His claim came despite recent remarks by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, that the transfer of IRA prisoners the day after the ceasefire was a source of political embarrassment. The attempted escape of four IRA prisoners from Whitemoor jail last week further inflamed the situation.
Earlier in the day, Mr Lewis had been summoned to a meeting with the Home Secretary. But he played down speculation that tense relations with Mr Howard was threatening his future position when he arrived for a conference of the Howard League for Penal Reform.
He said they were committed to building a prison service that 'is an example to the world' and recent events would not deter them from continuing in the task.
Letters, page 13