Minutes reveal that Lewis proposed moving governor

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The events of 10 January, the day Derek Lewis met the Home Secretary, are at the heart of the controversy. According to the writ issued against Michael Howard by the former Director General of the Prison Service, Mr Lewis was put under "extreme and unjustified pressure" to suspend John Mariott, the governor of Parkhurst.

But the minutes of the meeting laid before the Commons by Mr Howard yesterday reveal that it was Derek Lewis who proposed Mr Marriott's transfer and that he and the Home Secretary discussed various actions, including suspension.

What Derek Lewis proposed was what actually happened, according to the minutes. They say: "On 10 January, in advance of the statement which the Home Secretary made to the House of Commons that afternoon, you took him through the preliminary conclusions of Mr Tilt's report on the escape from Parkhurst. For the key parts of the discussion relating to the disciplinary investigation, Mr Forsyth, Lady Blatch, Mr Wilson, Mr Platt and Mr Saunders were present.

"The disciplinary investigation - You [Derek Lewis] explained that it was proposed to move the governor to other duties, pending the outcome of the disciplinary investigation. The Home Secretary asked why this action was being taken, and you explained there were several grounds:

1 -It appeared that he had condoned and possibly approved the absence of a duty governor during unlock;

2 - During his time at Parkhurst, the governor had failed to make a single night visit to the prison;

3 - The governor appeared not to be aware of the unsatisfactory state of affairs in the Emergency Control Room, for which he must bear a substantial if not the main responsibility;

4 - There was confusion over whether the governor had fully implemented the recommendations made following Judge Tumim's inspection of the prison, on which assurances had been given to the Director General and Ministers. This aspect required further, more detailed, investigation by Mr Tilt. The Home Secretary said he must have an account of who had given the assurances and whether they were valid.

"The Home Secretary said that these were serious charges at any time, but following the extra emphasis which governors had been instructed to give security post-Whitemoor they could scarcely be over-stated. The Home Secretary said that he entirely agreed with your analysis that Mr Marriott could not stay as governor of Parkhurst, but he wondered whether it was right for Mr Marriott to be moved to other duties as distinct from being suspended from duty. You explained that the code required consideration to be given to whether there were other duties available for somebody whose position in their current post was untenable pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation.

"Moreover, you wished Mr Marriott to be available to advise the incoming governor (when he was appointed) and to give assistance to the Learmont Inquiry, pending his being allocated to non-operational duties. The Home Secretary pointed out that this would almost inevitably be seen as a fudge, designed to enable Mr Marriott not to be suspended. The tasks you had mentioned could scarcely be described as another post. Mr Saunders confirmed that even if Mr Marriott were to be suspended, he would still be under a duty to assist the Learmont Inquiry and the handover to the new governor.

"If Mr Marriott were suspended, there would be criticism of his being treated more harshly than the former governor of Whitemoor, who had been moved from his post in the Inspectorate but not suspended.

"In later discussions, the form of words which the Home Secretary used in his statement to the House was agreed, avoiding any reference to suspension. You also reported to the Home Secretary that it would be possible to find Mr Marriott a full-time job on non-operational duties very shortly, finishing off a project on personnel appraisal and training. It had no security implications, nor were there any outstanding issues to be resolved."