HC Deb 05 August 1975 vol 897 cc147-8W
Mr. Watkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has decided when he will implement the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the Golder case concerning the ability of inmates in prison service establishments to engage in civil litigation; what proposals he has to make in respect of censorship generally; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Yes. With my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Northern Ireland I have agreed to give effect to the ruling by abolishing the present requirement for inmates to petition. Henceforth, inmates will be free to seek legal advice about taking civil legal proceedings and to take such proceedings provided that, where the proposed proceedings concern the administration of establishments, the complaint has first been ventilated through the normal existing channels to give management an opportunity to provide a remedy. In the case of England and Wales, amendments to the Prison Rules will be laid before Parliament; meanwhile effect will be given to the change administratively. Subject to the recovery of properly incurred expenses from the Legal Aid Fund, inmates will continue to be expected to bear the costs associated with civil litigation. The effects of this change will be kept under review.

Further, although the court's decision did not bear on the form of the rules on censorship generally, I am anxious to reduce censorship wherever the requirements of security permit, and in 21 open establishments letters between inmates and their relatives and friends will soon be very largely uncensored. The views of staff are clearly of importance in considering such changes, and I am at present consulting the staff associations about the censorship of correspondence between prisoners and Members of Parliament and about the supervision of visits from Members of Parliament.