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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The present Home Secretary has personally set tariffs for three people who were convicted of murder after he took office. Two of these tariffs were above the judicial recommendations and have been challenged by way of judicial review. Those proceedings have not yet been finally completed.
Tariffs have been set afresh for 170 prisoners who made representations about their original tariffs which were retrospectively disclosed to them following the Doody judgment. The new tariffs remain above either judicial recommendation in 85 of these cases. Four of these have been judicially reviewed. In three cases the tariffs were quashed on procedural grounds and required to be considered afresh; the fourth is still before the courts.
Baroness Blatch: The compulsory application forms system introduced on 3rd June was suspended after three days following legal challenge. Having heard the arguments we were persuaded that it was right to make changes and the forms have therefore been revised to take account of the issues raised. Copies of the newly prescribed versions have been placed in the Library. The new forms will be compulsory for applications made on or after 25th November. As before, the scheme does not cover applications under European Community Law or applications for asylum.
Application forms are designed to help applicants and to improve efficiency. They set out the basic information that an applicant must provide. The compulsory forms scheme is being introduced following a successful 12 month pilot scheme which demonstrated a clear demand for application forms. During the pilot
Baroness Blatch: On 27th February this year we went out to consultation on a package of measures to relax certain controls on casinos, bingo clubs and advertising of commercial gambling. This is a general report on the outcome of that consultation and our plans for taking the changes forward.
Permitted areas for casinos
We have also received representations from other areas. I do not think it appropriate to add an unmanageable number or to depart radically from the original proposals but I am considering the case for some additions. New permitted areas can be implemented by secondary legislation but I will need to address the resource, timing and other practical implications before any are introduced. I will make my intentions clear in the next few weeks.
There has been a mixed response from inside and outside the industry to the proposals to abolish the demand criterion for bingo licence applications, the requirement to operate as clubs and the 24 hour waiting period for membership. In the light of the representations received I do not propose to proceed with those measures.
I am still assessing the detailed responses to the other proposals affecting bingo clubs. I will give priority to a measure abolishing advertising restrictions and will then examine further the move to three yearly licences. I should also like to allow simplified charging in bingo clubs, subject to advice from the Gaming Board following discussions with the industry.
Baroness Blatch: Following the report of the Royal Commission on criminal justice and the efficiency scrutiny of administrative burdens on the police, efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice process have been taken forward by officials from my department, the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Crown Prosecution Service through the Trial Issues Group. Nevertheless, my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor, my right honourable friend the Attorney-General and I believe that it is now appropriate to explore additional means of reducing the time that it takes to deal with cases. We have therefore set up a review urgently to identify means of expediting the progress of criminal cases from initation to resolution, consistently with the interests of justice. The review will examine the scope for improvements within current structures as well as those which might require new legislation. We expect a report next January.
Baroness Blatch: No. Security features are incorporated in United Kingdom passports to ensure that any attempts to facilitate their use by another person, through alteration of personal details or substitution of photographs, will be readily apparent on examination of the document.
The use of externally generated identification numbers is unlikely to be practicable for a number of reasons. It is unlikely that an externally generated identification number could be given immediately and accurately and we could not be certain that other criminal justice agencies would be willing to release information. Other agencies also may not be able to give a prisoner number if details other than name are not known.
There are also certain categories of prisoner for whom no other identification number exists, for example foreign nationality prisoners.
A further technical difficulty of using externally generated numbers is that extensive changes to Prison Service computer programs would be required.
In view of these considerations, it is unlikely that the Prison Service would consider identifying prisoners by such a method.
There is normally no delay in registering an allocated prisoner number onto the computerised prison record system.
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