HC Deb 09 February 1989 vol 146 cc1121-2
10. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received concerning revisions to the review procedures for prisoners serving life sentences or detained at the Secretary of State's pleasure; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ian Stewart

Representations are received from time to time about various aspects of the review procedures from prisoners themselves and from those writing on their behalf. The review procedures are themselves kept under review, but we have no immediate plans to change them significantly.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister aware that there is strong cross-community support for a review which produces a permanent change in the present system in respect of life prisoners and those detained at the Secretary of State's pleasure? Is he also aware that certain specific aspects, including the important proposal to allow prisoners to have access to their files and to challenge the reports, would command widespread support and give much greater confidence in the whole system of review?

Mr. Stewart

I am aware of the representations of the kind referred to by the hon. Gentleman. However, when criticisms of the present system are made, it is often forgotten that the system has been working very effectively for five years or more. Release dates have been set for 120 prisoners and more than 80 have been released under the existing provisions. I am far from convinced that we should turn the review procedure, which is not a legal process, into a legal battleground. That is the last thing that we want for the process.