§ Lords Amendment: No. 96, in page 43, line 15, at end insert:
"() For sections 30 to 32 of the said Act of 1952 (discharged prisoners aid societies and allowances and expenses for discharged prisoners) there shall be substituted the following section:—
'Payments for discharged prisoners.
30. The Secretary of State may make such payments to or in respect of persons released or about to be released from prison as he may with the consent of the Treasury determine'.
() Any statutory instrument containing rules made under section 47 of the said Act of 1952 (prison rules) shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament; and accordingly so much of section 57(2) of that Act as requires a draft of such an instrument to be laid before Parliament shall cease to have effect.
§ Miss Bacon
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
The purpose of the Amendment to Clause 55 is to repeal Sections 30 to 32 of the Prison Act, 1952, and replace them with the new provision, general in its terms, so that to prisoners discharged from Service establishments there may be made payments, for example, subsistence and discharge grants, subject to Treasury approval.
878 9.45 p.m.
It also repeals that part of Section 52(2) of the 1952 Act which provides that Statutory Instruments made under Section 47 of the Act should be laid before Parliament in draft, and replaces this with the more convenient provision that they should be subject to negative Resolution. Section 30 dealt with the certification of discharged prisoners' aid societies. The reorganisation of the after-care arrangements on the lines recommended in 1963 by the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders in its Report, The Organisation of After-care made this provision obsolete.
Section 31 provided that an allowance of up to £2 may be paid to a prisoner on discharge, or to an aid society for his benefit. Since 1964, adult prisoners serving sentences of over three months, or serving shorter sentences, if discharged on a Saturday, or unable to reach their local office of the Supplementary Benefits Commission on the day of discharge, have been eligible for a grant of up to £4, in lieu of supplementary benefit, to meet immediate needs of discharge. Other arrangements are made by the after-care authority to meet such needs of young prisoners and persons released from borstal or detention centres.
The provisions of Section 31 are therefore no longer appropriate. Section 32 provides that a discharged prisoner can be paid his home fare and that, under certain conditions, he should be paid the cost of his return to the place of his arrest or conviction, whichever is nearer. Since 1953 the practice has been for every discharged prisoner's fare to be paid to the place where it is agreed that he should go to live on discharge and therefore the terms of Section 32 are out of date.
The new subsection of Clause 55 substitutes for these sections of the 1952 Act a new Section 30 allowing the Home Secretary to make with Treasury approval such payments as he thinks appropriate. I think that the House would agree that this is probably the better arrangement.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I have only one small point. I am sure that the arrangements proposed are more satisfactory, and we certainly do not want to disagree with 879 the Lords in the proposed Amendment, but I detected a small heresy in the right hon. Lady's explanation as to what Parliamentary control there should be. She said that it was more convenient if there was a negative instead of affirmative Resolution procedure. Everyone knows that it is more convenient for every Government to have a negative procedure rather than an affirmative procedure.
That is not sufficient reason for substituting one for the other. There was a Committee of this House which reported upon circumstances in which affirmative Resolutions ought to be used. I do not think that this is one of those. This is a marginal case, but I hope that we shall not have this proposition repeated because it is more convenient to someone unspecified, probably the Government, that therefore the negative procedure is sufficient.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I would like to refer to one other matter on this Amendment, which I am sure is important. We should all try to see that people discharged from prison are not discharged in such circumstances that financial penury sends them straight back to crime. To that extent I welcome the wider powers that the Secretary of State has taken upon himself under this Amendment.
May I ask if any scale of payment has been decided in these cases? I understand that in another place, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, undertook to say whether a scale for these payments would be published before this Bill became law. What is the position and what is the likely financial position of a discharged prisoner?
§ Miss Bacon
By leave of the House, I am afraid that I have to say that I am not in a position at this moment to answer that question. I understand that there is no scale at the moment, but it is something that we are looking at, as Lord Stonham said.
§ Question put and agreed to.—[Special entry.]