HC Deb 09 December 1948 vol 459 cc538-9
17. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that a letter from him to the hon. Member for Leicester, West, which was enclosed by the latter in a letter to a constituent at present serving a prison sentence in Norwich Prison was not given to the prisoner but was read aloud to him; and whether he will make it clear to Prison Governors that official letters dealing with matters which prisoners have raised with their Members of Parliament should be handed to prisoners and count among the letters they are privileged to receive.

Mr. Ede

Yes, Sir. My reply to [...] Member of Parliament is a personal communication to him, and I see objections to a personal reply of mine bearing my autograph being placed in the possession of a prisoner. I have, of course, no objection to a Member passing on to a prisoner in a letter of his own the contents of my reply to him, or sending the prisoner a copy of my letter provided in either case the contents are not confidential.

Mr. Janner

While appreciating my right hon. Friend's reply in so far as the use of his own signature may be concerned, may I ask whether he is aware that that was not the explanation given to the prisoner concerned? What difference is there between enclosing a letter, and putting the contents of that letter in the original letter addressed to the prisoner? May I further ask whether my right hon. Friend is afraid that if his letter is retained by the prisoner, his morals will be affected?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. A predecessor of mine in office was seriously embarrassed by the fact that a prisoner who managed to get hold of an autograph letter from the Secretary of State to another person went about claiming that he was personally known to the Secretary of State. I have given instructions that where a letter is sent to a Member, a carbon copy shall be enclosed so that the carbon copy can be sent and the real difficulty thus overcome.

Mrs. Leah Manning

Is this the only question that has to do with the sending of letters to prisoners, or is it only something to do with my right hon. Friend's own Department? I think that my right hon. Friend will find that most Members send the top copy. It looks so much more respectable.

Mr. Ede

I have pointed out the difficulty that may arise if the top copy, as it is called—the copy with the autograph signature—is sent to a prisoner with a Member's letter. I should have thought that it is a reasonable request to make that a carbon copy should be sent, and not the original, if it is felt that the letter should be sent.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Does the right hon. Gentleman think there is any fear of forgery?