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Prisoners (Productive Work)

Volume 464: debated on Thursday 12 May 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons were serving prison sentences at the latest available date; how many of them were employed in productive work; and how they are paid for their labour.

As the answers to the first and second parts of the Question consist of statistical statements, I will, with permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT. In answer to the third part of the Question, I can say that prisoners are paid weekly in cash under the prison earnings scheme, details of which I will send to the hon. Member if he so desires.

While informing the right hon. Gentleman that I do so desire, does he not recognise that this is forced labour?

May I ask my right hon. Friend to assure me that the pay is sufficient at least to enable prisoners to maintain their insurance cards so as not to jeopardise their benefits?

I am considering these matters from time to time, and this is one of the matters to which I have to give consideration.

Is the Home Secretary aware that in Peterhead the men are taken out to work in the quarries and get little or nothing for it? Is he further aware that a man who lost his leg got no compensation because he has no legal rights? If that is not forced labour, will the right hon. Gentleman tell me what is?

I can understand the interest of the hon. Member and his hon. Friend in forced labour, but I would point out that Peterhead does not come within my jurisdiction.

Following are the answers:

On 3rd May, 1949, the number of persons serving prison sentences was 16,543. I regret that I have no details of the employment of prison labour on that date, the latest available figures being for the year ended 31st March, 1948. During that year the daily average number of prisoners was 14,768; of these 12,835 were available for employment and were occupied as follow: Manufacturing, 8,198; Outside work, 878; Farms and Gardens, 146; Building Services, 1,049; Domestic Services, 2,573.