HC Deb 09 February 1989 vol 146 cc1118-9
5. Mr. Redmond

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he had recently received from prison reform groups.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Ian Stewart)

My right hon. Friend and I receive representations from many public, private and professional bodies in Northern Ireland on a wide range of matters affecting prisons.

Mr. Redmond

Why is the reconviction rate for male adult offenders in Northern Ireland 42 per cent. as against 57 per cent. in England and Wales? Why are the Government set on changing the maximum remission in Northern Ireland from half to one third, which is contradictory to the recommendations of the Carlisle committee on the reform of prisons in England and Wales?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, in many cases, it is much more difficult to establish evidence and to obtain convictions in Northern Ireland, particularly in relation to crimes involving terrorist activity, than it is in the generality of offences committed in Great Britain.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned remission. The onus is on him and those who object to the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill to argue why, if somebody commits a terrorist offence in Northern Ireland and receives a sentence for it, he should spend less time in prison than he would if he committed the same offence and received the same sentence in Great Britain.

Mr. Ron Brown

Will the Minister advise his colleagues in the Home Office that Irish individuals who are convicted in Britain should have the right to serve their sentences in their homeland? After all, that right is part of a Council of Europe convention, and it should be supported by the Government.

Mr. Stewart

Requets by prisoners in Great Britain for permanent transfer to Northern Ireland are considered in the light of various well-known criteria. They include the length of the prisoner's sentence, his residence when he was convicted. and his behaviour in prison. We consider all such requests on their merits. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find reassurance in what I have said.