HC Deb 13 July 1978 vol 953 c673W
8. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a further statement about Her Majesty's prisons in Northern Ireland and the special category status of prisoner.

Mr. Concannon

Despite the actions taken by the prisoners protesting against the phasing out of special category status, prisons continue to function normally. I am glad to take this opportunity to pay tribute once again to the members of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

The number of special category prisoners continues to fall from over 1.500 in 30 compounds at the end of February 1976 to about 650 now in 11 compounds. It is our firm intention to phase out special category, and the Government will not be deflected from this policy.

The hon. Member will be interested to know that there are approximately 1950 convicted prisoners in Northern Ireland serving a total of 14,688 years of sentence. Of these prisoners, 288, including 57 persons detained at the Secretary of State's pleasure, are serving life sentences; 261 prisoners are serving life sentences for murder.

The protesting prisoners are losing a day's revision for each day they are in breach of the rules, and loss of remission currently totals almost 300 years.