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Culture Council, 24 November

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: EU Ministers of Culture met on 24 November 1997 in Brussels. Ministers agreed conclusions on music in Europe which are intended to inform the Commission's thinking as it develops proposals for the future of EU cultural action.

The European Commission presented its proposal for a European Parliament and council decision establishing a Community initiative for the European City of Culture programme.

Ministers held an exchange of views on the selection of a European City of Culture for 2001; the funding of EC cultural action in 1999 to cover the period between the expiry of the Ariane and Kaleidoscope programmes and the establishment of a successor programme.

The council asked the Commission to carry out a study into the reduction of VAT on recordings.

Ministers discussed a proposal for a council decision establishing a European guarantee fund to promote cinema and television production, and follow-up to the Commission Green Paper on the protection of minors and human dignity in the audiovisual and information services.

The council invited the 10 associated countries of central and eastern Europe to participate in a structured dialogue on measures taken and to be taken to prepare new legislation and adapt existing national legislation, to bring it into line with EU audiovisual legislation and to address questions concerning the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual services.

Ministers also touched upon the future of digital television, European cities of culture for 1997 and 1998, the UNESCO intergovernmental conference in March 1998 on cultural policies for development, fixed book pricing, co-operation between the EC and the Council of Europe and follow-up action in the cultural field to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.

Bahrain Citizens: Asylum Applications

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their reasons for the delay in considering the asylum applications of Sayed Haider H. A. Hasan, Hamza A. J. Kadhem and Sheikh Ali S. A. Salman, citizens of Bahrain, who applied for asylum on their arrival in the United Kingdom on 17 January 1995, after being imprisoned without charge or trial since early December 1994, and then expelled from their country by the authorities; and when they expect to reach a decision on these cases.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Decisions will be taken on these applications once they have been considered against the requirements of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees. Current delays in dealing with applications are the result of the large backlog of cases in the Asylum Directorate. I am advised that decisions on these cases are unlikely to be reached before the spring at the earliest.

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Campsfield House

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures, if any, have already been taken to improve conditions at Campsfield House, near Oxford, since the August riots by detained asylum-seekers.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The disturbances that took place at Campsfield House on 20 August were not caused exclusively by people who had submitted applications for asylum in the United Kingdom.

Following the disturbances, it was necessary, for health and safety reasons, to restrict access to damaged areas and to those areas where contractors were working to make repairs. The number of detainees in residence was reduced to about half the normal capacity, and this level of occupancy has since been maintained. Contingency arrangements were put into effect to provide as many services as possible, but in the immediate aftermath of the disturbances some facilities were either reduced or temporarily unavailable. It is unfortunate that the facilities provided for the detainees' recreation and education were those that were principally targeted and destroyed. The library, classrooms, computer, televisions, sports equipment, shop, telephones, and laundry were either seriously damaged or completely destroyed. I am pleased to report, however, that all repairs have now been completed, and that all recreational, religious and educational facilities previously in place have been restored.

While there is no evidence that conditions at the centre were the cause of the disturbance, we are taking the opportunity in its aftermath to consider what other arrangements can be made for activity that will better meet detainees' needs. In addition, the recommendations of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, who looked at Campsfield House following the disturbances, will be considered.

Prison Service: Annual Report and Accounts

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the reasons for the delay of more than 18 months in publishing the Prison Service Annual Report and Accounts for April 1995--March 1996.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Production of the report for 1995-96 was undeniably slow and the then Ministers decided to defer approval of the text pending the general election. After the election, we were unable to find sufficient time to approve the text to enable publication before the summer recess. The report was published on 13 November 1997. In future, the Prison Service will aim to publish its Annual Report and Accounts within six months of the end of the financial year.

Women's Prisons: Management

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have made a decision on the leading recommendation in the report of Her Majesty's

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    Chief Inspector of Prisons that a director of women's prisons should be appointed.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We announced the findings of the internal review of the management and organisation of the Prison Service, carried out by the Director General, on 10 November 1997 (H.L. Deb., col. 8). We have endorsed its findings and recommendations.

The review considered the criticisms made by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons of the management of women's prisons and his recommendation that a director of women's prisons should be appointed. The review concluded that the best way to meet these criticisms was by creating a stronger capacity within headquarters to develop regime standards and policies and support the operational line in monitoring performance and spreading best practice. This will be provided by a director of regimes at prisons board level, supported by assistant directors, one of which will have separate, specific responsibility for women prisoners.

The relevant recommendations of the review will be implemented shortly.

Juveniles: Secure Remand

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the reference in the Written Answer given by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 5 November (WA 292-3) to the "170 new secure places in local authority accommodation", how many places there are in England and Wales other than the 170 referred to in the Answer.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): There are currently 435 approved local authority secure places in England and Wales. This figure includes 160 of the 170 new places being provided under the secure Accommodation Development Programme. The remaining 10 places will be available in August 1998. Redevelopment schemes are also presently proceeding at a number of units which, when completed during 1998, will add a further 15 places to the national stock. A further 40 places are provided by the Department of Health's Youth Treatment Centre at Glenthorne.

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the reference in the Written Answer given by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 5 November (WA 292-3) to "accused, convicted and other juveniles who need secure accommodation, what categories of "other juveniles" need secure accommodation.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Local Authority secure accommodation is also provided for young people generally between the ages of 10 and 18 who are likely to cause injury to themselves or others if placed in other forms of accommodation. Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 sets out the criteria which must be met before a child being looked after by a local authority can be placed, and if placed kept, in secure accommodation.

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Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the reference in the Written Answer given by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 5 November (WA 292-3) to "accused, convicted and other juveniles who need secure accommodation", how many (a) accused; (b) convicted; and (c) other juveniles who need secure accommodation there are in England and Wales.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: As published in Tables A(1) and D of Children accommodated in Secure Units year ending 31 March 1997 England and Wales, the numbers in secure accommodation in England and Wales at 31 March 1997 according to their legal status on admission were (a) 113 accused; (b) 99 convicted, and (c) 78 other juveniles who needed secure accommodation. Copies of the publication are available in the Library.

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