment, of which approximately 19,400 have either integral sanitation or access to sanitary facilities. Population exceeded certified accommodation by an average of approximately 5,000 during 1985, and most of this surplus population was held in accommodation without access to sanitation. By the end of 1990 we estimate that 28,000 places will have access to sanitation and by 1999 this figure should rise to 37,800; this represents a significant investment in the provision of sanitary facilities.
Various operational and technical problems are involved in providing integral sanitation. In particular, it is necessary to empty substantial blocks of accommodation while the work is undertaken, and this causes operational difficulties in the overcrowded Victorian prisons which are most likely to lack sanitary facilities. It is expected that this problem will ease as the prison building programme progresses and provides extra places to relieve overcrowding in local prisons, but there is a basic conflict between engaging on projects to provide sanitation and achieving our prime objective of reducing overcrowding.
Progress has nevertheless been made. A recent pilot project at Stafford prison has proved successful, and the same system — in which one in every three cells is converted into two sanitary annexes, one for each of the two neighbouring cells — is being used for the refurbishment of Liverpool prison. All new prisons and new accommodation blocks in existing prisons provide for access to sanitation, and it is our policy that access to sanitation should form part of all major refurbishment projects at existing establishments which entail modernisation of the living blocks.
§ Mr. Mellor
The only new prison accommodation that remains part unoccupied is at Holloway. Plans are in hand to bring this into use, but these are dependent on the implementation of recommendations which have recently been made by a manpower appraisal team. The need for a manpower study was recommended in the Holloway project committee report, July 1985.