asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations have been received requesting the transfer of the Price sisters to a prison in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement.
Representations have been received from a number of organisations and individuals. I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) on 20th March.—[Vol. 870, c. 123.]
I have that reply. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a widespread understanding in this House of the real difficulties that surround any decisions concerning the imprisonment of the Price sisters. None the less, will he say what consultations he has had with the Northern Ireland Executive on this matter and what opinions have been expressed to him either by Mr. Brian Faulkner or by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt)?
I have not myself had direct consultations, although I have naturally been in touch—as I would with any matters of this sort—with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Brixton was never intended to accommodate women prisoners, that their presence imposes a heavy additional responsibility on the prison authorities, and that the frequent demonstrations taking place outside the prison inconvenience the families of prison officers and other local residents as well as adding to the burden of already overstrained police in Brixton?
I am aware of that point. Indeed, in a published letter which I wrote to my noble Friend Lord Brockway—which was, I think, fairly widely reported in the Press—I dealt with this matter at somewhat greater length than is possible in reply to a Parliamentary Question. I said that Brixton is not a suitable prison for them to be kept in over a long period.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, bearing in mind the seriousness of the offences committed and the possible prison security risk involved, the prime concern must be that these prisoners remain under maximum security conditions? If he agrees with that, will he say what maximum security facilities are available for women prisoners in Northern Ireland?
The latter question is hypothetical. I agree—indeed, I stressed in replies which I have given—that regard has to be had to security considerations. I have some regard to other considerations, but I shall certainly have regard to security considerations as well.
In considering this whole matter will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it would be a severe affront to many people in this country were the Price sisters to be returned to Ireland?
I shall bear in mind that it would be a severe affront to the hon. Gentleman.