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23 Mar 2006 : Column 604W—continued

Licensing Act

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much funding was provided to Dorset police in relation to the introduction of the Licensing Act 2003; and what period this covered. [56238]

Hazel Blears: No money has been provided to police authorities specifically in relation to the introduction of the Licensing Act 2003.

The third national Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaign (AMEC 3) took place between 14 November 2005 and the beginning of 2006. The Police Standards Unit provided forces with extra funding to implement a range of tactics with the aim of tackling irresponsible drinkers and retailers of alcohol. Dorset police was allocated £19,000 for the campaign.

Dorset will receive its fair share of available resources next year. The allocation of resources locally and appropriate budget management are matters for the Chief constable of Dorset police and the Dorset Police Authority.

National Custody Forum

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the work of the National Custody Forum. [57761]

Hazel Blears: ,The National Custody Forum, chaired by ACPO, is a multi agency strategic forum, which has been established to assist in the development and dissemination of policy, guidance and best practice to enhance the safe and efficient provision of custody services. The National Custody Forum is underpinned
 
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by a network of Regional Custody Fora, which have been established in each of the ACPO Regions in England and Wales.

Pay Settlements

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the estimated cost is of the equal pay settlement between HM Prison Service and the Public and Commercial Services trade union over the next three years. [60519]

Fiona Mactaggart: The estimated cost is between £39 million and £44 million in 2006–07, and £7 million to £9 million in each of the following years. This is subject to the outcome of pay negotiations in those years.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions have taken place between HM Prison Service (HMPS) and the Treasury on the funding of the equal pay settlement between HMPS and the Public and Commercial Services trade union. [60520]

Fiona Mactaggart: Staff from the Prison Service met their treasury counterparts on several occasions to discuss details of the proposed settlement. The final meeting was on one March 2006 to discuss establishing links between the proposed settlement and the recommendations of the Prison Service Pay Review Body.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the implications for the pay and conditions of other grades within the Prison Service of the equal pay settlement agreed between the service and the Public and Commercial Services trade union. [60521]

Fiona Mactaggart: The Prison Service has commissioned the development of a universal job evaluation system. This system will underpin new pay and grading structures for most staff, including those covered by the recent equal pay settlement. Work on the evaluation system began in October 2004 and new pay and grading structures are intended to be in place by April 2008.

Penal Policy

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the impact of intermittent custody schemes; what economic assessment has been undertaken of those schemes; and what plans he has to extend the use of such schemes. [59311]

Fiona Mactaggart: Officials are currently reviewing the learning from the pilots of intermittent custody and I will announce the outcome of that exercise in due course.

Police

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research has been conducted into the merits of extending the video recording of police interviews. [49131]


 
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Hazel Blears: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 18 November 2004, Official Report, column 2095W. The research provided an adequate assessment of the operation and impact of visual recording in the pilot areas and, as I indicated in my previous answer, found no discernible differences in terms of criminal justice outcomes. The research would require further work before it could reach publication standard. This will be considered in conjunction with stakeholders with whom we shall review the operational benefits of visual recording of interviews with suspects.

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what steps he is taking to ensure that the Independent Police Complaints Commission sends a substantive reply to a member of the public lodging an appeal within 28 days of that appeal being lodged; [59532]

(2) what the time scales are within which the Independent Police Complaints Commission is expected to handle (a) complaints and (b) appeals by members of the public; and if he will make a statement. [59534]

(3) whether there is a backlog of appeal cases waiting for determination by the Independent Police Complaints Commission; and if he will make a statement. [59535]

Hazel Blears: The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is responsible for the management of the police complaints system. I will ensure that the chairman receives a copy of the question and replies to the hon. Member directly. Copies of the letter containing the IPCC's response will be placed in the House Libraries.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what methods are used to ensure diversity in the police force. [48559]

Hazel Blears: It remains the Government's policy that the police service will promote equality, fairness and respect and provide a working environment where diversity is recognised to enable it to achieve a greater level of trust and confidence from all communities, which can also be achieved through better engagement with communities through initiatives such as Neighbourhood Policing.

The Home Office and Police Service response to the Commission for Racial Equality Investigation into racism in the police is also a key element in improving the environment within the service and to making the service a more attractive option to those wishing to join.

The Police Service continues to make progress against the Home Secretary's recruitment targets for 2009, and forces are committed to recruit from minority ethnic groups in proportion to, or at a level above, their representation in the local economically active population. Performance against this objective is a key performance indicator in the Policing Performance Assessment Framework. Since 1999, the percentage of police officers from minority ethnic communities has risen from 2 per cent. to 3.5 per cent., an increase of 2,497 minority ethnic officers. The latest figures show that minority ethnic staff make up 6.5 per cent. of the police staff total.
 
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The Home Office is working with the Police Service to accelerate the pace of change. The measures currently in hand include outreach programmes in police forces, engagement with student faith societies and black students' unions to encourage applications from minority ethnic graduates. We are also investigating the possibility of introducing weighted appointment criteria rewarding skills such as appropriate second languages. As part of the National Assessment Centre process we aim to ensure that assessment and selection panels include representatives from minority ethnic communities wherever possible.

Internally, measures are in place to increase female and minority ethnic applications to the High Potential Development Scheme. A learning and development strategy to improve performance in race and diversity was published in November 2004 which introduced the Police Race and Diversity Learning Programme which will ensure improvements in race and diversity through delivery of effective development.

In addition, a national exit interview questionnaire has been developed to encourage forces to capture the reasons for staff leaving the service, with the aim of further work being done to improve the overall retention rate and reduce the disparity in wastage rates for female and minority ethnic staff.

Pornography

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the impact of the selling of hardcore pornography via (a) bottom shelf newspapers and (b) imported material from overseas on the efforts to combat illegal access to pornography; and if he will make a statement. [56004]

Paul Goggins: Under the terms of a voluntary code of practice which is overseen by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, adult titles containing hardcore pornography", should be displayed on the top shelves of newsagents' shops and should not be sold to young people under the age of 18.

We believe this code works well but we are aware of the concern which has been expressed about sexually provocative material which is commonly available on the lower shelves of newsagents' shops, and in other
 
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retail outlets, and are determined to ensure that the interests of children are properly safeguarded in this regard. Officials will be meeting with representatives of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and other trade associations shortly.

In respect of illegal explicit pornographic material, which is now increasingly available via the internet, we have recently consulted on a proposal to create an offence of possession in respect of a limited category of the most extreme material. The consultation period ended on 2 December 2005 and a summary of responses will be published in due course.


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