asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to release convicted IRA terrorists from prison over Christmas; and if he will make a statement.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will shortly be considering the arrangements for the traditional Christmas home leave scheme for certain sentenced prisoners in Northern Ireland. This scheme has operated successfully, under successive Governments, since 1948. All prisoners who are eligible are considered for leave under the scheme. If operated again this year the scheme will, as before, apply only to those prisoners, individually considered suitable by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who (a) have not served a previous prison sentence; (b) have served two thirds of their effective sentence; (c) were committed to prison before 30th September this year; (d) are favourably recommended by the prison governor. Special category prisoners satisfying these conditions who are in the last six months of sentence may also be considered.