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28 Oct 1997 : Column WA231

Written Answers

Tuesday, 28th October 1997.

Mr. Reginald Buckland: Court Documents

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the judgment delivered at Cambridge Crown Court on 11 September 1997, and all other papers and documents submitted to the court, in case A970014, the appeal of Reginald Buckland v. The Chief Constable of Cambridge before His Honour Judge Haworth heard on 15 August 1997 against the refusal of the Chief Constable to vary the conditions of a firearms certificate, and in particular all other papers, documents, disclosures and submissions which Mr. Robert Gardiner, Clerk to the Court, has failed to provide upon request by Lord Burton.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Question concerns a matter which has been assigned to the Court Service under the terms of its Framework Document. I have therefore asked the Chief Executive to respond.

Letter to Lord Burton from the Chief Executive of the Court Service, Mr. M. D. Huebner, dated 28 October 1997.

Release of Court Documents

The Lord Chancellor has asked me to reply to your Question about the release of papers and documents submitted to the court in the case of Reginald Buckland v. The Chief Constable of Cambridge.

A copy of the judgment was placed in the Library of the House on 7 October. As the remaining documents are the property of the party who filed them, there is no obligation or authority for the court to disclose them. With Mr. Buckland's consent, copies of correspondence between himself and the respondent were provided to you on 15 October, and will today be placed in the Library.

Central and Eastern Europe: Military Training Assistance

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many individual service personnel and military training teams from the United Kingdom Armed Forces will be deployed throughout 1998, in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe which were formerly occupied by the Soviet Union, to assist with the training of their Armed Forces.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The Ministry of Defence currently expects to deploy six individual Service personnel and 10 military Short Term Training Teams to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in 1998. All are deployed at the specific request of the countries concerned, who

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seek to benefit from the expertise of the United Kingdom's Armed Forces. The aim of the training teams is to advise on the conduct of either officer or non-commissioned officer training. The individual Service personnel, all officers, are deployed to provide expertise in specific areas of defence management.

RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge: Nuclear Weapons Allegations

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the allegations contained in the recently published book Left at East Gate, to the effect that nuclear weapons were stored at RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge in violation of UK/US treaty obligations are true.

Lord Gilbert: It has always been the policy of this and previous governments neither to confirm nor to deny where nuclear weapons are located either in the UK or elsewhere, in the past or at the present time. Such information would be withheld under exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of reports from the United States Air Force personnel that nuclear weapons stored in the Weapons Storage Area at RAF Woodbridge were struck by light beams fired from an unidentified craft seen over the base in the period 25-30 December 1980, and if so, what action was subsequently taken.

Lord Gilbert: There is no evidence to suggest that the Ministry of Defence received any such reports.

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on the suicide of the United States security policeman from the 81st Security Police Squadron who took his life at RAF Bentwaters in January 1981, and whether they will detail the involvement of the British police, Coroner's Office, and any other authorities concerned.

Lord Gilbert: MoD has no information concerning the alleged suicide. Investigations into such occurrences are carried out by the US Forces.

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on the medical problems experienced by various United States Air Force personnel based at RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge, which stemmed from their involvement in the so-called Rendlesham Forest incident, in December 1980.

Lord Gilbert: Information on medical matters relating to US personnel is a matter for the US authorities.

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Prisoners Detained During Her Majesty's Pleasure: Parole Board Rules

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have made provision for those detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure to have their cases considered by the Parole Board at oral hearings.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Parole Board Rules 1997, which were made on 6 October 1997 under Section 32(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, came into force on 6 October. A copy of the Rules has been placed in the Library.

The Rules apply to those detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure and to all discretionary lifers, including those sentenced under Section 2 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997.

Apart from minor changes to statutory references and interpretation, the Rules are identical to their predecessors, the Parole Board Rules 1992.

Prison Service Business Plan 1997-98

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the Business Plan for the Prison Service for 1997-98.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We are publishing today the Prison Service's Business Plan for 1997-98, including the key performance targets I have set.

We recognise the pressure under which the service is now operating. The audit of resources which we published on 25 July made it clear that the key assumptions on which the service had been planning for the current year, particularly the size of the prison population, have already been overtaken. We announced on 24 July an increase in Prison Service funding this year and next year to help meet these pressures. At the same time, work under way as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the study of ways of closer working between the Probation and Prison Services which we announced on 16 July, and other policy developments in the criminal justice field, will all have long term implications for the service, which makes long term planning difficult.

For these reasons, we have decided not to publish a three-year Corporate Plan this year. Instead we are publishing a Business Plan which sets out clear targets and priorities for this year but does not significantly change the longer term objectives previously set for the service and focuses on the need to accommodate the prison population safely while maintaining balanced, positive regimes so far as possible. We will shortly discuss with the Director General the priorities and direction for the service for the next three years, which will be reflected in the Corporate Plan for 1998-2001.

The plan includes the performance targets against which the service has been operating so far this year. The majority will require some improvement on last

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year's performance, but we recognise that the further rapid rise in prisoner numbers so far this year, well ahead of the assumptions made when the plan was drafted, will have an impact on performance.

The targets are:


    to ensure no Category A prisoners escape;

    to ensure that the number of escapes from prisons and from escorts, expressed as a proportion of the prison population, is lower than in 1996-97;


    to ensure that the number of assaults on staff, prisoners and others, expressed as a proportion of the average population, is lower than 9 per cent.;


    to ensure that the rate of positive testing for drugs (the number of random drug tests that prove positive expressed as a proportion of the total number of random tests carried out) is lower than in 1996-97;


    to ensure that the percentage of the prison population above the uncrowded capacity of the estate is no more than 13 per cent.;

    time unlocked:

    to ensure that by 31 March 1998 at least 60 per cent. of prisoners are held in establishments which normally unlock all prisoners on the standard or enhanced regime for at least 10 hours per week day;

    offending behaviour programmes:

    to ensure that there are at least 2,200 completions by prisoners of programmes accredited as being effective in reducing re-offending, of which 670 should be completions of the Sex Offender Treatment Programmes;

    cost per place:

    to achieve at least a 1.3 per cent. reduction in real terms in cost per place compared to 1996-97, ensuring that the average cost of a prison place does not exceed £24,610;

    staff training:

    to ensure that on average, staff spend at least six days in training.

We have also set a target on purposeful activity, to ensure that prisoners spend on average at least 22.5 hours per week engaged in purposeful activity. This target takes account of work to improve the accuracy of these figures. Because of this, this year's target is not directly comparable with performance in previous years, but is intended to maintain performance at the level delivered last year. We regard it as extremely important that prisons provide a full day's constructive and challenging activity for prisoners, and we shall be asking the Director General to consider how he can improve on this target in the years ahead. But we do recognise that the population pressures facing the

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service make it unrealistic to set a higher target in 1997-98.

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