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22 Mar 2005 : Column 659W—continued


Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what average weekly pay was available to prisoners serving a prison sentence was in England and Wales in 2003–04; and if he will make a statement. [218206]

Paul Goggins: This information is not held centrally and can only be obtained at disproportional cost. It is for Governors to set the rates of pay for their establishment, against national criteria and minimum rates of pay, in a way that reflects their regime priorities.

These rates are set out in Prison Service Order 4460. The minimum employed rate of pay is £4 per week.

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on recent incidents of prisoners absconding from HMP Prescoed; whether any of them were sex offenders; whether each has been recaptured; and whether any committed offences while out of prison. [221876]

Paul Goggins: Since 1 October 2004 three prisoners have absconded from Frescoed prison. One prisoner, who absconded on 6 October 2004, was a sex offender and was recaptured the next day without having committed any offences. Two prisoners absconded on 25 February 2005. Neither was a sex offender, and one has been recaptured. There is no indication that the recaptured prisoner committed any further offence.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his estimate is of expenditure per person on lunches for prisoners being held in prisons in England in each year from 1991–92 to 2005–06; what proportion of the food utilised was UK produce in each year; and if he will make a statement. [222147]

Paul Goggins [holding answer 17 March 2005]: The following table shows the best estimated figures for daily food costs per prisoner in public sector prisons, based on average national figures. Information relating to the daily food costs in private sector prisons is not collated.
Financial yearAverage public sector prisons daily food (cost per prisoner) (£)Estimated public sector prisons daily lunch (cost per prisoner) (pence)

(6)Not known.

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No discrete data are held for the period in question on the proportion of food provided in prisoners' lunches that is produced in the United Kingdom. The majority of food supplied (representing a fund of £38.1 million) is purchased from centrally-arranged contracts awarded to manufacturers and distributors. It is not possible to define the proportion of UK-produced food incorporated in prisoner's lunches, as products purchased include a combination of food, raw materials and packaging.

Key product areas included in the £38.1 million fund include frozen food and meat, fresh and UHT milk, bread, fresh salad, fruit and vegetables. Of these, 100 per cent. of eggs, bread, milk and potatoes and 80 per cent. of root crops are UK-produced.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the 2004–05 budget is for prison education; what the budgets are for each year until 2007–08; and if he will make a statement. [222671]

Paul Goggins [holding answer 17 March 2005]: The Department for Education and Skills has a specified and non-transferable budget for offenders' learning and skills of £136 million in 2004–05, which rises to £152.5 million for each of the years 2005–06, 2006–07 and 2007–08. This covers learning and skills in prison as well as for offenders in the community.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what levels of drug use in prisons have been in each of the last five years. [220920]

Paul Goggins: The best measure of overall drug misuse in prisons in England and Wales is provided by the random mandatory drug testing (RMDT) programme. The following table sets out aggregate figures for prisoners who have tested positive under the programme in each of the last five financial years.
Percentage of positive readings from randomly tested prisoners

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Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what changes in the role of the probation service he expects there to be by 2007. [221252]

Paul Goggins: The role of the National Probation Service is clearly reflected in the Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill currently before Parliament, which will, for the first time, provide a formal link between the role of the probation and prison services. The Bill clearly states that the aims of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) are:

The prisons and probation services are developing the core offender management function, which will improve the management of offenders moving between custody and community supervision, and are preparing themselves for future introduction of contestability. These changes to the current role of the National Probation Service will serve to break down the current organisational barriers identified in the Cater Report between prisons and probation and therefore contribute to reductions in re-offending, which has been at the centre of the work of the National Probation Service since its creation in 2001.

Sentencing Guidelines Council

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Sentencing Guidelines Council has begun considering the establishment of mechanisms for the independent assessment of prevalence. [222651]

Paul Goggins: The Sentencing Guidelines Council has no plans to set up any mechanism for the independent assessment of prevalence. This issue would form part of the sentencing argument in each particular case taking into account the guideline on seriousness.

That guideline states that generally the seriousness of an individual case should be judged on its own dimensions of harm and culpability rather than as part of a collective social harm. There may be exceptional local circumstances that arise which may lead a court to decide that prevalence should influence sentencing levels. But the guideline says that it is essential that sentencers both have supporting evidence from an external source (for example the local Criminal Justice Board) to justify claims that a particular crime is prevalent in their area and are satisfied that there is a compelling need to treat the offence more seriously than elsewhere. Sentencers must sentence within the guidelines once the prevalence has been addressed.

Prison Population

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it is the Department's policy to seek a reduction in the prison population. [213346]

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Paul Goggins: The Government have not set any target for the size of the prison population. The recently published population projections indicate that we expect the prison numbers to increase over the next five years and prison places will rise to 80,000.

Sexual Assault Referral Centres

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase the numbers of sexual assault referral centres in England and Wales. [215574]

Paul Goggins: £4 million of additional funding has been identified to support services for the victims of sexual offences in 2004–05 and 2005–06.

A portion of this money will be used to assist with the establishment of new Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) and the development of services in existing centres; this brings the total number of SARCs to 15. The areas benefiting from the funding available in this financial year was announced on Tuesday 22 February 2005.

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