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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Minister said that it is not a question of money. However, is it not a fact that when we learnt about the appalling conditions at Holloway, we also learnt that the prison is overcrowded in that there are 561 inmates when there should be only 507? Surely that is a question of money.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the prison estate for female prisoners is not overcrowded. There are 2,065 female prisoners, so overcrowding is not the issue; and it is certainly not the issue as it relates to the Question on the Order Paper.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, on being questioned during a television news programme as to what conditions were like at Holloway, an inmate who had just been released said, "Yes, it is tough and security is tough; but what else do you expect? It is a prison, not a holiday camp."?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, some noble Lords seem to be sympathetic to the point that the noble Lord makes. That indeed is one of the issues. There is laxity in some prisons and it is a question of management. Where there is good management usually there is minimal trouble.
Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar: My Lords, the Government evidently knew some time ago that the conditions in Holloway were appalling. I visited Holloway a few weeks ago and the situation was so bad that the prisoner I visited was half an hour late in arriving because there was no one in Holloway to bring her down. Why did not the Government do something about this a long time ago?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the Government have responded to the situation. As I said a moment ago, extra staff and extra training have been provided at Holloway. Targets have been set. They have not all been met but time limits have been set for meeting those targets. Sending in the inspectors is all part of monitoring the adequacy of the service for my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
Lord Richard: My Lords, the House may be slightly mystified by what the Minister has said. When she replied to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, she said that he had a fertile mind. I would ask the Minister what constitutes management if it is not the way in which the prison is run? Is she criticising the way in which Holloway has been run, and, if so, what are those criticisms? Can we please have some more detail?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I was asked to give reasons why sometimes there are problems in prisons. I said that it is often a question of management. It is often a question of management, but that is not the only reason. There may be other reasons. In the case we are discussing obviously more staff were needed and more staff have been provided. More money was needed and more money has been provided. The inspector set a programme for the prison to enact. The Home Office has set management tasks for the prison to meet and has set dates by which those tasks must be met.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I hope I may make this point and then I shall willingly shut up and give way. I wish to ask the Minister a relatively simple question. Is she criticising the way in which Holloway has been run? Is that what she means by ascribing a fault to management because, if so, she ought to say so?
Baroness Blatch: No, my Lords. I said that often the problems in prisons have something to do with management in prisons. Anyone who has a supervisory position in a prison has a management responsibility. When the inspector returns to the prison he will expect that what he has asked to be achieved will have been achieved. The Home Office will also expect its targets to have been achieved by the management of the prison.
Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, has my noble friend seen the rather disquieting reports in the press about the shackling of women inmates and about the treatment of women who are about to give birth?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I have seen those reports. It is true that the handcuffing of prisoners was applied unequally. It was applied in a more lax way to women prisoners and in a more serious way to male prisoners. The result was that more women prisoners escaped. The policy now is that handcuffing is applied equally to both sexes.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I would say to the noble Baronesses opposite that the exception to that policy is that women are not handcuffed when they are actually giving birth. However, when prisoners are being transferred from one prison to another and even when they are being transferred to hospital they are made secure by handcuffs.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, as far as I am aware, only women give birth or breast-feed and therefore equal opportunities to shackle them do not seem to exist in this case? Will the Minister please look closely at the necessity for this? When a woman is about to give birth she is unlikely to try to escape; and the same is true if she is breast-feeding. As a former Minister for prisons, I would add that it was not necessary to follow that policy in the past. Can the Minister tell us why it is necessary to follow it today?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I said that women prisoners are not handcuffed when they are about to give birth. That is the exception to the equally applied policy. I also said why it is necessary to have an equal policy for handcuffing with the exception of prisoners being attended to medically; and that is because more women were escaping as they were not handcuffed in situations where male prisoners were handcuffed.
Lord Elton: My Lords, given that the Question has gone much wider than that on the Order Paper, may I bring it back to Holloway, which is closer to the Question on the Order Paper? I suggest that my noble friend was extremely wise--she was supported by most of your Lordships--to resist any attempt to make her give a judgment on a developing situation in a prison on which a report is expected but has not been completed. The proper time to make a judgment is when the report has been completed.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that comment. The responsibility for conditions at Holloway will be very much a matter for the Home Office, the Prison Service and indeed for Holloway Prison itself. We would be wise not to discuss the details of that until the inspection report is made public.
Lord Judd: My Lords, does the Minister agree that in view of this important commitment to human rights, conditionality in the availability of aid for reconstruction should be central in our policy towards former Yugoslavia? Can he tell us what benchmarks will be put in place to measure progress towards the fulfilment of human rights and who will have responsibility for monitoring progress? Specifically in terms of the role of the World Bank in the reconstruction, as the World Bank is charged by its articles of agreement to operate on economic criteria alone, what ad hoc arrangements can be made to ensure that it is looking to the fulfilment of human rights too?
Lord Chesham: My Lords, I shall try to cover those points. The new constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina guarantees all the people the highest level of internationally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms as set out in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms. The Dayton agreement creates a commission on human rights to safeguard the rights guaranteed by the constitution. The commission has two parts: an ombudsman and a human rights chamber. I have further details if the noble Lord requires them. The World Bank will be in the lead as regards reconstruction. However, it will be advised by the steering board which will provide political guidance for the World Bank programme. The EU clearly has an important role to play together with the World Bank and with other donors such as the US, the OIC and Japan.
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