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Policing (Human Rights)

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the recommendations of the Justice report "Under Surveillance: Covert Policing and Human Rights Standards". [77292]

Mr. Boateng: I have invited members of Justice to meet me so that they can put directly to me their views on the present legal structures relating to police surveillance and how they believe it is affected by the European Convention on Human Rights. Their views will form part of the consideration which is currently being given to whether further changes are needed to the existing framework of controls.

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Police (Cleveland)

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate by how much the Lancet Inquiry will increase the precept for policing payable by residents of Cleveland in the next year; on what calculation this is based; and if he will make a statement. [77270]

Mr. Boateng: I understand from the Chief Constable that the Cleveland Police Authority has set a budget for 1999-2000 of £83.3 million which is an increase of 3.6 per cent. over 1998-99. This will mean an increase in the police precept on the council tax of 29.2 per cent. or £14 per year in 1999-2000 for Band D properties.

I understand that the increase in the precept for 1999-2000 is not as a result of Operation Lancer but is required to maintain an acceptable number of police officers and to meet other unavoidable expenditure for police pay increases and pensions.

It is a matter for the Chief Constable to determine how to use the resources available. The Cleveland Constabulary achieved significant savings in 1998-99 of £2.7 million. This has made it possible for the force to absorb the costs of Operation Lancet within existing resources.

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Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate the cost of the Lancet Inquiry into alleged corruption in the Cleveland police force; and if he will make a statement. [77269]

Mr. Boateng: I understand from Cleveland Constabulary that the estimated cost of Operation Lancet up to 31 March 1999 is £1.24 million.

The major part of the inquiry is being undertaken by officers from the Cleveland force, for whom provision has already been made in the budget. The costs arising from the involvement of the Northamptonshire Officers and Mr. Timpson, the Chief Constable of Warwickshire Constabulary who is in charge of the investigation, have also been found from within the Cleveland budget.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects that Inspector Ray Mallon of the Cleveland Police will cease being suspended; and if he will make a statement. [77266]

Mr. Boateng: Matters involving the suspension of police officers are governed by The Police (Discipline) Regulations 1985. An officer may be suspended from the force by his chief officer where it appears that he may have committed a disciplinary offence. Unless the chief officer decides otherwise, the suspension will continue until either it is decided not to bring disciplinary charges or the case has been resolved.

This is entirely a matter for the Chief Officer concerned--in this instance the Chief Constable of Cleveland Constabulary. It would be wrong of me to comment on this matter whilst the investigation is underway.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on progress of the Lancet Inquiry into alleged police corruption in Cleveland; when he expects completion of its work; and if he will make a statement. [77268]

Mr. Boateng: This is a wide-ranging inquiry and is one of the largest supervised by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA). There has been close consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) throughout. A major file on drugs-related issues was delivered to the CPS on 4 December 1998 and is now with Treasury Counsel. I understand that a number of possible criminal and disciplinary matters are still being addressed and eight officers remained suspended from duty.

The length of the investigation is a matter for the investigation officer and the PCA.

Firearms (Compensation)

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many claims for compensation are still outstanding under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997; what percentage of the total number of claims this represents. [77320]

Mr. Boateng: Payment offers have been made on all but around 420 claims which cannot yet be fully processed, mainly because the required evidence of value of the surrendered guns and ancillary equipment has not yet been provided. This represents less than 1 per cent. of the claims received. There are around 6,000 outstanding

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offers of payment awaiting a response from the claimant before a final payment can be made. The bulk of these should be cleared within the next few days.

Association of Chief Police Officers

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he plans next to meet the officers of the Association of Chief Police Officers. [77347]

Mr. Boateng: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary regularly meets officers of the Association of Chief Police Officers on both a formal and informal basis.

Police Recruitment (Ethnic Minorities)

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to increase ethnic minority recruitment in the police service. [77348]

Mr. Boateng: Individual targets will be set for each force for the recruitment, retention and progression of ethnic minority officers. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is chairing a National Conference on the Recruitment, Retention and Progression of Black and Asian Officers in April for chief constables and police authority chairs. The Conference will be addressing issues such as: force recruitment; promotion schemes and personnel practice.

Diarmuid O'Neill

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the investigation of the death of Diarmuid O'Neill in Hammersmith. [77794]

Kate Hoey: The Commissioner of the Metropolitan police tells me that the report of the police investigation into the death of Diarmuid O'Neill, which was supervised by the Police Complaints Authority, was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on 20 November 1998. As at 17 March 1999, no decisions had been taken by the CPS about whether criminal charges should be brought.

Police Officers (Hammersmith and Fulham)

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers were stationed at (a) Hammersmith and (b) Fulham police stations (i) on 1 May 1997 and (ii) at the latest available date. [77793]

Kate Hoey: The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police tells me that the information is not available for the first date specified, but that it is available for 1 July 1997, and as at 18 March 1999, as follows:

Number of officers as atHammersmithFulham
1 July 1997333.52226.13
18 March 1999301.22215.16

Thai House and Siam Sauna

Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire into the release of the name

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of a person who declined to assist with inquiries into suspected breaches of employment and immigration law at the Thai House and Sian Sauna in November. [77659]

Mr. Boateng: The Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Constabulary has taken steps to establish whether there is any basis for an inquiry into whether the release of the name of a person who declined to assist with inquiries. I am assured that should any member of his staff be shown to have been involved in leaking information to the media about the raid on a Northampton Thai massage parlour they will be severely dealt with.

At the moment there is no evidence to suggest that this leak did come from within his force but, should this position change, the Chief Constable will immediately instigate an inquiry and do everything possible to find out who is responsible.

Arson Prevention Bureau

Mr. Fitzpatrick: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what support has been offered by his Department for the Arson Prevention Bureau for (a) the next financial year and (b) the last three financial years. [77609]

Mr. George Howarth: The Home Office has a strong working relationship with the Arson Prevention Bureau. Graham Meldrum, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Fire Services and I gave keynote addresses at two if its important events last year and officials are in regular contact with the Bureau to discuss its programme of activities. In addition, a Home Office official has been loaned to the Bureau since December 1996. The first year of that posting (December 1996-November 1997) was funded in full by the Home Office.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced earlier this month his intention to publish shortly the outcome of a Home Office study which has reviewed current arrangements for combating arson. We expect to continue to work closely with the Arson Prevention Bureau to take that initiative forward.


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