HC Deb 15 March 1999 vol 327 cc519-20W
Mr. MacKay

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what powers she has to halt the early release of prisoners convicted of scheduled offences within the meaning of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1973, 1978, 1991 and 1996. [70138]

Mr. Ingram

The early release of prisoners following the Belfast Agreement takes place in accordance with the provisions of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998.

Under that legislation, the Secretary of State must specify any organisation which she believes is concerned in Northern Irish terrorism, or in promoting or encouraging it, and has not established or is not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire. Prisoners who support a specified organisation are not eligible for early release.

In addition the Secretary of State has the discretion under the Act to make an order suspending the operation of the whole scheme. Whether to make such an order would require my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, to make a judgment in the round, taking into account all relevant factors pertaining at the time.

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