HL Deb 03 July 1981 vol 422 c406

11.15 a.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government under what rule Mr. Shane O'Doherty, a prisoner in Gartree prison, has been refused permission to have a typewriter in his cell.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, Rule 42(4) of the Prison Rules 1964 gives a governor discretion to deliver to the prisoner or to return an article which is sent to him. The use of official typewriters is regulated by the system of privileges prescribed under Rule 4 of the 1964 Rules. For security reasons a prisoner is only allowed to have limited access to a typewriter under proper staff supervision.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, while I am grateful to the noble Lord for all his answers, even that one, may I ask him whether he is aware that, according to my information, the governor of the prison recommended that this prisoner should have a typewriter, and that permission was refused by the Home Office, which I am afraid must mean the noble Lord?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I was not aware that the governor had expressed that view, but the situation is this. Mr. O'Doherty is in the highest security category, Category A. He is not allowed to have a typewriter in his cell, as staff resources do not permit adequate supervision at that prison.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, would the noble Lord explain what possible harm could come to anybody if he had this typewriter?

Lord Belstead

Yes, my Lords. There could be security implications in people using a typewriter unsupervised.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that in this establishment I have no cell in which to use my typewriter, not even a share of a desk? Could he consider come reallocation of privileges, or use his influence to that effect, so that noble Lords who are absentees, of however ancient lineage, are not given priority over working Peers newly arrived?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the noble Lord must pursue his case through the usual channels.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, is the regulation in connection with typewriters in cells a new regulation, or has it been in force for some time through successive Governments?

Lord Belstead

No, my Lords. It has been in force for some time. The rule is set out in what is called a Circular Instruction dated 1976. It was Circular Instruction 5 of 1976, and that sets out in detail the interpretation of the rule.