HC Deb 30 October 1980 vol 991 cc364-5W
Mr. Mates

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the industrial action being taken by prison officers in Northern Ireland and the arrangements being made to meet the situation.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins

The Northern Ireland branch of the Prison Officers Association has informed my officials that in support of its colleagues' action in England and Wales it is, as from today, refusing to accept into prison prisoners remanded for the first time, prisoners whose remands have been extended and prisoners convicted by magistrates' courts.

In order to meet the situation arrangements are being made to open a new temporary prison at Magilligan, to be known as Her Majesty's prison, Foyle. The prison will be staffed by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in support of a specially appointed prison governor. The Army will be responsible for the security of the prison's perimeter.

The burden on Foyle prison of accepting all those prisoners who appear regularly before the magistrates' courts on remand would be very heavy.

The Government have, therefore, decided, as a matter of urgency, to enact by Order in Council that remand hearings may be undertaken in the absence of the prisoners. The Order in Council which was made last night and is being laid before Parliament today, also provides that a magistrates' court may in any case direct that a prisoner be brought before it.

We have introduced this measure with reluctance. It will require an affirmative resolution of both Houses within 40 sitting days to remain in force. We have no intention of maintaining these arrangements longer than the special conditions demand.