The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has apologised to the House of Commons as he revealed confidential telephone calls between prison inmates and their constituency MPs may have been listened to by prison staff. Mr Grayling told the House of Commons that an investigation had found 32 current politicians could have been affected by the “serious matter” since 2006.
Mr Grayling said that investigations had revealed for 18 of the affected MPs, it appeared the prison had failed to list the number as confidential and consequently no action was therefore taken to prevent recording. He added in the 15 other cases, they appeared to have been identified correctly on the system as MPs however due to a failure in the ‘administrative process’, the calls were nonetheless recorded and appear to have been listened to.
No evidence information acted on
Mr Grayling said there was no evidence that information divulged during the phone calls was passed on to anyone else and he did not believe it was part of a wider attempt to monitor calls. The Justice Secretary stressed it was part of the routine checking process and mistakes could have been made.
The announcement affects MPs’ calls and those for their offices, and an independent investigation is to be carried out by the Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick. Mr Grayling said the issue was first brought to his attention on 5 November 2014 and it mainly relates to the period prior to autumn 2012 before the Government “tightened up the system”.
Mr Grayling commented:
“This is a serious matter and I would like to start by apologising to the House on behalf of my department for any interception of communications between a prisoner and their constituency MP.”
“The prison rules and policy are clear that communication between prisoners and honourable members themselves must be treated as confidential where the prisoner is a constituent of theirs.”
“In a small number of cases those calls have been recorded and listened to by prison staff. From the initial investigation, NOMS has identified 32 current members of this House whose calls or those for their offices appear to have been both recorded and listened to.
“For 18 of these MPs it appears the prison did not list the number as confidential and therefore the action was not taken to prevent recording.”
“In a further 15 cases, members appear to have been identified correctly on the system as MPs, but due to a potential failure in the administrative process the required action was not taken by prison staff so the calls were recorded and appear to have been listened to, one member falls under both categories.”