Previous Section Index Home Page

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): I am pleased to announce that the Assets Recovery Agency's annual report 2004–05 will be laid before Parliament today.

The report covers the agency's second full year of operation and provides an assessment of performance against its business plan 2004–05.

The agency continues to make an impact in disrupting criminals and seizing their assets. It exceeded its targets in a number of areas of performance. In its second year of operation it disrupted a total of 28 criminal enterprises in England and Wales and eight in Northern
6 Jun 2005 : Column 40WS
Ireland, exceeding the total target of 35. In doing so the agency restrained assets to the value of £17 million which exceeded the target of £15 million. It also obtained civil recovery orders and tax assessments in over 10 cases with a value of over £5.5 million. However the time taken to complete litigation in civil recovery cases affected the agency's ability to achieve final orders and realise receipts.

The agency adopted a total of 51 new cases for civil recovery and taxation investigation, exceeding the target of 35. Where it assisted law enforcement agencies in conducting confiscation investigations it adopted 26 new cases against a target of 15. It also adopted nine cases under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 for its own investigation against a target of five.

The agency has delivered an extensive training programme for financial investigators and successfully implemented a communications strategy to raise awareness of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

I am also pleased to announce the agency's business plan 2005–06, which is annexed to the annual report. The plan has been prepared by the director of the agency and has been approved by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The plan focuses on the agency's aims, priorities and targets for the year ahead and sets out how the director intends to exercise her functions in Northern Ireland.

The agency will continue to exercise its powers of investigation and recovery against organised criminals and others, in support of the Government's commitment to taking the profit out of crime and to ensuring that crime does not pay.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): I have approved the appointment of a new chair, and two members, to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's Independent Complaints Audit Committee.

The new committee will comprise of:

Dr. Ann Barker—chair

Dr. Barker has extensive experience of public and voluntary appointments as committee member and chair. She has varied knowledge of handling complaints, particularly from the Police Complaints Authority.

Mr. Paul Acres—member

Mr. Acres is a highly respected ex-chief constable who has spent most of his life in the police. He currently sits on two public bodies as member.

Mr. Balram Gidoomal CBE—member

Mr. Gidoomal has held numerous member roles on both public and voluntary committees. He has experience of handling complaints in private and public sector organisations.

Previous committee members were Ros Gardner, chair, and Paul Manning, member, whose appointments ended on 31 March 2005. Catherine Tuitt will continue to work with the new committee until her appointment expires in August 2005.
6 Jun 2005 : Column 41WS


Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): With the support of Her Majesty's Government, the United Nations Security Council on 18 April 2005 adopted resolution 1596, which extends the arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the entire territory of the DRC with conditioned exemptions for the new Congolese army, the UN organisation mission in the DRC and non-lethal military equipment for humanitarian or protective use.

Resolution 1596 (2005) also provides for an assets freeze and a travel ban, with conditioned exemptions, on persons or entities acting in violation of the arms embargo on the DRC, to be designated by a committee of the Security Council. The resolution also requests the UN Secretary-General to re-establish the group of experts, tasked with monitoring the implementation and enforcement of the measures, for a period expiring on 31 July 2005 with the addition of a fifth expert for financial issues.


Prison Service

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): The 2004 spending review settlement required the Northern Ireland Prison Service to commission an independent review of its strategy for reducing unit costs.

The review was led by Hamish Hamill, the retired head of the Scottish Justice Department who was assisted by Michael Cook, governor of HM prison, The Verne and Gary Law, unit manager HM prison Edinburgh. I am very grateful to them for their report which makes five principal recommendations:

Recommendation 1

the key target for NIPS should be to reduce its costs per prisoner place in real terms year-on-year by an agreed amount that is valid in the Northern Ireland context,

Recommendation 2

a wider review of the prisons estate is urgently required to inform long term investment decisions,

Recommendation 3

NIPS should urgently explore the option of contracting out the full range of escort services in preference to reactivating prisoner custody officer recruitment,

Recommendation 4

a better understanding between management and staff representatives should offer quick wins for both sides and must be a top priority for the new director general,

Recommendation 5

the development of an enhanced model to assist in the provision of regular forecasts of the prisoner population, taking account of the range of relevant criminal justice system variables, should be given greater priority than it has had until now.
6 Jun 2005 : Column 42WS

The Government accept the report's recommendations which, when taken together with the service's efficiency programme, represent a comprehensive programme of work.

To take the report's recommendations forward, I have asked Robin Masefield, the director general of the service, to prepare a strategic development plan aimed at drawing up the blueprint for the long term development of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

The terms of reference for the work to develop the prison service strategic development plan are as follows:

This study will draw up the blueprint for the long term development of the Northern Ireland Prison Service. It will create a firm platform for the Service's estate strategy and value for money investment decisions in relation to accommodation, facilities and services for prisoners.

The study will build on the earlier estate strategy review completed in 2002 which concluded that Northern Ireland required three separate establishments. It is not intended to challenge that particular assumption, but the study will take account of:

(a) potential changes in the prisoner population over the next 10–15 years and the foreseen operational needs of the service;

(b) the current condition of the NIPS estate and the NIPS estate strategy review completed in 2002 where still relevant;

(c) work in progress to clarify the role of individual establishments eg. the review of the regime for life sentence prisoners;

(d) the approach to the private sector in prison services in Great Britain and the potential for reductions in the cost to the taxpayer;

(e) the comparative risks to deliverability of public and private sector operations, in the Northern Ireland context;

(f)other relevant factors, including likely timescales, the merits of alternative locations for prisoners in Northern Ireland, and the employment effects in the northwest;

(g) affordability;

(h) the service's current efficiency programme.

The study is to take note of all other relevant evidence, including the recent report of the independent review led by Hamish Hamill and reports based on the concept of a healthy prison by the Inspectorates in relation to both Magilligan and Hydebank Wood.

The work will consist of a number of strands taken forward under the oversight of a central steering group. Trade union and staff association representatives will be consulted fully during the study.

The main output from the review ie. the service's strategic development plan, is to be completed before the end of 2005.

I have placed copies of the Hamill Report in the Libraries of both Houses.