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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 30 June 1994

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Training and Enterprise Councils

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what is his Department's involvement with TECs.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor's Department has sought information and guidance from Central London's training and enterprise council in connection with initiatives such as investors in people and NVQ national standards.

Public Trust Office

Mr. Stephen : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the Public Trust Office is to be established as an agency.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Further to my answer of 28 October 1993, Official Report, column 794, to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins), I am pleased to confirm that the Lord Chancellor shall establish the Public Trust Office as an executive agency on 1 July 1994. I will arrange for a copy of the Public Trust Office's framework document to be placed in the Library.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Victim Compensation

Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to ensure that compensation awarded by the courts to victims of criminal acts is always paid.

Mr. Maclean : Courts already have substantial powers of enforcement for use when an offender fails to pay promptly a compensation order or other monetary penalty. These include means inquiry and attachment of earnings or social security benefits, seizure and sale of property and imprisonment. Decisions about which enforcement sanctions to use in a particular case are for the courts. Magistrates courts are responsible for the collection and enforcement of compensation orders in individual cases. My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor has recently circulated fresh guidance on how enforcement procedures might be improved.

Prison Statistics

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many discretionary life sentence prisoners do not qualify as such for the purposes of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : In the case of prisoners sentenced before 1 October 1992, section 34 of the 1991 Act applies


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where the Secretary of State so certifies under the transitional provisions of the Act. One prisoner was not so certified. The application of section 34 to prisoners sentenced on or after 1 October 1992 is a matter for the courts. Information on the number of cases where section 34 has not been applied is not available. The status of prisoners serving a discretionary life sentence who have been transferred to hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 is currently subject to appeal. Information on the number who may or may not qualify for section 34 provisions could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people sentenced to detention at Her Majesty's pleasure under section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 are currently detained ; how many of these are now adults ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean : The latest available information is for 30 April 1994. On that date there were 250 persons, of whom 61 were aged under 21 and 189 were adults, held in England and Wales who had been sentenced to detention at Her Majesty's pleasure under section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act.

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many mandatory life sentence prisoners have been told their tariff dates following the decision of the House of Lords in the case of R. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Doody and others ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : As at 27 June 1994, 966 mandatory life sentence prisoners had been informed of their tariff in accordance with the arrangements set out in my right hon. and learned Friend's reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence), on 4 November 1993, Official Report, columns 376-78.

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in how many cases the Home Secretary has increased the tariff period recommended by the judiciary in each year since 1990 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The number of cases in which the tariff has been set higher than the period recommended by either the trial judge or the Lord Chief Justice is as follows :


Year    |Number       

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

<1>1990 |57           

1991    |32           

1992    |19           

1993    |4            

<1>Figures available  

only for              

August-December.      

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners have been permanently or temporarily transferred to Northern Ireland following the interdepartmental working group's review of the provisions for the transfer of prisoners between United Kingdom jurisdictions in 1992 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Since 1 December 1992, four prisoners have been permanently transferred to Northern


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Ireland and nine prisoners have been temporarily transferred. In addition, four prisoners previously temporarily transferred have been granted further periods of temporary transfer in Northern Ireland.

Police Authorities

Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received in respect of the age limit of 70 years for members of the new proposed police authorities ; and if he will list them.

Mr. Charles Wardle : I have received four letters from hon. Members specifically on this subject since the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill entered the House of Commons. Information relating to letters from hon. Members received before this date, and to correspondence from the general public, could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received in respect of the timetable for people who wish to apply for membership of the new proposed police authorities ; and if he will list them.

Mr. Charles Wardle : None.

Electoral Law and Procedure

Mr. Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now announce the results of his Department's review of electoral law and procedure.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I would refer the hon. Member to a question from the hon. Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) on 4 March, Official Report, column 933. My officials have now met representatives of the local authority associations and will report to me in due course on the outcome of the review.

Euthanasia

Mr. Khabra : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he intends to take in respect of doctors who have intentionally ended the life of a patient.

Mr. Maclean : Any person who intentionally kills another person is liable to prosecution under the criminal law for murder. The investigation and prosecution of offences are matters for the police and Crown Prosecution Service.

