David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, told the head of the Prison Service to "machine-gun" rioting inmates to regain control of a jail four years ago, the then director general has claimed.
Writing in The Times today, Martin Narey claimed a "hysterical" Mr Blunkett told him he did not care about loss of life after Lincoln jail was taken over by prisoners in October, 2002.
Mr Narey said when he told the then Home Secretary that he would not order staff back into the jail if it put lives at risk, Mr Blunkett "shrieked at me that he didn't care about lives, told me to call in the Army and 'machine gun' the prisoners and - still shrieking - again ordered me to take the prison back immediately".
When Mr Narey refused, he claimed that Mr Blunkett hung up on him.
Mr Narey acknowledged that Mr Blunkett's comments were not meant literally, saying "he surely cannot have intended us to take (them) seriously".
But he said the incident demonstrated that when Mr Blunkett was under pressure "he could be almost impossible to work with".