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Lord Ewing of Kirkford: No.

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, that is the information I have. The noble Lord, Lord Ewing, made a point concerning traffic controllers. This system is still being installed. When it becomes fully operational later this year, many more messages to assist drivers will be able to be displayed. If local authorities can operate this system cheaper than the private sector they will win their tenders for that operation.

The Kincardine Bridge was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, and the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie. No decision has yet been made on how a possible new bridge at Kincardine might be financed or how the position will be progressed. A decision will be taken in due course.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves that point, may I have on the record an absolute guarantee that, no tolls ever having been charged over the past 60 years that the present Kincardine bridge has been in operation, on any new bridge there will also be no tolls charged? May I have a guarantee that it will be a toll-free crossing?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord that guarantee. I am sorry that I cannot be any more helpful.

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, mentioned the problem of cattle straying on to trunk roads. The terms of the DBFO contracts will include provisions for such occurrences.

A number of other matters were raised. Thenoble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and the noble Earl,Lord Mar and Kellie, referred to a complicated system in terms of the premium areas and the all-purpose network.I believe that the new system will be a great deal simpler than the present one. The existing system is managed under 32 different authorities but for the trunk road network we shall now have three premium networks and five all-purpose networks.

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, referred to the cost of tendering. We are not talking about peanuts. The extension of the A.74 from Carlisle to Glasgow, which will eventually be designated the M.6, is a £200 million

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contract. Therefore the businesses that tender for these operations realise that there is expense involved in such work.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, how wide will be the tendering list? It is quite important. Will there be selected lists which were half-promised by the Minister of State in another place? He said that there would be a selection because too many contractors estimated or put in a bid for the particular roads. Somehow or other the contractors need to be repaid in the next contract. Therefore the total cost to the country will be considerably higher. We are talking about millions of pounds for an estimate on a contract.

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, we realise that costs are involved. Initially, when we come to the new system and the DBFOs, the actual tendering process might be more complicated and expensive. After the first successful DBFO contract there will not be the repetition of costs incurred by some contractors in the first instance. The tendering lists are being restricted to three or four, which keeps the total costs down. I believe that I have covered all the questions which have been raised. If I have not, I shall write to noble Lords.

The delegation of functions to the private sector which would become possible under this order is important, as otherwise it would not be possible for the private sector to show properly what it can do. The private sector would have to revert to government to carry out a range of maintenance improvement functions. Our local authority agents are not constrained in this way as existing statutes provide for delegation to them. This draft order will allow a level playing field, in that the private sector will have the same degree of control over its operations. It will be more efficient for private sector operators. I expect these efficiencies to be reflected in pricing.

In future, private sector bidders for DBFO and management and maintenance contracts will be able to submit their proposals in the knowledge that they will have as much control over their operations as is practical. Delegation to them of functions which otherwise would be for government will provide reassurance that they will not be subject to delay and unnecessary administration over matters of importance to them in the management of the roads.

We are continually working to ensure that we are able to meet ever-increasing demands on the trunk road network in ways that will provide value for money and are efficient for the road user. This order will allow us to extend the range of options which we have for managing the network. It will allow us, from a broad spread of functions, to select which functions are suitable to delegate in the particular circumstances. With traffic volumes continuing to increase, we need to be flexible to best meet the challenges which lie ahead and be responsive to changing circumstances. I believe that this order will play a vital role in helping us to achieve this.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Life Prisoners: Prison Regime

7.33 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to introduce a prison regime for life prisoners who have been told that they can never expect to be released which will be consistent with their social, mental and physical needs as they grow older.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the risk of causing shock and horror to those few Members of your Lordships' House who are going to stay for this brief debate, perhaps I may start by saying that my purpose in putting down this Question is to get information. It is an old-fashioned way of using Unstarred Questions. I know that they are very often used as a basis for party political debate, but that is not my intention this evening. I want sincerely to probe the Government in more detail than they have been able to give in answer to Questions in the past about the conditions under which full-term prisoners--that is to say, prisoners who have been told that they can expect never to be released--are going to serve their sentence; in other words, to spend the rest of their lives.

Perhaps I may say at the outset two things which this Question is not about. It is not about the issue of whether there should be full-term sentences for anybody. I say that with some feeling because when I asked a Question in July last year, to which I shall refer in a moment, about the conditions under which full-term prisoners should be treated, I received while I was on holiday soon afterwards a telephone call from the Sunday Express. I told them the nature of my Question and of my interest. I told them specifically that they were not entitled to say, as a result of what I told them, that I or the Labour Party were in favour of releasing specifically--because they asked me--Myra Hindley. So what happened? The whole of the front page of the Sunday Express on the first Sunday in August was taken up with a headline saying, "Labour bid to free Myra Hindley". That was an absolute untruth, which had to be, and was, corrected. It was a lesson to me on how innocent questions can be distorted by the press. I have to repeat the nature of my concern this evening in order to make that position clear.