May Report

Sir Ivan Lawrence : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the report of Sir John May's inquiry into the convictions of the Guildford Four will be published ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard : As I announced on 16 May, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and I have received Sir John May's report of his inquiry into the case of the Guildford Four who were convicted in 1975 of murder and conspiracy to cause explosions following the Guildford public house bombings in October 1974. Paul Hill and Patrick Armstrong were additionally convicted of murder and conspiracy to cause explosions in connection


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with the Woolwich public house bombing in November 1974. Their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal on 19 October 1989 following the decision of the then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd) to refer their case to the Court of Appeal under the provisions of section 17(1)(a) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968.

This report is being published today in response to an Order of the House for a Return. We wish to thank Sir John, and all those who assisted him throughout his inquiry, for the care and thoroughness with which he and they have examined the circumstances surrounding the convictions of the four and the subsequent consideration given to representations made on their behalf to my Department that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.

In his report, Sir John examines how the Guildford and Woolwich public house bombings were investigated by Surrey constabulary and the Metropolitan police respectively, the circumstances which led to the Four's arrest, and to the arrest of others in connection with the offences, and reviews the basis of the decision to prosecute the four. He then details the admissions made by the four in various statements to the police and sets out their respective explanations for why these were made. The alibis of the four for the Guildford bombing are examined in detail, as are the alibis of Paul Hill and Patrick Armstrong for the Woolwich bombing. Sir John has also considered the conduct of the trial, the interviews given by three of the four to the police following their convictions, the disclosure of forensic correlation evidence at the trial, the arrest of the Balcombe street gang in December 1975 and the admissions made by some of them and by one of their associates with regard to the Guildford and Woolwich bombings. Sir John has also examined the events which preceded the four's appeal against conviction in 1977, the conduct of that appeal, the role of Home Office Ministers and officials in considering representations alleging that a miscarriage of justice had occurred in their case and finally the 1989 appeal which resulted in their convictions being quashed.

This was a very serious miscarriage of justice. The Government are determined that lessons are learned from such cases and applied effectively in the future. This is why we set up Sir John's inquiry and, more recently, the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice. Sir John's report contains a number of serious criticisms about the handling by the police of the original investigation, for example the number of arrests made, the inadequate basis for many of those arrests and the treatment accorded to those held in custody. However, it also acknowledges the many changes which have already taken place with regard to police powers and practice following the enactment of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the resulting improvements achieved through the regulation of such matters as the interrogation of suspects, the time for which they can be detained in custody before being brought before the courts and their treatment while in custody under the codes of practice issued under the 1984 Act.

The report refers to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, in connection with the number of people arrested during the early stages of the police investigations of the Guildford and Woolwich bombings and concludes that, in relation to many of them, the police exceeded the powers available to them under the Act. Sir John draws attention to the


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safeguards provided by PACE and expresses concern that there are greater risks of injustice in terrorist cases where some of the PACE safeguards do not apply.

I have noted those points very carefully but think it important to stress that whatever early difficulties were encountered in using the Act's provisions, those do not reflect upon the way in which the Act is used now. The police are now very much better informed about the way in which their powers should be exercised. Detailed guidance has been issued and is supplemented by regular briefings. All persons detained under the PTA in England and Wales are covered either by the statutory safeguards in PACE or by the specific safeguards which have been built into PTA itself. In particular, PACE code of practice C, covering the detention, treatment and questioning of persons by police officers applies to all persons in police detention including those arrested under the PTA.

The allegations of misconduct and ill treatment by police officers reported by Sir John have been the subject of appropriate action, including disciplinary action, wherever sufficient evidence has been available. Since the 1970s, considerable improvements have been made to the way in which complaints against the police are conducted. If similar allegations were to be made now, the police investigation would be likely to be undertaken by another police force under the supervision of a member of the Police Complaints Authority. The Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill, currently before Parliament, will provide scope for police disciplinary action to be quicker and less legalistic.

