HC Deb 13 May 1992 vol 207 cc116-8W
Mr. Bennett

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list all the undertakings made to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish about reducing the number of prisoners in police cells since April. 1990, in Greater Manchester, indicating which have now been achieved, and if he will publish the number of prisoners in police cells in Greater Manchester for each month from April 1990 to April 1992.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

The hon. Member has quite properly raised the problem of the shortage of prison accommodation in the Greater Manchester area on many occasions. In particular, I note that during the Consolidated Fund Bill debate on 14 March 1991,Official Report, column 1307, it was explained to the hon. Member: —The new Brinsford young offender institution and remand centre would come on stream in October, contributing 475 places. The establishment began taking inmates at the beginning of December. Unfortunately an inmate disturbance on 4 December damaged the accommodation and at present the establishment is holding only 323 remand prisoners. —Action was in hand to create more space in Hindley remand centre by transferring to Stoke Heath young offenders awaiting trial. This action was then brought into effect and is continuing. —We were working to bring into use 200 new places in Full Sutton prison. One of the wings was brought into use in the latter part of 1991. There is an industrial dispute on the staffing of the remand wing. —A further 140 refurbished places in Manchester prison wold be handed over in May 1991 and would be brought on stream as quickly as possible. The accommodation was opened in November. —Moorland young offender institution and remand centre was due to come on stream in July 1991. It opened in August 1991.

In a written answer on 26 April 1991 at columns 559–60, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold) explained: apart from new accommodation in Full Sutton, (see above) a further 152 places would be available in Acklington. Because of an industrial dispute Acklington did not begin to increase its population until March 1992. It will shortly reach its full capacity of 676.

In addition to these changes, new prisons at Whitemoor, Belmarsh and Elmley opened in 1991–92. Changes of use were also effected in the Mount, Preston, Brockhill, Everthorpe and Hewell Grange in order to make a more effective response to population pressures.

In June 1990, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) explained to the hon. Member that it was then thought that the police cells situation ought to be resolved by the end of that year. In written answers on 26 April and 3 June, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden also explained that prison service assessments indicated that young men on remand should be cleared from police cells during May, and that there should be substantial inroads into the general problem in July onwards.

As the hon. Member is aware, during the summer and autumn of 1991 there was an unexpected increase in the prison population. In fact, by the end of that year the population was nearly 3,000 above the short-term projections for that period. This had the effect of filling all the new and refurbished accommodation which had been intended to provide relief to the Greater Manchester police cells prisoners and causing prisoners to be held in police cells throughout England and Wales. The population has remained at this high level and, as a result, the situation remains very serious. The need to deal with the problems of prisoners in police cells remains a matter of the highest priority.

The monthly figures for prisoners in Greater Manchester police cells who should be in prison are as follows:

April 219
May 343
June 321
July 284
August 329
September 281
October 246
November 268

December 206
January 249
February 256
March 247
April 178
May 207
June 212
July 217
August 256
September 196
October 246
November 249
December 162
January 211
February 217
March 250
April 231