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Prisons: "Riots"

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prison Service does not use the term "riot" as a definition of an incident. Under its incident reporting scheme, the only incident which could match this term would be that of active concerted indiscipline. Such an incident is defined as an incident in which two or more prisoners, acting together, use violence to disrupt the regime of an establishment. The associated costs of repairing damage and relocating prisoners are not available centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

I am placing the available information in the Library.

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Prisoners: PO Box Numbers Ban

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will amend Prison Standing Order 5B, paragraph 29, so as to allow prisoners to communicate with box number addresses belonging to legal organisations.[HL3633]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have no plans to amend this provision. Under paragraph 29 of Standing Order 5B, governors have the authority to stop prisoners from writing to a Post Office box. Prisons must be able to identify and check the recipients of prisoners' correspondence, particularly in the case of high risk prisoners and sex offenders.

While this provision will more often apply to individuals using PO box numbers, it may also be applied to organisations where the governor considers there to be a risk. Some organisations, for example, operate penpal schemes for prisoners to make contact with people on the outside. Such schemes may be susceptible to infiltration by sex offenders and paedophiles seeking to network and make contact with vulnerable people. These schemes therefore need to be thoroughly vetted. Where the organisations concerned are not able to do this, and the use of a box number precludes prisons from making appropriate checks on the recipients, a governor is within his or her rights to stop prisoners writing to the organisation.

However, in the case of legal practitioners and organisations, governors, in keeping with the principle that prisoners should have unfettered access to the legal process, should generally allow the use of a box number, although the number of legal practitioners and organisations which do this is likely to be very small.

Policing: Key Objectives

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their key objectives for policing for 1999-2000.[HL3764]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will announce his objectives, which identify his ministerial priorities for policing in 1999-2000, together with supporting Key Performance Indicators, tomorrow, 6 November. I will arrange for copies to be placed in the Library at 10 a.m. that morning.

Asylum Statistics: Monthly Data

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out the arrangements being made to issue monthly statistics on asylum.[HL3763]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Until now, the asylum statistics have only been available in the Home Office's annual Asylum Statistics Bulletin and in a summary form twice a year in the Control of Immigration

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Statistical Bulletin. These bulletins contain detailed information on asylum applications, demographic characteristics of asylum seekers, decisions, appeals, detention and removals.

Selected monthly information has, however, only been available on request from the Home Office Press Office. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is therefore arranging for selected monthly bulletins to be issued on 25 of each month or the next working day, and to be also available through the Library and the Home Office Press Office.

Prison Service: Quantum Project

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the Prison Service Quantum Project.[HL3762]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: On 10 August 1998, the Director General of the Prison Service called a temporary halt to the Quantum Project and set up a thorough review which will take up to six months. In a message to Prison Service staff, he said: "It has become apparent that it may not be possible to achieve the original objectives of providing the service with improved information systems and business processes in a way which safeguards the vital operational capability of the service". These and other concerns will be addressed in the review process, which will reassess the way forward and consider a range of alternative options. The objective is to ensure that the project meets the needs of the Prison Service.

Boundary Commission Report

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the report of the interim review of the Boundary Commission for England.[HL3725]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have today laid before Parliament the report of the interim review of the Boundary Commission for England, together with a draft Order in Council for giving effect, without modification, to the recommendations contained in the report.

Prevention of Terrorism Legislation: Annual Review

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the arrangements are for this year's review of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary provisions) Act 1989.[HL3727]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am pleased to announce that Mr. John Rowe QC has accepted the invitation of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to carry out the annual review of the Prevention of Terrorism

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(Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, including those provisions inserted by the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998, for 1998 and the following two years.

Youth Justice Board

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the operation of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.[HL3726]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, established under Section 41 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, came into operation on 30 September 1998.

The members of the Board are:

    Lord Warner of Brockley (Chair)

    Mr. Rob Allen, Director of Research and Development, National Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders

    Mr. Jonathan Black, Clerk to the Justices, North East and North West Hampshire

    Mr. Cedric Fullwood, lately Chief Probation Officer, Greater Manchester

    Ms Joyce Moseley, formerly a Director of Social Services

    Dr. Theodore Mutale, consultant child and adolescent forensic psychiatrist

    Ms Janet Paraskeva JP, Director for England, National Lottery Charities Board

    Mr. Charles Pollard, Chief Constable, Thames Valley Police

    Mrs. Annabella Scott JP, Inner London youth panel

    Mr. Martin Stephenson, Chief Executive, INCLUDE

    Ms Lorna Whyte, a member of the Police Complaints Authority

    Mr. Charles Wilson, lately Managing Director of the Mirror Group of newspapers

The board is responsible for monitoring the operation and performance of the youth justice system as a whole and advising the Government on this, and on the drawing up of standards for the local provision of youth justice services and for custodial regimes for juveniles. The Board will also identify and promote good practice in the provision of youth justice services and, in support of this work, the Government are providing £85 million over three years from April 1999 for a youth justice development fund, which it has asked the board to administer. The fund will be used to support the development by local authorities and other bodies, including in the voluntary sector, of programmes and projects, including bail support, to prevent or tackle offending by children and young people.

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The Monarchy

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they regard the hereditary principle as appropriate for the position of Head of State of the United Kingdom.[HL3588]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government believe that the national interest and desire is to retain our constitutional Monarchy in its present form, which has served the country well.

Asylum Seekers: False Travel Documents

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

    Whether they consider that Article 31 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees recognises that there may be justification for the use of false travel documents and irregular entry, since a person fleeing human rights violations may need to resort to false documents to leave the country of origin and to travel to another country.[HL3615]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: There may be circumstances when asylum seekers would need to use false travel documents in order to leave their country. However, once they have left, there should normally be no legitimate reason for their seeking to deceive the immigration officer into believing that the document is valid. All asylum applications, including those made by illegal entrants, are considered on their merits in accordance with the criteria set out in the 1951 convention.

Genetic Testing and Insurance

Lord Gallacher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to publish their response to the Human Genetics Advisory Commission's report on The Implications of Genetic Testing for Insurance.[HL3761]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): I have today published, in conjunction with the Minister for Public Health, the Government's response to the HGAC report. In undertaking consideration of this issue, the Government have placed great importance on ensuring fairness of treatment for people seeking insurance cover. The response sets out a number of proposals which seek to build on the progress already made by the Association of British Insurers in developing industry-wide standards on underwriting and confidentiality. In line with the recommendations made in the HGAC report, the proposals include the establishment of an independent mechanism to evaluate the scientific and actuarial relevance of any genetic tests before they can be taken into account by insurers. Copies of the response have been placed in the Library.

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