HC Deb 26 November 1986 vol 106 cc249-51
4. Mr. Norman Hogg

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the design capacity of each of Her Majesty's prisons in Scotland and the present population of each institution.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

As the information can most conveniently be given in tabular form, I will arrange for this to be published in the Official Report.

Mr. Hogg

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Is it the case that, in 1985, 47 per cent. of receptions to Scottish prisons were for default of payment of fines and that 52 per cent. of those going to prison were entering for a sentence of 30 days or less? What can be done to reduce those worrying figures?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman has identified a real problem. He will be aware that two or three years ago we introduced fines enforcement officers. It is hoped that they will lead to a reduction in the number of people admitted to prison for short periods. I accept what I believe is the hon. Gentleman's view; clearly it is highly undesirable that a person for whom the courts have found a fine to be an adequate punishment should end up in prison, although that position normally arises through failure to pay the fine that has been imposed.

Mr. McQuarrie

In regard to the design capacity of the proposed new Peterhead prison, will my right hon. and learned Friend place a copy of the plans in the library at Peterhead so that people in that part of my constituency can see the sort of prison that will be erected there, which we hope will be commenced in March 1987?

Mr. Rifkind

I shall be happy to ensure that the fullest possible information is made available to my hon. Friend and his constituents. Clearly the co-operation of the local community in the town of Peterhead is an important factor in developing the prison in that town.

Mr. O'Neill

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is a sort of Parkinson's law of penology which suggests that the space available will be filled by ever-increasing numbers of prisoners, and that we should be extremely careful about sanctioning any further extensions to our prison space? All that the Secretary of State will get is a larger prison population. Therefore, will the Secretary of State consider very carefully any plans that he has to extend prison populations by this method, and especially the siting of another facility in a place which is so far removed from the centre of Scotland as Peterhead?

Mr. Rifkind

When the second phase of Shotts prison is opened early next year, the capacity of the Scottish prison system will be greater than the number of people presently in Scottish prisons. Of course, there is still an imbalance, with significant overcapacity in young offenders' establishments and overcrowding in some adult establishments. We are trying to rationalise to ensure that all prison establishments are properly used.

Mr. Wilson

In relation to the recent disturbances at Saughton and Peterhead, is it within the remit of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons to consider the general question of congestion and what impact it has had in occasioning those disturbances? If not, will the Secretary of State ensure that the remit is expanded to include that?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that in Peterhead the problem is not one of congestion. The design capacity of Peterhead is 281 and there are only 181 prisoners at Peterhead now. Whatever caused the problem, it clearly was not overcrowding.

Mr. Hirst

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the present overcrowding could be relieved by sending people convicted of drunk and disorderly offences to detoxification centres and hospitals rather than giving them prison sentences? Does he also agree that, given the present overcrowding, there is a place for Low Moss prison in Bishopbriggs? Will he take this opportunity to place on record his admiration for the work done at that prison during the recent period of uncertainty about the future?

Mr. Rifkind

I happily pay tribute to the staff of Low Moss. We have decided to keep open Low Moss, at least for a further year, because of the present position in the prison establishment. As a general principle, it is desirable to keep imprisonment for those for whom no alternative source of punishment is available to the courts. Ultimately, it is for the courts to decide whether imprisonment is appropriate in any case, but I agree with the principle that my hon. Friend has enunciated.

Mr. Hugh Brown

Before the Secretary of State places plans for the proposed new Peterhead prison in Peterhead library, or in any other library, will he suspend a decision until the Chief Inspector of Prisons reports? There must be the possibility of using capacity in the new Shotts prison.

Mr. Rifkind

Even when phase 2 of Shotts prison is opened, the need to refurbish two halls at Barlinnie will mean continued problems of overcrowding, although we hope only for a reasonably short time. I hope that the report of the Chief Inspector of Prisons will be available in the relatively near future. If it made fundamental recommendations such as the hon. Gentleman suggests, one could take them into account.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman regret having paid little attention to the stringent criticisms of the Parole Board of Scotland in its annual report in July? Was it not a mistake to have changed the parole system on the basis of administrative diktat instead of having wide debate and discussion, especially in the House?

Mr. Rifkind

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's point. Under the present rules the Parole Board can take into account any exceptional circumstances that it may believe to be appropriate in recommending to the Secretary of State that parole should he granted to an individual prisoner. It has exercised that discretion in some cases and is free to do so whenever it thinks it appropriate.

The following is the information:

Inmate Population on 4 November 1986
Prisons Design Capacity Population
Aberdeen 170 199
Barlinnie 943 1,292
Barlinnie Special Unit 8 5
Cornton Vale 178 149
Dumfries 143 144
Dungavel 146 143
Edinburgh 547 646
Friarton 85 68
Greenock 180 210
Inverness 88 118
Low Moss 400 350
Pennighame 75 73
Perth 532 597
Peterhead 281 181
Shotts 60 59
Total 3,836 4,234
Young Offenders Insititutions
Castle Huntly 114 103
Cornton Vale 41 34
Glenochil 496 366
Noranside 111 75
Polmont 410 381
Total 1,172 959
Detention Centre
Glenochil 182 142
Remand Unit
Longriggend 201 299
Grand Total 5,391 5,634