Tory Justice Secretary Alex Chalk refused to answer a simple question on the BBC four times this morning.
Following the escape, and eventual recapture, of terror suspect Daniel Khalife, the Government is coming under fire for understaffing and overcrowding at his London prison.
Star presenter Laura Kuenssberg asked the very straightforward question: “Was your department recently receiving warnings and requests for help from Wandsworth?”
Alex Chalk responded by asking her to let him “address the specific issue of Wandsworth”.
He acknowledged the problems with the prison, but said there are senior prison service staff on sight and additional governor support in place.
READ MORE: HMP Wandsworth moves 40 inmates out of prison after Daniel Khalife escape
Ms Kuenssberg tried asking the question for a second time, with Mr Chalk jumping in to continue with his previous non-answer.
A third attempt to find out “whether or not your department received recent warnings and requests for help from the London Prison Service or the jail itself to deal with the situation there”.
Mr Chalk stuttered and said he is “in very close contact with all of these prisons, of course we are”.
Ms Kuenssberg asked the same question a fourth time, and Mr Chalk dodged answering it again.
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The Justice Secretary also refused to say why a terrorism suspect had been held at a lower-security category B prison, though did reply that some prisoners locked up for terror offensives may be inside for possessing terror-related material while not having a terrorist ideology.
Earlier this morning Mr Chalk said 40 prisoners have been transferred out of Wandsworth “out of an abundance of caution” and to help with the inquiry.
Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the “extraordinary level of bureaucracy” was a significant issue for governors.
Mr Taylor said: “It’s not just about the pipeline of people coming in. It’s also about the quality of people coming in. And the fact that many people are leaving the job after quite short periods of time.
“And one of the reasons for that, and governors tell me this, is that governors themselves have no part in the selection of staff who come and work in their jail. The boss can’t choose their staff.
“I’m a former headteacher and I sit there aghast at some of the things that governors can’t do.”
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