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Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, will she be good enough to explain the circumstances in which Miss Widdecombe changed a Written Answer given in the name of a Home Office official to the House of Commons?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, what I do know is that all replies come to Ministers within the Home Office and they will come to the lead Minister who has responsibility for such matters. Where an answer has been answered from the Prison Service-only point of view, and not necessarily taking into account other information, there is discussion between the Prison Service and the lead Minister. That is the proper way to conduct and interact between the responsibilities of the Home Office and those of the Prison Service. In fact, the final answer that was given in the letter accompanying the reply of my honourable friend Ann Widdecombe referred back to the relevant appendix of the Learmont Report that listed in detail all the requests made in relation to security at Parkhurst. It was felt that that was a full and proper account of that particular advice and information.

8.53 p.m.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for her remarks this evening in attempting to conclude our debate. I know that, following her usual practice, she will write to all noble Lords if there are any points that she failed to deal with in her remarks. I thank all noble Lords for participating in the debate and also the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Lincoln and the Bishop of Birmingham.

13 Dec 1995 : Column 1366

For me it was a unique experience because I was ticked off by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in this case for being too tolerant towards Learmont. I believe it was the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham who came to my rescue, although he did not know it, by saying that Sir John Learmont's duty was to review physical security and security problems. That is what he was asked to do and whether we like his report or not, I believe that Sir John kept within his terms of reference.

What I hope that the Minister will take away from our discussions today is that, although we all wholly accept that our prisons must be secure, we also believe--even those noble Lords who spoke from behind the noble Baroness in support of her broad position--that they must be humane. I believe that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said that the duty of justice requires us to make sure that humanity is also part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government and of the Prison Service. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Western European Time Bill [H.L.]

8.54 p.m.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at five minutes before nine o'clock.

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