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Crime Prevention

11. Kerry McCarthy (Bristol, East) (Lab): What steps he is taking to reduce offending; and if he will make a statement. [50400]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary published a five-year strategy for protecting the public and reducing reoffending on 9 February. That will be delivered through strong partnerships. Its key aspects are a named offender manager for every offender, expansion of community sentences, full use of a range of rehabilitations and a genuine aspiration to going straight for every individual with a contract based on strong future prospects of employment, housing and social and family relations.

Kerry McCarthy: I recently visited HMP Ashfield near my constituency. I was concerned when I met some 17-year-old lads there to discover that they were due for release in a couple of weeks and that, as yet, the prison authorities have not arranged any accommodation for them to go to on their release. I was even more concerned to hear that there is an 82 per cent. reoffending rate at the institution. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a direct correlation between those two points and can she assure me that the Government's new plans will address that?

Fiona Mactaggart: My hon. Friend is right about the direct correlation, which is a point that the strategy that we published last week clearly emphasises. She is also
 
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right to highlight the current difficulties, but she will be reassured by the fact that, in the first half of this financial year, the number of prisoners with accommodation on release rose by 11 per cent., and we are taking action to ensure that that rise continues.

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Does the Minister agree that a problem has arisen because of the lack of research on offending and recidivism in relation to cautions? Reports in Birmingham indicating that somebody is allowed to shop lift once a year without fear of prosecution should create concern.

Fiona Mactaggart: Any reports suggesting than an offender can get away with it with impunity will create concern on both sides of the House.

Antisocial Behaviour Orders

12. Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): How many antisocial behaviour orders have been issued in Wales. [50401]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): The latest figures, as reported to the Home Office by the Courts Service, show that 270 ASBOs have been issued in Wales up to 30 June 2005.

Chris Bryant: It is good to know that some ASBOs have been issued in Wales. May I convey to my hon. Friend the frustration felt by many of my constituents when either an individual or a family is clearly ruining the peaceful nature of a village, yet, out of some kind of misguided liberalism, sometimes the police and often social workers and others, refuse to engage with the ASBO process?

Andy Burnham: ASBOs have been a great success and of the 270 ASBOs issued in Wales, 15 have been issued in Rhondda. I understand my hon. Friend's frustration, but the powers are being used in his constituency, and I am sure that his constituents appreciate that. He is right that those powers can have a great effect on the ground and the onus is on local authorities everywhere to see how they can make greater use of them. I am sure that there are grounds in Wales for the greater use of the powers that we have introduced.

Prisons

13. James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): What assessment he has made of the standard of segregation units in prisons. [50402]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): Segregation units in both private and public sector prisons are subject to external inspections by Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons and audits by the Prison Service standards audit unit on a three-year rolling programme. Prisons are also expected to carry out their own regular internal self-audit procedures. In addition, the independent monitoring board at each establishment undertakes weekly visits.
 
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James Duddridge: My constituent, Pauline Day, has raised a number of questions about the death of her son, Paul Day, in a segregation unit. Paul's suicide led to perhaps the longest inquiry into a death in custody, and with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall seek to secure an Adjournment debate on that issue. I have given the Minister notice that I should like her to name the individual who authorised, as opposed to organised, the transfer of Paul Day from Wandsworth prison to Frankland prison.

Fiona Mactaggart: The transfer of Paul Day was brokered by the prison and authorised by the directorate of high security prisons operations unit. Since that date, there have been substantial changes to the way in which such transfers are arranged. A Prison Service order issued in July 2005 that sets out the principles for maintaining order in prisons makes it clear that disruptive individuals must be individually case managed and that, where transfer to another establishment is appropriate, the reasons must be properly documented and accompany the prisoner. All transfers are to be on a permanent basis, and they must be approved at management level.

Gateway Protection Programme

14. Ms Diana R. Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, North) (Lab): What progress has been made on the gateway protection programme; and if he will make a statement. [50403]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): The gateway protection programme is a humanitarian programme that has been set up in partnership with the United Nations to re-house some of the world's most vulnerable refugees in the United Kingdom. So far, we have resettled 285 refugees to the UK and our target is to settle 500 refugees a year under the programme. I want to put on record my thanks to Hull for becoming the sixth local authority to take part in the programme.

Ms Johnson: I welcome the gateway protection programme. Will the Minister say something about how it will fit in with local community cohesion strategies in areas such as Hull?

Andy Burnham: It can play an important part in local community cohesion. The early evidence from areas in
 
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which authorities have participated in the programme shows that it has been successful in challenging some of the attacks on the notion of political asylum that we have heard in recent years. In Bolton and Sheffield in particular, the towns have rallied around the individuals who have come to them. The programme has been a positive experience for the receiving community and, of course, for the vulnerable individuals who have benefited from the protection that those towns have offered. I expect that the same will be true when refugees come to Hull under the programme.

Police Restructuring

16. Mr. Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con): To whom basic command unit commanders will be accountable under the plans for police force restructuring. [50405]

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Hazel Blears): BCU commanders will continue to be directly accountable to their chief constables within the new force structures. They will also, as now, be publicly answerable to the communities that they serve. The roll-out of neighbourhood policing teams by 2008 and the steps that we are taking to improve the effectiveness of crime and disorder reduction partnerships will significantly enhance the responsiveness of the police and their partners in addressing local priorities for tackling crime and antisocial behaviour.

Mr. Dunne: In deciding to coerce West Mercia police into a regional force for the west midlands, against the wishes of local public bodies, members of the public and police professionals, what consideration has the Minister given to the practical implications for local policing of the chief constable having to manage 30 BCU commanders instead of six?

Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will know that the purpose of moving towards larger, more strategic forces is to improve the quality of policing. The Government made a manifesto commitment to provide a neighbourhood policing team in every community in England and Wales. That means that local people will be able to set priorities and have a real influence on the standards of local policing in their communities. West Mercia, like a range of other forces, will continue to have extremely high-quality neighbourhood policing in which local police officers reflect the priorities of local people.
 
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