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Statutory Scrutiny

Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police authorities were in existence on 1 April 2000, and if they are (a) statutorily required to publish annual reports, (b) statutorily required to publish annual accounts, (c) subject to the jurisdiction of the parliamentary or local government Ombudsman, (d) subject to audit by the National Audit Office, (e) subject to audit by the Audit Commission, (f) statutorily required to admit the public to committee meetings, (g) statutorily required to hold public meetings, (h) statutorily required to publish the agendas of meetings, (i) statutorily required to publish the minutes of meetings, (j) statutorily required to publish the papers or documents for meetings, (k) statutorily required to keep and make publicly available a register of Members' interests, (l) statutorily required to consult and report to local authorities in their areas on their plans and policies and (m) statutorily subject to scrutiny by local authorities in their areas of operation. [142400]

Mr. Charles Clarke: There were 41 police authorities in existence in England and Wales, outside London, on 1 April. The Metropolitan Police Authority was established

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on 1 July 2000. The main legislative provisions relating to police authorities are incorporated in the Police Act 1996, the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 and various items of local government legislation. Police authorities are statutorily required to publish annual reports and annual accounts. They are subject to the jurisdiction of the Local Government Ombudsman, but not the Parliamentary Ombudsman. They are subject to audit by the Audit Commission, but not by the National Audit Office. Section 100 of the Local Government Act 1972 as amended by the Access to Information Act 1984 sets out the legislative position regarding public access to meetings and documents relating to those meetings. Police authorities are statutorily required to admit the public to committee meetings, but not to hold additional public meetings. They are also statutorily required to publish the agendas, minutes and papers or documents for meetings. The public can be excluded from meetings during consideration of exempt items (as outlined in Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972) and papers relating to such items may also be withheld from public access. Police authorities are statutorily required to keep and make publicly available a register of members' interests. There is no statutory requirement to consult and report to local authorities in their areas on their plans and policies and they are not statutorily subject to scrutiny by local authorities in their areas of operation.

Feltham Young Offender Institution

Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the staffing ratios for Feltham Young Offender Institution are (a) for juveniles only and (b) for 18 to 21 year olds. [142725]

Mr. Boateng: The information, as at 11 December 2000, is as follows:

Staff to prisoner ratio
Juveniles1: 0.99
18-21 year olds1: 1.10

Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will provide a breakdown of staff at Feltham Young Offender Institution in the following categories: (a) full time, (b) part time, (c) prison officers and (d) others. [142726]

Mr. Boateng: The information, as at 11 December 2000, is as follows:

Full TimePart TimeTotal
Prison officer grades3826388
Other grades22923252
Total 61129640

Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the sickness rate for 1999-2000 was among prison officers at Feltham Young Offender Institution. [142724]

Mr. Boateng: The sickness rate for 1999-2000 for prison officer grades at Feltham young offender institution was 14.76 working days.

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Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the rate of turnover of prison officers at Feltham was in each of the past three years. [142865]

Mr. Boateng: The information requested is provided in the table:

Percentage

Turnover rate
1997-9818.2
1998-9913.9
1999-200022.7
2000-01(8)11.7

(8) April 2000 - 11 December 2000


The figures represent the number of basic grade officers, senior officers and principal officers to have left Feltham young offender institution each year, as a proportion of staff in post. Transfers to other Prison Service establishments are included.

Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prison officers have (a) left and (b) joined the Prison Service since 1989. [142866]

Mr. Boateng: Due to a change of computer system during 1995-96, reliable data on staff movements into and out of the Service are not available prior to April 1997. Between 1 April 1997 and 12 December 2000, 3,098 prison officer grades (including senior and principal officers) left the Service. Between 1 April 1997 and 12 December 2000, 3,821 people joined the Service as prison officers.

Gurpal Virdi

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate direct and indirect costs to the Metropolitan police of the costs and investigation in relation to Gurpal Virdi. [142498]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I have been informed by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that the recorded costs incurred by their Directorate of Legal Services, together with the award of compensation on the first Employment Tribunal claim by Mr. Virdi, is estimated at £401,688 (£250,000 legal costs and £151,688 compensation award).

As well as these legal costs, there are the costs incurred in the investigation itself and the discipline hearing, which included witness attendance. To quantify these costs could be done only at disproportionate cost. It should be noted, however, that the majority of these costs are "opportunity costs" (that is work carried out in the normal course of an officer's duties) and not additionally incurred.

Criminal Cases Review Commission

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of applicants in Criminal Cases Review Commission cases which have been referred back to the Court of Appeal, have had legal representation during their application to the Commission. [142589]

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Mr. Charles Clarke: I understand that in 98 of the 108 cases that the Criminal Cases Review Commission has to date referred to an appellate court, the applicant has been legally represented by the time their case was referred, a proportion of 91 per cent.

Prison Service

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations the Director General of the Prison Service has received concerning the establishment of a union for prisoners; and what response he has given. [142795]

Mr. Boateng: The Prison Service has been approached about the formation of representative organisations for prisoners to address matters of common interest to them. It is unclear how these organisations would operate and the Prison Service is currently seeking clarification from the parties involved.

Rural Crime

Sir Peter Emery: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to combat the rise in rural crime, with special reference to the south-west. [142696]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The British Crime Survey shows that crime levels are significantly lower in rural areas than in urban areas, with levels of burglary, violent and vehicle crime declining. Nevertheless, tackling crime and the fear of crime in all areas, including rural areas, remains a high priority for this Government. Our approach in all areas is to assist the police and the local crime and disorder partnerships to address local crime effectively.

We announced in June that rural police forces were to benefit this year from an additional £15 million from the Police Modernisation Fund. The allocation to forces in the south-west is as follows: Avon and Somerset, £494,892; Devon and Cornwall £1,554,673; Dorset £221,858; Gloucestershire £387,093; and Wiltshire £544,900. The money rises to £30 million next year.

This money will make a real difference to policing in rural areas. In addition, we are providing funding for a range of initiatives and projects in rural areas as part of the Government's Crime Reduction Programme. In Devon and Cornwall, these include £81,000 to tackle persistent offending in east Devon and £950,000 to tackle alcohol related crime across the force area as part of the Targeted Policing Initiative; and £367,200 for four projects as part of the Reducing Burglary Initiative.


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