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29 Mar 2006 : Column 1037W—continued

Prison Service (Retirement)

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to change the Prison Service retirement age; and if he will make a statement. [61502]

Fiona Mactaggart: The public sector Prison Service introduced greater flexibility into its age retirement policy for all administrative staff in December 2005 so that they can if they wish work beyond 60 to 65. Industrial and officer support grades are already allowed to work until 65. Other grades, including prison officers, operational managers and nurses, are prevented
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from routinely working beyond 60. However, these policies are under review. None of these changes would affect pension entitlements.


Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cases of tuberculosis have occurred at each prison in each of the last five years; what steps he is taking to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis in prisons; and if he will make a statement. [59199]

Fiona Mactaggart: Information is not routinely available from prison establishments on the number of prisoners diagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis (TB). However as TB is a notifiable disease, each new case is reported to the local consultant in communicable disease control (CCDC).

The Prison Service's performance standard, 'Health Services for Prisoners' (May 2004) requires every prison establishment to have in place effective arrangements for the prevention, control and management of communicable diseases, including tuberculosis. These must include arrangements for the notification of all incidents of notifiable disease, such as TB to the local Health Protection Agency's consultant in communicable disease control (CCDC) and an action plan in the event of an outbreak of a communicable disease. The diagnosis, care, treatment and management and contact tracing of prisoners with tuberculosis is undertaken in consultation with local national health service specialists in accordance with the British Thoracic Society guidelines for the management of TB. Prisons are identified as a specific health care environment in the recently published National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) document 'Tuberculosis. Clinical diagnosis and management of tuberculosis and measures for its prevention and control.'

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what steps he is taking to reduce the number of suicides among remand inmates; [59315]

(2) what action he (a) has taken and (b) is taking to reduce the incidence of suicide in prison. [61504]

Fiona Mactaggart: Concerning action that is been taken I refer the hon. Member to the prisoner suicide prevention strategy referred to in my answer of 15 March 2006, Official Report, columns 2313–14W, regarding prisoners who self-harm. This built upon the strategy developed since 2001 that included: Over £26 million invested in safer custody arrangements, through the Safer Local Prisons Programme. 2,650 'Listeners' (Samaritan-trained prisoner peer supporters) recruited across the estate. Suicide Prevention Coordinators (or their equivalents) placed in all prisons to provide a focal point for and increase the profile of suicide prevention.

The strategy is aimed at protecting all prisoners, though the Government recognises that prisoners are particularly at risk of self-harm and suicide in their early period in custody, whether sentenced or on remand. Prisoners in early custody are therefore subject to a number of policies and practices designed to enhance their safety. These include health screening upon arrival
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that includes an assessment of risk of suicide or self-harm, the use of peer supporters ('Insiders') to offer information and support to new prisoners, and First Night and Induction procedures.


Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 14 March 2006, Official Report, column 2227W, on prison education, what assessment he has made of the capital requirements in each prison for the planned increase in educational enrolments; what timetable he envisages for delivery; and what interim measures he will make available to each prison. [62140]

Fiona Mactaggart: The Department for Education and Skills will have invested some £25.5 million in capital equipment to support learning and skills in prisons between financial years 2002–03 and 2005–06. As with all areas of spend on offender learning and skills, consideration of future capital requirements will be taken forward as part of the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of inmates at each prison have been enrolled in formal education activities in each year since 1997. [62144]

Fiona Mactaggart: This information is not collected centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with providers of education in prison on increasing the (a) quality and (b) quantity of education. [62151]

Fiona Mactaggart: Officials in the Learning and Skills Council have frequent discussions with providers of learning and skills for offenders in custody and in the community in the three regions where the LSC has already taken responsibility for planning and funding the delivery arrangements. In the remaining regions, detailed discussions are currently underway with prospective providers. Each of those discussions covers matters of quality and quantity.

As part of the consultation on the Green Paper Reducing Re-Offending Through Skills and Employment" (December 2005), Ministers and officials in the Department for Education and Skills have had a number of discussions with providers. Those too have touched on matters of quality and quantity in future arrangements.

Shingaradazo Mudgyima

Mr. Brazier: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to deport Shingaradazo Mudgyima, alias Sheena Daniels. [60151]

Mr. McNulty [holding answer 20 March 2006]: I will write to the hon. Member.
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Dr. Blackman-Woods: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures are being put in place to ensure that the number of international students coming to the UK will not be reduced by the abolition of the appeal system for student visas in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill. [60745]

Mr. McNulty: I recognise the important economic and cultural contribution that international students make to the United Kingdom. We welcome genuine students and do not want to dissuade them from coming to the country. There is no evidence that potential students are attracted to apply for a course in a particular country because they are eligible for a right of appeal should they be refused entry clearance. We do not, therefore, believe that the removal of appeal rights will be a disincentive to student applications.

There is no right of appeal against refusal of entry clearance in many other countries, for instance Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Under the new points based system, students will be granted entry clearance on the basis of transparent and objective criteria. At the moment entry clearance officers are required to make subjective judgements in accordance with the immigration rules. For example, the officer must assess an applicant's intention and ability to study.

The points based system will abolish this requirement, and an offer from an approved institution will act as a proxy for intention and ability. This will be made possible by the Home Office and education institutions working in partnership to share the responsibility of ensuring that genuine students can come to the country while preventing abuse of the immigration system.

Appeal rights will be removed simultaneously with the introduction of the points based system. We plan to implement the new system in phases. This will mean, for example, that as tier four is implemented, and so appeal rights for students will be removed. The systemic improvements brought by the points based system will facilitate the removal of appeal rights.

In lieu of a full right of appeal, people will be able to apply for administrative review of the refusal of entry clearance. If a person is refused, the entry clearance officer's notice will set out precisely why the decision has been made, referring back to the criteria for which points are awarded. When applying for administrative review the applicant must set out which aspect of the decision, as justified in the refusal letter, was incorrect. Administrative review will provide applicants with a swift and effective remedy where a factual error has been made.

We are taking additional steps to ensure that there is a high quality of entry clearance decisions. The role of the Independent Monitor will be enhanced, for example, to provide greater oversight of the operation. More resources are also being invested in training entry clearance officers and their managers, and a network of regional managers has recently been recruited.

An amendment was also made to the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill at Lords third reading stage. This will require a report to be laid before
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Parliament on the entry clearance operation and administrative review within three years of the removal of appeal rights.

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