HC Deb 12 January 1978 vol 941 cc1842-4
7. Mr. Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will indicate the rate of progress during each of the past two years in bringing additional cellular accommodation into use in Her Majesty's prisons in Northern Ireland; and what is his estimate of the rate of progress during the next two years, showing in each case the number of special category prisoners who have been or, as the case may be, will be, undergoing imprisonment.

Mr. Concannon

In 1976 two new cell blocks, each with 100 cells, were completed at Maze Prison, and another 20 cells at Armagh Prison. In the course of 1977 another six cell blocks of 100 cells each became available at Maze Prison, together with 54 places for borstal trainees, at Her Majesty's borstal, Millisle. A new establishment for young offenders, with 300 cells, should be ready before the end of 1978. The need for additional cell blocks is under review.

In January 1976 there were about 1,500 special category prisoners. By January 1977 there were 1,100, and by January 1978 the number had fallen to just under 800. The number is expected to fall by about 200 in each of the next two years.

Mr. Powell

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that information. May I express to him the satisfaction of my colleagues and myself that we address him now as "right honourable"—something which we regard as only deserved by the attention which he has given to the interests of Northern Ireland within his province? May I also ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that my hon. Friends and I will support him in endeavouring to bring forward as rapidly as possible the provision of cellular accommodation and the final termination of the special category, since this is the only way in which long-stay prisoners can receive proper rehabilitation, which is one of the purposes of their imprisonment?

Mr. Concannon

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind words at the beginning of his supplementary question. The problem of the special category arouses deep emotions in Northern Ireland. At this stage there are no plans for transferring the rest of these prisoners into the cellular accommodation. The deployment of prisoners is, however, a matter that is kept under continuous review—as it has to be—by the security forces.

Mr. Wm. Ross

Is it intended that there will now be a change in the categories of prisoners housed at Magilligan, in view of the recent removal of a large number of IRA men from that prison?

Mr. Concannon

The use to which we shall now put Magilligan is under review. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned that point. With the falling numbers of special category prisoners we can now house them all together in the compounds at Maze and have them all in one spot. The question of what we are to do with the prison at Magilligan is under review.

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