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Sudanese Asylum Seekers

13. Lynda Waltho (Stourbridge) (Lab): What steps he has taken to support those who have fled from atrocities in Darfur to the UK. [59235]

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): All applications for asylum, including those from Sudanese nationals from Darfur, are considered case by case. We will grant
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asylum or other forms of protection to those who are found to need it. As with all nationalities, Sudanese Darfuris applying for asylum in the UK are supported by the National Asylum Support Service for the duration of their asylum claim, where they meet the requirements for such support.

Lynda Waltho: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, although I wonder whether the support may be too limited. Has he considered working with the Department of Health to provide or create a specialist health centre that could assist with assessing the physical and mental needs of survivors from Darfur and any future survivors of war crimes and crimes against humanity?

Mr. McNulty: I take my hon. Friend's point extremely seriously, but we feel that, as and where such support is necessary, it is provided around the country via the national health service, rather than there being one central location.

Early Release (Risk Assessment)

14. Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): If he will make a statement on the risk assessment of offenders who are being considered for early release from custody. [59237]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): For prisoners who are eligible for release on parole or life licence, the Parole Board is required to conduct a thorough assessment of risk, considering reports prepared by the probation service and the Prison Service and other experts such as psychologists and psychiatrists. Its overriding duty is to protect the public.

Prisoners who have been convicted of the most serious sexual or violent offences are deemed unsuitable for early release on the home detention curfew scheme. Those who are eligible are subject to a careful risk assessment, undertaken by the prison governor.

Mr. Mackay: I am sure that the Minister will agree that there have been too many horrendous cases recently involving people who have been released early from prison, which has caused the public to lose confidence. What are the Government going to do about that?

Fiona Mactaggart: The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that those cases have caused real concern—rightly so. That highlights the importance of our delivering effectively on our duty to protect the public. We are using three key tools to improve the situation. First, there are the new sentences under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which includes extended public protection sentences and indefinite sentences for public protection. Some 728 of the first type of sentence have already been passed since April 2005, and 679 of the other type. Secondly, there are improvements in our risk assessment system—the offender assessment system, or OASys, tool—and, thirdly, there is better management of risk by probation officers in the community.
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Security Guard Companies

16. Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the Security Industry Authority approved contractors scheme for security guard companies. [59239]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): I announced the details of the Security Industry Authority approved contractor scheme on 16 February. The ACS should become a symbol of quality that will indicate to prospective clients and their insurers that an ACS firm conforms to industry standards.

Mr. Illsley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his response. In authorising that approved contractor scheme, he also gave authorisation for other existing schemes to be able to passport through authorisation for companies to operate in this field, but it appears that the Security Industry Authority has precluded any other approval company from operating in the sector because of its insistence that every other scheme complies with every aspect of its own scheme. Will he consider that matter again with a view to allowing the other schemes entry into the area, as he first envisaged?

Paul Goggins: My hon. Friend is something of an authority in this subject and I would be happy to consider his point more carefully, but he is aware that, after considerable consultation, we put in place the approved contractor scheme, which can be reached in two different ways: either by using the Security Industry Authority handbook or through other existing standards. The important thing is to make sure that we have a high level of quality in the security industry as a whole. As a result, those who are on the ACS are able to deploy a small number of their staff, pending the issuing of their licence. However, I am happy to consider his suggestions and have some further discussion with him.

Custodial Suicides

17. Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): What assessment he has made of the trend in the number of suicides of those held in custody over the last five years. [59240]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): Suicide rates in prisons are falling at present and the reduction in the number of self-inflicted deaths is demonstrated by a reduction in the three-year rolling average. The number of self-inflicted deaths this year is lower now than in 2000–01 and we expect the total number of deaths this year to have fallen for the third consecutive year.

Mr. Lancaster: Why do local male prisons house just 35 per cent. of the prison population, yet account for 60 per cent. of suicides?

Fiona Mactaggart: That is partly because of the throughput. We know that the greatest moment of risk for the self-inflicted death of a prisoner is in the early days—the first few days—in prison. That is one of the reasons why we have put so many resources into improving a prisoner's initial reception into a prison.
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Local prisons of the kind to which the hon. Gentleman refers have the most receptions and are thus the prisons in which the highest number of people spend their first few days after admission. Those are the places where we really need—we have been putting a lot of effort into this—to step up our protection methods so that we reduce the distress that people feel following their receipt into prison and thus reduce the risk of them killing themselves.

Licensing Laws

18. Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the impact of the new licensing laws on drink-related crime and disorder. [59241]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): The Home Office is currently evaluating the impact of the new Licensing Act on levels of alcohol-related crime and disorder in England. The final results will be available by the end of 2007.

Hugh Bayley: I congratulate the Government on introducing changes to the licensing regime, which have resulted in a significant decrease in drink-related crime and disorder in my constituency of City of York. Only a small number of people go out for a drink and then cause trouble, but will my hon. Friend consider widening the range of offences that can lead to a penalty of being banned from licensed premises?

Paul Goggins: I am happy to consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. The police and other agencies in his area should be warmly congratulated on the successful work that they did during the alcohol misuse enforcement campaign. I am sure that he will be delighted that during the six weeks of the campaign, alcohol-related violent disorder reduced by 20 per cent. in his constituency.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): What assessment has the Minister made of the extent to which the powers in the 2003 Act to close premises that are linked to violent behaviour have been used since the law came into force?

Paul Goggins: We are still looking carefully at the emerging evidence. I assure the hon. Gentleman that those powers will be used by the police and licensing authorities when particular establishments are seen to be a focus of alcohol-related disorder. We will not tolerate that, and the powers are there so that the police and local authorities can act.

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