HC Deb 27 October 1997 vol 299 cc740-1W
36. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the total number of prisoners on 1 May; and if he will make a statement. [11692]

Ms Quin

The prison population on 1 May was 60,088.

Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase the amount of time prisoners spend(a) in working and (b) on education schemes. [11849]

Ms Quin

The Government recognise the difficulties faced by the Prison Service in dealing with the exceptional rise in the prison population, but remain committed to ensuring that prisoners are provided with constructive regimes.

We expect the Prison Service to seek to expand work opportunities for prisoners by developing its ability to attract work from the private sector and by improving the organisation of prison regimes so as to maximise the time that prisoners can spend in purposeful activity, including work.

Invitations to tender for new contracts to deliver education in prisons, to be issued shortly, will aim for contracts which, in delivering the prison core curriculum, maximise efficient use of resources and offer a dynamic ability to meet the needs of particular prison establishments.

Provision for regime facilities is included in the extra £43 million over this year and next which has been made available to the Prison Service to help cope with overcrowding pressures.

Mr. Amess

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to accommodate the rise in the number of prisoners; and what is his policy on early release. [12264]

Ms Quin

To help with the increasing population pressures, the Prison Service was allocated a further £43 million in July for this year and the next. In total, these additional resources will create 290 new places on top of those to be provided by the existing building programme. These funds will also provide additional staffing and funding for regime activities to support the placing of a further 1,830 prisoners in existing accommodation.

The existing building programme will provide 8,600 additional places over this year and the next two years, through a combination of expanding existing prisons and building new prisons.

Early release arrangements are set out in part II of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. The Government have no plans to review these. As regards executive release, the Government have no plans to use these powers. Executive release from prison is designed to be used as a last resort.

Miss Widdecombe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his policy towards, prisoners having television in their cells; and if he will make a statement. [12265]

Ms Quin

The Government are reconsidering policy in this area, including examining the case for in-cell television as an earned privilege, but we have not yet taken final decisions. Meanwhile, no action has been taken either to extend the privilege of in-cell television or to withdraw sets from those establishments that currently allow them.

The all-party Home Affairs Committee, then with a Conservative majority, recommended in March 1997 a rethink of policy and stressed the potential of television as a means of contributing to good order in a prison.

The Learmont report in 1995 recommended that in-cell television should be made widely available and pointed to its potential benefits as an information as well as a recreational medium.