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19 Feb 1996 : Column WA61

Written Answers

Monday, 19th February 1996.

Tourism: Allocation of Funding

Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they allocate grant-in-aid for the promotion of tourism and tourism-related projects.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): Responsibility for allocating funding to the statutory tourist boards rests with the Secretary of State for National Heritage, in the case of the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board, and with the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales for each of the home country tourist boards. The allocation is determined by the relevant Secretary of State after taking account of needs and priorities.

Abortion Statistics

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many abortions have been performed under the Abortion Act 1967 (as amended) from April 1968 to the latest available date; how many were performed (a) in an emergency to save the life of the mother and (b) in cases of rape; and what percentages of all abortions performed these numbers represent.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The total number of legal abortions performed under the Abortion Act 1967 in England, Wales and Scotland, from 1968 to 1993 on residents and non-residents was 4,098,737. During this period, 156 abortions (0.004 per cent.) were performed in an emergency, certified as immediately necessary, to save the life of the mother. A further 39,517 abortions--0.96 per cent. of all legal abortions--were notified under the grounds that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated (statutory ground A). I regret that in my earlier answer on 23rd November 1995 at column WA 11, there were minor inaccuracies. The corrected figures are as above.

For the year 1994 there were 178,254 legal abortions performed in England and Wales and Scotland, and one abortion was performed in an emergency to save the life of the mother. A further 153 abortions--0.09 per cent. of all legal abortions performed in that year were classified under statutory ground A 1 .

    1 1994 data for Scotland are provisional.

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As rape is not in itself a statutory ground for performing an abortion under the 1967 Act, and is not required to be specified on the notification form by the certifying doctor, the number of notifications of abortion associated with rape is not known. However, in some cases the information is volunteered and arrangements have been made to code separately and analyse all notification forms which mention rape from 1987 in Great Britain. In that period there were 1,500,503 legal abortions; there was a mention of rape in 282 cases (0.02 per cent.).

Earlier but non-comparable, data relating to abortions performed in England and Wales were collected clerically and published for the years 1968-73 in Table 12 of the Registrar General's Statistical Review, Supplement on Abortion, a copy of which is available in the Library. For Scotland, unpublished data are available between 1983-1986. The reliability of these earlier data is uncertain.

Bulk Carriers: Viability

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they hope to announce the conclusions of the investigations which have taken place into the construction and structural viability of bulk carriers.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): I have asked the Chief Executive of the Marine Safety Agency, Mr. Robin Bradley, to write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Lord Clinton-Davis from the Chief Executive of the Marine Safety Agency, Mr. R. M. Bradley, dated 19 February 1996:

The Secretary of State for Transport has asked me to reply to your Question about the announcement of conclusions of the investigations into the construction and viability of bulk carriers.

In December 1994, the Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organisation set up a correspondence group to examine the safety of ships carrying solid bulk cargoes. The correspondence group were given terms of reference to consider all relevant risks to dry bulk carriers, define problems and suggest solutions.

The group reported back to the Maritime Safety Committee at the end of March 1995 and, after discussion of the report in May 1995, the Committee instructed the correspondence group to continue its work. The correspondence group will submit its report to the Maritime Safety Committee in March 1996 for discussion at its meeting at the end of May.

The final results of this work will depend on the extent to which agreement to the proposals of the report is reached by the Maritime Safety Committee.

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Mr. Gerard Knight: Release from Custody

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following the letter to Lord Harris of Greenwich from the Acting Director General of the Prison Service on 6 November 1995 on the circumstances in which a prisoner was mistakenly released from custody by employees of a private security firm, they now propose to issue new instructions to contractors in view of the mistaken release of another prisoner, Mr. Gerard Knight, by employees of another security firm.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the temporary 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 temporary Director General of the Prison Service, Mr. Richard Tilt, dated 19 February 1996:

Lady Blatch has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the release in error, by staff of Group 4 Court Services, of Mr. Gerard Knight.

Mr. Knight was released from Rochdale Magistrates' Court on 5 February, having been granted unconditional bail, despite having three weeks to serve of a custodial sentence for another offence.

All prisoners taken to court by escort contractors are accompanied by a proforma from the prison which includes specific information as to whether or not they can be released following their court appearance. The instructions from Risley prison that Mr. Knight should not be released were clear, but were not followed. The incident has been investigated and Group 4 has disciplined the officer concerned for the error.

This was an unfortunate incident and I have considered whether it shows that weaknesses remain within the system. All court escort contractors include within their operating procedures guidance on the handling of the prisoners who are "not for release" and cover the subject in their training programmes. In Mr. Knight's case the problem arose as a result of human error rather than as a consequence of any shortcomings in procedures. Group 4 and other prisoner escort contractors are responsible between them for almost one million prisoner movements a year and incidents of this kind are extremely rare. Consequently, I do not consider that there is a need to issue further guidance to establishments or to contractors.

The instructions issued following the release of Mr. Barry Gray, which I outlined in my letter of 6 November, are being followed successfully. However, they deal with the more complex issues of sentence calculation and would not have prevented the mistake that occurred in this case.

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Voluntary Sector: Home Office Support

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps the Home Office is taking to support the voluntary sector.

Baroness Blatch: Work carried out by the Home Office in support of the voluntary sector is set out each year in the Home Office Annual report (Home Office Annual Report 1995, Cm 2802), a copy of which has been placed in the Library, I have, however, highlighted the following steps from among the many ways the Home Office acts to support the voluntary sector:

(a) The Home Office makes grants to a wide variety of voluntary organisations which assist it to achieve a number of departmental objectives. In 1994/95 the Home Office awarded nearly

£69 million to voluntary organisations. The Voluntary Services Unit located in the Home Office acts as a channel of communications between government and the voluntary sector. (b) A ministerial group on Volunteering and the Voluntary Sector, representing 15 government departments, encourages a co-ordinated approach towards the voluntary sector by different government departments. I chair the group. (c) The Make a Difference initiative was launched by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in March 1994. It advocates an integrated approach to increasing individual involvement in the community and invites those in the private, public and voluntary sectors to work together to develop effective local action. A strategy for volunteering has been published, with 81 recommendations, many of which are being taken forward. The Government have made a provision of an additional £6 million over each of the next three years to fund this particular initiative. Further, in response to the Make a Difference team's report, the Home Office established the Volunteering Partnership to advise government on the promotion of volunteering. (d) Important changes have been made to the framework of charity law. The Charities Acts of 1992 and 1993 removed unnecessary functions of the Charity Commission, strengthened the commission's powers in other respects and introduced a new, comprehensive legal framework for charity accounts and reports.

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