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22 Mar 1995 : Column WA73

Written Answers

Wednesday 22nd March 1995

Law of Trusts: Delegation by Individual Trustees

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to implement the recommendations in the Law Commission's report on the Law of Trusts—Delegation by Individual Trustees (Law Com. No. 220).

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The Government have decided to accept the Law Commission's recommendations subject to one amendment, agreed with the Commission, which will ensure that there will be no need to renew an enduring power of attorney if the donor of the power has a beneficial as well as a fiduciary interest in the relevant property. The Government will introduce legislation to implement these proposals when a suitable legislative opportunity occurs.

Structured Settlements and Interim and Provincial Damages

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to implement the recommendations in the Law Commission's Report, Structured Settlements and Interim and Provisional Damages.

The Lord Chancellor: The Government welcome the report and will introduce legislation implementing all the recommendations made in it, both for the rationalisation of the structured settlements system and on other aspects of the law of damages, when a suitable opportunity arises.

Caring for the Suicidal in Custody: Wandsworth Prison

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take following the comments of Her Majesty's Coroner on the death of Mr. Shane Barnes and the criticisms of members of the board of visitors of HM Prison Wandsworth following five other suicides in the establishment in the last year.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Harris of Greenwich from the Director of Personnel of the Prison Service, Mr. A. J. Butler, dated 22nd March 1995

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent

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Question asking what action will be taken following the comments of Her Majesty's Coroner on the death of Shane Barnes and the criticism of the Board of Visitors at Wandsworth prison following five other suicides in the last year.

There were in fact four suicides in 1994 and two in 1993.

The Director General received a letter from the Coroner on 13 March in which he makes his recommendations. The governor of Wandsworth has already called for a transcript of the inquest, as he wishes to study the Coroner's comments with his Suicide Awareness Committee. The governor will then prepare an action plan which takes into account all the circumstances surrounding the death of Shane Barnes.

The Prison Service has already introduced an updated strategy called Caring for the Suicidal in Custody. Wandsworth prison was one of the establishments which piloted this scheme and has therefore implemented many of the procedures associated with it. The new strategy involves all staff in helping to prevent suicides. This has been linked to the personal officer scheme which gives prisoners a direct link with a member of staff who they can turn to in times of distress. All prison officers receive suicide awareness training as part of the induction programme.

Every prisoner who arrives at Wandsworth is screened on the initial reception and is interviewed by a medical officer. They are also shown the Misadventures Video which, using a realistic storyline, deals with the issue of custodial suicide.

If a prisoner is identified by any member of staff as being at risk of self harm, a standard form is raised to alert those concerned with the prisoner. He is then seen by the residential unit manager and a health care officer who make an initial assessment. If appropriate, the prisoner may be transferred to a shared cell, where increased contact is used as a preventative measure, or he may be transferred to the health care centre where he will be seen by a doctor. When necessary the prisoner is placed under observation.

When the standard form is raised a care review is held and a support plan devised. Further case reviews are held as needed. There are regular discussions with the prisoner as part of his daily supervision and to enable him to feel more in control of his situation. This process is only relaxed when the prisoner appears to be coping.

Wandsworth prison staff have also established a suicide awareness group which co-ordinates the dissemination of information about best practice, reviews the incidents of self harm and death in custody, and inputs this information into the training programme for staff. This is a multi-disciplinary group which includes a representative of the Board of Visitors. Samaritans visit the prison weekly and have trained prisoners to be listeners. There are also close contacts with the visiting consultant psychiatrists.

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Vaccine 10H03A

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether plague vaccine batch 10H03A was batch tested prior to its use on members of Her Majesty's forces serving in Operation Granby, and, if so, by whom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): Specific details of the biological warfare countermeasures used during Operation Granby remain classified. All vaccines offered to British troops during the Gulf conflict as a part of the anti-biological warfare vaccination programme were licensed for use in their country of origin. Any vaccine for which there was not a UK product licence was tested by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control and cleared for use by the Department of Health.

Local Government Finance

Baroness Hamwee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether in the light of their Written Answer (HC Deb. 17 February col. 845) announcing the revision of the provisional capping criteria applying to the metropolitan fire and civil defence authorities, there is any mechanism by which an authority which set its budget to take account of the original criteria may take account of the revised criteria and thereby increase its budget, and, if not, whether the Government will set the provisional criteria for those authorities for 1996–97 as if those authorities had set budgets for 1995–96, following the announcement of the revision.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): Under the provisions of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, once an authority has set its budget it cannot subsequently set a substitute budget at a higher level unless the first budget has been quashed. Decisions about the provisional capping criteria for 1996–97 will not be taken until later in the year. We would be happy to consider representations from the metropolitan county fire and civil defence authorities at that point.

UNHCR: UK Assistance

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assistance they are giving to the general programmes budget of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1995.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): I have approved a grant of £6 million for UNHCR's General Programmes budget for 1995. The UK is one of the foremost national donors of UNHCR; last year our contributions, both in direct payments and assistance in kind, exceeded £60 million in value, the highest level of contribution ever.

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Non-Proliferation Treaty: Civil Use of Nuclear Energy

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, further to the reply of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, of 8 March, (WA 24) they will elaborate the "potential proliferation risk" that they envisage in the construction by Russian companies of nuclear power stations in Iran of the type approved for construction in North Korea.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are concerned that the Iranians might seek to use nuclear expertise acquired through the construction and operation of the Russian-supplied reactor for military purposes.

Non-Proliferation Treaty: Security Assurances

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, with regard to the enhancements of the security assurances associated with the non-proliferation treaty which they are reported to be working on, they will seek formal undertakings on the part of the nuclear weapons states signatories (a) not to engage in nuclear-capable or similar exercises in the vicinity of non-nuclear signatories; and (b) not to demand the cessation of any civil nuclear programme which is under International Atomic Energy Authority safeguards and is declared by that authority to be in accordance with the requirements of the non-proliferation treaty.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No. We do not think it would be appropriate to seek the sort of undertakings mentioned.

European Union: UK Membership

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union is irrevocable.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: It remains open to Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union. The terms of that withdrawal would have to be negotiated with the other member states. The Government believe that the future prosperity and security of the United Kingdom depends on our membership of the European Union.

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