Efficiency planning guidance sent to chief officers in February 2006 encourages forces to take advantage of the collective buying power of the police service by making use of nationally negotiated arrangements. We have worked with the police service to develop national frameworks for the purchase of vehicles, under which forces are offered significant discounts on manufacturers prices. These have been in place since 1992 and are regularly re-tendered. The arrangements are strongly encouraged by the Association of Chief Police Officers and HM inspectorate of constabulary. The most recent version (spring 2005) has been designed to assist forces in rationalising the variety of models in use, to encourage standardisation and deliver further increases in value for money.
Dr. Vis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what reasons underly the decision to reduce the operating margin of the useable operating capacity of the prison estate from 2,000 to 1,700 places; when the decision was taken; and how the 1,700 figure was calculated. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: The usable operational capacity of the prison estate is 1,700 spaces less than the certified operational capacity. This operating margin reflects the constraints imposed by the need to provide separate accommodation for different groups of prisoners such as gender, age, security category and conviction status, as well as the necessary provision of single cells, accommodation out of use and the geographical distribution of prisons and prisoners.
In April 2004, a database was introduced to assist with the management of the prison population. The more accurate information it provides enabled us to reduce the operating margin in stages from 2,000 to 1,700 places. The reduction added 300 places to the useable operating capacity while still maintaining a sufficient operating margin to manage the prison population safely.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many of the people who have absconded from open prisons in England since 1997 have (a) been returned to custody and (b) committed offences after absconding which have led to court appearances; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Forest of Dean  about the numbers of prisoners who remain unlawfully at large having absconded from open prisons. In respect of the request for information about court appearances for offences committed by prisoners now recaptured while unlawfully at large, this information is not held centrally by the Prison Service. It would be necessary to interrogate each prisoners record and cross check with police and court conviction records which could be done only at disproportionate cost.
Nick Herbert: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what factors are taken into account when a decision is made to hold prisoners who are awaiting deportation or being considered for deportation in open prisons. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: All prisoners are categorised objectively according to the likelihood that they will seek to escape and the risk that they would pose should they do so. The likelihood of deportation must be taken into account when considering foreign national prisoners allocation to open conditions.
Data on crimes that are categorised as serious offences committed by offenders under the supervision of the Probation Service are available for the financial year 2004-05 in Table 5.6 of the Home Office Statistical Bulletin Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2004.
Mr. Sutcliffe: Information is not available for the full period requested. Data collected prior to one April 2003 are unreliable, and are not directly comparable with the more accurate figures collected since that time. The figures presented in the table show full-time equivalent (FTE) figures at the close of each quarter from 1 April 2003 to 31 December 2005.
|Probation officers( 1)
John Reid: Information on the numbers of United Kingdom nationals received into prison establishments between April 2005 and March 2006, by type of offence, is contained within the following table drawn from the Prison Service IT System. The figures are restricted to those sentenced to one year or more as the majority of those with shorter sentences are not released on licence.
|Receptions into prison establishments of UK nationals, April 2005 to March 2006 by type of offence, sentence lengths of one year or more
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the operation of section 73 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003; what recent representations he has received about the operation of this Act; and whether he plans to amend this Act. 
Mr. Coaker: In 2005 the Government undertook a stock take into the effectiveness of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. During that review, the provisions of section 73 of the Actexceptions to aiding, abetting and counsellingwere generally welcomed as a necessary safeguard and helpful to those whose job it was to protect children from pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases or otherwise protect or promote the well-being of children. There are no plans to amend section 73 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the use in British courts of evidence obtained by torture or forcible methods overseas; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McNulty: Evidence obtained as a result of any acts of torture by British officials, or with which British authorities were complicit, would not be admissible in criminal or civil proceedings in the UK. It does not matter whether the evidence was obtained here or abroad.
During the individual appeals against certification under powers provided under part four of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA), the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) emphatically rejected any suggestion that evidence relied upon by the Government was, or even may have been, obtained by torture. The Court of Appeal later confirmed the view of SIAC. This issue is currently before the House of Lords Judicial Committee. It is not always possible to know where all intelligence information has come from or the precise circumstances under which it was obtained. The Security Service and Secret Intelligence Service receive material from a wide range of foreign intelligence services. The agencies evaluate the reliability of this intelligence against other information available to them. It is then passed, together with an assessment of reliability, to the Government.
It may be necessary in some circumstances to rely operationally on material which may have been obtained through the use of torture where it is considered necessary to do so, in particular for preventing terrorist attack and protecting life. The Government do not believe there is an absolute exclusionary rule preventing the use of such evidence in legal proceedings to assess the lawfulness of such executive action. Such a rule could endanger national security as it would undermine our ability to defend in court the decision made and therefore inhibit executive action to protect national security.
We do not condone torture in any way, nor would we carry out this completely unacceptable behaviour. However, we do have an obligation to protect national security and public safety. We would be deficient in this duty if we did not properly assess all the information available to us.
Mrs. Moon: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps her Department plans to take to monitor the extent to which public bodies which report to her comply, from October, with their duty to conserve biodiversity in exercising their functions, under section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. 
Vera Baird: Under Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, all public bodies have a duty to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity in the exercising of their functions. There is no statutory obligation on Departments to monitor the extent to which public bodies comply with this duty. However, we understand Defra is working with a wide range of partners to develop guidance for public bodies to support the implementation of this duty and will involve all relevant Departments on the development of guidance.
Mrs. Moon: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs which Minister in her Department is responsible for monitoring her Department's compliance with its duty under section 74 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to have regard to the purpose of conserving biological diversity in carrying out its functions; and if she will make a statement. 
Vera Baird: The Minister in the Department for Constitutional Affairs responsible for maintaining compliance under section 74 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 1974 is Baroness Ashton of Upholland.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will introduce new clauses and amendments to the Compensation Bill [Lords] to exempt (a) accidents occurring during the course of employment from Clause 1 of the Bill and (b) trades union legal schemes from Part 2 of the Bill; and if she will make a statement. 
Bridget Prentice: The Government do not intend to introduce amendments on either of these issues. In relation to (a), the factor embodied in Clause 1 may be relevant in employers' liability cases, and it would change the law to provide otherwise. In relation to (b), exemptions will be achieved by secondary legislation. Independent trade unions (certified by the certification officer) will be exempted in respect of regulated services offered to their own members.
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact on the amount recoverable from accident victims and insurers as a consequence of the enacting of Clause 1 of the
Compensation Bill [Lords] for the purposes of benefit recoupment and the recovery of NHS outlays; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what recent representations she has received (a) in favour and (b) against Clause 1 of the Compensation Bill [Lords]; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the legal profession on Clause 1 of the Compensation Bill; and if she will make a statement. 
Bridget Prentice: The Government have held discussions with a number of organisations representing the legal profession during passage of the Compensation Bill, including the Law Society, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and the Personal Injury Bar Association.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what discussions she has had with the judiciary on Clause 1 of the Compensation Bill [Lords]; and if she will make a statement.