§ Mr. McNamara
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what are the criteria under which prisoners in England and Wales are selected for detention on special secure units; 
(2) what guidance he has issued on the maximum time prisoners in England and Wales may be held in special secure units; 
(3) what explanation is supplied to prisoners in England and Wales for their detention in special secure units. 
§ Miss Widdecombe
[holding answer 30 January 1997]: Responsibility for these matters 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 S. G. Norris to Mr. Kevin McNamara, dated 3 February 1997:The Home Secretary has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Questions asking what are the criteria for allocating prisoners to special secure units, what guidance is issued in respect of the maximum time prisoners may be held in such units and what explanation is supplied to prisoners in England and Wales for their detention in special secure units.Special secure units hold prisoners who have been classified Category A with an exceptional escape risk classification. Prisoners are categorised as exceptional risk because they have a history and background which suggests that they have the motivation and the resources to make a concerted escape attempt and they are usually criminals who pose a particularly grave danger to the public.There are no time limits relating to the period of detention in special secure units. Once a prisoner is no longer classified as exceptional risk he will be moved out of the unit.Remand prisoners who Prison Service Headquarters have decided meet the criteria for such a classification are provisionally categorised pending conviction and sentence. At this stage, reasons for the decision are not automatically provided but it is the practice of the Prison Service to do so if requested.Following conviction and sentence, all such prisoners have their cases reviewed by the Category A Committee in accordance with procedures introduced following the judgement in the case of Regina v. the Secretary of State for the Home Department ex-parte Duggan. Under these arrangements, prisoners are provided with the gist of those matters of fact and opinion relevant to the determination of their security category and given the opportunity to make representations. These arrangements also require that a prisoner be given the reasons for any decision which results in him remaining a Category A prisoner and, if appropriate, being classified as a high or exceptional escape risk.The security category and escape risk classification are thereafter reviewed annually in accordance with the same procedures.