HL Deb 26 March 1990 vol 517 cc571-2

2.56 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they will take following the recommendations made after the attempted breakout from HM Prison, Belfast, in October 1989.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Skelmersdale)

My Lords, while details are necessarily confidential, I can confirm to the House that a number of recommendations have already been implemented and others are under consideration.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Prison Officers' Association and prison officers in general have been neither consulted nor informed about the recommendations despite the fact that alleged details of the recommendations have appeared in the media over the past few days? Is the Minister aware that one of the alleged recommendations relates to the need for counselling and advice in countering psychological warfare by prisoners inside prisons? Will the Minister confirm that as long ago as 1984 the Prison Officers' Association urged the Government to give its members treatment in this very difficult situation?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, before answering the supplementary question of the noble Lord perhaps I may congratulate him on his birthday, which I believe is today.

The Prison Officers' Association was advised of the nature and the extent of the inquiry and was given every opportunity to express its views to the reporting officer. Consultation with the POA will take place in the normal way if any of the report's recommendations touch on the interests of its members.

The question of psychological training is a more general matter, as the noble Lord has just confirmed. It has been talked about for some time. As such, it has nothing to do with the report in question, which is about an attempted escape from the Crumlin Road gaol.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, will the Minister accept that, in view of the alleged leaks of alleged reports, prison officers who are serving not only in Crumlin Road gaol but also in the Maze and in other prisons are the subject of jokes by prisoners as to their need for psychological treatment? I am sure that the Minister understands that the atmosphere inside prisons in Northern Ireland is quite unique. The prison officers are carrying out a dreadful job on behalf of society. Anything that can be done to give them aid, comfort and weapons in their battle on our behalf ought to be treated seriously.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, my Answer was not intended to, nor indeed did I believe that it did, give any hint that I disapproved of the feelings of the Prison Officers' Association. All responsible sections of the community will be thankful to the Northern Ireland Prison Service and the very men about whom the noble Lord is talking for thwarting this potentially very serious escape attempt.

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