§ Mr. McNamara
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason it is necessary for remand prisoners to be strip searched before receiving closed visits. 
§ Miss Widdecombe
[holding answer 13 January 1997]: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from A. J. Pearson to Mr. Kevin McNamara, dated 16 January 1997:The Home Secretary has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about the strip searching of remand prisoners prior to closed visits.Governors have discretion under Prison Standing Order 5 to impose closed visits on any prisoner where security or control considerations so require. Under normal circumstances, prisoners who are subject to closed visits are not given a strip search prior to receiving such a visit.A policy of mandatory closed visits for all exceptional risk category A prisoners held in special secure units (including those held on remand) was introduced in June 1995. Special secure units (SSUs) operate in accordance with national operating standards. The standards state that prisoners in the SSUs at Full Sutton and Whitemoor must be subjected to a rub down search before a closed visit. The standards also state that prisoners in the SSU at Belmarsh must be strip searched before and after all visits.In the SSUs at Full Sutton and Whitemoor exceptional risk prisoners do not come into contact with prisoners from outside the unit. Prisoners in the Belmarsh SSU are held in the same building as high risk prisoners who are not subject to the restrictions imposed on exceptional risk prisoners. Exceptional risk prisoners at Belmarsh (whether convicted or on remand) are therefore strip searched to ensure that illicit items are not passed between prisoners on the way to or from visits.