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Barlinnie Prison

Volume 656: debated on Wednesday 28 March 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the many serious incidents of violence in the past few months amongst prisoners in Barlinnie Prison, he will institute an independent inquiry.

The circumstances of each incident of this kind are fully investigated as it occurs and I do not consider that an independent inquiry into recent incidents at Barlinnie would help.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the number of stabbings has gone up to ten this year; and that the chaplain, who has been there twenty-four years, says these are the worst cases of violence he has seen during that time? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the general public want to know where the people in the stabbing cases get the implements they use for stabbing, and that the general public want to know more about it? I do not see that anything but an independent inquiry would be of any use to satisfy the general public.

I am quite sure the hon. Lady will agree that what matters above all is to get this kind of thing stopped, and that is what our objective must be. As to the wisest and best way to achieve that, I should inform the hon. Lady that the police are informed immediately of every serious assault and are given facilities for questioning the prisoners and members of the prison staff. At the same time the governor carries out his own inquiries into the circumstances as affecting the discipline of the prison and the supervision arrangements. Each incident is inquired into very fully indeed.

All of us agree that the important thing is to get this stopped. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in these last few months there has been one stabbing incident after another? Is he also aware that, according to his own information, a local inquiry has been held in each case and that it has not prevented further instances of stabbing? Surely he must come to the conclusion that we need an independent inquiry into this matter, since those who have sons in the prison, and the people around the prison, are very concerned indeed about the continuing disturbances there? It would hearten them if the right hon. Gentleman were to accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen) is asking for—an independent inquiry.

I think I should inform the hon. Lady of some of the things done in reviewing the internal security arrangements. A number of measures designed to ensure the closer supervision of prisoners have been brought into operation. The exercise time of the prisoners has been changed to allow more effective supervision. Additional supervising officers are on duty at certain times. Special measures have been taken to open passageways to shorten the routes taken by bodies of prisoners. I shall continue to watch carefully to see how far these measures are successful.