"Machine gun the rioters, Blunkett shrieked"
Reuters | October 17 2006
An hysterical David Blunkett demanded the army be brought in and use machine guns to control a prison riot, the former head of prisons has claimed.
Martin Narey, the former director general of the service, said his ex-boss and former Home Secretary did not seem to care about the possible loss of life among staff or prisoners at Lincoln jail.
Blunkett had shrieked down the telephone that "he didn't care about lives", Narey told The Times. Blunkett denies the allegations.
Narey told the BBC's Today programme on Tuesday he wanted to set the record straight after reading Blunkett's account of the riot in his recently published diaries.
Blunkett had written that the 2002 riot, during which prisoners took control of the jail, was an example of where he had made a difference as Home Secretary because his instinct was for the riot to be dealt with decisively in the face of what he saw as dithering.
Narey told the BBC he thought Blunkett's behaviour was reckless rather than decisive.
"I think what you are looking for as someone who is running the prison service is calm guidance and some leadership from a secretary of state, but this was sadly lacking on that evening."
He added that he was aware his ex-boss "had these tempers and did not mean to bring in the army", but he was still "troubled" by it.
He said that the prison service worked to take back Lincoln jail "decisively and as safely as possible".
Narey says he wrote up the details of the telephone conversation he took in a restaurant on the Isle of Wight on the evening of the riot and reported it to his civil servant bosses.
He was later promoted to the position of Second Permanent Secretary at the Home Office.
Blunkett says his diaries are an accurate account of events at the time.
His spokesman told The Times: "He did order the retaking of the prison. He did not say anything about machine guns. Quite apart from anything else they do not carry machine guns in the prison service."
Brian Caton, general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, told the BBC that while his members were risking their lives trying to retake the prison, this "bizarre" conversation was allegedly taking place.
"It beggars belief, it really does."
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