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Prisons (Education Expenditure)

Volume 652: debated on Thursday 1 February 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why expenditure on education in prisons, Borstals, and detention centres is being cut; what facilities will cease to be available; and what annual saving he expects to achieve.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the savings he will effect by restricting educational activities at Wandsworth Prison and in prisons generally.

No reduction in total expenditure on education in prisons, amounting in the present financial year to £341,500, is at present contemplated. But it has been decided that in the present financial situation any substantial increase in 1962–3 must be avoided.

It will therefore be necessary, in order to offset increased costs, to effect a slight reduction in the number and duration of evening classes from next summer term. Details are being worked out.

Does not the Answer in fact mean that, taking into account the rising costs, there will be a restriction or a reduction in educational activities in places where educational activities are most important as a factor in countering crime and effecting the reform of people who have committed crime? Would not the Home Secretary, in view of the very small sum of money involved, reconsider this, when in fact a large expansion of educational activities in prisons, etc. is called for?

Unfortunately, every section of the Estimates had to take its share of the cuts. There is no actual cut in the total amount. I do not think that the number of class hours reduced will be very serious. If the hon. Gentleman wishes, I will let him have details of the revised programe.

The Home Secretary has not answered my Question about the effect in Wandsworth Prison if these small and rather dismal economies are made. Does he not realise that we probably derive more value from the educational work we do in our prisons than from any other aspect or phase of our prison administration?

There have been adjustments since the original instruction was sent out, and I hope that at Wandsworth and elsewhere the effect of its implementation will not be unduly serious.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many inmates of Her Majesty's prisons desiring and permitted to attend educational classes are unable to do so because of inadequate facilities; and what effect the proposed cuts of the Prison Commissioners will have in the coming financial year on existing educational provision.

Some classes have waiting lists and others are difficult to fill; I regret that detailed information is not available. Educational facilities have been greatly enlarged in recent years, with a threefold increase in expenditure since 1953–54.

For the measures proposed in 1962–63, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to Questions by the hon. Members for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) and Brixton (Mr. Lipton) today.

Does not the so-called limitation in the future look very silly against the so-called liberal reforms which the right hon. Gentleman is making? Can he say whether every local prison and every specialist establishment has a full-time tutor organiser or educational officer?

I should want notice of the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, which I Should be glad to answer. I will inform him of the answer, in any case. In answer to the earlier part of his supplementary question, there has been a threefold increase in the last six or seven years, and that is a great improvement. I am naturally sorry that the total has to remain at this level this year, and we must see what we can do to improve on it.

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered recently the number of men who are still three to a cell in a number of our gaols? Since they are shut up, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, for so many hours during the evening, night and early morning, is any cut at all justified in these educational classes, which at least enable them to do something useful in the evenings?

Fortunately, the cuts will be marginal in certain summer classes for a few hours, but I realise the importance of getting men out of the cells, and that is why we have done so much recently for work as well as for education.