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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 21 January 1991

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Access to Dwellings

Mr. Sheerman : To ask the Attorney-General how many kinds of orders or warrants give courts, the police, bailiffs or solicitors access to private dwellings without permission of the resident.

The Attorney-General : There are no orders or warrants which grant the courts access to private dwellings without the permission of the resident other than through a bailiff. There are four situations in which bailiffs have such powers. First, a bailiff may force re-entry to premises from which he has been forcibly ejected when levying distress. Secondly a bailiff may force an entry to premises to which goods have been removed in order to avoid distress. Thirdly, a bailiff may force entry to premises in order to give possession to the plaintiff. Fourthly, a bailiff may force entry in order to execute a warrant of restitution.

A solicitor may gain access to a private dwelling without permission only when attending a defendant's premises with a plaintiff in order to execute an Anton Piller order.

Initial examination has identified some 21 categories of offence in relation to which the police have specific statutory powers of entry to private dwellings without permission of the resident. These are listed alphabetically in the table.

Categories of offence in relation to which the police have powers of entry to private dwellings without consent

By warrant or court order

Animals

Children

Copyright

Criminal Damage

Drugs

Entertainments

Explosives

Forgery and Fraud

Gaming

Immigration

Incitement to Racial Hatred

Liquor Licensing

Mental Health

National Security and Terrorism

Obscenity and Indecency

Offensive Weapons

Poaching

Scrap Metal

Sexual Offences

Stolen Goods

Without warrant or court order

Road Traffic

Mr. Sheerman : To ask the Attorney-General what steps he is taking to ensure that there is no misuse of Anton Piller orders.

The Attorney-General : Since the Court of Appeal laid down the preconditions for the granting of such orders in


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Piller KG v. Manufacturing Processes (1976), case law has prescribed numerous safeguards in the granting and execution of Anton Piller orders.

An additional safeguard recommended by the civil justice review is that the power to grant Anton Piller orders should, subject to certain exceptions, be reserved to High Court judges. My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor is presently considering the terms in which this should be included in regulations, a draft of which is presently being consulted upon.

Mr. Sheerman : To ask the Attorney-General how many Anton Piller orders have been issued in each year since they came into existence.

The Attorney-General : The Government do not maintain statistics on the number of Anton Piller orders issued by the courts.

Women Judges

Mr. Patchett : To ask the Attorney-General what plans he has to equalise the number of women circuit judges, recorders and assistant recorders ; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General : The Lord Chancellor has repeatedly made clear his wish to appoint more women to judicial office. Steps have been taken to make this widely known, and thus to encourage more suitably qualified women to put themselves forward for consideration. The composition of the bench at any one time is, however, dependent on the composition of the legal profession in the age groups with the necessary experience to be suitable. At the moment, there are relatively few women in the legal profession in the appropriate age groups with the right experience. It is expected that the number will increase significantly over the next 10 years, and that this will result in more women judges, recorders and assistant recorders.

ENERGY

Oil Well Fires

Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) what percentage of the crude oil is converted into soot when an oil well burns out of control ;

(2) when crude oil burns out of control in an oil well fire, what proportion of the oil is converted into soot ; and how effective the atomic carbon so released is at absorbing sunlight.

Mr. Moynihan : I refer the hon. Member to the note produced by the Meteorological Office on the possible environmental impacts of burning oil wells in Kuwait, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.

The worst case scenario considered in the Meteorological Office's note is based on the assumption that 6 per cent. of the oil would be converted to black smoke. The note, however, records that the amount of smoke could be significantly less. The effectiveness of a smoke plume in absorbing sunlight depends on the details of combustion and dispersal.

North Sea Standby Vessels

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement about the future safety regime he plans for North sea standby vessels.


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Mr. Moynihan : In his report on the Piper Alpha disaster, Lord Cullen made a number of recommendations aimed at improving the quality of standby vessels, including a need for new regulations. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear to the House in his statement of 12 November, the Government accept all of Lord Cullen's recommendations, and work is in progress to implement them as quickly as possible.

Oil Production

Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is the normal level of oil production offshore for (i) Kuwait, (ii) Saudi Arabia and (iii) in total for all the oil-producing states in the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Moynihan : The normal approximate output levels of offshore oil production are :

(i) Kuwait : 0.024 million barrels/day.

(ii) Saudi Arabia (incl. neutral zone) : 2 million barrels/day. (

(iii) Total Persian Gulf states : 4 million barrels/day. The data are largely from the "Arab Oil and Gas Directory 1990".

Public Utilities

Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what assessment he has made of the benefit that could be achieved for energy consumers through closer collaboration between electricity suppliers and other utilities, particularly the water companies.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : This is a matter for the companies concerned, within the relevant statutory and regulatory provisions.

Tidal Barrages

Mr. Speller : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what help he will give to promote the construction of tidal barrages in the Severn and the Mersey estuaties.

Mr. Moynihan : As part of our on-going research programme on renewable energy technologies, my Department is making funds available to assist feasibility studies for tidal energy barrages on the Severn and Mersey estuaries. As I announced on 30 August 1990, £456,000 is to be contributed to new environmental studies by the


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Severn Tidal Power Group. Also, up to £1.5 million is being made available for a third phase of feasibility studies by the Mersey Barrage Company.

In regard to the Mersey barrage, a ministerial committee has been established under my chairmanship with the following terms of reference and departmental membership :

To consider the proposed Mersey barrage and, in particular, to address key issues such as :

the value of the project

the role of non-energy costs and benefits

the evaluation of the effects of barrage construction and operation on regional development and other legitimate interests.

