HL Deb 20 December 1995 vol 567 c1606
Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I would say to the noble Baronesses opposite that the exception to that policy is that women are not handcuffed when they are actually giving birth. However, when prisoners are being transferred from one prison to another and even when they are being transferred to hospital they are made secure by handcuffs.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, as far as I am aware, only women give birth or breast-feed and therefore equal opportunities to shackle them do not seem to exist in this case? Will the Minister please look closely at the necessity for this? When a woman is about to give birth she is unlikely to try to escape; and the same is true if she is breast-feeding. As a former Minister for prisons, I would add that it was not necessary to follow that policy in the past. Can the Minister tell us why it is necessary to follow it today?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I said that women prisoners are not handcuffed when they are about to give birth. That is the exception to the equally applied policy. I also said why it is necessary to have an equal policy for handcuffing with the exception of prisoners being attended to medically; and that is because more women were escaping as they were not handcuffed in situations where male prisoners were handcuffed.

Lord Elton

My Lords, given that the Question has gone much wider than that on the Order Paper, may I bring it back to Holloway, which is closer to the Question on the Order Paper? I suggest that my noble friend was extremely wise—she was supported by most of your Lordships—to resist any attempt to make her give a judgment on a developing situation in a prison on which a report is expected but has not been completed. The proper time to make a judgment is when the report has been completed.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that comment. The responsibility for conditions at Holloway will be very much a matter for the Home Office, the Prison Service and indeed for Holloway Prison itself. We would be wise not to discuss the details of that until the inspection report is made public.