HC Deb 22 June 1995 vol 262 cc467-8
8. Mr. Robathan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his policy regarding the provision and use of telephones by convicted prisoners serving their sentence. [28404]

Mr. Michael Forsyth

Official telephones are available for urgent or compassionate reasons only and, as a privilege, prisoners have access to a cardphone.

Mr. Robathan

May I congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your honorary doctorate and welcome my right hon. Friend's answer. Is he aware of the great unhappiness that is caused to the families of victims of crime and, indeed, of murderers such as Winston Silcott and others in Parkhurst, who are allowed to give interviews on the media? Does he agree that the decent people of the country are amazed and appalled to discover that prisoners can telephone the newspapers and the other media? Does he further agree that the use of a telephone is a privilege, which should be earned, and should be taken away when it is abused?

Mr. Forsyth

I agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. The rules have been changed recently to prevent prisoners from telephoning the media in the way that my hon. Friend has described. The most recent example was prisoner Rose who escaped from Parkhurst prison and then rang up "The World at One" and gave an account of how he had escaped. I was surprised by that incident because the BBC production guidelines make it clear that criminals should not be given an opportunity to glamorise their crimes or to give details of crimes that could be copied. It is clearly a matter for the governors of the BBC and I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that it is time that they put their house in order.

Mr. Tony Banks

It makes a change to listen to prisoners rather than Conservative Members on "The World at One". Can the Minister say how many prisoners have access to mobile telephones? Is it not a fact that a number of prisoners are using mobile phones to order drugs?

Mr. Forsyth

No prisoner should have access to a mobile telephone, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the measures that have been taken to reduce the amount of property that prisoners can possess and to improve searching for items of that kind. As for prisoners, I should have thought that with the Opposition Front Bench it is the hon. Gentleman who is the prisoner these days.

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