Prisons: Mobile Phones

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney 12:00 am, 5th June 2018

What steps the Government are taking to prevent the use of mobile phones in prisons.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

To prevent mobile telephones from getting used in prisons, we need to do four things: we need to prevent them getting into prisons, which is about searching at the gate; we need to detect them in cells; we need to intercept transmissions; and we need to jam those telephones. We are doing all those things.

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney

I thank the Minister for that answer, but criminals are often ingenious in getting items, such as mobile phones, or drugs, such as former legal highs, into prisons. Will he assure me that prison officers have access to the latest investigative technology to ensure that we can stamp out this trade?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute both to my hon. Friend and to my hon. Friend Maria Caulfield, who is taking through a private Member’s Bill to make it easier to jam and intercept mobile phone transmissions. Technology is changing all the time, and there are some challenges, particularly in heavily built-up areas, but we are absolutely committed to having the appropriate technology in different prisons to jam and intercept those phones.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

After last week’s shocking report on the state of Exeter Prison, including the availability of mobile phones and drugs, will the Minister reassure me that the prison is getting all the support, resources and supervision that it needs to implement the inspector’s recommendations as a matter of urgency?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman, whom I spoke to about this issue over the weekend. The director of operations, Phil Copple, is on his way to Exeter as we speak. I have also spoken to the prison’s governor on the phone, and we are bringing him up to have another conversation with the chief inspector of prisons. It is vital that we address all the issues within the urgent notification, and the central issue is preventing violent assaults on prisoners and prison officers.