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Volume 205: debated on Monday 16 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to implement changes in the prison disciplinary system.

I have laid before the House amendments to the prison rules and young offender institution rules which will implement, from 1 April, important changes to the prison disciplinary system. These implement commitments in the White Paper "Custody, Care and Justice". On 1 April boards of visitors will cease to have a role in hearing disciplinary cases or in remitting or mitigating any punishment. Governors will in future hear all charges, using their existing powers, and will refer allegations of serious criminal offences committed in prisons to the police for investigation. Guidelines have been agreed with the police and the Crown prosecution service on the referral of such cases. Governors will also be responsible for remitting or mitigating punishments. These changes will free boards of visitors to concentrate on their "watchdog" role.

The amendments to the prison rules also increase the statutory entitlement of convicted adult prisoners to receive visits from one a month to two. This change was implemented administratively in June 1991. In addition, the rule amendments make provision for their application to contracted-out prisons.