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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 28 July 1997


Operation Quantum

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria are being used to evaluate the options for Operation Quantum. [10100]

Ms Quin: The suppliers' proposals were evaluated using a number of criteria under the headings business fit, viability and commercial assessment.

The criteria for the evaluation of the options within the proposals remain to be defined. They will include the closest attention to the proposals' impact on Prison Service staff.

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many options are currently being considered in regard to Operation Quantum which are either (a) privately run, (b) mixed economy and (c) in partnership; and what assessment he had made of the most cost-effective option. [10090]

Ms Quin: This information is treated as commercial in confidence, being part of a competitive procurement between a number of suppliers.

No assessment has yet been made of the cost-effectiveness of any of the options.

Prison Service

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received on the status of HM Prison Service as a service provider under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act 1996. [10396]

Ms Quin: I have no record of having received such representations.

Metrication Directives

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the effects which implementation of EC directives 80/181 and 89/617 has had on the ability of the police to identify suspects. [10335]

Mr. Michael: The implementation of these directives represented the final stage of the process of replacing imperial units with metric units as the primary system of measurement. We have no evidence that the adoption of metric units has affected the ability of the police to identify suspects.


Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the average time between a stalking complaint being made to the police and a prosecution being brought. [10368]

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Mr. Michael: Information is not held centrally on the time taken by the police to investigate reported breaches of the criminal law. The length of time taken to conduct an investigation will vary depending on the circumstances of the case. There are non-statutory time guidelines agreed by all the criminal justice agencies that cover each stage of the process from granting of police bail to commencement of a Crown court trial. Where a person is granted police bail with a duty to return to the police station, the maximum time guideline is three weeks unless a protracted investigation or other compelling consideration is involved. The Government are determined to cut delays in the criminal justice system, starting with a speeding up of youth justice.

The new criminal offences created by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 came into force on 16 June 1997 and it is too soon to make any assessment of the time taken to deal with offences under the Act.

Exotic Pets

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what guidelines his Department issues to pet shops and traders on the sale of exotic pets; and if he will make a statement; [10787]

Mr. George Howarth: The Department has not issued guidelines to pet shops about the sale of exotic pets. The Pet Animals Act 1951, as amended in 1983, controls the sale of all animals as pets from pet shops. The Act requires any person keeping a pet shop to be licensed by the local authority.

Before granting a licence, the authority must satisfy itself that the animals are kept in accommodation that is suitable and clean, that they are supplied with appropriate food and drink and that they are protected from disease and fire. The local authority may inspect licensed premises at all reasonable times.

There are no plans to introduce licences for those keeping animals, including exotic animals. The welfare of exotic animals kept as pets is provided for under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which makes it an offence to ill treat or cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal.

Fatuma Njoki Ali Juma

Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what grounds the letter dated 20 July 1996 supplied by the assistant registrar Mohammedan of marriage and divorces, Nairobi is considered deficient as documentary evidence of the divorce in Kenya of Fatuma Njoki Ali Juma; and what further documentary evidence he requires. [10988]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The immigration and nationality directorate has no reason to doubt the genuineness of the divorce certificate in question, but inquiries have been complicated by the fact that when Fatuma Juma applied for entry clearance to join her current husband she told the entry clearance officer in Nairobi that she had not previously been married.

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Having considered all aspects of the case, the immigration and nationality directorate does not now propose to remove Fatuma Juma as an illegal entrant.


Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have been admitted to the country since 5 February 1996 on the basis of a written sponsorship undertaking. [10288]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I regret that the information requested is not available because it is not compiled.

European Convention on Human Rights

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the Government's proposals for incorporation of the European convention on human rights into British law will empower the judiciary to overturn parliamentary statutes. [10400]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: We are still considering the detail of the incorporation scheme, but we attach great importance to maintaining parliamentary sovereignty and note the difficulties with the idea that the courts should be able to set aside Acts of Parliament.

Security Service

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many British citizens M15 holds information. [10449]

Mr. Straw: It has been the practice of successive Governments not to disclose information about operational matters relating to the Security Service.

I do not propose to depart from that practice.

Illegal Drugs

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce measures to ensure blood samples are taken from those dying after (a) ecstasy and (b) other illegal substance use. [11013]

Mr. George Howarth: Coroners are responsible for investigating the sudden, violent and unnatural deaths reported to them and already have powers to request the testing of blood samples in order to establish the medical cause of death.

Wrongful Convictions

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will establish a system whereby released prisoners who have served long sentences prior to the Court of Appeal finding them to have been wrongfully convicted may receive counselling and other help in making necessary readjustments following their release. [7399]

Mr. Michael [holding answer 14 July 1997]: Following their release from prison in any circumstances, the responsibility for meeting the health care needs of individuals lies with the national health service. It is open to anyone wishing to receive counselling support following release to seek a referral through his or her general practitioner. Alternatively, in cases of wrongful conviction where it has been established that an individual

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qualifies for payment of compensation, he or she may apply for an interim payment to help alleviate any immediate financial difficulties or to pay for private counselling or other care. Prison Service discharge procedures include giving prisoners advice about the support services available to them and the probation service is expected to provide resettlement advice or help to released prisoners who ask for it.

Police Committees and Groups

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list each local authority police committee and community police consultative group in England and Wales. [10470]

Mr. Michael: Under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994, now consolidated in the Police Act 1996, the 41 local authority police committees outside London were replaced on 1 April 1995 by police authorities which are free-standing corporate bodies.

The 41 police authorities in England and Wales as listed in schedule 1 to the Police Act 1996 are:

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The 1994 Act did not alter the police authority arrangements for London. The police authorities for the metropolitan police area and the City of London police area are the Home Secretary and the Corporation of London respectively.

Details of community police consultative groups are not held centrally. Each police authority has a network of these groups to obtain the views of the local community about the policing of their area. The organisation of these networks varies in different areas but is often based on police force divisions or sub-divisions.

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