§ Mr. Cohen
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what changes he has made in the application of the prior ventilation rule in respect of writing to a solicitor complaining about a member of prison management; when each change was made; and by what means each change was announced;
(2) whether the prior ventilation rule in respect of writing to a solicitor complaining about a member of prison management has been abolished.
§ Mr. Mellor
The prior ventilation rule, under which all complaints by prisoners had to be pursued through internal channels before a prisoner could take his complaint outside, was replaced in 1981 by the simultaneous ventilation rule, which required complaints to be raised internally at the same time as they were raised with an outside body. Notice of this change was given to prison establishments in circular instruction 34/1981, which took effect in December 1981.
In December 1983, the Divisional court ruled in the case of Anderson that the simultaneous ventilation rule should not apply to a complaint made by a prisoner to his legal adviser. The implications of this judgment were explained in a letter from the prison department to all establishments on 22 December 1983. Circular instruction 48/1984 formally confirmed that correspondence with legal advisers which referred to unventilated complaints or allegations against staff should no longer be stopped unless it was clear from the content that the inmate was writing for some purpose other than obtaining legal advice about possible proceedings.
On 24 January 1989, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), announced in a written reply at 260W column 516 that it had been decided to abolish the simultaneous ventilation rule in respect of all correspondence. Details of the change, and of accompanying amendments to the prison rules governing adjudications, were set out in circular instruction 9/1989, which took effect on 1 April 1989.