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Immigration Directorates' Instructions: Internet Availability

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I am pleased to announce that a copy of the disclosable version of four of the six volumes of the Immigration Directorates' Instructions (IDIs) is being placed on the Internet. The material is subject to periodic review and revision.

The Government are committed to ensuring that these instructions are as widely available as possible and arrangements are also in hand to place a paper-based copy of the IDIs at various selected sites around the United Kingdom. This will provide an alternative means of access for those without direct access to the Internet. I will arrange for a copy of the list containing details of the selected sites to be placed in the Library and on the Internet.

Life Sentence Review Procedures

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to make changes to the review procedures in cases of persons sentenced to life imprisonment.[HL2496]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Under the present arrangements announced by the then Home Secretary in another place on 7 December 1994, the first Parole Board review in the case of a life sentenced prisoner begins three years before the expiry of tariff. The purpose of this review is normally to enable the prisoner to be assessed for, and, where appropriate, transferred to, open conditions (Category D) where he or she may be tested in conditions of lower security, fully assessed by staff and prepared for release. A further Parole Board review is then held to determine whether the level of risk is low enough to enable the prisoner to be safely released on life licence. Where the level of risk is considered to be acceptable, the objective is to release the prisoner on, or very shortly after, tariff expiry.

The need for two or more reviews and the average time of eight and a half months to complete each one make it very difficult for this objective to be achieved. Of the 109 life sentenced prisoners who were released on life licence between April 1997 and March 1998, only one was released on tariff expiry. A further 31 who could have been safely released at or close to tariff expiry were released within 12 months. We have therefore decided to make some adjustments to the review timetabling arrangements to reduce delays by enabling prisoners whom it is safe to release but who are currently being released within 12 months of tariff expiry to be released on tariff or shortly afterwards.

In future, the first Parole Board review for mandatory and discretionary life sentenced prisoners will be brought forward by six months to start three and a half years before tariff expiry, but normally only where the prisoner has been in Category C prison conditions for 12 months or more at that point. Cases falling just outside the 12-month criterion, and cases where exceptional circumstances exist, will be considered for early review on their merits.

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In addition, reviews for all mandatory life sentenced prisoners who are in open conditions will commence 18 months after arrival, rather than after two years as is now the practice. We are satisfied that this will still allow ample time (at least two years) in open prison for the prisoner to be fully tested, assessed and prepared for release. This change will bring the timetable for the review of mandatory life sentenced prisoners into line with that for discretionary cases, in which there is a statutory entitlement to a further review on the second anniversary of the conclusion of the previous one. In order to avoid disrupting the scheduled offending behaviour programmes and pre-release preparatory work for those already in open conditions, this new arrangement will apply to those transferring to open conditions from 1 August.

The statement of 7 December 1994 also announced the abolition in discretionary life sentence cases of the 10-year ministerial review to consider whether there were any grounds for bringing forward the date of the first Parole Board review. The purpose of that review had been to identify any special circumstances or exceptional progress which might justify bringing forward the date of the first Parole Board review. We have decided that this review should also be abolished in mandatory life sentence cases. Those convicted of murder are now fully informed about the tariff-setting process and may make representations at any time about the length of their tariff. In addition, they may at any time make representations for their tariff to be reduced to take account of exceptional circumstances, including exceptional progress in prison. Those sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure have an annual review of tariff by officials and a ministerial review at the halfway point. In these circumstances, the 10-year review is now redundant.

Pregnant Prisoners

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set up an inquiry into allegations that women prisoners are being put under pressure to have abortions in exchange for being moved to open prisons.[HL2516]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prison Service has no evidence that women prisoners are being put under pressure to have abortions in exchange for being moved to open prisons. There is no reason why being pregnant should restrict a woman prisoner's progress to open conditions. One of our four mother and baby units is located at Askham Grange, which is an open prison for women.

The Prison Service has work in hand to produce, by March 1999, a standard for women's health. Among other things, the standard will clarify the management of pregnant prisoners. Such clarification will be to the benefit of female prisoners and staff.

If there is evidence that any woman prisoner has been influenced to have her pregnancy terminated in the circumstances alleged, an investigation of each individual case will be instituted.

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Mr. E. J. Esemuze

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why a letter addressed to Mr. Enahoro Esemuze, an inmate at Her Majesty's Prison, Bullingdon, was returned marked "Deported" when he was actually in Her Majesty's Prison, Rochester.[HL2597]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to Lord Avebury on Monday 6 July (WA 124) for the facts relating to Mr. Esemuze's custody.

Regrettably, Bullingdon prison failed to track Mr. Esemuze's whereabouts via the Local Inmate Database System and also erred in interpreting the available information, resulting in the letter being incorrectly returned.

This matter has been brought to the attention of Bullingdon prison and the Prison Service area manager will be issuing further guidance to the staff on the action to be taken with letters received at the prison for a prisoner who has left their custody.

Football-related Offences Overseas

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will introduce legislation conferring jurisdiction upon English courts over persons resident in England and who have committed abroad acts of violence or public order offences connected with the presence there of an English football team or an English club team.[HL2528]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Extraterritorial jurisdiction over criminal offences committed abroad is generally limited to those offences considered to be the most serious. The Government are presently conducting a review of all football-related legislation, taking into account the events in France during the World Cup Finals. Consideration will be given to all options, including the suggestion made by the noble Lord.

Medway Secure Training Centre: Disturbance

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) whether an independent inquiry will be held to establish the causes and facts of the disturbances at the Medway Secure Training Centre on 26 June;

    (b) whether they will publish the findings of any such inquiry; and

    (c) whether they will delay signing any further contracts to run secure training centres pending the result of such an inquiry.[HL2532]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: There was one disturbance at Medway Secure Training Centre on 25 June. The incident commenced at 8pm and was brought under control by 10pm. There were no serious injuries either to the trainees or staff. The contractor has commissioned its own investigation into the incident and a report is expected shortly. I understand that the investigation will look at issues such as physical security, the design of the centre and materials used, and the operating procedures. Any lessons learned from the incident will be incorporated in our requirements for future centres. On present information, there are no grounds for an independent inquiry or for delaying signature of further contracts.

Imported Coal

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy with regard to imported coal.[HL2569]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): Our policy is to promote open, fair and transparent trade in coal in accordance with our commitments under our membership of the European Coal and Steel Community and the World Trade Organisation. We have taken action within the European Coal and Steel Community to prevent unfair competition from German graded anthracite in the UK market. We are examining carefully the extent to which Polish housecoal and power-station coal is being sold in the UK market at prices below production costs, and will pursue the matter vigorously. It is not our policy to allow subsidies in Germany, Spain, Poland or elsewhere adversely to affect the UK coal industry.

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