HC Deb 27 June 1974 vol 875 cc1710-1
8. Mr. Dalyell

sked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the discussions held by Ministers with Mr. Morley and Mr. Quigley of the Provisional IRA, Mr. Monaghan and Mr. O'Hare of the IRA, Mr. Craig and Mr. Spence of the Loyalists, in the Maze Prison, Long Kesh, and with Miss Hickey and Miss McKie in the women's prison at Armagh.

Mr. Orme

My noble friend and I have made several visits to familiarise ourselves with the conditions in prisons in Northern Ireland. In the course of these visits we have met a number of detainees and convicted prisoners, including some of those referred to in the Question.

Mr. Dalyell

My right hon. Friend has seen the acres of wire at Long Kesh. Can he imagine, if Long Kesh had been in Kenya at the time of the Mau Mau, or in Aden, the eloquence of those speeches from Tribune platforms denouncing the whole set-up? In the circumstances, will he at least look at the possibility, unpopular though it may be, of allowing the people named and other spokesmen at least to talk with each other out of the hearing of English and Scottish representatives?

Mr. Orme

On the last point, my hon. Friend is aware—because he has been to Long Kesh—that prisoners from different sections of the community do talk to one another, but this is seen as a security problem for the governor and he must have a representative present for that reason. I understand my hon. Friend's feeling about detention, but he is also talking about 1,000 convicted prisoners in the Maze, as well as other people.

Mr. Kilfedder

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider building a new prison? He has referred to prisoners in the Maze, which is in my constituency. Will he consider this as a matter of great urgency and make a decision within the next month?

Mr. Orme

I do not know about the next month, but my right hon. Friend is at the moment urgently considering this situation.

Mr. Stallard

Will the Minister accept that I welcome any discussions of this character that take place in the Six Counties? Who is responsible for drawing up the list of people who are spoken to, and who decides who is to be excluded?

Mr. Orme

When I visited the Maze it was the detainees and prisoners who decided who should come out and speak to the Minister concerned.