Sir John's report notes the prosecution's failure to disclose before the trial expert witness statements and an alibi statement that might have been helpful to the defence ; but he attributes those failures to regrettable human error rather than to any deliberate attempt to pervert the course of justice or to any failure of the criminal justice system itself. He also recognises that in certain other respects the prosecution team made fuller disclosure than its legal obligations required. It is worth noting that since the Guildford four's convictions, the law and practice on disclosure has developed in such a way that it should be much less likely that such a situation could occur.

In reviewing the Home Office's role in this case, Sir John concludes that the criteria which successive Home Secretaries have used to determine whether a case should be referred to the Court of Appeal are sound in law and logic and provide no grounds for criticism. I welcome his further conclusion that, within the limits imposed by those criteria, the Home Office investigated the representations it received with care and efficiency. We seek constantly to apply the lessons to be learned from cases of this kind and we shall go on doing so. In the years since the Guildford case was referred my Department has developed a broader approach to cases that come to it for review, in particular by being ready where appropriate to investigate cases more widely than the specific points raised in representations, and by being ready to start up inquiries where a case comes to attention without necessarily waiting for representations to be made.

The Government have accepted the Royal Commission's recommendation that a new independent body should be established to take over my responsibilities for reviewing such cases in the future, and I am currently considering the responses we have received to the discussion paper which we issued last March.


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Clearly, much has already been done to correct past mistakes and failings, but the Government are anxious that the criminal justice system in England and Wales should be as effective and efficient as possible in investigating crimes and prosecuting and convicting the guilty--and only the guilty.

The Royal Commission made 352 recommendations for changes to be made to improve the criminal justice system in this country. Almost half of those have now been accepted by the Government, and some are included in the current Criminal Justice Bill before the House of Lords.

The Government attach very great importance to the proper administration of justice and will take whatever action may be necessary in the future to safeguard against miscarriages of justice.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Training and Enterprise Councils

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Attorney-General what is his Department's involvement with TECs.

The Attorney-General : The Law Officers' departments have not been involved formally with TECs.

Prosecuting Authorities

Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Attorney-General what plans he has to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the prosecuting authorities.

The Attorney-General : The review team, headed by Mr. John Graham, which examined the handling of serious fraud has now delivered its report. Copies of the report and of annexes 1 to 5 and 7 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Annex 6 of the report has not been published. It is a summary of some recent and current cases in both Departments which should, in line with the general handling of such material, be retained within the prosecuting departments. The review team undertook a comprehensive study of the arrangements for the investigation and prosecution of criminal fraud cases in the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service, examining in particular relative work loads and the criteria for allocating cases between the two Departments and the organisation and management of investigation and prosecution work in the two Departments. It took account of the role of the police in fraud investigations and of the DTI in company matters generally. The review did not constitute the feasibility study into the possibility of a merger between the Serious Fraud Office and the fraud investigation group of the Crown Prosecution Service suggested by the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, but the review team was asked in its terms of reference to carry out its work in the light of the Royal Commission's recommendation 36.

I am grateful to Mr. John Graham and his team for the work which they have done. The report identifies management and organisational issues which need to be addressed by the Crown Prosecution Service and Serious Fraud Office and on which the review team has made helpful recommendations. In many cases, the issues had already been identified within the prosecuting Departments and improvements set in hand. The vast majority of the remaining recommendations are accepted and I have asked the Director of Public Prosecutions and the director of the


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Serious Fraud Office to take these forward urgently, consulting the police where appropriate. A joint vetting committee is being established to ensure all complex and serious fraud cases are handled by the prosecuting department which has the most suitable powers and resources for the particular case. The copies of the report placed in the Libraries are accompanied by a response jointly prepared by the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service, which deals briefly with each recommendation in so far as it affects each Department.

The report concludes that there is a range of cases which can be satisfactorily handled only through the multi-disciplinary approach to investigation and prosecution recommended by the fraud trials committee chaired by Lord Roskill. There are, however, some cases which can be described as serious or complex but which do not require that approach. The review team noted that there was some overlap between cases allocated to the fraud investigation group of the Crown Prosecution Service and to the Serious Fraud Office. It identified some potential benefits which could flow from the establishment of a single organisation which would deal with all serious or complex fraud cases but handle them on a differential basis. The review team saw scope for arrangements under which some cases would be both investigated and prosecuted by the new organisation while other cases would only be prosecuted by it. The review team made no recommendation as to whether any new organisation should constitute part of an enlarged Serious Fraud Office or Crown Prosecution Service but identified advantages and disadvantages associated with each option.

