Illicit phones erode the barrier that prison walls used to place between prisoners and the community. They can be used to harass victims and to support the trade in contraband that, as we know, drives violence and self-harm. We are working with law enforcement partners to identify and disrupt the organised crime networks that supply phones and other illicit items to prisons. For example, our recent joint operation at HMP Hewell recovered 323 items, including 79 mobiles and a large quantity of drugs.
Does my hon. Friend agree that we must be constantly alert to the potential for new technology to deter, detect and disrupt the illicit use of mobile phones in prisons? Does he therefore welcome the potential offered by the private Member’s Bill introduced by my hon. Friend Maria Caulfield, which received its Second Reading last week and which will help to block mobile phone signals around prisons?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The consequence of illicit items in prisons is violence and instability for the regime, and the way to counter that technological threat is through technology. The private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes, which the Government are backing, would give us more power to switch off mobile phones in prisons and therefore deal with the scourge that they present.