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Mr. Douglas Hogg : My right hon. Friend is advised by Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary about the efficiency of provincial police forces. The West Mercia police have improved the value for money they obtain from their resources by means such as the streamlining of administrative procedures and the introduction of operational support units ; and the use of information technology for crime pattern analysis and fingerprint identification.
29. Mr. Andy Stewart : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of progress in securing greater efficiency and value for money from the West Mercia police force in considering applications for increases in its establishment.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : My right hon. Friend announced on 30 January his decision to approve an increase of 28 police posts for West Mercia constabulary with effect from 1 April 1989. Full account was taken of the force's commitment to a programme of civilianisation over recent years.
21. Mr. Wallace : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received on his proposals for the future of television broadcasting from viewers in the Grampian, Scottish and Border television areas.
Mr. Renton : We have received a number of representations from viewers in Scotland, including a preliminary submission from Comunn Na Gaidhlig. We would welcome any further comments during the consultation period which ends on 28 February.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : We have received representations both for and against random breath testing from a number of organisations, from hon. Members and from individual members of the public. On 1 February, my right hon. Friend announced a period of public consultation on possible changes to police powers to require breath tests.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : We have had discussions within Government and with representatives of the police, the courts, and the licensed trade about the problems of hooliganism and alcohol-related disorder. Non- metropolitan disorder was considered by a working group comprising Home Office officials and representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers, the results of which my right hon. Friend announced in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) on 21 December.
Mr. Renton : As I stated in my reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) on 26 January, at column 671, we have endorsed IBA proposals to award 20 contracts for community radio and a further contract for a station covering Heathrow and Gatwick. In addition, we have authorised BBC and independent local radio stations to provide separate programmes if they wish on each of their current frequencies.
25. Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will request prison governors to liaise with local authority environmental health officers to ensure that the prison service inspections of prison kitchens are of the same standard as those of local authority environmental health officers in other establishments.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The existing internal arrangements in the prison service are considered to be sufficient to set and monitor standards equivalent to those that would be required by local authority environmental health officers.
In addition, guidance has recently been issued which encourages governors, together with prison medical officers, to liaise with local authority environmental health officers. The liaison may include informal visits by these officers to prison in an advisory capacity.
ading Police Cells 26. Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners were being held in police cells in England and Wales on 31 January ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 378Every effort is being made to reduce that number as quickly as possible in the face of the renewed growth of the inmate population.
73. Mr. Dykes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has had recent discussions with the Metropolitan police concerning conditions for remand prisoners in custody in police station cells in the Greater London area.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Problems arising from the accommodation of remand prisoners in police cells are often discussed at the meetings which my right hon. Friend holds regularly with the commissioner of the Metropolitan police. I am well aware that conditions for remand prisoners in police cells are often far from satisfactory although the police do all they can in difficult circumstances.
27. Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consultations he has had with chief constables concerning the problems of hooliganism inside and outside football grounds.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The Home Office is in regular contact with the Association of Chief Police Officers about these problems. The association was represented on the Minister for Sport's working party and will continue to be involved in discussions on the implementation of the Football Spectators Bill.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Much has already been achieved by alcohol restrictions, the powers for the police and the courts under the Public Order Act 1986 and the advice which my right hon. Friend recently gave to the courts on the need for swift justice following incidents of hooliganism.
The proposed football membership scheme, although designed primarily to prevent those intent on unruly behaviour from gaining admission to football grounds, is also intended to remove the football match as the central focus for the activities of hooligans. Those who know they are not going to be admitted to a match are unlikely to travel long distances to stand outside.
I believe that the scheme will curb football-related hooliganism, both inside and away from grounds.
28. Mr. Amos : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to change the criteria used to decide whether it is in the public interest to order an inquest on babies born alive following abortions.
32. Mrs. Ann Winterton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further representations he has received about his decision not to order an inquest on the baby of 21 weeks gestation aborted at the Carlisle city general hospital in July 1987.
45. Dame Jill Knight : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many further representations he has received following his decision that it was not in the public interest to order an inquest on the baby of 21 weeks gestational age, aborted at the Carlisle city general hospital in July 1987.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : None. I would refer to my reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) on 15 December, column 711. We have received no further representations since then.
85. Sir Bernard Braine : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from churches and other religious bodies concerning proposals to update the law on Sunday trading.
Mr. Renton : Since November 1986 we have received 66 written representations on behalf of a church or other religious body. Among the correspondents have been the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Hume, the Chief Rabbi and the Moderator of the Free Church Federal Council. I have also met the Bishop of Gloucester, chairman of the General Synod's Board for Social Responsibility, on three occasions, and the Bishop of London.
Mr. John Patten : It is because I see scope for improvements in the efficient management of the magistrates courts system that I have decided to set in hand a scrutiny as explained in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) on 17 January, column 140 .
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Police training is kept under constant review and a number of developments are in hand. A new modular training course for recruits is to be introduced later this year, a centrally developed training package for newly promoted sergeants has recently come into use and a new course for inspectors on promotion is in the final stages of development. Cadet training is carried out in the seven police forces which run cadet schemes.