The second matter this Question is not about is whether the Home Secretary should make decisions. That is an issue on which the Labour Party has a view. We have come to the view that the judges, the Parole Board and the prison system as a whole are responsible for the tariff for mandatory life prisoners rather than a politician, the Home Secretary. Again, that is not something about which I am seeking information this evening, because it is not within the terms of the Question I am asking.

In June 1993, the Judicial Committee of your Lordships' House decided that mandatory life prisoners should be told of the tariff imposed on them. They should be told of any change in that tariff and given the opportunity to appeal against it as well as against the original sentence. After a considerable gap, I followed that up with a series of Questions for

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Written Answer on 19th July 1995. The helpful Answers that I was given by the Minister who is to reply tonight were that there were 16 mandatory life sentence prisoners who had been informed that previous Ministers had set a whole life tariff in their case and that those prisoners had the right to make representations.

The noble Baroness went on to say, as regards the conditions and in response to my third Question,

    "The Prison Service already provides a variety of regimes suited to the needs of different types of prisoner. These regimes are kept under review. In allocating mandatory life sentence prisoners, individual circumstances, including the need to facilitate visits from family and friends, are always taken into account subject of course to the overriding consideration of security".--[Official Report, 19/7/95; WA31.]

It is that Answer which I seek to have extended by the Minister when she replies to this Question this evening.

Two things have happened since then; one to me and one much more publicly. What happened to me is that representations were made on behalf of Roy Hall, a prisoner in Full Sutton Prison. He is 72 years old. He has been imprisoned for multiple murders. I hasten to say that, as I understand it, all the prisoners who have been told that they are never going to be released are multiple murderers and probably sadistic murderers as well. Therefore, there is no question of sympathy for the crimes or lack of sympathy for the victims of the crimes concerned.

Roy Hall is in Full Sutton Prison. He is 72 years old. He has been told that he cannot have a television set, radio or tape recorder in his room because those are the prison rules. He has been deprived of the work that he had been doing for a number of years in the prison kitchens. His letter to me was written in despair because he does not see how he is going to have any sort of self-respect or decent life for the rest of his life. He is an old man. Surely he is not a danger to the public at his age. That was the first and perhaps the more private concern which prompted me to table this Unstarred Question.

The second is somewhat fortuitous in the sense that on Friday the report of the full inspection by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons into conditions at Durham Prison was published. It is generally a favourable report, recognising that substantial improvements have been made at Durham Prison between the previous inspection in 1992 and the inspection in 1995 which was the subject of this report as a result of refurbishment and changes of policy. I am the first to recognise that.

The report was written under the then chief inspectorship of Judge Tumim, but is now published in the name of Sir David Ramsbotham, Her Majesty's new Chief Inspector of Prisons. The inspectors make points about Myra Hindley, who is a female prisoner in the hospital there following a serious fall. At paragraph 4.31 the report records the fact that after 30 years in prison she was past the point where she felt that she could mix in normal association with other prisoners whose attention was focused on their own eventual release dates.

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The inspectors make a number of specific recommendations and outline some principles which they say should govern the treatment of that small group of prisoners, the 20 or so men and women who have been formally told that they will never be released. I think that we can all agree with the first recommendation which states that security should be sufficient to prevent escape. Secondly, such prisoners should be given as much autonomy over their lives as possible; for example, they should be able, if they wish, to cook for themselves. Thirdly, they should be afforded as much privacy as possible, consonant with the need to prevent escape. Fourthly, they should have suitable occupations, including the use of a typewriter or computer. Fifthly, as they are never to be released, they should have as many opportunities to receive visits as possible away from the normal visiting area. They should also have additional access to telephones. Finally, providing that their behaviour merits these privileges, they should have as much freedom as possible to make decisions for themselves about the way in which they lead their lives in prison.

The inspectors couched the report in general terms although in the press release issued by the chief inspector those recommendations are related to a particular prisoner rather than in general terms. The question that I am asking the Government is: how far do they agree with the inspectors' policy recommendations?. I was very disappointed to see the Prison Service press release which accompanied the report on Friday, which stated:

    "The report also recommended that long term female prisoners should receive special privileges. That has been rejected by the Prison Service as conditions at Durham are considered suitable for all female prisoners".

My question is: is that the case? Is that the view of the Government as well as of the Prison Service? Is that the Government's view about the other full-term prisoners to whom the report does not refer, but to whom all the considerations which Judge Tumim and his colleagues felt were appropriate in the case in question should presumably also apply?

I do not ask those questions in any spirit of antagonism. I apologise if in referring to the case of Roy Hall I have caused the Minister any difficulty since I did not give her warning. If the noble Baroness cannot reply on that example, I shall fully understand; indeed, I do not expect it. However, generalising to a very limited extent, he is a man of 72; is there any plan for a special regime for people who are, let us say, over the age of 70--that is, over retirement age--who will never be released?

In the more general case, looking at Judge Tumim's recommendations for Durham Prison, what is the Government's view of those recommendations? How do the Government feel about the Prison Service's response to the report? To what extent do they feel, as I do, that there should be separate and special provision--not perks, but simply a recognition of their circumstances--for those prisoners who will never be released?

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