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12 Jun 2003 : Column 1056W—continued

Family Visitor Appeals

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he plans to publish the final report of the inter-departmental review of family visitor appeals. [117346]

Beverley Hughes: The report was published on 11 June 2003. Copies have now been placed in the Library.

Heavy Goods Vehicle Thefts

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police authorities have a dedicated team to identify and bring to justice those involved in theft of and from heavy goods vehicles. [118565]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Such teams, where they exist, are within police forces not police authorities. Police authorities publish annual and three-year strategic policing plans which set out local priorities and resources. But how those resources are to be used to deliver the local priorities is primarily a matter for Chief Officers. Information on how many forces have dedicated teams to combat thefts of and from heavy goods vehicles is not collected centrally.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many items have been lost once deposited at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (a) in 2002 and (b) to date in 2003; and if he will make a statement. [117684]

Beverley Hughes: The information requested is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. Records are kept in respect of the numbers of searches that are conducted by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) Return of Passport Unit in respect of documents—mostly passports—whose immediate return are requested by their owners. In 2002 the Return of Passport Unit received 4,203 requests for the return of documents and issued 390 lost passport letters; as at 31 May this year, the Unit has received 1,774 requests for the return of documents and 308 lost passport letters have been issued. A range of measures including the setting up of secure handling areas and the early return of sponsors' passports are currently being put in place to significantly improve IND's ability to find and return documents at the time of request.

Memorials (Safety)

Mrs. Dean: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 24 February 2003, Official Report, column 580W, on Memorials (safety), when guidance will be issued to local authorities about the safety-testing of non-monolithic memorials without ground anchor fixing; and if he will list the organisations from which he has taken evidence. [118579]

Paul Goggins: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn) on 24 February 2003, Official Report, column 579W. We are aiming to issue appropriate guidance on memorial safety to local burial authorities by the end of the year. The issues are being considered by a working group consisting of the following organisations:


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Methadone

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research his Department has done into (a) Subutex and (b) other substitutes for methadone. [118483]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Methadone is the preferred clinical option in the treatment of opioid dependency and is supported by strong international evidence base.

There is a growing body of evidence for the efficacy of buprenorphine (Subutex) in the treatment of opioid dependence. The level of evidence does not suggest that buprenorphine should replace methadone as a substitution treatment, but rather that buprenorphine should now be considered an evidence-based addition to the range of pharmacological maintenance treatments. Much of the emerging evidence derives from other European countries and the evidence for efficacy of this treatment in Britain is very limited and based on very few studies.

Clinical guidelines on the management of drug misuse and dependence were issued by the Department of Health in 1999 and outline a range of substitute drugs that doctors may prescribe as appropriate.

Passports

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate his Department has made of the number of lost and stolen passports in circulation in the UK. [117128]

Beverley Hughes: The UK Passport Service (UKPS) records information on passports reported lost, stolen or unavailable. The information UKPS has recorded for the last five years has been shown in the following table:

Passports lost, stolen or unavailable

Number
199831,497
199962,364
2000114,624
2001148,230
2002166,358
A proportion of passports are reported lost or stolen at British Diplomatic posts abroad. This coupled with the fact that the UK Passport Service does not routinely receive notification of passports recovered by other authorities, makes it extremely difficult to make a reasonable estimate as to the number of such passports in circulation within the United Kingdom.

The UKPS is introducing a more comprehensive system for recording and disseminating information on lost, stolen and recovered passports. This system is due to go live in December of this year. It will enable the timely and accurate collection and dissemination of

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information on lost, stolen and recovered passports in the United Kingdom and by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) posts abroad.

Police (Southend)

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the police establishment is in Southend, West; and how many officers were in post on 1 June. [118514]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Southend,West is part of the Southend Basic Command Unit (BCU) of Essex police. Decisions about the deployment of officers between BCUs and other units of the force are matters for the Chief Constable (Mr. D. F. Stevens).

Information is not collected centrally about the number of officers deployed to Basic Command Units as at 1 June. However, I refer the hon. Member to the reply by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) of 2 December 2002, Official Report, column 589W, setting out police strength for each Basic Command Unit for each force in England and Wales as at 31 March 2002.

For Essex police as a whole, the latest figures show that at 30 September 2002 the force had 2,988 police officers, a record number, and at 31 March 2002 the force had 1,571 civilian staff.

Prisons

Mr. Best: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prison officers were incapacitated suffering from post traumatic stress related illness in each of the last five years. [116953]

Paul Goggins: Sickness absence is recorded in terms of the reason for absence although there is no specific category for post traumatic stress disorder. The following table provides the number of cases recorded among officer grade staff for stress related conditions in each year since April 1999. Reliable sickness absence information is not available prior to 1999.

New cases of absence due to stress related conditions among officers
1999–2000(3)1,894
2000–011,964
2001–021,990
2002–032,164

(3) Includes cases which began prior to 1 April 1999.

Note:

Figures relate to prison officer, senior officer and principal officer grades.


Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what assessment he has made of the impact on the prison population of the Criminal Justice Bill; and what consequential changes he plans to make to the level of provision in the prison estate; [115141]

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Paul Goggins: The provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill which reform the sentencing framework will make it possible to ensure that the most serious violent, sexual and persistent offenders spend longer in prison while allowing other offenders to be dealt with by means of tougher and more effective community sentences. In addition, custody plus and custody minus will provide an option for those offenders whose offences are serious enough to justify custody, but where the concentration of rehabilitative work occurs in the community. The projected net effect on the prison population of the implementation of the provisions to reform the sentencing framework, is an increase of about 1,000 in the prison population by 2009. The impact is estimated to be about 500 once all the changes have been implemented and sufficient time has passed for their full effects to be seen.

The firearms offences provisions in the Bill will provide for a mandatory minimum custodial sentence for unauthorised possession of a prohibited firearm. The estimated effect on the prison population of the implementation of these provisions, and the implementation of the provision providing for increase in penalties for certain driving-related offences causing death, is an increase of about 500 in the prison population.

The effect of life sentence provisions in the Bill will provide for the determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence. It is assumed that the effect of these provisions on the prison population will not be felt for a decade. In around 20 years time, the projected effect on the prison population is estimated to be an increase of about 1,000 in the prison population. In around 30 to 60 years time, once all the changes have been implemented and when sufficient time has passed for the full effect to be seen, the impact is estimated to be in the order of 1,200.

The restriction on bail for drug users provision will be piloted in selected court areas. The provision aims to reduce re-offending by encouraging drug-misusing offenders into effective drug treatment programmes where appropriate. Part of the pilot evaluation will focus on the likely impacts of the provision on prison population if it were to be extended more widely. A study is planned to assess the likely effect on the prison population of the provisions introducing a presumption against the grant of bail to defendants who have failed to surrender. The measure is intended to deter offenders from abusing bail.

The Government is providing additional capacity. Spending Review 2000 and the 2003 budget provided funds for 2,820 additional prison places to be built at existing prisons. Two new prisons will also be opened at Ashford and Peterborough. Together with building programmes in progress, these two additional programmes will increase the total useable capacity of the prison service estate from 74,030 to around 78,700 by 2006.

The prison service continues to investigate options for providing further increases in capacity over the coming years, as part of the Government's prison modernisation strategy. This is based on a combination

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of expanding capacity in existing prisons that we want to keep in the long term and a programme to build new large multi-function prisons.


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