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Tagging and Curfews

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the basis is for the statement on page 35 of the Government's Annual report 1999-2000, that tagging and curfews are more effective ways of punishing offenders; to what Government initiatives this statement refers; and if he will make a statement. [131379]

Mr. Boateng [holding answer 18 July 2000]: The introduction of curfew orders enforced by electronic monitoring as a sentence to all courts in England and Wales on 1 December 1999 built on four years of successful trials. Home Office research has shown that the successful completion rate of 82 per cent. during the first two years of the trials of the sentence compared

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favourably with other community sentences (the completion rate for probation orders was also 82 per cent., while that for community service was 71 per cent.).

The evaluation of the trials found that curfew orders were more strictly enforced than other community sentences, a fact that places greater value on rate of completion. The primary reason for this is the fact that the electronic monitoring contracts leave little discretion in the enforcement of breaches. The monitoring equipment ensures that violations of curfew are detected immediately, and offenders in breach of their order are very quickly returned to court by the contractors.

Curfew orders enforced by electronic monitoring provide the courts with a flexible sentencing option for use in respect of those offences for which the sentence is not fixed by law. Firstly, as a stand-alone sentence, it provides the punitive element of restricting an offender's liberty during the period of the curfew, while enabling those who have families to support to continue to do so. A curfew order can also be used in conjunction with another community sentence to help structure the times of attendance at, for example, probation or drug rehabilitation appointments. The trials of the sentence demonstrated that in this way, electronic monitoring could help to address the chaotic lifestyle of some offenders.

Given the operational effectiveness of curfew orders enforced by electronic monitoring, the sentence can also be shown to provide a cost-effective alternative to a custodial sentence.

The operation of the sentence in England and Wales is the subject of an evaluation by the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. The findings of the evaluation of the first two years of the trials of curfew orders enforced by electronic monitoring are published in Home Office Research Study 163 and 177.

Human Rights

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what assessment he had made of the compatibility of Government legislation enacted in the 1997-98 parliamentary session with the Human Rights Act 1998; and if he will make a statement; [131383]

Mr. Straw: The Human Rights Act 1998 gives further effect in United Kingdom law to rights and freedoms in the European Convention on Human Rights. Successive Governments have sought to comply with the provisions of the Convention since 1951. Therefore we should not expect major changes to have to be made once the Human Rights Act is fully in force. Following its enactment, Departments have reviewed their legislation and procedures in the light of the Human Rights Act. Where changes have been judged appropriate, these have been made or are in hand.

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he had made of the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 on (a) total Government and (b) individual department's spending in (i) 2000-01, (ii) 2001-02 and (iii) 2002-03. [131384]

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Mr. Straw: I refer the right hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) on 23 May 2000, Official Report, column 401W.

Fire Extinguishing Sprinklers

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what assessment he has made of the potential hazards to disabled people of having domestic fire extinguishing sprinklers installed in their homes; [129023]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 4 July 2000]: I have been asked to reply.

Local housing and social services authorities have responsibilities for funding housing adaptations for disabled people under the Housing Grants, Construction and Redevelopment Act 1996 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. These responsibilities include making housing safe for disabled people. Decisions about the funding of adaptations in individual cases are taken at local level following an assessment of need. We have no plans to change these arrangements in respect of domestic fire extinguishing sprinklers. No specific research by either the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions or the Home Office has been conducted into the potential hazards to disabled people of having domestic fire extinguishing sprinklers in their homes.


Presentation of Information

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes he intends to make to the presentation of information on the strength of the armed forces. [131788]

Mr. Spellar: In order to provide a more accurate and relevant picture of the overall full-time manpower available to the Armed Forces, we plan to include in the definition of the strength of the Services all full-time personnel including Full-Time Reserve Service personnel and, in the case of the Army, Gurkhas. In view of their discrete and specialised task in a particular location the Royal Irish (Home Service) will be reported separately. This change will take effect from September 2000.

The inclusion of Full-Time Reserve Service personnel is in line with our aim to make reserve forces more relevant and usable and is a natural consequence of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 which provides for the employment of reservists in place of full-time regular personnel.

Royal Ordnance Factory, Nottingham

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what discussions he plans to have with British Aerospace and the trade unions about the future of the Royal Ordnance factory in Nottingham; and if he will make a statement; [130508]

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Mr. Hoon [holding answer 17 July 2000]: My ministerial colleagues and I meet representatives of BAe Systems regularly to discuss a wide range of business. Most recently I met Mr. John Weston of BAe Systems on 25 May, when he briefed me on a number of matters arising from the recent acquisition of the defence business of GEC Marconi. Mr. Weston confirmed then that the future of the site at RO Nottingham was under review and I understand that work on the review continues. My noble Friend Baroness Symons, the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, met Trade Union representatives on 6 July to hear their views on the future prospects for RO Nottingham and expects to meet Trade Union representatives again shortly.

Departmental Initiatives

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list each departmental initiative since May 1997 requiring bids for funding together with the total resources available, the number of successful bids and the proportion this represents of total bids received; and what data he collects on the average expenditure of organisations bidding for funding through each initiative. [131078]

Dr. Moonie: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to her by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 17 July 2000, Official Report, column 93W.

Arms Sales

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if, pursuant to the reply given to the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen) of 10 July 2000, Official Report, columns 375-76W, on arms sales, memoranda of understanding of the type described apply to any arms sales in the Middle East; and if Memoranda of Understanding restrict the availability to third parties for training purposes of defence material exported from Government to Government. [130803]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 17 July 2000]: Not all sales of defence material to the Middle East are subject to Government to Government Memorandum of Understanding arrangements.

Where there are MOUs, restrictions on transfer would typically include transfers for training purposes.

Parliamentary Answers

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many parliamentary answers from his Department have been amended following publication using the mechanism of a pursuant answer in the past month. [131033]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 17 July 2000]: The Ministry of Defence has used the mechanism of a pursuant answer on three occasions from 13 June to 17 July 2000.

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