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Immigration and Nationality Directorate

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he plans to visit the PEO of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate at Lunar House. [67953]

Mr. Straw: I visited Lunar House on 28 November 1997 and on 14 September 1998, and my visit on 28 November 1997 included a visit to the Public Inquiry Office. I plan to visit Lunar House and other Immigration and Nationality Directorate offices in Croydon, again when my diary permits.

"From Murmur to Murder"

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he had with the Commission for Racial Equality on the drafting of the "From Murmur to Murder" document. [68184]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: None. "From Murmur to Murder" was produced by the Midlands Probation Training Consortium on behalf of chief probation officers in the region.

South Yorkshire Police

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the costs to the South Yorkshire Police Authority of funding the defence of David Godfrey Duckenfield and Bernard Dean Murray in the cases of Adlington v Murray and Adlington v Duckenfield in the Leeds Magistrates Court. [68223]

Mr. Boateng: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made no assessment. It is a matter for the South Yorkshire Police Authority to consider how to fund the defence of Mr. Duckenfield and Mr. Dean Murray and for the Chief Constable to allocate resources to the policing of the force area.

I understand from the Clerk to the South Yorkshire Police Authority, that the Authority has set aside £500,000 for legal costs work in connection with Hillsborough. This sum has been taken from the authority's reserves. There has, therefore, been no immediate impact on the resources available for day to day policing.

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from (a) South Yorkshire Police Authority and (b) South Yorkshire Police about the adequacy of their grant settlement for 1999-2000. [68829]

Mr. Boateng: We have received one letter from the Clerk to the South Yorkshire Police Authority raising a number of issues about the proposed funding settlement for the South Yorkshire Police in 1999-2000.

City Status

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when it is next proposed to create city status in England; and if he will make a statement on the criteria for judging successful applicants. [68246]

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 429

Mr. Straw: Her Majesty has said that she intends to mark both the Millennium and the 50th Anniversary of Her Accession to the Throne, in 2002, by grants of city status to towns in the United Kingdom. City status is a rare mark of honour granted by Letters Patent; it is not a right which can be claimed by the fulfilment of certain conditions.

Graffiti

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what assessment he has made of changes in the incidence of graffiti over the past five years; [68458]

Mr. Boateng: Graffiti is a form of criminal damage, which is recorded in the Home Offices Statistical Bulletin "Notifiable Offences". According to the Bulletin covering England and Wales, April 1997 to March 1998, there were 861,800 offences of criminal damage recorded in 1997-98, a fall of 8.2 per cent. on the previous year. The Bulletin does not give a sub-total for graffiti. It is not possible, therefore, to comment on the changes of incidences of graffiti over the past five years. Nor is it possible to estimate with any degree of accuracy the amount of money spent on cleaning up graffiti on public property.

The Government do, however, take this form of offence seriously. Under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, where the value of the damage is more than £2,000, the maximum penalty is ten years' imprisonment for those over 18, and up to two years' detention in a Young Offenders Institution for those aged 15-17.

The Government have no present plans for a national or regional graffiti tackling squad. One of the most effective ways of tackling crimes such as vandalism and graffiti is through co-ordinated preventative action at local level involving all of the relevant agencies such as the police, local authorities, schools and other voluntary bodies leading to a plan of action.

The police and local authorities now have a statutory duty under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to develop crime reduction partnerships. Where graffiti is identified as a major crime and disorder problem, we would expect the strategy to address it. The Act does not, however, specify what categories of crime and disorder must be included in the audit and strategy. This is a decision to be taken locally.

Insider Dealing

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many successful prosecutions for insider dealing offences have been brought since 1986; [68140]

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 430

Mr. Boateng: Available data taken from the Home Office Court Proceedings Database are given in the table.

Number of defendants prosecuted at magistrates' courts and convicted at all courts for insider dealing(8) offences, England and Wales, 1986-1997

YearProsecutionsConvictions(9)
1986----
198711
1988----
1989112
199032
199182
1992--2
199322
199422
19952--
19961--
1997----

(8) The legislation covering offences of 'insider dealing' for the period 1986 to 1997 includes Companies Securities (Insider Dealing) Act 1985 which came into force on 1 July 1985 and was supplemented by provisions of ss173-178 of the Financial Services Act 1986; and Sec 52 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 which came into force on 1 March 1994.

(9) Includes persons proceeded against in earlier years.


Police Grant

Mr. Olner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for the allocation of police grant in 1999-2000. [68825]

Mr. Straw: I have today laid before the House the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 1999-2000 (HC 179). The Report sets out my determination for 1999-2000 of the aggregate amount of grants that I propose to pay under section 46(2) of the Police Act 1996, and the amount to be paid to each police authority including the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District.

Electoral Registration

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to amend the law on electoral registration. [68796]

Mr. George Howarth: My Working Party on Electoral Procedures has recommended to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that he should introduce legislation to provide a rolling electoral registration scheme. We are working up detailed proposals and examining other possible changes to the registration system.

Prison Service (Quinquennial Review)

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made in the Quinquennial Review of the Prison Service which he announced on 31 July 1998. [69049]

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 431

Mr. Straw: The first two stages of the Quinquennial Review of the Prison Service have now been concluded and I am today placing in the Library copies of the Evaluation of Performance and the Prior Options Report. A revised Framework Document is being finalised and will be published shortly.

The Evaluation of Performance concludes that since becoming an agency, and during a period of rising prison population, the Prison Service has achieved a remarkable turnaround in performance to which agency status has contributed for the following reasons:



    a focus on agreed outputs and targets for which the Director General is personally responsible to the Home Secretary; and


    a more cohesive organisation with a more visible Director General enables him to provide clearer leadership and to communicate with the organisation more effectively and to speak publicly for the Prison Service.

The Prior Options Report reviews agency and other organisational options for the Prison Service and concludes that continued agency status offers the most appropriate and cost effective means of achieving Home Office aims. It notes and endorses the major agenda of work already in progress or planned as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Prison Probation Review. It notes the need for further work in the next period of agency status on contractorisation issues taking into account experience with tighter "contracts" between Headquarters and individual prisons and the overall contribution of the private sector to prison services.

In the light of these findings, I am accepting the recommendation of the Prior Options Report that agency status should be reconfirmed.


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