Prison Visits

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7 May 1981.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mrs Jill Knight Mrs Jill Knight , Birmingham, Edgbaston 12:00, 7 May 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now consider reducing the number of visits paid for by the taxpayer to inmates of Her Majesty's prisons.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

Assisted visits are available only to an inmate's near relatives of limited income, and their frequency coincides with a convicted inmate's four-weekly statutory entitlement to a visit. The present scale of provision seems proper, having regard to the importance of maintaining contact between a prisoner and his family in the interests of his eventual return to the community.

Photo of Mrs Jill Knight Mrs Jill Knight , Birmingham, Edgbaston

Will not my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that every section of the community is having to accept cuts? In addition, will he bear in mind that the victims of the IRA bombers who were maimed and disfigured as a result of the attack in Birmingham find it bitter and unjust that they must pay through their taxes for their attackers to receive three or four weekly visits? Relatives travel all the way from Birmingham to the Isle of Wight, are put up overnight and then return. Many of the victims of the attack will never walk or work again. Does my hon. and learned Friend appreciate that the victims of terrorist attacks will have no chance of a holiday at the seaside, paid for by the taxpayer, and that they feel that an injustice is being done?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

I well understand the feelings that my hon. Friend has so sensitively and eloquently expressed. However, it would be unwise to treat those who are imprisoned because of the crimes that they have committed as members of the IRA, or of any other terrorist organisation, in a manner that suggested that they were other than the criminals that they are. There is a statutory entitlement to visits. For the reasons that I gave in my initial reply, it is right that near relatives of limited income—which means entitlement to supplementary benefit—should, without discrimination, continue to be entitled to the assistance that they receive.