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Column 703Parliament of sufficient information to monitor the development of the artificial limb and appliance services, in view of his refusal to provide substantive replies to parliamentary questions relating to services provided by the Disablement Services Authority ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Mellor [holding answer 12 April 1989] : Questions relating to services provided by the Disabled Services Authority (DSA) should be addressed to the Disablement Services Authority. The Secretary of State has referred most parliamentary questions relating to the artificial limb and appliance service accordingly. Hon. and right hon. Members who have been so referred have received full and detailed information of the progress made by the DSA in implementing its statutory functions. The authority also publishes an annual report which is available in the Library of the House. The Secretary of State has no plans for reviewing these arrangements.
Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what date he expects to transfer the responsibility for the artificial limb and appliance services from the Disablement Services Authority to health authorities ; what wil be his policy on providing information concerning the services in reply to parliamentary questions ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Mellor [holding answe 12 April 1989] : The Disablement Services Authority will transfer responsibility for the artificial limb and appliance service (ALAS) to NHS health authorities on 1 April 1991. Until then, the Secretary of State will continue to refer questions relating to the ALAS to the Disablement Services Authority which he is confident will continue to provide, direct to hon. and right hon. Members, full and detailed information concerning developments in the services it administers.
46. Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to announce his decision on the provision of the new Arwen Ace plastic bullet gun to police forces in England and Wales.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Equipment for use in situations of serious public disorder is kept under review. No decision has been taken to replace the currently authorised baton round equipment but a number of baton round dischargers, including the Arwen Ace, are being considered as possible replacements.
Mr. Hurd : We have signed bilateral agreements with the United States of America, Canada, the Bahamas, Australia and Switzerland, and have completed substantive negotiations with Spain and Sweden. Other bilateral discussions are in progress, and, in the forthcoming meeting of Ministers of the Council of Europe's Pompidou Group, we shall be discussing how to strengthen co-operation in this area.
30. Mr. Colin Shepherd : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many reciprocal agreements he has now secured with other countries with regard to the tracing and seizure of drug traffickers and the freezing or confiscation of their illegally derived assets.
Mr. John Patten : We have signed bilateral agreements with five Governments and completed substantive negotiations with two others. We have played an active part in the adoption of a new United Nations convention against drug trafficking, and in work towards a new Council of European convention on the confiscation of criminal proceeds.
34. Mr. Dykes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to seek to improve the prevailing level of co-operation between European countries, including the United Kingdom, on drug trafficking prevention, detection and the concomitant prosecution of offenders.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : A suitable framework for such co-operation exists in the United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, adopted in December in Vienna. We take every opportunity to encourage our European partners to sign and ratify the convention at the earliest date possible and meanwhile to implement its provisions to the fullest extent permitted by existing legislation. In all our contacts we lay particular stress on the value of international co- operation in tracing, freezing and confiscating drug traffickers' assets.
16. Mr. David Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what improvements have been achieved in the efficiency of the police fingerprint service since the publication of the Audit Commission report on the subject in October 1988.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : In February 1988, the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers set up a group of police officers, forensic scientists and fingerprint experts to undertake a general review of the work of the scientific support services in police forces, including fingerprint services.
The group has made a number of recommendations on the reorganisation of fingerprint departments and improved training for fingerprint experts. These recommendations, which take into account the findings of the Audit Commission, are currently being considered by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
17. Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he proposes to meet the union representatives from remand centres to discuss his proposals for the future of remand centres.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Neither my right hon. Friend nor I have immediate plans for such a meeting, but prison service management meets trade union representatives regularly to discuss developments in the service. Changes affecting individual establishments are also the subject of local consultation.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : It remains to be decided how the training of staff for any private remand centres would be provided, but whatever the arrangements, we would have to be satisfied that adequate training was given.
18. Mr. Riddick : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received requesting the abolition of a suspect's right to silence ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. John Patten : We have received a number of suggestions that the right to silence should be modified. My right hon. Friend set up last year a working group to consider what changes in the law were necessary. We are now awaiting its report.
Mr. John Patten : The figures collected by the Metropolitan police do not distinguish between those schemes which have failed and those which have temporarily disbanded. Between January 1987 and the end of December 1988 487 schemes are recorded as having failed. During the same period some 2,400 new schemes were set up.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : High priority is given to measures to prevent the transmission of HIV infection in prison. The main plank of the prevention strategy is education. Our latest initiative is a new package of education materials, including a video film, entitled "AIDS Inside and Out." Other measures include medical inquiry and examination at the reception stage, counselling of individual prisoners, and limited regime restrictions for prisoners identified as HIV antibody positive.
Mr. John Patten : The provisional figure for the number of robberies recorded by the police in England and Wales in 1988 is 31, 437, a decrease of 3.7 per cent. on the figure for 1987. The clear-up rate increased from 21 per cent. to 23 per cent. over the same period.
