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Written Statement - Prisoner Telephone Calls

Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services
On 11 November, Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Justice, made a statement to the House of Commons that telephone calls between prisoners and their constituency Members of Parliament, or their offices, may have been recorded and in some cases listened to by prison staff (external link). This issue stretches back to 2006, and primarily relates to the period prior to autumn 2012.

Mr Grayling has apologised for this, which he refers to as a “serious matter.” The Prison Rules and policy are clear that communication between prisoners and Hon. Members themselves must be treated as confidential, where the prisoner is a constituent of theirs. In a small number of cases the prisoner did not list the number as confidential and therefore the action was not taken to prevent recording; although for other cases the numbers had been listed as confidential.

I asked officials to enquire whether this matter also affects Assembly Members. I have since been informed that communications with Assembly Members may also have been compromised. The Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous MP, is writing to all Assembly Members confirming this and Ministry of Justice officials are working to identify the details of Members who have been affected.

Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has been asked to conduct an independent investigation, first to assure the Secretary of State, by the end of this month, that the necessary safeguards are now in place, and secondly, by early 2015, report in full on the facts and make further recommendations. The Ministry of Justice has confirmed this investigation will include Assembly Members.

I will keep Members updated on any developments.