HC Deb 11 May 1978 vol 949 cc1394-5
12. Mr. Craig

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will review the punishment and penalties in respect of offences against the rules of conduct in Her Majesty's prisons and in respect of attempts to disrupt the efficient and orderly running of those prisons.

Mr. Concannon

I see no need for any such review. I am satisfied that the provisions of the Prison Rules (Northern Ireland) 1954 are adequate to deal with all aspects of the current protest.

Mr. Craig

Is the Minister aware that this concerted campaign by some prisoners to have the special category status restored has resulted in many of them losing their full rights to remission and that, therefore, an important deterrent in prison discipline has thereby gone?

Mr. Concannon

That is a fact. For every day that they are not abiding by prison rules, they lose a day's remission. Some have gone past their early release date and are keeping themselves in prison much longer than necessary. From some of the statistics I have read out, I do not think that that is a bad thing.

Mr. Carson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is grave concern among the relatives of Loyalist prisoners in the Maze and Crumlin Road prisons that Republican prisoners are being served food in their cells and that the Northern Ireland Office or the prison authorities are discriminating against Protestant Loyalist prisoners by refusing to serve food to them in their cells during a 23-hours-a-day lock-up?

Mr. Concannon

It is important for the House to understand that I do not have Loyalist or Republican prisoners. I have only convicted prisoners. It is not for me to segregate these prisoners. All the conditions that they are complaining about are being brought about by themselves and the voluntary segregation in the prisons.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some Protestant prisoners—and all prisoners in Northern Ireland are segregated by their religious standing—have not been served any prison food for 14 days for the simple reason that they will not go to the dining accommodation because of threats by the majority of prisoners who are unregistered as Roman Catholics? Will he give an assurance that these men will have the same privileges as those in the "no wash" campaign and will have food served in their cells?

Mr. Concannon

Some prisoners are refusing to go to the dining rooms, but that does not mean that they are going without food. I can only reiterate that if we started segregation it would be the first step back to special category status, and that is a step that I am not prepared to take.

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