HC Deb 11 May 1978 vol 949 cc1390-2
8. Mr. James Lamond

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will order an inquiry under Section 7 of the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953 into the conditions of prisoners in H Block of the Maze Prison.

Mr. Concannon

No, Sir.

Mr. Lamond

Is my hon. Friend aware of the concern that has been expressed by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association about the conditions affecting all prisoners in this type of block? Is he satisfied that his Department could meet any criticisms that might come from an international inquiry into conditions there from such a body as, say, the Red Cross?

Mr. Concannon

I am satisfied that the prison conditions provided in the H block units in the Maze are amongst the best in the United Kingdom. The units cost over £1 million each. Associated with them are recreational facilities that include a £100,000 indoor sports hall and two all-weather sports pitches. By observing the rules, through working and wearing prison clothes, prisoners can have weekly visits and can wear their own clothes, of an approved type, during recreational periods or when seeing their visitors. These are privileges which are not allowed in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The protests consist of some prisoners deliberately setting out to create bad conditions out of good conditions and then to make propaganda out of those conditions. Of the 300 prisoners who urinate, smear the walls of their cells with excreta, break up their furniture and take the springs out of their beds, 74 have been convicted of murder or attempted murder, 80 of firearms offences, and 82 of explosives offences, including 47 of causing explosions.

Mr. McCusker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has the complete support of my right hon. and hon. Friends for the stand that he is taking against this protest? Will he take this opportunity to deny the suggestion made by a former Member of the House, Mrs. Bernadette McAliskey, that in the near future he will be forced by the International Red Cross to give these gangsters prisoner-of-war status?

Mr. Concannon

There is a Question on the Order Paper about the status of these prisoners. It would be better if I waited until that Question was reached.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he and the Government, and the prison service, have our full support in resisting these attempts to persuade the Government to revive the political category status in Her Majesty's prisons in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Concannon

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support. This is the newest prison built in the United Kingdom and it was built after a lot of thought and deliberation. With its accommodation, and everything else, I am sure that those who have seen it at first hand will agree that it is one of the best prisons in the United Kingdom.

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