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Prisons (Drug Testing)

22. Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he last reviewed the mandatory spot tests for drugs carried out in prisons. [24634]

Mr. George Howarth: The mandatory drug testing programme is being reviewed as part of a broader review of the Prison Service Drug Strategy that we have commissioned. The scope for changing the overall level of testing, for altering the balance between random and targeted testing and the implications for mandatory testing of increased levels of voluntary testing are being explored.

EU Presidency

23. Mr. Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the priorities of his Department for the United Kingdom presidency of European Union in respect of co-operative measures. [24635]

Ms Quin: The United Kingdom Presidency in the Justice and Home Affairs field will be concentrating particularly on practical co-operation to tackle organised crime including drugs, terrorism and illegal immigration. Key objectives will be to get Europol up and running, and to take forward other uncompleted tasks in the Action Plan on organised crime agreed at the Amsterdam European Council. Priorities here will include work on the draft European Union Convention on mutual legal assistance and on measures to tackle fraud and corruption. As President I shall carry forward preparatory work on incorporation of the Schengen agreements into the European Union framework, and promote justice and Home Affairs issues in the context of enlargement of the European Union. We shall also take action to follow up the European Year Against Racism 1997.

Restorative Justice

24. Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how he will ensure that lessons learnt by the pioneers of restorative justice are built into such programmes in new police areas. [24636]

Mr. Michael: The Government is monitoring the development of restorative justice in this country and abroad. We welcome the work to develop these ideas such as that of Thames Valley Police and the Northamptonshire Diversion Scheme. Best practice from existing schemes will be taken into account of in guidance to support the implementation of the new Final Warning Scheme. Our proposals for reform of the youth court, set out in the White Paper "No More Excuses", are consistent with the principles of restorative justice and include the introduction of a specific Reparation Order.

Police Corruption

25. Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to ensure the thorough investigation of alleged cases of police corruption. [24637]

Mr. Michael: We are determined to provide the powers necessary to deal with corrupt officers and we are considering the current arrangements in the light of the Home Affairs Select Committee's recent report on Police Disciplinary and Complaints Procedures.

2 Feb 1998 : Column: 514

Fire Service

27. Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received on the fire service in Essex. [24639]

Mr. George Howarth: My right hon. Friend has received one such representation, which was from the hon. Member.

Voluntary Sector

28. Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he will bring forward to improve the relationship between the Government and the voluntary sector. [24640]

Mr. Michael: The Government place a high priority on developing and strengthening partnership between Government and the voluntary sector. The main vehicle for this will be a Compact between Government and the voluntary sector on which we are currently collaborating with the sector, and which will set out the principles which should govern the relationship.

Drug Use

29. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will commission research into the connection between the use of (a) cannabis and (b) other drugs. [24641]

Mr. George Howarth: The Home Office's research programme on drugs is kept under regular review. We have no current plans to commission new research into the connection between the use of cannabis and other drugs.

Bribery

30. Mr. Cawsey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to make bribery of hon. Members an offence. [24642]

Mr. Michael: As my right hon. Friend re-iterated when he appeared before the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege on 20 January, the Government are committed to tackling all forms of corruption, including the bribery of hon. Members. My right hon. Friend expects to make a statement on the reform of the law in this area soon, taking account of the results of the consultation exercise which he launched in June and of proposals which the Law Commission are preparing and which are awaited. He will also take account of the views of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege.

Immigration Advisers

31. Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to regulate immigration advisers. [24643]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: A consultation paper setting out the options for the Control of Unscrupulous Immigration Advisers was published on 22 January in line with our manifesto commitment. Copies of the consultation paper have been sent to interested parties. Further copies are available on request. Comments are invited by 23 March.

2 Feb 1998 : Column: 515

Young Offenders

32. Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on physical violence and abuse by pre-teenage juveniles. [24645]

Mr. Michael: In 1996 the number of children between 10 and 13 years old who were cautioned or found guilty of offences of violence against the person and sexual offences were 1,004 and 104 respectively. In 1996, 71 children between 10 and 13 were convicted of crimes of violence against the person and six children were found guilty of sexual offences. Children under ten are below the age of criminal responsibility so actions which would be an offence in the case of an adult do not appear in the criminal statistics.

Policing

33. Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his policing objectives. [24646]

Mr. Michael: As I said in my reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Ms Ward) on 3 November 1997, Official Report, column 29, I have arranged for copies of the Key Objectives and Key Performance Indicators for the police service in 1998-99 to be placed in the Library.

The two new objectives which I have set for the police in 1998-99 on dealing speedily and effectively with young offenders and targetting and reducing local problems of crime and disorder reflect the particular importance which the Government attach to tackling these problems. For the first time there will also be a separate key objective on drug-related crime in the light of widespread concern that a high proportion of all crime is attributable to drug misuse. We recognise that it not the responsibility of the police alone to deal with these problems. So all three of these objectives focus on what the police can do in partnership with other local agencies.

We have kept the existing objectives requiring the police to maintain and, if possible, increase the number of detections for violent crime: to increase the number of detections for burglaries of people's homes: and to respond promptly to emergency calls from the public. We have done this to provide some continuity in the objectives and, more importantly, to reflect the fact that these continue to be issues of serious public concern.

Holloway Prison

34. Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to visit Holloway prison to discuss women offenders. [24647]

Ms Quin: My right hon. Friend has no current plans to visit Holloway. As part of my delegated responsibilities, I visited Holloway on 16 May 1997. I propose to visit Holloway again on 7 May when I will attend a meeting of the Board of Visitors' representatives to discuss issues relating to women and young offenders.

Vulnerable Witnesses

35. Mr. McWalter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to ensure that vulnerable witnesses are afforded greater protection in court. [24648]

2 Feb 1998 : Column: 516

Mr. Michael: We wish to offer greater protection in court for vulnerable witnesses, means of doing so are currently being considered by the inter-departmental review of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses, which were announced by my right hon. Friend on 13 June 1997. The review, which is nearing completion, is wide-ranging and is covering procedures relating to the investigation stage through to the trial itself, including ways to assist vulnerable and intimidated witnesses to give their best evidence safely to the court.


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