Further consideration will be given to the question of merger in conjunction with the studies I announced on 6 December 1993, Official Report, column 60, to establish whether executive agency status was appropriate for the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service. Ministers will wish to take a final decision about a possible merger in the light of recommendations arising from those studies.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

BSE

Dr. Liam Fox : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will make a statement on BSE.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The Government's Chief Medical Officer continues to advise that there is no evidence that humans can contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from an animal with BSE. There has been no significant increase in the incidence of CJD in the United Kingdom over the years 1985 to 1993. Also, the Chief Veterinary Officer advises me that the incidence of BSE among cattle in the United Kingdom continues to fall as a result of the control measures that have been put in place. There has been a particularly sharp decline in the incidence of the disease in cattle less than five years old.

A large number of monitoring and research studies have been undertaken into BSE since 1988, and these continue. They include a BSE pathogenesis experiment which has involved the feeding of calves with a high dose of BSE -infected brain tissue. Some preliminary positive results from the BSE pathogenesis experiment will be published shortly in the "Veterinary Record". The


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experiment, begun in December 1991 and still continuing, is designed to investigate the biological pathways through which the disease develops in cattle.

These results show that it is possible to transmit BSE to laboratory mice from intestines taken from young cattle when fed a substantial dose of brain material known to contain BSE. It is not surprising that BSE has been found in those tissues, which scientists have always considered a likely route for feedborne infection. The relatively short period in which the infectivity has shown up, in one case six months after being fed the BSE dose, does however raise the issue of whether calves up to six months should continue to be exempt from the ban on the use of specified bovine offals--SBOs--of which the intestine is one.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and I have sought the advice of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee--SEAC--and have considered this with the Chief Medical Officer. The Committee noted the reduced risk of feedborne infection following the ban on feeding ruminant protein to ruminants such as cattle, which was introduced in 1988, and the continuing lack of evidence of significant maternal or horizontal transmission. They concluded that the theoretical risk of infection of man from food from infected calves is minuscule. They advised that the continuing results of the experiment should be carefully monitored to confirm this basic conclusion.

I have carefully considered this advice in consultation with my right hon. Friends the other Agriculture Ministers and the Secretary of State for Health. We have concluded while the assessment of SEAC and of the CMO is that any risk to health is minuscule, the Government's policy of extreme caution in relation to BSE requires us to ensure that the tissues in which infectivity might potentially occur are removed from the human and animal food chain. We accordingly propose to extend the scope of the existing ban on the use of specified bovine offals to the intestines and thymus of calves under the age of six months. An exception will be made for calves which die before two months of age which cannot be used for human consumption under other existing legislation. The necessary orders will be duly made with the minimum of delay. This action is purely precautionary and will be kept under review.

I intend to give particular thought to the possible scope for alternative safeguards less restrictive than those now in place in the case of cattle from herds which have not been exposed to BSE. Such an approach is now becoming appropriate as the epidemic continues to decline.

I should repeat that the Chief Medical Officer continues to advise that there is no evidence whatever that BSE causes Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease and, similarly, not the slightest evidence that eating beef or hamburgers causes CJD.

I am making available, in the House Library, a background document giving more detailed information about the experimental results and the advice of SEAC, the CMO and the CVO.

I am informing the EU Commission and the EU Scientific Veterinary Committee of the action being taken.

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many individual payments have been made to farmers as compensation for the slaughter of cows infected with BSE ; and if she will make a statement.


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Mr. Jack : It is not possible without disproportionate costs to break down the total amount paid out in BSE compensation into a list of individual payments made to specific farmers. However, the total number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as BSE suspects since August 1988 and up to 28 June 1994 on which compensation would have automatically been paid is 122,171 in England, 6,455 in Scotland and 13,603 in Wales. There are also occasions where, because compulsory slaughter has not taken place, compensation is not automatically paid. In those circumstances, each individual case is assessed on its merits and ex-gratia payments may be awarded.