To explore ways in which the various government departments which might be involved in or affected by such a project can best co-operate in order to ensure that all the necessary information is brought to bear in the most effective way during such consideration. Departmental Membership :

Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Employment

Energy

Environment

Social Security

Trade and Industry

Transport

Treasury

Welsh Office

HOME DEPARTMENT

Prisoners (Home Leave)

Sir John Wheeler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) male and (f) female prisoners were granted home leave each year from 1986 to 1989 ; and how many of these failed to return on time.

Mrs. Rumbold : Information for 1986 is not available. The information available for 1987-89 should be regarded as approximate, since it is collected on the basis of overall numbers at individual establishments. Establishments holding more than one type of offender--that is, male, female and young offenders--do not provide returns that distinguish between them.

The figures relate to the number of leaves taken. Many prisoners are entitled to more than one leave a year, so the number of individuals will therefore be lower.

The available information is as follows :


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Male                           Female              Young offender                         

establishments                 establishments      institutions                           

          |Granted  |Failed   |Granted  |Failed   |Granted  |Failed                       

                    |to return          |to return          |to return                    

                    |on time            |on time            |on time                      

1987      |6,095    |330      |226      |20       |1,458    |56                           

1988      |10,472   |712      |435      |28       |1,559    |69                           

1989      |14,611   |1,092    |411      |14       |2,611    |129                          

Sir John Wheeler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much was spent on home leave and temporary release for prisoners in 1987-88, 1988-89 and 1989-90, respectively.

Mrs. Rumbold : Figures collected centrally do not distinguish between expenditure on home leave and other forms of temporary release. The table details payments made to prisoners on all forms of temporary release


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including home leave. The principal costs of the scheme derive from payments for travel and subsistence for the inmates concerned.


        |£              

------------------------

1987-88 |286,928        

1988-89 |423,303        

1989-90 |548,293        


Drug Misuse

Mr. Cummings : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the number of people convicted of drug misuse in the area governed by the Seaham and Peterlee magistrates courts by year since 1985.

Mr. John Patten : The number of persons convicted by the Peterlee and Seaham--now the Easington, and Houghton-le-Spring division of Sunderland metropolitan district--magistrates' courts in each year since 1985 for offences relating to drug misuse is given in the table.


          |Number of          

          |persons            

------------------------------

1985      |7                  

1986      |5                  

1987      |3                  

1988      |5                  

1989      |9                  

Police National Computer

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) pursuant to his reply to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, (Mr. Sheerman) on 19 December 1990, Official Report, columns 203-4, whether he will (a) list all the items of data to be held on the new police national computer that will be linked to those data that relate to driver licensing (b) list all the items of data to be held on the new police national computer that will be linked to those data that relate to driver records, (c) indicate whether there will be any free text fields or warning signals associated with any driver licensing or driver records, (d) indicate the anticipated number of driver licensing and driver records held, (e) indicate the estimated number of access to these records as compared with routine vehicle checks and (f) describe the circumstances when it is anticipated that these new records will be used by police ; (2) pursuant to his reply to the hon. Member for Huddersfield on 19 December 1990, Official Report, columns 203-4, whether he received advice from, or had meetings with, the Data Protection Registrar before deciding on the nature of the closer links between the new police national computer and the DVLA in Swansea.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The proposal to provide information relating to driver records and licensing on PNC2 is still at the planning stage. The items of data that would be held have yet to be determined. To meet the needs identified in the road traffic law review, the following information would need to be kept :

Name and address

Date of birth

Driver number

Licence issue number

Type of licence

Categories of vehicles covered and expiry dates

Whether duplicate licence has been issued

Any current disqualification

Total number of penalty points

It is proposed to keep the information as a separate PNC file and not to include free text fields or warning signals. I understand that there are some 46 million driver licence records. It is not possible to estimate with any accuracy the number of inquiries which may be made of the file, but it is reasonable to assume that it could be between 50 to 100 per cent. of vehicle accesses. About 21 million vehicle inquiries are currently made each year.


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The application will enable a police officer to establish immediately whether a person has a valid licence to drive and the appropriateness of the fixed penalty procedures when an offence has been committed.

I recognise the need to keep the Data Protection Registrar informed of our proposals for PNC2. A meeting was held last July with his staff to discuss PNC2 developments and we shall consult further as our plans for new applications proceed.

Computers (Security)

Mr. Colvin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he is taking to ensure the security of (a) his Department's computers in-house and (b) lap-top personal computers when used by his civil servants outside his Department's offices.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : A range of security measures have been developed to protect computers and the data that they process, according to the assessed risk to each system. These include physical, personnel and electronic controls as well as guidance to staff on secure handling procedures. It is not Government policy to disclose details of these measures, since to do so would be of assistance to potential attackers and thereby reduce the effectiveness of the measures. The measures are kept under review.

Broadcasting

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the role, and its activities to date, of the broadcasting unit in his Department in relation to the crisis in the Gulf.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The broadcasting department of the Home Office has no specific role in relation to the crisis in the Gulf.

Taylor Report

Mr. Simon Coombs : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on progress towards implementation of the proposals of the Taylor report.

Mr. John Patten : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to a question from the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) on 14 January at column 375.

Traffic Wardens

Mr. Leighton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the current strength of the traffic co-ordination and support branch of the Metropolitan police (TO14), and the current number of traffic wardens in London.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : On 31 December 1990 the strength of TO14 branch of the Metropolitan police was 120 police officers, 36 civil staff and 31 vehicle removal officers ; and the strength of the traffic warden service was 1,416.


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