Hospital patients pay £41 extra a week compared to prisoners to watch television, a Conservative MP said as he urged David Cameron to justify the cost.
Conservative Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, said he was surprised to learn it cost his brother £6 a day to watch television in hospital in Doncaster while he understood prisoners paid £1 a week.
Mr Davies, addressing Mr Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions, said: “Can you justify why it costs hospital patients £42 a week to watch the television when it only costs prisoners £1 a week to watch the television?
“And if you can’t justify it, can you tell us what you are going to do about it?”
Mr Cameron replied: “As someone who has spent a lot of time in hospitals I absolutely share his frustrations.
“It was the last government that introduced these charges on televisions in hospital in the year 2000.
“Many an hour I have spent battling with that very complicated telephone and credit card system that you have to try and make work.
“These are, I’m afraid, devolved decisions local hospitals can now make but in terms of prisons the Lord Chancellor is doing something.
“He’s taking the unacceptable situation he inherited from the Labour Party where you could take out a Sky subscription when you’re in prison and say you can’t do that any more and making sure prisoners pay if they use the television.”
Mark Leech editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said the issue was not about prison in-cell TV but the extortionate costs of providing televisions in hospitals.
“Prisoners have always paid for the privilege of having access to an in-cell television, and its a privilege that can be removed if a prisoner’s behaviour warrants it.
“The government has introduced powers to make prisoners pay for any damage caused to televisions and no public sector prison has ever allowed access to satellite TV although some private sector prisons have done so.
“In-cell television has a positive effect on custodial behaviour, it keeps prisoners occupied when budget cuts mean other aspects of their regime have been obliterated – the real problem here is about the extortionate costs of NHS television provision and the Prime Minister should focus on reducing that rather than focusing on the soft target of prisoners.”