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what amount of compensation is given to farmers for each cow slaughtered because of BSE ; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Jack : Compensation paid to farmers for an animal compulsorily slaughtered as a BSE suspect is an amount equal to 100 per cent. of either the market value of the animal or the monthly indicative market price--IMP- -whichever is the lower figure. Where subsequent laboratory examination does not confirm that the animal was affected by BSE, compensation is an amount equal to 100 per cent. of the market value of the animal or 125 per cent. of the monthly IMP, whichever is the lower figure. The monthly IMP is a weighted average of prices of Friesian and Holstein cows, heifers in milk and in calf, and barren dairy cattle taking into account the age distribution of cattle slaughtered as BSE suspects in the month. The IMP for July will be £890.

Cormorants

Sir Cranley Onslow : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations her Department has received from angling organisations and angling clubs in England and Wales, and from individual anglers, about cormorant predation ; what action is being taken in response ; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Jack : The following individuals, organisations and clubs have expressed their concern to the Ministry about cormorant predation. G. R. Hemus, Esq.

P. M. Hobson, Esq.

F. Sandison, Esq.

Major D. J. Shaw

Aramstone Fishery

Atlantic Salmon Association

Blue Circle Northfleet Works Coarse Angling Club

British Field Sports Society

Duncan Cameron and Sons Ltd.

Ernest Cook Trust

Furness Fishing Association

Hampton Bishop Fishery

Harris and Sheldon Group Ltd.

Hereford and District Angling Association

Kingfisher Angling and Preservation Society

Lancashire Fishery Conservation Association

Luggs Mouth and Lower Carrots Fishery

Orpington and District Angling Association

Ouse Angling Preservation Society

P. M. Fisheries

Salmon and Trout Association

Sam Davies Angling Syndicate

Severn Fisheries Consultative Council

St. Helens Angling Association

Wantsum Angling Association

Wye Salmon Fishery Owners Association


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Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Ministry is a licensing authority for the killing of cormorants where evidence of serious damage to a fishery has been provided. The Ministry considers each application on its merits and is advised by Agricultural Development Advisory Service, the Ministry's wildlife advisers. In addition, the Ministry consults English Nature. Together with other Government Departments, conservation bodies and fisheries interests such as the Salmon and Trout Association, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, the Country Landowners Association and the British Field Sports Society, the Ministry is reviewing its research and development programme on piscivorous birds to inform policy better.

Dogs

Sir David Madel : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what changes she is planning to the regulations that apply to the bringing into the United Kingdom of dogs from other European Union countries ; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Soames [holding answer 24 June 1994] : The Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and Other Mammals) (Amendment) Order 1994 has been made today. This order implements the derogation negotiated by the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for the importation of commercially traded dogs and cats under the live animals trade directive (92/65/EEC), commonly called the "balai".

Under the amendment order, from 1 July 1994, commercially traded dogs and cats will be able to be imported into the United Kingdom from other member states without quarantine if they comply with all the following strict criteria. They must :

be the subject of a commercial trade ;

come from a registered holding ;

on the day of dispatch show no signs of contagious disease ; have an implanted microchip identifying the animal with a unique number which will also be shown on the accompanying certification (the importer will be required to supply a suitable reader with each import) ;

have been born and kept on the holding of origin since birth with no contact with wild animals ;

in the case of dogs, have been vaccinated against distemper ; be transported by an authorised carrier ;

have vaccination and health certificates signed by an Official Veterinary Surgeon ;

have been vaccinated against rabies when at least 3 months old and at least 6 months prior to export (with boosters if appropriate) ; have been blood tested not less than 30 days after vaccination to show that the vaccination has been effective ; and

have the movement notified in advance to the local Divisional Veterinary Officer.

The order also includes powers to check the identity of the imported animals and their vaccination status. These stringent new procedures replicate our quarantine arrangements in many respects and provide sufficient safeguards to protect our rabies-free status.


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