Whitemoor boss turns inspector

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THE FORMER governor of Whitemoor jail - where armed IRA inmates staged an attempted break-out - is now a prison inspector helping to advise on security, it emerged yesterday.

Andrew Barclay, a grade one inspector, was governor at the Cambridgeshire prison until three months ago, before the current spate of security lapses. He now belongs to a team, headed by Judge Stephen Tumim, whose report in July warned that the secure unit in Whitemoor was out of control. The publication of the report has been postponed. In it, Judge Tumim criticised a 'dangerously cosy relationship' between staff and inmates.

Yesterday, Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, pushed aside calls for his resignation in the wake of the latest security breach, in which up to 2lb of Semtex explosive and three detonators were discovered at the jail on Thursday.

But despite Mr Howard's 'business as usual' approach he faced mounting criticism from opponents as well as unease among Tory supporters who believe the recent series of prison blunders is harming the Government.

A poll of 10,000 viewers of the GMTV breakfast television programme found that 80 per cent thought Mr Howard should resign. However, Downing Street dismissed speculation that his job was on the line.

The Semtex was discovered among the possessions of the 10 Category A prisoners - who included the five IRA men - kept in the special secure unit at Whitemoor. The find was made by police officers searching a freight container used for storing inmates' belongings that cannot fit into their cells. Only staff have access to the container and the explosives must have been smuggled in because all belongings are supposed to be checked. Yesterday police and security guards with dogs continued the search of the prison and five other storage containers.

Asked whether he would stand down, Mr Howard, said: 'I have a job to do and I'm determined to see it through.' He added: 'This is a very, very grave matter indeed and I am determined to get to the bottom of it.'

Sources close to Derek Lewis, the Director General of the Prison Service, yesterday admitted that his job was 'tough' at the moment, but insisted he would not resign and stood by his record.

Calling for Mr Howard to resign, John Bartell, chairman of the Prison Officers' Association, spoke of 'the unchecked criminality, the daily violence and the daily break-down in control' in prisons today.

John Prescott, the Labour deputy leader, said: 'We have not heard all the facts yet, but what we have at the moment seems to suggest he is incompetent and we know what should be done with incompetent ministers.'

Sir Ivan Lawrence, Tory MP for Burton and chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, admitted the Whitemoor incident was embarrassing for the Government, but described calls for Mr Howard's resignation as 'preposterous'.

Humane but not secure, page 13