THE EARL OF MAR AND KELLIE
asked the Secretary for Scotland, Whether it was the intention of the Prison Commissioners for Scotland to close the prison at Stirling on the 30th instant; and, if so, whether this step could be delayed until the opinion of the Local Authorities had been expressed on the subject?
THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (The Earl of DALHOUSIE)
said, the Local Authorities had, perhaps, some reason to complain in this case. Representations had been made to the Government on the subject; but he was not in a position to say anything further than that the prison would not be closed before the end of next month.
maintained that in respect of the policy of the Act of 1877 the closing of this prison was a wholly new departure. It was the case of a prison being closed which was situated in a town where certain Courts were held. Stirling was the headquarters of 199 a Circuit, and it might be necessary to have a prison in Stirling. On no occasion had a prison been closed in a town where Circuit Courts were held. He wished to ask the noble Earl whether he was sure that the course he was taking in this matter was legal? He, for his part, held that it was illegal. The only section in the Act which provided for the closing of the prison was the 14th section, and it stated that after a prison had been closed, and after the £120 for each prisoner had been paid to the Government in respect of contributions it might make to the prison, the surplus should be handed over to the public authorities. The prison should be put up to auction, and the price obtained handed over to the county authorities. The noble Earl and the Secretary of State for War had arranged to hand over the prison to the War Office for the use of the nation, thereby depriving the county of Stirling of about £6,000. The value of the prison was about £12,000; and, in addition to the confiscation of this sum of £6,000, the burden of the local ratepayer would be increased, because the locality would have to provide two or three constables in order to make up for the abstraction of the constables engaged in conveying the prisoners backwards and forwards to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Besides, this journeying on the part of the prisoners was an unfair addition to the punishment of the prisoners. This new departure of the Government was a high-handed and unfair proceeding, and he hoped the noble Earl would say that he would not close the prison until at least the end of the present year. He thought the action also of the Prison Commissioners was authoritative and most unjust, and would result in great injury to Stirling, Clackmannan, and Perthshire.
THE EARL OF DALHOUSIE
said, he was afraid that he could not assent to the suggestion of the noble Lord. The doubts which the noble Lord had expressed as to the closing of the prison had already been represented to him, and the Scottish Department were engaged in taking legal opinion on the matter. He assured the noble Lord that the Scottish Department would not act in the matter without clear grounds for doing so. Stirling Prison was on the list of prisons intended to be closed, as it was originally made out shortly after 200 the Act was passed. Therefore, he denied that the Government were following any new policy in regard to this question.