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Borstal Detention

Volume 416: debated on Thursday 29 November 1945

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will appoint a committee to inquire into ways and means of reducing the periods spent in prison by Borstal boys awaiting allocation.

There is only one way to reduce the periods spent in prison by youths awaiting allocation to Borstal Institutions, that is by increasing the existing accommodation available for allocation centres and training institutions, and, therefore, I do not consider the appointment of a committee would serve any useful purpose. A complete survey has been made, and it is clear that it will be necessary to provide two additional allocation centres for boys, and seven additional training institutions, five for boys and two for girls.

As regards the additional allocation centres, it is expected that the premises which have been selected for these will be available early in the New Year. It is also proposed, by re-opening Pentonville Prison, and by a re-allocation of the London prison population, to make more room available in the existing allocation centre at Wormwood Scrubs. As regards additional institutions, premises have already been selected for two institutions for boys, and inquiries are being actively pursued with a view to obtaining suitable premises for the remainder.

Unfortunately, some time must necessarily elapse before all these additional premises can be brought into use. Not only will certain structural alterations be required but a sufficient staff must be trained and recruited and living accommodation provided for the staff and their families. I repeat my assurance to the House that the whole question of increasing the Borstal accommodation is being treated as one of the utmost urgency.

Was the Minister answering three Questions together? I was not quite sure.

Having regard to the fact, which I think will be accepted, that the practice which is now being adopted is contrary to what has generally been recognsed as right, is not the Minister aware that there is widespread dissatisfaction and concern about this whole question on all sides of the House, and would he not be fortified by the findings of a committee?

No, Sir. I think the appointment of a committee would only lead to delay in getting on with the equipment of the premises which I have already selected, and of completing the negotiations with regard to others.

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that his reply will cause satisfaction? Pending the provision of this new accommodation, could he take steps to see that the people who are at present detained in prison receive the tuition they should be receiving in Borstal institutions?

I am doing all I can to secure that. The matter is one of very great difficulty in view of the numbers involved, but I am trying to see that these lads shall get the training as soon as possible.

:In view of what my right hon. Friend has said about the necessity of altering the premises, does he not think that those premises, when the alterations have been made, would be better used as Borstal institutions themselves, instead of merely as allocation centres from which the boys go out?

No, I think I must do the two things simultaneously as far as possible. It is very desirable that the lad awarded Borstal training should be sent to a suitable institution, and that can only be effectively done if he passes through an allocation centre.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the severe comments passed by the Recorder of Liverpool in regard to Borstal arrangements?

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the number of Borstal boys now at Dartmoor convict prison; and the number of convicts who are also in the prison.

Forty Borstal boys are now at Dartmoor. No civilian convicts have been detained at Dartmoor since last July, but there are at present 350 military prisoners detained there in buildings physically separated from the premises where the boys are detained.

Will the physical separation of the buildings be sufficient to prevent the Borstal boys and the military prisoners coming in contact with each other?

:I think the only occasion on which they might come into contact would be if a Borstal boy and one of the military detainees were to be paraded outside the Governor's room at the same time.

In view of the fact that these lads are in Dartmoor, would the Minister consider applying in their case the Home Office scheme that worked so effectively in regard to conscientious objectors in the first part of the war?

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been called to the refusal of the Recorder of Liverpool to commit young offenders for Borstal treatment because they are liable to be sent to D art-moor; and if he will reconsider this matter.

:I have seen reports in the Press of the remarks by the Recorder of Liverpool to which my hon. Friend refers. The Recorder is reported to have said that so long as Borstal is administered in the present fashion with its headquarters at Dartmoor hewould want a lot of persuasion to send Liverpool boys for training to a place that is notoriously unfit for such a purpose. There is, of course, no question of using Dartmoor as the headquarters of the system of Borstal training, and I should make it clear, in case there is any misapprehension, that there is no intention of sending all youths who are committed to Borstal detention to Dartmoor; Dartmoor is merely one of a number of Borstal Institutions, and the question of the particular institution to which it is appropriate to send an individual is decided after careful consideration of all the circumstances of the individual's case.

I made a full statement in the House on 11th October as to the reasons for which I decided as a matter of urgency that Dartmoor Prison should be adapted for use as a Borstal Institution as a temporary expedient. As I then explained, Dartmoor is the only available establishment which could be taken into use at once for the purpose of carrying out Borstal training. I still think it desirable that some of the youths for whom the courts have decided that Borstal training is necessary should be given that training at Dartmoor rather than that they should be kept for months in local prisons where no training of any kind can be given them. There has been no change in the urgency of the need for the accommodation available at Dartmoor which would justify reconsideration of my decision.

I have spoken before about these long answers. I spent one and a half hours myself being cross-examined about Questions this morning. It is fairly well known, I think, that my own view always has been that these long answers ought to be read out after Questions in order to give more time for hon. Members' Questions to be answered.

Will the Home Secretary consider making provision for Members of Parliament to visit this institution to see how the boys are being housed?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that using Dartmoor for this purpose defeats the whole idea behind Borstal?

Would the right hon. Gentleman read what he said on 11th October, and can he say at what date he hopes to dispense with the use of Dartmoor?

As I told the House on firth October, as soon as I possibly can. I have told the House to-day that I am pressing on energetically with making alternative provision.

Who, or what body of persons,.decide what establishment these boys shall have?

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Depart- ment how soon will Dartmoor cease to be used as a Borstal institution for youthful offenders not beyond redemption.

Is the Home Secretary aware that there is considerable feeling, not only in this House but in the country, about Dartmoor, and would he be prepared to approach one of the Service Ministers with a view to getting him to give up a camp or disused aerodrome for this purpose?

That is precisely the kind of accommodation which I am hoping to bring into use at a very early date.

Can the Minister say, if Dartmoor is to be used for persons beyond redemption, when it will be occupied by His Majesty's Government?

It is quite clear that the proper order of priority would indicate that the Opposition would go there first.

Does the Minister mean that any young offenders are beyond redemption? Is it not true that no young offenders are ever beyond redemption?

Those were not my words; they were the words of the hon. Member who asked the supplementary question.