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Council of Ministers

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how long in advance he receives agendas for meetings of the EU Council of Ministers. [21962]

Angela Eagle: The Council Rules of Procedure state that provisional agendas for meetings of the European Union Council of Ministers, which are drawn up by the Presidency, must be sent to other members of the Council and the Commission at least 14 days before meetings take place. A statement attached to the rules of procedure provides that, for Councils dealing with Justice and Home Affairs issues, the President shall endeavour to ensure that the provisional agenda and any documents reach members of the Council at least 21 days before the beginning of the meeting. Provisional agendas are divided into two parts, part A, where items are adopted without discussion, and part B, items for substantive discussion.

For recent Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council meetings, part A of the agenda, crucial to the domestic parliamentary scrutiny process, has not recently been provided within the 14 days stipulated by the Council Rules of Procedure. For example, prior to the JHA Council on 6 and 7 December, my officials did not receive part A of the agenda until three days before the meeting took place. Delays such as this, which are outside our control, have made it impossible for the Department to provide more timely information to the Scrutiny Committees.

Despite this, there were no scrutiny overrides at the recent JHA Council on 6–7 December.

Blantyre House

Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many drug tests have been undertaken on inmates at Blantyre house in the last 12 months; and how many were undertaken in the preceding 12 months. [21845]

Beverley Hughes: The number of drug tests carried out at Blantyre house for the period requested, is set out in the table.

19 Dec 2001 : Column: 489W

1 November 1999 to 30 October 20001 November 2000 to 30 October 2001
Number of:
Mandatory tests149152
Voluntary tests9892,150

Of the total tests conducted in 1999–2000, five tests (0.44 per cent) and in 2000–01 eight tests (0.35 per cent) were positive. The random testing programme for the same period reported levels of 1.5 per cent. and 2.2 per cent. respectively.

Metropolitan Police

Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the impact of the Metropolitan Police Authority's oversight of the work of the Metropolitan Police Service since June 2000. [22298]

Mr. Denham: As with any other police authority, it is the statutory responsibility of the Metropolitan Police Authority to ensure that the Metropolitan Police Service provides efficient and effective policing within the metropolitan police district. All police authorities are subject to inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Audit Commission in respect of their responsibilities under the Best Value provisions of the Local Government Act 1999, and police authorities are ultimately accountable to me for the way in which they meet these duties.

Criminal Justice Units

Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the levels of staffing and IT provision in the Police Services' Criminal Justice Units on a regional basis. [22300]

Mr. Denham: There are no plans to develop criminal justice units on a regional basis. The staffing levels and other resources provided for criminal justice units by police forces are matters for the professional judgment of chief officers of police. The overall resourcing for criminal justice units is a matter for local agreement.


Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to answer the letters from the right hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East of 9 July and 19 November about Mr. Fuat Altunyurt. [21756]

Angela Eagle: I wrote to the hon. Member on 18 December 2001. I am sorry I did not send an earlier reply.

Police Vehicles

Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance is given to police forces for purchasing (a) cars and (b) vans. [21983]

Mr. Denham: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) on 20 July 2001, Official Report, column 648W.

19 Dec 2001 : Column: 490W

Photocard Passports

Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish the findings of the technical feasibility study into photocard passports. [21987]

Angela Eagle: The results of the United Kingdom's Passport Service's studies into the planned introduction of a passport card will be published in due course.

Blakenhurst Prison

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the running of HMP Blakenhurst since it was taken back into public sector control. [22260]

Beverley Hughes: The management of Blakenhurst prison was handed over to the Prison Service on 19 August 2001. None of the formal inspections or assessments of performance have been made of the prison's management since that date. However, the prison has operated smoothly.

Assessments of HMP Blakenhurst

All prisons, whether privately managed or directly managed, are subject to the following ongoing assessments:

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMCIP)

HMCIP inspected Blakenhurst under UKDS management three times: in May 1984, October 1998 and January 2001. Blakenhurst is not scheduled for inspection in 2001–02 and the new schedule for 2002–03 will not be finalised till May 2002. However, the Inspectorate also carry out unannounced inspections.

Standards and Security Audits

The Area Manager is currently negotiating with the Standards Audit Unit with a view to arranging an audit in late summer or early autumn 2002. The last such audit was in May 1999.

Board of Visitors (BoV)

BoVs report annually. The Blakenhurst BoV cycle is to report on the year ending in June.

Additional Service Level Agreement (SLA) Assessment

Monthly reports on compliance with the SLA are issued by the on-site Compliance Monitor; and

Regular SLA audits carried out at the prison by members of Contracts and Competition Group. The next audit at Blakenhurst is scheduled for August 2002.

Extradition Arrangements (Spain)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with the Spanish authorities concerning the extradition of UK nationals. [22282]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: There have been no recent discussions with the Spanish authorities concerning the extradition of United Kingdom nationals specifically. However, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary met the Spanish Minister of Justice on 23 November to sign a bilateral treaty on fast-track judicial surrender, which would apply to all nationals.

Prisons (Performance)

Brian White: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for identifying and improving poorly performing prisons. [24433]

19 Dec 2001 : Column: 491W

Beverley Hughes: On 12 January the then Minister of State, Home Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), announced the intention to develop a "performance testing" scheme, under which poorly performing prisons would be identified and required to develop a plan for improvement within a fixed period; if the plan was acceptable, the prison would operate under a Service Level Agreement with strict monitoring of delivery against its proposals; if unacceptable, the prison would face closure or contracting out to the private sector.

The Director General has selected two establishments, Her Majesty's Prison Leicester and Her Majesty's Young Offender Institution and Remand Centre Reading, for performance testing. They will be given six months to produce proposals for a much improved level of service.


Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on projects planned under section 7 of the Ghent Statement on Terrorism. [22885]

Peter Hain: I have been asked to reply.

The objective of developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law as part of the EU's common foreign and security policy is set out in Article 11 of the Treaty of Amsterdam. Both prior to and post-11 September, the EU has been active in projects restoring and maintaining the rule of law.

For example, the EU is conducting a police training mission to bolster the rule of law and management of state borders in Albania. Other examples include EU projects in Georgia (together with OSCE) and Bosnia. Following 11 September, other projects are currently under consideration.

The Gothenburg European Council in June 2001 identified four areas of work for civilian crisis management including rule of law, policing and civil administration. Under the Belgian presidency, the Police Capabilities Commitment Conference in November 2001 confirmed that the EU had met its target of up to 5,000 police officers deplorable for peacekeeping operations on international missions by 2003. The Laeken European Council in December 2001 also noted progress on the other areas of work and mandated the incoming Spanish presidency with taking them forward in order to meet the 2003 targets established at Gothenburg.

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