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Mr. Mellor : On Friday 1 December the total prison population in England and Wales stood at 48,245. The responsibility for prisons in Scotland and Northern Ireland rests with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland respectively.
Mr. Mellor : On 31 March 1989, the latest date for which information is available, 215 prisoners in England and Wales were considered by medical officers to meet the criteria for detention in hospital, as set out in the Mental Health Act 1983. 185 of those prisoners were considered to be mentally ill, within the meaning of the Act. The term "mentally handicapped" is not one of the 4 specific categories of mental disorder defined in part I of the Act.
Column 379Mr. Peter Lloyd : Visa policy and practice are kept under constant review but it is long established practice not to comment on the possibility of extending visa requirements to any particular country.
Mr. Mellor : I have regular contact with the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority (S4C), the IBA and the BBC. In particular, there have been a number of discussions with S4C about our proposals for Welsh broadcasting after 1992.
32. Mr. Butcher : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he next plans to meet the governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation to discuss their effectiveness in achieving political objectivity in news reporting.
Mr. Mellor : I meet the chairman and governors of the BBC from time to time to discuss a wide range of broadcasting matters. Responsibility for ensuring impartiality in the reporting of news rests with the BBC.
Mr. Mellor : Following the hon. Member's meeting with my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mr. Renton) in July and the subsequent meeting of the National Association of Hospital Broadcasting Organisations with the IBA, consideration is being given to their suggestion that a dedicated frequency be provided for hospital radio. The outcome will be made known to the proposed new radio authority, which it is intended will be responsible for licensing all non-BBC radio services, including hospital radio.
Mr. Wheeler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will place in the Library a copy of his letter of 4 December to the hon. Member for Westminster, North on the decriminalisation of television licence fee evasion as recommended in paragraph 152 of the Home Affairs Committee's Third Report of Session 1987-88.
Mr. John Patten : As at 26 November, 32 defendants have been granted bail subject to the condition that they are electronically monitored. Under the three experimental schemes now in progress the courts are asked to impose electronic monitoring as a condition of bail only in cases where a defendant would otherwise have been remanded in custody.
18. Mr. Lofthouse : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will reconsider plans to reorganise prison management in the light of concerns expressed by the Prison Governors Association.
Mr. Mellor : No decisions have been made on the recommendations of the team which reviewed the organisation and location of the prison service at above establishment level. I have met representatives of the Prison Governors Association to discuss the report and have received a written submission from them. Their views and all the other comments received are being carefully considered.
Mr. John Patten : Measures to prevent these offences include tougher maximum penalties for violent offences ; increases in police manpower ; targeting of high crime areas by police ; measures to deal with alcohol- related disorder ; education, research and crime prevention. Further measures, including new action to tackle domestic violence, are being taken forward by the ministerial groups on crime prevention and women's issues.
Column 381Mr. John Patten : Two and a half million copies of the first two editions and nearly 300,000 of the recently published third edition of our handbook "Practical Ways to Crack Crime" have now been distributed in England and Wales. We have also produced a new, shorter version called the Family Guide, over one and a half million copies of which have been distributed.
21. Mr. Hannam : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many seizures of illicit drugs have been made by police and Customs in 1989 to date ; and what is the estimated value of drugs seized.
Mr. Mellor : As I stated in my reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) on 5 December, in the period 1 January to 6 November 1989 Customs reported a provisional total of 6,830 seizures of controlled drugs. It is estimated that these would have had an equivalent street value of some £230 million. Comprehensive figures are not yet available for police seizures in 1989 ; the latest information is for 1988 when police made 32,947 seizures and customs 5,288 seizures of controlled drugs.
Mr. Mellor : As we have said on previous occasions, the Government are determined to maintain the frontier checks necessary to control drug trafficking and to promote close co-operation at the operational level between law enforcement agencies. A European committee to combat drugs has been established and held its inaugural meeting in Brussels on 1 December. My right hon. and learned Friend has nominated me to serve on the committee as United Kingdom national drug co-ordinator. Among the priorities which the committee has been asked to address are those of strengthening of controls at external frontiers and development of closer international co- operation between law enforcement agencies, as well as the need for early ratification by all member states of the 1988 UN convention against illicit drug trafficking.
28. Mr. Tim Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the latest totals for assets confiscated from convicted drug traffickers and assets frozen pending trials for drug trafficking offences.
66. Sir Michael Shaw : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the latest totals for assets confiscated from convicted drug traffickers and assets frozen pending trials for drug trafficking offences.
72. Mr. Thorne : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the latest totals for assets confiscated from convicted drug traffickers and for assets frozen pending trials for drug trafficking offences.
Mr. John Patten : In 1988, £8.1 million was ordered to be confiscated by the courts under the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986. About £600,000 is known to have been recovered in confiscation orders during the financial year 1988-89 ; this mainly relates to orders made in 1987. The national drugs intelligence unit estimates that confiscation and restraint orders exceeding £13 million and £20 million respectively have been made since the Act came into force in January 1987.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : There were 228 officers on the strength of regional crime squads drugs wings on 27 November. In No. 9 region, which covers the Metropolitan police district, drugs investigation is not undertaken by the regional crime squad but by the Metropolitan police central drugs squad. Its strength on 27 November was 110. My right hon. and learned Friend announced on 23 November at columns 12-13 that he is prepared to approve a further 51 police posts for regional crime squads specifically for their work in connection with drugs.
