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Young Offender Institutions

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what actions have been undertaken to promote education on (a) human rights and (b) the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in young offender institutions. [72154]

Mr. Hilary Benn: All staff in the Prison Service are provided with information about the Human Rights Act 1998. Senior managers and key policy staff have undertaken training on the implications of the Act for their work and a range of information has been produced and distributed for both staff and prisoners. No formal training has been provided on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child but staff are kept informed regarding changes in policy or procedures which are implemented in order to meet our obligations under the Convention.

New Police Standards Unit

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much it will cost to set up and run the New Police Standards Unit; and if he will make a statement. [72512]

Mr. John Denham: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. member for Lewes (Norman Baker) on 17 June 2002, Official Report, column 108W.

Court/Prison Closures

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for the closure of (a) courts and (b) prisons. [73222]

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Mr. Hilary Benn: Decisions on the closure of magistrates' courts in England and Wales are for the individual magistrates' courts committees (MCCs) to determine in consultation with their paying authorities. An authority that is aggrieved by determination of an MCC has the right to appeal to the Lord Chancellor.

Decisions on the closure of county courts in England and Wales are for the Lord Chancellor. The Court Service is reviewing the existing network of courts under the Courts and Tribunals Modernisation Programme. Detailed plans are still being developed and will be subject to public consultation.

The Strategy for the court estate published in the report "Modernising the Civil and Family Courts", shows that only one county court at Shorditch, is currently earmarked for closure.

In respect of Crown Courts, public consultation on the proposed closure of the Knutsford Crown Court has ended and the Group Manager responsible for the court is currently considering the responses to the consultation process.

The Government has no plans to close prisons at present. However the closure of outdated prisons, as and when population pressures allow, does form part of the Government's long term strategy for modernising the prison estate.

Police Cells

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) adult male prisoners,

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(b) women prisoners and (c) juveniles were held in police cells in each of the last six weeks; and for how long in each case. [73217]

Mr. Hilary Benn: Her Majesty's Prison Service does not collect data on the individual status of prisoners held in police cells or how long they are held in police custody. The table shows the total number of prisoners, including adult males, females and juveniles held in police cells over the last six weeks.

Week Commencing in 2002Total Prisoners held in police accommodation
10 June325
17 June509
24 June542
1 July813
8 July1,034
15 July749

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners are being held in police cells; in what areas of the country they are held; and at what cost to the Prison Service. [72313]

Mr. Hilary Benn: There were 191 prisoners held in police accommodation on the night of 23 July 2002. With the exception of Wales, prisoners were held in all areas of the country.

Police forces that have been asked to accommodate prisoners, where Prison Service accommodation is exceptionally unavailable, will be able to claim the costs of that accommodation from the Prison Service. As yet, no police force has submitted invoices for this service, but any claims submitted should be in line with the costing guidance issued in 1997 which ensures that police forces charge on a consistent and auditable basis.

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what regulations and standards govern the treatment of prisoners held in police cells. [73219]

Mr. Hilary Benn: The operational management of prisoners held in police accommodation is a matter for the Chief Constable of the forces concerned. While the police will do everything possible to care for the prisoners and to meet their basic needs it will not be possible to offer a prison regime. Every effort is made, however, to minimise the length of time that individual prisoners are held in police cells.

Youth Offenders (Drugs)

Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will indicate, for each prison, youth offenders institution and other institutions for offenders, people on remand and ex-offenders (a) the way in which drug prescriptions are recorded and (b) the progress being made towards this work being dealt with using information technology. [72333]

Mr. Hilary Benn: Most Prison Service establishments manually record drug prescriptions as part of the Inmate Medical Record (IMR). Where prisons have in-house pharmacy services, drugs dispensed will usually be recorded both on a pharmacy computer system and manually on the IMR.

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A pilot exercise is currently being undertaken in seven prisons to asses the operation of new clinical information systems to support prison health services. The pilots are focusing specifically on primary care provision, including electronic prescribing, and will be evaluated to inform decisions on the wider rollout of clinical information systems in prisons. We are also considering how best to update our information technology support for prison pharmacies.


Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many successful applications have been made since 1999 under the concession for over-age applications for entry clearance, following DNA testing; and if he will make a statement on the future of this concession. [72777]

Beverley Hughes: On 1 January 1991 a concession was introduced concerning over-age applicants for entry clearance, following DNA testing. It enabled those dependent children who had previously been refused entry to join their parents in the United Kingdom owing to doubts about their being related as claimed, to re-apply if a DNA test now confirmed the relationship. Amongst other requirements, they had also still to be dependent upon their parents and unmarried. By July 1991, some 550 cases relating to the concession had been considered of which 115 were conceded. However, in recent years use of the concession has been nil. Each year between five and 10 people who have already re-applied once and been refused, have applied again, but no applications have been granted under the concession.

Last year, some members made representations to my predecessor, urging that the concession be widened so as to allow people who had been refused as minors to re-apply. The Government had considerable sympathy with their views and with the people yet more who were wrongly refused before the introduction of DNA tests made such decisions much more reliable. However, this situation arose owing to technological advances and we have already attempted, by way of the present concession, to correct any previous injustices resulting from decisions which were taken in good faith on the available evidence at the time. It is now no longer possible to identify those people who may have been wrongly refused due to doubts about their relationship to a United Kingdom sponsor, as many records of earlier decisions have been destroyed.

Given that it is not possible to widen the concession, and given that the concession is not being used and has not been used for some time, we have decided that the concession should end. After 24 August 2002 no new applications under the concession will be considered. There remains within the immigration Rules provision for dependent relatives who find themselves in distressed circumstances to apply to join a sponsor in the United Kingdom. Any future applications will instead be considered under the existing immigration Rules governing dependent relatives.

Correctional Services Review

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the form will be of the independent review of the correctional services described in the White Paper, "Justice For All". [73633]

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Mr. Hilary Benn: I shall shortly be announcing membership of the new Correctional Services Board which will include a number of independent non-executive members. These members will have a specific remit to oversee work on reviewing effectiveness and value for money in the delivery of correctional services so as to reduce re-offending, and on how we improve our ability to manage the prison population.

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