§ 4. Mr. Whitehead
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is now in a position to make a statement 721 about security arrangements following the preliminary inquiries into the escape of William Hughes.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
No, Sir. Until I receive the report of the inquiry currently being conducted by the Chief Inspector of the Prison Service and the more detailed report of the Chief Constable of Derbyshire I have nothing to add to the statement that I made on 17th January.
§ Mr. Whitehead
Yes, but will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the grave disquiet felt by many people in the rural areas of North Derbyshire, where these atrocities took place, as more is learned about this case? Will he also bear in mind the considerable disquiet in Leicester Prison and in the Prison Service in general about what happened? When he receives the report will he undertake not to close his mind to a public inquiry, which many of us believe is necessary?
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
I am not seeking to place the Home Secretary in a difficult position before the report is forthcoming, but will he give an assurance to the House that he will ensure that on all future occasions dangerous prisoners of the type of William Hughes, when being transported from prison to court or from court to prison or from prison to prison, will be transported in a proper official custodial vehicle—a prison van—and will be properly handcuffed to two prison officers?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I accept that of course the right hon. Gentleman should see the report, which he hopes to receive in the very near future, but will he nevertheless take very seriously the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North 722 (Mr. Whitehead)? Does he appreciate that everything that I have been told since the event leads me to the conclusion that I was right on that occasion to demand an independent public inquiry? I hope that the Home Secretary will realise that in the end that is what is going to happen. I hope that he will come to that decision as soon as possible.
§ 5. Mr. Edward Gardner
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will issue instructions that all prison officers accompanying prisoners to court shall be supplied with details of the prisoners' record.
§ Mr. John
Prison officers are taught during basic training that they must acquaint themselves with the details of the prisoners they are to escort. Escorts to court are supplied with copies of all remand warrants and bail warrants. What further instructions my right hon. Friend issues will depend upon his consideration of the report by the Chief Inspector of the Prison Service on the circumstances of William Thomas Hughes' escape from prison custody.
§ Mr. Gardner
Can the Minister confirm that the criminal record of William Hughes was well known to the police? Is he aware, for example, that Superintendent John Brown of the Lancashire Constabulary at Blackpool was able to warn the Derbyshire police, before Hughes was traced and after his escape, that Hughes was in fact a violent and dangerous man? Can the Minister say why vital information of this kind, which was readily available to the police, was not known to the prison authorities responsible for the safe custody of this violent man?
§ Mr. MacFarquhar
In view of the widespread concern not just in Derbyshire but in many other parts of the country, will my hon. Friend agree to consider publishing the report if he is not going to agree to an independent inquiry?