1984--23 July, 1 October, 1 November, 12 December
1985--29 January, 4 March, 27 March, 7 May, 5 June,25 June, 30 September, 29 October, 10 December
1986--29 January, 26 February, 16 April, 20 May, 24 June,6 October, 18 November, 17 December
1987--26 January, 4 March, 27 April, 6 July, 29 September, 18 November
1988--25 January, 16 March, 4 May, 27 June, 29 September, 21 November
1989--9 February, 11 April, 23 May, 26 July, 16 October,6 December Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the street value of the drugs destroyed by the authorities over the past 10 years ; and if he will state the figure in pounds sterling for each year.
Mr. David Mellor : Records are not kept centrally of drugs destroyed following seizures by police or customs. Information about seizures of controlled drugs over the past 10 years was published in Home Office Statistical Bulletin Issue 30/89 "Statistics of the Misuse of Drugs : Seizures and Offenders Dealt With, United Kingdom, 1988" a copy of which is in the Library.
22. Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the deadline for the experimental ban on drinking in public places in Coventry and other areas ; what representations he has received as to the success of the experiment ; and what has been the reduction in prosecutions for offences involving drunkenness in those areas as a result of the experimental byelaws.
Column 383Mr. John Patten : Expiry dates for the experimental byelaw, which is in force in seven areas, range from 31 October 1990 to 16 July 1991. In each case we shall review the results some months before the date when the byelaw would lapse and reach conclusions on the benefits for these and other areas. We shall seek to determine how far a relationship can be established with changes in prosecutions for offences involving drunkeness, but this will not be straightforward because the byelaw is in force only in certain designated zones within the seven local authority areas, for which separate statistics for prosecutions have not been kept in the past. We have received requests for the byelaw from 105 local authorities.
27. Mr. Sheerman : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he will be taking to implement the proposals contained in the Prison Reform Trust's report "Drink, Delinquency and Prison", for alcohol counselling and education for offenders with drink problems in young offender institutions.
Mr. Mellor : The recommendations contained in this report are being considered. Regime activities in young offender institutions seek to assist inmates to develop personal responsibility and self-discipline and a more positive lifestyle. Many institutions already tackle problems of alcohol abuse as part of their education and training programmes.
23. Mr. Turner : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the average time taken between receiving a passport application and its issue at each passport office in 1989 ; and what he expects the position to be in 1990.
35. Mr. Wall : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the average time taken between receiving a passport application and its issue at each passport office in 1989 ; and what he expects the position to be in 1990.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : Passport applications are processed according to the applicant's travel requirements, with priority being given to urgent cases. As a result, processing times in a given period vary considerably, and averages are not recorded.
The maximum processing times in working days for straightforward non-urgent postal applications at the six United Kingdom passport offices during 1989 were as follows :
|Days ----------------------- London |48 Liverpool |110 Peterborough |76 Newport |51 Glasgow |64 Belfast |10
Most applications were processed well within these maximum periods.
Processing times should be reduced next year, as a result of enhancements made to the computer systems at the Glasgow and Liverpool offices, the employment of additional permanent staff at all offices, and other measures.
25. Mr. Tracey : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many specialist units now exist within the Metropolitan police force coping with cases of domestic violence ; and what were the comparable figures one and two years ago, respectively.
30. Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many of the Surrey police officers investigating the Guildford pub bombings visited Queen's road police station in Birmingham during the course of their inquiries.
31. Mr. Mullin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many of the Surrey police officers investigating the Guildford pub bombings visited Queen's road police station in Birmingham during the course of their inquiries.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many of the Surrey police officers investigating the Guildford pub bombings visited Queen's road police station in Birmingham during the course of their inquiries.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : I refer the hon. Members to the written answers given on 30 October at column 40, in which I explained in reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) that no Surrey officer visited Queen's road while those arrested in relation to the Birmingham pub bombings were detained there. No record now exists which will indicate whether any Surrey officer visited Queen's road at any other time.
Column 385Mr. John Patten : At the moment there are no plans for such a meeting.
34. Mr. Cummings : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the number of people likely to seek asylum in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) the European Economic Community over the next five years ; and if he intends to review procedures for processing such applications.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : There is no basis for reliably estimating the numbers of asylum applications in future years. Figures for individual countries are liable to considerable fluctuation as a result of changing circumstances, but the overall upward trend seems likely to continue.
Procedures are kept under constant review and adjusted where necessary.
37. Mr. Latham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has recently held with representatives of the Magistrates Association about guidelines for consistency in sentencing persons convicted of driving after consuming excessive alcohol ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. John Patten : None. Sentencing is a matter for the courts within their overall powers as laid down by legislation and in accordance with the guidance given by the Court of Appeal. I understand that the Magistrates Association is considering the issue of new guidelines on road traffic sentencing to its members.
38. Mr. Robert G. Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many uniformed police officers have returned to beat duties in the last five years as a result of civilianisation and other initiatives, in the Metropolitan police district and in England and Wales.
Dr. Michael Clark : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many uniformed police officers have returned to beat duties in the last five years as a result of civilianisation and other value-for- money initiatives in the Metropolitan police district and in England and Wales.
61. Mr. Marland : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many uniformed police officers have returned to beat duties in the last five years as a result of civilianisation and other value-for- money initiatives, in the Metropolitan police district and in England and Wales.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : We estimate that since the 1983-84 financial year up until December 1988, the latest period for which information is readily available, the Metropolitan police have returned 608 officers to operational duties, and
Column 386provincial forces 3,343, through civilianisation. Estimates of police time saved through other value for money initiatives are not available.