Mr. John Patten : Good progress has been made in establishing the first nine of the 20 crime prevention projects which will comprise the safer cities programme. Bradford and Wolverhampton projects are already fully operational and Nottingham staff will be taking up post this month. Grant application in support of local schemes have been received and approved for Bradford and Nottingham projects. Five additional areas have recently been invited to join in the programme (Bristol, Hull, Salford, Sunderland and Wirral) of which four have already agreed to participate.
Mr. John Patten : Financial planning for the safer cities initiative already takes account of the scheduled growth of the programme. Nine projects were set up in 1988-89, a further seven will be established in 1989-90 and four more in 1990-91. A sum of £4.2 million is available for the current financial year. A decision as to whether further expenditure on the programe is called for will be taken in the light of the success of projects now under way.
24. Mr. Illsley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the introduction of DNA testing for the purposes of the immigration rules ; and if he will make a statement.
32. Mr. Martlew : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the introduction of DNA testing for the purposes of the immigration rules ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Faulds : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now consider, following the advice tendered by the United Kingdom immigrants advisory service, that those applicants who pass DNA tests should be allowed entry into Britain on the grounds that, although now over the age of 18 years, their original applications were made, and refused, when they were under age.
Mr. Renton : A person who makes a fresh application for entry clearance when he is 18 years of age or older is normally expected to meet the requirements set out at paragraphs 51 and 52 of the immigration rules. However, my right hon. Friend is considering whether, and in what circumstances, it might be appropriate to exercise discretion in favour of over-age reapplicants who do not qualify for admission under the rules. We hope to be in a position to announce our conclusions before long.
Mr. John Patten : By strengthening the police, and by fostering the safer cities programme in some urban high crime areas, we hope to increase the safety of all citizens. Simple precautions that members of the public can take to reduce the risk of attack are given in the Home Office crime prevention handbook "Practical Ways to Crack Crime."
Mr. John Patten : The information requested for 1979-87 is published in Table 2.1 of "Criminal statistics, England and Wales, 1987", Cm. 498 ; and for 1988 intable 1 of the Home Office statistical bulletin 7/89. Copies of these publications are in the Library.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : I refer the hon. Member to the replies given to questions from the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) on 13 March at col. 9 and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) on 5 April at col. 220.
Mr. John Patten : We shall shortly be discussing with representatives of magistrates courts committees what steps relating to pay and other matters they can take as employers of courts staff to improve the present shortage of court clerks. We have already approved the establishment of 25 additional trainee posts this year. We plan to authorise more, and to make provision for training accordingly. We also plan to issue by the summer new recruitment publicity material for the magistrates courts service.
72. Mr. Eastham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what funding for the proposed community volunteer schemes will come from existing police authority budgets ; and what additional funds will be made specifically available.
Mr. John Patten : Information is published in table 7 of Home Office statistical bulletin 7/89, a copy of which is in the Library. My right hon. Friend has also sent some further details of the figures for their local police force area to all right hon. and hon. Members for constituencies in England and Wales and placed copies of those further details in the Library.
40. Mr. Adley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will arrange to meet the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to discuss the problems caused to his force by working in London ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The Commissioner and my right hon. Friend meet regularly to discuss policing issues including the particular problems caused by working in London, especially the recruitment and retention of officers and civil staff. My right hon. Friend supports the commissioner's efforts to overcome them.
41. Mr. Grocott : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any plans to meet the general advisory committee of the Independent Broadcasting Authority to discuss the White Paper on Broadcasting.
Mr. John Patten : I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to questions from the hon. Members for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Jones) and for Walsall, South (Mr. George) on 15 December 1988 at column 716.
44. Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the progress being made to restore the franchise in respect of European and parliamentary elections to the residents of Caldy Island, Pembrokeshire.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : I understand that residents of Caldey Island are included in the register of electors for south Pembrokeshire published and effective from 16 February 1989. Ballot papers should, therefore, be available to the residents for all elections held this year, as in previous years. Nevertheless, I recognise that legislative action needs to be taken to regularise the position of Caldey Island. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is considering the available options as a matter of urgency.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The prison service's strategy for the prevention of inmate suicides has two main elements : to identify inmates who may be at risk of suicide, by means of constant staff vigilance, particularly when the inmate is first received into custody ; and to prevent such inmates from actually killing themselves, both by reducing the physical opportunities for suicide in prison and by offering medical and social support to the suicidal inmate. Initiatives such as enhanced staff training in suicide prevention awareness, better cell design, and work on the development of CCTV for the monitoring of suicidal inmates, all contribute to this strategy. While we do not expect to alter the main thrust of our strategy, we are considering in the light of recent experience whether any modifications to our procedures may be helpful.
48. Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with chief constables about the use of police cars in high-speed chases of those believed to have committed criminal offences.