HC Deb 12 March 1981 vol 1000 cc990-1
5. Mr. J. Enoch Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he intends to allocate some or all of the additional cellular accommodation to be created in Her Majesty's prisons in Northern Ireland to the elimination of special category status.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Alison)

The allocation of the additional cellular accommodation that will become available will depend on the size of the Northern Ireland prison population at the time. As regards the elimination of special category status, I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 15 January.

Mr. Powell

In the light of the Minister's reply, may we take it that cellular accommodation will, at any rate in part, be available for this purpose, if Her Majesty's Government decide to comply with their own principle of ending special category status?

Mr. Alison

There is no doubt that, so far as I can see, judging by the figures, about 400 to 600 extra cells, which are likely to become available when we open Magilligan this year and Maghaberry towards the end of next year, will take up the balance of cellular pressure that exists in the Maze and Belfast prisons, where there is a good deal of doubling up. I cannot be specific about what relation this may have to special category prisoners in the compounds until we know what will be the prison population in 1982.

Mr. McNamara

Will the Minister agree that, while all hon. Members, I believe, are not prepared to accept the idea of special category, many people who have been convicted of offences in Northern Ireland have been convicted without a jury trial? They have been tried under the Diplock procedures. Will he also accept that, in certain cases, the rules of evidence have been changed as they would not be changed within the mainland of the United Kingdom? While these people may not be entitled to special category status, they are different—a factor that must be borne in mind by Her Majesty's Administration within the Six Counties.

Mr. Alison

I accept that there are no jury trials for terrorist offences but the hon. Gentleman will also know that there are no jury trials in the Republic for similar kinds of offences. I have no reason to believe that the absence of jury trials undermines in any way the full validity, fairness and equity of the judicial procedures that convict and sentence prisoners.