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24 Jul 1996 : Column WA127

Written Answers

Wednesday, 24th July 1996.

Commonhold: Draft Bill

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have not yet introduced a commonhold Bill, as promised in their last election manifesto.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The principles on which commonhold is based have been thoroughly re-worked in order to ensure that the eventual scheme for commonhold will be effective and efficient. The Government have today published a draft Bill and consultation paper to show in detail how they propose to implement their proposals for such a scheme and, subject to the results of the consultation, the Government intend to bring forward legislation in this form as soon as a suitable opportunity occurs.

Baroness Seccombe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to implement their proposals for reform of commonhold property ownership.

The Lord Chancellor: The Government have today published a draft Bill and consultation paper to show in detail how they propose to implement their proposals. The draft Bill represents a thorough re-working of the principles on which commonhold is based and, subject to the results of the consultation, the Government intend to bring forward legislation in this form as soon as a suitable opportunity occurs.

Hypnotism: Revised Guidance

The Earl of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the review of the Hypnotism Act 1952 will be completed and whether revised guidance will be issued.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Consultation with interested parties has now been completed. Guidance to local authorities incorporating revised model conditions to be applied to stage hypnotism performances will be issued at the beginning of August. A copy will be placed in the Library.

National Lottery:Effects on Horserace Betting Levy

Lord Pender asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the report on the impact of the National Lottery on the horserace betting levy.

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Baroness Blatch: An assessment of the impact of the National Lottery on the horserace betting levy has been published today. This fulfils an undertaking made during the passage of the National Lottery Bill.

The paper has been prepared by the Economic Unit of the Home Office. It examines trends in off-course betting expenditure, on which the levy closely depends. The main conclusions are as follows:

    off-course betting expenditure during 1995 was 6 per cent. lower in real terms than in 1994;

    a statistical analysis of trends in off-course betting expenditure suggests that it might have been expected to rise by about 5 per cent. in real terms during this period;

    the study indicates that the National Lottery has reduced spending on off-course betting, although other special factors, such as the fixture list, may also be involved;

    some uncertainty remains about the importance of other special factors, and estimates of the size of the National Lottery's effect remain imprecise.

Special Constabulary:Working Group Report

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the report of the Working Group on the Special Constabulary has been completed.

Baroness Blatch: The working group has completed its work and we hope to make an announcement about the government response to the working group's recommendations shortly. A copy of the report will be placed in the Library as soon as it is available.

Prison Service: Learmont Recommendations

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in implementing the recommendations of the Learmont Report.

Baroness Blatch: Details of steps taken by the Prison Service to improve its performance are contained in the interim progress report on the Review of Prison Service Security in England and Wales and the escape from Parkhurst Prison on Tuesday 3rd January 1995--The Learmont Inquiry given in a table, copies of which have been placed in the Library. The progress report excludes those recommendations identical or very similar to those of the Woodcock Report which my right honourable friend accepted on 19th December 1994. The table also gives details of the recommendations already implemented. Six reviews are still in progress in respect of recommendations: 1, 88, 97, 98, 101, 107. The remaining recommendations are still under consideration. We shall report to the House on outstanding issues in due course.

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The Prison Service has initiated a wide-ranging programme of action to build on the improvement in its performance in security (including measures taken in response to the recommendations of the Woodcock and Learmont Reports).

The Prison Service has pressed ahead with upgrading the high security dispersal estate to standards recommended in the Woodcock Report, a programme which Sir John Learmont included in his recommendations. In his review of Prison Service progress towards implementing the Woodcock Report, Sir John Learmont reported in December 1995 that,

    "in a period of less than a year, the Prison Service has made infinitely more headway in implementing the Woodcock recommendations than it seems reasonable to expect".

The Prison Service has achieved a sharp reduction in the number of escapes. Escapes in 1995-96 were 59 per cent. down on those in 1994-95 and 79 per cent. down compared to 1992-93.

The security manual has been redrafted emphasising the distinction between what is mandatory and what is discretionary.

The Prison Service has made excellent progress to ensure that security measures are consistently observed. The Prison Service has strengthened independent security audit, which it had in hand before the Whitemoor Escape, in recognition of the major contribution it has to make to improving security standards. The Prison Service has pressed ahead with a number of organisational changes designed to ensure that operational management of prisons can be carried out more effectively.

In addition to those reviews still in progress and referred to above, the Prison Service has completed 10 reviews, the conclusions of which are under consideration.

Turkey: Treatment of Prisoners

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are concerned at reports from Amnesty International and the Turkish Medical Association about ill treatment, particularly of political prisoners, in Turkish prisons; whether, if the reports are substantiated, such treatment contravenes any international declaration or convention of human rights to which Turkey is a signatory; and, if so, what representations they are making to Turkey.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): We are concerned about the reported treatment of prisoners in Turkey. We note, however, that the Turkish Government have recently made significant improvements to prison conditions and that a parliamentary commission will investigate further. We will continue to urge the Turkish Government to honour their international obligations on human rights, including the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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Clifton Wright: Role of Commonwealth in Individual Human Rights Cases

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Commonwealth has a role in individual human rights cases, and, if so, whether they will ask the appropriate organ of the Commonwealth to raise with the Jamaican authorities the case of Mr. Clifton Wright, who was sentenced to death by hanging on 29th March 1983, on a charge of murder, was subsequently found to have been in police custody on the date the crime was committed, and nevertheless remains in custody, notwithstanding intercession for his release by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on 14th September 1988, and a similar initiative by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Although in exceptional cases the Commonwealth may raise individual human rights cases at a political level, the mandate of the Commonwealth Secretariat's Human Rights Unit does not extend to individual cases.

In October 1987, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London considered Clifton Wright's application for leave to appeal to Her Majesty in Council and dismissed it. A further appeal was rejected by the Privy Council in Jamaica in 1994. Separately, Mr. Wright's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1995.

The allegation that Clifton Wright could not have committed the murder because he was in custody at the time was raised by counsel on his behalf at the Privy Council hearing.

South Africa: ODA and NGOs

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much financial support the Overseas Development Administration has given to (a) South African based and (b) British based non-governmental organisations for each year of the two years since the South African elections.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Overseas Development Administration has provided the following financial support to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in South Africa in financial year 1994-95: South African based NGOs, £6,270,000; British based NGOs under the joint funding scheme, £901,557. The above figures are confined to the development work of NGOs. Emergency aid is not included.

Final figures for 1995-96 will not be available until later this year.

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