Previous Section Home Page

Column 229

prison population, however, purposeful activity has increased over the past year. Moreover, the new Prison Service operating standards that will be issued to governors shortly will help them to deliver more uniform and higher standards against which they will be individually judged. Each prison governor will have a contract with his area manager on how he will meet those standards during the coming year.

Dr. Godman : Will the Minister confirm that the current arrangements and procedures to which he has just referred will obtain in Scotland ? Although our prisoners do not suffer from overcrowding to the same extent as south of the border, overcrowding is a problem.

Mr. Lloyd : I cannot speak with authority on how accommodation available is certificated in Scotland. All that I can do is pass on the hon. Gentleman's inquiry to my colleague at the Scottish Office and ensure that the hon. Gentleman receives a reply. If I endeavour to reply here, I might get it wrong if a difference exists in the methodology in England and Wales and in Scotland.

As I was saying, capacity is a novel concept which it would be hard to measure objectively. Indeed, I am certain that it could not be measured objectively because it varies for a number of reasons, such as resources and availability of staff. It needs to differ from prison to prison, according to the prison's nature, facilities and type of prisoners. However, despite the recent growth in prison population, the regime activities have tended to improve. Last year, the amount of time spent out of cells in purposeful activity increased yet again.

I understand why the clause has been tabled. It is important to ensure that standards of accommodation and regime are kept under close scrutiny. I hope that what I have said persuades the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth that the arrangements and new operating standards meet that proper objective. He seems to have the impression that overcrowding has been increasing over a long period in the prison service. It has not. The number of prisoners has grown sharply over the past year after a decline. We now have about the same number of prisoners as we had four years ago, but, because of the Government's prison-building programme, they are, on the whole, much less overcrowded than they were. In much of the Prison Service, there is no overcrowding.

The hon. Gentleman spoke particularly of numbers in local prisons where, for many years, most of the pressure has been found. That is because local prisons have little room for expansion in town centres near the courts. They must house those sent to prison by the courts while they are on trial or remand. The only quick way of reducing overcrowding in those prisons is to move the prisoners elsewhere in the system, producing exactly the effect that the hon. Gentleman complained of--prisoners housed in prisons far away from their homes. Our prison building programme is designed to ensure that there is a sufficiency of places throughout the country where they are needed. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will support the Government when we seek to build prisons in places where there is great local resistance--as of course there is at Fazakerley at the moment. In this case, the local population does not want a prison, but prisoners from Merseyside need an extra prison if they are not to be dispersed in large numbers across the rest of the country as happens now. I hope that we can count on the hon.

Column 230

Gentleman's support in the matter. Judging by what he said, he ought to give his support and I hope that he will put his backing where his sentiments appear to lie.

Mr. Michael : With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister does not seem to realise that there is an increase in the use of police cells to hold prisoners. He does not seem to be heeding the warnings, which are growing louder, being given to the Government from many quarters. We do not need more information from the Minister ; we need more accountability.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) has ensured both the availability of information about this issue and an analysis of that information which shows the Government's shortcomings in this area. The Home Secretary needs to concentrate his mind on the regime in prison and the outcome of holding people in prison. The Home Secretary needs to listen to those who are involved in the Prison Service, including prison governors and prison officers. Our new clause will ensure that more listening and thinking takes place and, for that reason, we press it to a Division. Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :

The House divided : Ayes 247, Noes 281.

Division No. 198] [4.51 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Mrs Irene

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)

Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashton, Joe

Austin-Walker, John

Barnes, Harry

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret

Beggs, Roy

Beith, Rt Hon A. J.

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Benton, Joe

Bermingham, Gerald

Berry, Roger

Betts, Clive

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)

Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Cann, Jamie

Chisholm, Malcolm

Clapham, Michael

Clark, Dr David (South Shields)

Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Corston, Ms Jean

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John

Dafis, Cynog

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davidson, Ian

Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Denham, John

Dewar, Donald

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Donohoe, Brian H.

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Eagle, Ms Angela

Enright, Derek

Etherington, Bill

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret

Faulds, Andrew

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Flynn, Paul

Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galbraith, Sam

Galloway, George

Gapes, Mike

George, Bruce

Gerrard, Neil

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Godsiff, Roger

Golding, Mrs Llin

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Next Section

  Home Page