HC Deb 02 March 1994 vol 238 cc739-41W
Mr. Burden

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received regarding conditions at Blakenhurst prison in Redditch and alleged action of ill-treatment of prisoners; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Richard Burden, dated 2 March 1994:

The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Questions asking what representations he has received regarding conditions at Blakenhurst prison and alleged action of ill treatment of prisoners.

I am aware that you have written to the management contractor at Blakenhurst raising the case of one of your constituents who is held there. As at any prison many of the concerns that are raised by prisoners, their relatives or their representatives are dealt with by the prison management. Prisoners also have access to the Board of Visitors, and they can also make representations to persons and bodies outside the prison, including of course their Members of Parliament.

I should also explain that, at contracted prisons such as Blakenhurst, a Prison Service Controller is appointed with a statutory duty under the Criminal Justice Act 1991 to keep under review, and report to the Secretary of State on, the running of the prison. In fulfilling this function he completes monthly reports to officials; and reports and investigates any particular matters drawn to his attention or of which he becomes aware. This would include any allegations of mistreatment of prisoners and complaints about the conditions at the prison. Many of these issues would be resolved at establishment level.

If there is any particular issue of concern to you please do not hesitate to let me know.

Ms Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many prisoners and staff were involved in the disturbance at Blakenhurst prison on 24 February; what was the duration of the incident and the extent of injuries and damage; what plans he has to hold an inquiry; and when the chief inspector of prisons will inspect Blakenhurst;

(2) pursuant to his answer of 17 January, Official Report, columns 446–52, regarding assaults in prison establishments, what steps were taken at Blakenhurst to improve prison-staff relations and discipline at the prison.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

[holding answers 1 March 1994]: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from A. J. Butler to Ms Joan Ruddock, dated 2 March 1994:

HM Prison, Blakenhurst

The Home Secretary has asked me, in the absence of the Director-General from the office, to reply to your recent Questions about Blakenhurst prison, concerning prisoner and staff relationships and the disturbance on 24 February.

Both the controller and the Director General are satisfied that relationships between staff and prisoners and discipline at Blakenhurst are generally good and, as would be expected with a new prison, are improving with greater experience. As at other establishments the director and his staff are always looking to maintain and improve them and to ensure that any breaches of prison rules that do occur are dealt with appropriately.

Your question was presumably prompted by the level of assaults at Blakenhurst. New prisons tend to record more assaults. In line with experience at other new prisons the number of assaults at Blakenhurst now appears to be on a downward trend, although that trend is likely to be affected by the adjudications which are being undertaken following the disturbance on 24 February, about which you also asked.

The Director General has appointed an inquiry team, headed by the Prison Service Area Manager for Mercia, which has already started its investigation into the incident.

A total of 111 prisoners were in the particular houseblock where the incident occurred but not all were involved in the subsequent events. The inquiry will seek to establish, amongst other things, the individual involvement of prisoners. 36 staff were involved in the incident which lasted from 1430 until 2122. Minor injuries were caused to staff and prisoners. Current estimates indicate that approximately £25,000 of damage was caused to the houseblock.

Unless otherwise directed by the Secretary of State, it is for Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons to decide when he wishes to inspect a prison. However, we have been informed that the Inspectorate will commence an inspection of Blakenhurst on 23 May.

The number and percentage of severe disablement allowance recipients in receipt of the following benefits, and the average amount of the other benefit in payment
Benefit Claimant1 Average amount2 £ Percentage Partner1 Average amount2 £ Percentage
Income Support (IS)3 186,000 56.11 61.6 11,000 52.83 3.6
Housing Benefit (HB) without Income Support4 9,000 23.75 3.0 4,000 19.43 1.3
Community Charge Benefit (CCB) without Income Support4 14,000 4.43 4.6 6,000 4.57 2.0
Attendance Allowance (AA)5 82,000 Not available 27.2 Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable
1 With the exception of AA, all figures quoted are in respect of benefit units. A benefit unit may be a single person or a couple, both of whom may be in receipt of SDA. AA is paid to an individual.
2 With the exception of AA, the average amount quoted refers to the benefit unit rather than the individual. In the case of AA benefit is paid to the individual.
3 The IS figures also include cases where HB and/or CCB are in payment. Source: income support statistics quarterly sample inquiry. May 1993.
4 There is considerable overlap between HB and CCB, many cases receiving both benefits. Source: Derived from the housing benefit and community charge benefit management information system sample and the income support annual statistical inquiry. The inquiries are 1 per cent, samples of HB/CCB and IS cases in May 1992.
5 The information refers to cases where AA is combined with SDA and paid to the individual, and there is therefore no information on partners. The average amount of AA in payment to SDA recipients is not available. Source: 1 per cent, sample of claimants to SDA on 4 April 1992.


1. Information on other benefits which may be in payment with SDA is not available.

2. The statistics are for Great Britain.