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Police Act 1997

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when part V of the Police Act 1997 will be brought into force. [14174]

Mr. Michael: We are currently reviewing the provisions of part V of the Police Act 1997 in the light of our top priority in this area which is the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

Immigration

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the criteria which govern the granting of exceptional leave to remain. [14207]

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Mr. Mike O'Brien: The criteria governing the granting of exceptional leave to remain depend on the particular exercise of discretion outside the Immigration Rules from which a person seeks to benefit. In addition, the Home Secretary may permit any foreign national to remain in the United Kingdom.

Sex Offenders

Mr. David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new measures he proposes to take to protect the community from sex offenders who pose a risk to the public. [14703]

Mr. Straw: I have published today a consultation paper on community protection orders. Copies are available in the Library.

I propose that the chief officer of police will have the power to apply for an order in the civil courts if the behaviour of a person who has been convicted or cautioned for a sex offence, whether in this country or abroad, poses a risk of serious harm to the public.

The order will require the defendant to register under the provisions of the Sex Offenders Act 1997, if he is not already required to do so. The court may also impose other prohibitory conditions as are necessary to protect the public.

Fire Safety

Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has received the final report of the Community Fire Safety Task Force. [14547]

Mr. Straw: I have received the report of the Community Fire Safety Task Force and made arrangements for it to be published on 3 November. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

The task force was asked last November to propose a five year strategy to reduce the number of fires and fire casualties in dwellings. It has highly commended the enthusiasm with which fire safety and prevention work is already undertaken by some brigades. It wants to build on their success by putting community fire safety at the centre of both policy and action. It recommends a more integrated and business like approach to community fire safety, with the establishment of a national centre to co-ordinate activity and an increased role for Her Majesty's Fire Service inspectorate to support brigades in the delivery of imaginative, well targeted messages. It also recommends that community fire safety should be made a statutory duty of the fire service.

I am grateful to task force members, who came from both the public and private sectors, for delivering an imaginative report in less than a year. I share their high regard for the enthusiasm and expertise of the fire service. It is a high performing service with an excellent record to which I pay tribute.

We must, however, all be concerned by the rising trend in domestic fires, deaths and casualties and the task force therefore makes a strong case for an increased and co-ordinated emphasis on community fire safety. Community safety is not solely about reducing crime. It is about our wider responsibilities to make our

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communities safe and confident. This report is an important contribution to that overall aim and I note that it strongly endorses the multi-agency approach.

Before I take any decisions on the details of the strategy, I want to hear the views of chief officers, fire authorities and unions who have a crucial role to play in translating the strategy into action. We will therefore be consulting interested parties over the next few months before deciding how to respond to the report.

Tax Advice

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the expenditure by (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) non-departmental public bodies, on (i) tax consultants and (ii) other external tax advice in (1) 1995-96, (2) 1996-97 and (3) 1997-98; and if he will make a statement. [13261]

Mr. Straw: Expenditure by the Department, its agencies and non departmental bodies (NDPBs), on tax consultants and other tax advice for the three years in question is:

1995-961996-971997-98
£££
(a) Departmental
(i) Tax Consultants------
(ii) Other49,68830,55016,450
(b) Agencies
(i) Tax Consultants------
(ii) Other--25,000--
(c) NDPBs
(i) Tax Consultants11,26845,5434,000
(ii) Other42,47536,67238,070

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the policy of his Department on the purchase of tax avoidance advice; and if he will make a statement. [13262]

Mr. Straw: The Department's policy is not to use tax advisers for tax avoidance purposes. Such advisers may be used to assist the Department in meeting its statutory tax obligations.

Remand (Juveniles)

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for implementing court-ordered secure remand for juveniles. [14548]

Mr. Michael: At present, when juveniles--aged 10 to 16 years--are charged and not released on bail after a court appearance, they are remanded to local authority accommodation. The local authority may, if it can satisfy certain strict conditions, return to the court and seek a secure accommodation order to place the juvenile in local authority secure accommodation. Separate arrangements exist for 15 and 16-year-old boys who may be remanded direct to prison, again if strict conditions are met. The courts have no power to require any juvenile in this age group to be remanded directly to local authority secure accommodation.

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There are, however, existing provisions on the statute book but not yet brought into force which would allow this to happen. Section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 contains provision for the abolition of prison remands for 15 and 16-years-old boys, and gives courts a power to remand these boys. as well as 15 and 16-year-old girls, directly to local authority secure accommodation. Section 20 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 provides for the extension of court-ordered secure remands to 12 to 14-year-olds but only once the provision in section 60 of the 1991 Act has been implemented for 15 and 16-year-olds.

Before the Government can implement section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 and the provisions in the 1994 Act, there must be available a sufficient number of places to meet the expected demand. This is not the case at the moment. Whilst a building programme was put in place to provide 170 new secure places in local authority accommodation for this purpose, the number of juveniles remanded in custody has increased significantly since the building programme began and prison remands now typically stand within the 250 to 300 range. The demand from this group alone would significantly outstrip the capacity of the local authority secure estate even once the building programme has been completed.

The Government are keen to begin implementation of those provisions and have decided to do so in stages. The Government will, therefore, implement the provision in relation to 12 to 14-year-olds as soon as practicable.

The Government, therefore, propose: (a) that court-ordered secure remands for 12 to 14-year-olds and 15 and 16-year-old girls will be implemented as soon as practicable; and (b) that the courts should be able to remand the most vulnerable 15 and 16-year-old boys direct to local authority secure accommodation rather than to prison, subject to certain criteria and if a place has been identified in advance.

Under the existing legislation court-ordered secure remands for 12 to 14-year-olds cannot be implemented without first doing the same for 15 and 16-year-olds. The Government intend to use this Session's Crime and Disorder Bill to make the necessary legislative changes; Royal Assent is unlikely before summer 1998. The Government remain committed to implementing the provisions in full and will keep the position under review, but we believe that our current approach is the most practical and effective way forward.

As part of the Government's comprehensive spending review, we are also conducting a study of the whole range of secure accommodation for young people, including the local authority secure units. The Government wish to ensure that the assets and other resources employed in the accommodation and care of accused, convicted and other juveniles who need secure accommodation are used to best effect, including in meeting their educational needs and, where relevant, in tackling their offending behaviour. We will want to see how the proposed court-ordered remands and the associated accommodation fit into our plans for coming to grips with the present range of facilities which make up the juvenile secure estate. Our aim is to press on with this work as quickly as possible.

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On 15 October, Directors of Social Services in England and Wales and the representative bodies of the local government associations and the directors of social services were informed of the Government's decision to implement these existing provisions. It was also suggested that there should be a meeting to discuss these proposals and the study of the juvenile secure estate. It is hoped that this meeting will take place shortly.


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