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Hong Kong: Governor's Final Report

Lord Kirkhill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Governor submitted his last report to my right honourable friend on 20 June A copy has been placed in the Library.

Dublin Convention

Lord Parry asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Convention Determining the State Responsible for Examining Applications for Asylum Lodged in One of the Member States of the European Communities--the "Dublin Convention"--will come into force on 1 September 1997. The convention, which was ratified by the United Kingdom in 1992, provides a mechanism for determining which member state should be responsible for deciding an asylum application made in the European Union.

Responsibility is determined according to a set of criteria. These include whether the applicant has a close family member recognised as a refugee in another member state; whether another member state has granted the person a residence permit or visa; the location of any illegal entry into the European Union; and the existence of a previous asylum application. The applicant can only be transferred under the convention if the receiving state agrees that is responsible and if specific arrangements are made for the transfer. In many cases the receiving state will not be the one from which the applicant embarked. There will be no change to the existing requirement that we must be satisfied that the applicant's life or liberty would not be threatened in the country concerned on account of his race, religion, etc; and that he would not be sent on to another state in breach of the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees.

The convention provides for the exchange of information on asylum applicants with other European Union states. This may include personal information such as fingerprints. The convention requires that such information may only be used for asylum purposes and may only be communicated to the authorities competent to make decisions on asylum cases. Information about the basis of an asylum claim itself may only be exchanged with the permission of the applicant.

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Horserace Betting Levy: Impact of National Lottery

Lord Shepherd asked Her Majesty's Government:

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

Lord Williams of Mostyn: An update on 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, which has been prepared by the Economics Unit of the Home Office, examines continuing trends in off-course betting expenditure, on which the levy is closely dependent.

The statistical analysis suggests that, in 1996, betting expenditure off-course was about 10 per cent. below the level it would have reached in the absence of the National Lottery. Horserace betting accounts for an estimated 70 per cent. of such expenditure, and therefore the levy yield is likely to have been similarly affected. This can only be an approximate figure, and the effect of the lottery may vary over time.

Data Protection Legislation Proposals

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish their proposals for the implementation of the European Community Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC).

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Copies of the paper setting out the Government's proposals for new data protection legislation will be placed in the Library tomorrow morning at 10 am.

Crime (Sentences) Act 1997: Implementation

Baroness Serota asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which provisions of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 will be implemented, and when.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We will implement most of the provisions of the Act, and to the same timetable as envisaged by the previous administration. The provisions of the Act which we will implement are set out below, according to the target date of implementation.

Provisions to be implemented in 1997:

    Automatic life sentence for a second conviction for a serious sexual or violent offence. (Section 2).

    Mandatory minimum sentence of seven years for a third Class A drug trafficking conviction (Section 3).

    Technical provisions and consequential changes arising from Sections 2 and 3, including the extension of the automatic life sentence provisions

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    to Armed Forces legislation (Sections 1, 5, 6, 7 and Schedule 4 as they relate to Sections 2 and 3).

    New provisions for the release of those sentenced to detention during Her Majesty's pleasure (Sections 28-33).

    Increase in age limits from 21 to 25 for use of attendance centres for fine defaulters (Section 36).

    Abolition of consent requirements for certain community penalties (Section 38, and related paragraphs of Schedule 4).

    Transfer of prisoners between jurisdictions (Section 41, Schedule 1, and relevant paragraphs of Schedules 4 and 5).

    Repatriation of prisoners (Section 42 and Schedule 2).

    Increase in maximum penalty for juveniles convicted of indecent assault on a female (Section 44).

    Naming juveniles in court proceedings (Section 45).

    Hospital and limitation directions for sentencing mentally disordered offenders (Section 46, and Schedule 4, paragraph 12).

    Power to specify hospital units for detention of mentally disordered offenders (Sections 47, 49(2) and 49(4)).

    Movement of conditionally discharged patients between jurisdictions in the United Kingdom (Section 48 and Schedule 3).

    Extended maximum duration of interim hospital order (Section 49(1)).

    Transfer of prisoners to private psychiatric hospitals for treatment (Section 49(3)).

    Committals for sentence (Section 51 and related paragraphs of Schedule 4). This is linked to the plea before venue provision in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (Section 49), which we propose to bring into force at the same time.

    Increase in maximum penalty for indecency with a child (Section 52).

Provisions to be piloted in 1998:

    Community service or curfew order enforced by electronic monitoring for fine defaulters (Section 35, and paragraph 10(2) of Schedule 4).

    Community service for persistent petty offenders (Section 37).

    Disqualification from driving as a penalty (Section 39).

    Disqualification from driving for fine defaulters (Section 40).

    Curfew order enforced by electronic monitoring for juveniles (Section 43).

Other provisions for which no implementation date has yet been decided:

    New arrangements for crediting time spent in custody on remand in calculation of sentence

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    (Section 9, and related paragraphs of Schedule 4 and 5).

    Disclosure of pre-sentence reports to the prosecution (Section 50).

    Application of mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking to service law (Section 7 as it applies to Section 3).

The previous administration said that implementation of what became Section 4 of the Act would depend on the Prison Service's capacity and available resources. They indicated, as an "example" that these provisions could be implemented in October 1999. Because the relevant convictions do not count until the section comes into operation, very few people would be subject to the provisions of Section 4 until 2001. Against this background, and given current pressures on prison capacity and available resources, it would not be practical to implement Section 4 for the present. We shall, however, keep the matter under review.

We have also decided not to implement the new early release arrangements set out in Section 8, 10-26 and related paragraphs of Schedule 4 and Schedule 5. The same effect can be achieved in a far more clear and straightforward way by ensuring that judges and magistrates spell out in open court what the sentence they have imposed really means in practice. Sections 20-21, which deal with extended post-release supervision of violent and sexual offenders, are integrally linked with the other early release provisions and will not be implemented, but we will bring forward in the Crime and Disorder Bill alternative provisions which will provide the additional protection of the public which they were designed to achieve.

Delay in the Criminal Justice System: Response to Review

Baroness Serota asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take on the recommendations of the Review of Delay in the Criminal Justice System.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Review of Delay in the Criminal Justice System was set up in October 1996 and its report was published on 27 February 1997. Interested parties were then invited to comment on the 33 recommendations in the report. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General have considered these recommendations, taking account of the responses received, and they have concluded that many of them have the potential substantially to reduce delay without impairing the quality of justice.

We have therefore decided to accept the following recommendations, making legislative provision (where necessary) in the Crime and Disorder Bill:

    those which are designed to enable straightforward guilty plea cases to be dealt with a day or two after charge, thus restoring the concept of summary justice;

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    proposals for improving case management in magistrates' courts by allowing certain powers to be exercised by a single justice and to be further delegated where appropriate to clerks to the justices;

    the proposal that indictable-only cases should begin in the Crown Court (subject to arrangements being agreed for dealing with remand hearings, submissions of no case to answer, and related matters); and

    some recommendations for procedural changes in the Youth Court.

The recommendations relating to legal aid, which complement many of the above, will be considered by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in the light of the previous Government's proposed reforms and Sir Peter Middleton's review of legal aid which is now in progress.

We are not persuaded that the case for removing defendants' right of election has yet been made out. But since responses to the consultation exercise indicated some substantial support for this proposal, we shall consider this question further, with a view to publishing a more detailed consultation paper in due course.

The Government's response to all the recommendations of the Review of Delay in the Criminal Justice System is set out in a document which has been placed in the Library.

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