We have no plans to issue new guidance on this subject.
Mr. John Patten : The total number of notifiable offences recorded by the police in north Yorkshire from January to September 1988 fell by 5 per cent. when compared with the same period in 1987. The national decrease was 3.7 per cent. In particular, burglaries in north Yorkshire decreased by 14.2 per cent. This coincides with an increase of over 250 good neighbour schemes in the area, bringing the total number of schemes there to 1,331, covering almost 32,000 households.
39. Mr. Shersby : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration he has given to the need to regulate the activities of guardian angels operating on London local authority housing estates ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. John Patten : Neither my right hon. Friend nor the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis is aware of any so-called guardian angels operating on local authority housing estates in London. Members of the public who wish to support the police can most usefully do so through the special constabulary or active participation in neighbourhood watch schemes.
40. Ms. Abbott : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations were made by London local authority associations on 17 January regarding the rise in the Metropolitan police precept for 1989-90 ; and what replies he gave them.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The representations of the London local authority associations were mainly concerned with the size of the proposed Metropolitan police precept for 1989-90, which they regarded as excessive. My right hon. Friend was able, with the assistance of my right hon. Friend and Minister of State for Local Government, to explain the reasons for the proposed increases and to describe the steps which are being taken to strengthen the force's arrangements for securing greater efficiency and value for money in the deployment of its resources.
41. Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received on the Green Paper proposals for the use of electronic tags to monitor offenders ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. John Patten : We have received a number of representations, some commenting on the suggestion that electronic monitoring might be used to enforce a curfew as part of the new court order proposed in the Green Paper. We shall consider the future use of electronic monitoring in the light of these comments and the pilot studies--monitoring defendants remanded on bail--which will begin later this year.
54. Mr. Anthony Coombs : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects the technology for the tracking tag, as opposed to the curfew tag, to be demonstrably effective ; and if he will then introduce it into pilot schemes on tagging throughout England and Wales.
Mr. John Patten : I understand that some companies are working on monitoring devices which allow the wearer to be tracked. This technology is still at the development stage and I do not expect its effectiveness to be reliably demonstrated in time for the forthcoming pilot studies.
42. Mr. Bernie Grant : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many occasions in the past 12 months police officers have been used to arrest persons seeking political asylum in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Renton : Under the Immigration Act 1971 a constable or immigration officer may arrest or detain certain persons in breach of the Act. Information about the number of occasions when police officers have exercised those powers is not available centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. An application for political asylum is a separate issue which is considered entirely on its merits.
43. Mr. Flannery : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many doctors are retained by police on a part-time basis to act as police surgeons attending to victims of crime and scenes of crime ; and what was the position three and five years ago.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Police surgeons are appointed by police authorities. The joint negotiating committee for the fees of doctors assisting local authorities issues national guidance about their conditions of service. But the onus rests with individual police authorities to ensure that suitable arrangements are made to secure the necessary coverage by police surgeons within the force area.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Under section 22(2) of the Firearms Act 1968 it is an offence for a person under the age of 14 to have in his possession any firearm or ammunition to which section 1 of the Act applies, except in the limited circumstances specified where a firearm certificate is not required anyway. These include target practice at an approved club and shooting at a miniature rifle range. Accordingly, firearm certificates are issued only to those over 14 years of age. We have no proposals to change the law in this respect.
With regard to shotgun certificates, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller).
Mr. Renton : I refer the hon. Member to the reply by my right hon. Friend to a question from the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) on 15 December, column 721. No further request has been received from the Italian Government--the possibility of deportation is being considered. Representations against such action have been lodged.
49. Mr. Sumberg : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from citizens of Manchester in respect of the extradition of Viraj Mendis ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Renton : Up to 23 January 1989, 115 letters had been received from the Manchester area about the case of Mr. Mendis, of which 40 were in support of him. About 150 campaign postcards from the Manchester area and a number of petitions, some of which were signed by residents of Manchester, had also been received.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Information held centrally shows that, during 1988, 267 inmates escaped from within closed prison service establishments in England and Wales or from outside escorts. This figure includes both convicted and unconvicted inmates. The offences of which they had been convicted, or with which they had been charged, are categorised in the table. Multiple offences or charges are categorised according to the most serious offence.
2 Offence categories (including attempts) |Number -------------------------------------------------- Murder or Manslaughter |6 Sexual offences |3 Other offences against the person |24 Burglary |120 Robbery |29 Theft, forgery and related offences |37 Others |48
55. Mr. Mills : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of progress in securing greater efficiency and value for money from the West Midlands police force in considering applications for increases in its establishment.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : My right hon. Friend announced on 30 January his decision to approve an increase of 62 police posts for west midlands police with effect from 1 April 1989. Full account was taken of the progress which the force has made in recent times in obtaining police officers in considerable numbers through civilianisation.
Mr. John Patten : My right hon. Friend will be meeting the chief charity commissioner shortly to discuss the proposals the Government will be putting forward in the forthcoming White Paper on charities. My right hon. and noble friend has met the chief charity commissioner on seven occasions in the past year to discuss a wide range of matters concerning charities and the work of the commission.