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23 Mar 1999 : Column WA141

Written Answers

Tuesday, 23rd March 1999.

Equal Rights in the EU

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

    Whether they support the proposals by the Starting Line Group for legislative measures to combat racism and to promote equal rights in the European Union.[HL1541]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government supported the inclusion in the Amsterdam Treaty of Article 13 which will provide a legal base for taking Community action against racism and other forms of discrimination. The Government will continue to play a full and positive part in the development of Community action to tackle racial discrimination once the treaty comes into force. The Starting Line Group has played an important role in the development of thinking in this area and the Government very much welcome the constructive and thoughtful contribution it has made to the debate.

Young People in Custody on Remand

Lord Elton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What in the most recent convenient period of 12 months was:

    (a) the average number of 12, 13 and 14 year-old boys and girls, and 15 and 16 year-old girls, held in custody on remand; and

    (b) the average number of unoccupied places in local authority secure accommodation, giving these figures by region or administrative area if possible and stating in similar terms on how many days during the period, and by how much, the former exceeded the latter; and[HL1477]

    What arrangements will be made from 1 June 1999 onwards for the detention in remand of 12, 13 and 14 year-old boys and girls and 15 and 16 year-old girls remanded in custody where no local authority secure accommodation is available either locally or within a reasonable distance of the home of the person so remanded; and what, for these purposes, they define as a reasonable distance.[HL1506]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: From 1 June 1999, a court may remand a 12 to 14 year-old or a 15 or 16 year-old girl to local authority secure accommodation, but only if that person is charged with, or has been convicted of, a violent or sexual offence, or of an offence punishable in the case of an adult with imprisonment for a term of 14 years or more; or that person has a recent history of absconding while remanded to local authority accommodation and is charged or has been convicted of an imprisonable offence alleged or found to have been committed while he has been so remanded. In either case the court must

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also be of an opinion that only remanding that person to local authority secure accommodation would be adequate to protect the public from serious harm from them. In other cases, the court may remand a child or young person up to the age of 16 to local authority accommodation.

Under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, local authorities are under a duty to comply with any court-ordered remand to local authority secure accommodation made under Section 23 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. This duty may be discharged by a local authority by providing their own secure accommodation or by making arrangements with other local authorities. The use of local authority secure accommodation is a national resource which is available to all local authorities in England and Wales.

A government funded building programme was put in place to expand the local authority secure estate by 170 places specifically to allow for implementation of the provisions in relation to court-ordered secure remands. These places are now available.

The implementation of the court-ordered secure remand provisions needs to be seen in the context of the Government's overall youth justice reform programme. In the longer term, provisions in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, including the duty under Section 38(4) to ensure the availability of bail support for children and young people who are remanded or committed on bail awaiting trial or sentence, when fully implemented will help to stabilise and reduce the demand for secure accommodation.

The statistical information sought cannot be provided in the requested form. The Department of Health publication Children Accommodated in Secure Units Year ending 31 March 1997, England and Wales contains the latest relevant information about local authority secure accommodation. This publication indicates that of the 279 children accommodated in secure accommodation at 31 March 1997, 99 had been remanded to such accommodation. Of these 99, there were no 12 year-olds, eight were 13 year-olds, 20 were 14 year-olds, two were 15 year-old girls and one was a 16 year-old girl. Of the 324 places available in secure accommodation at 31 March 1997, 279 were occupied and 45 were not.

Genetically Modified Animals

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 8 March (WA 1) on genetically modified animals:

    (a) how many project licence holders are registered under the terms of Section 5 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986;

    (b) who checks the records of the licence holders;

    (c) whether imported animals contain human genetic code; and, if so, how many have been imported and from where;

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    (d) how were the nearly 900,000 genetically modified animals disposed of; and

    (e) whether they are satisfied that none were interbred with non-modified animals.[HL1489]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: (a) As of 12 March, there were 3,691 project licences in force. The total number of licence holders will be less than this as some individuals hold more than one project licence.

(b) Under conditions attached to licences, records must be open to examination by inspectors appointed under the terms of Section 18 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Appendix V of the Guidance on the Operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, published by the Stationery Office, gives details of the information that should be included in the records. Checks may also be carried out within establishments by the certificate holder, named animal care and welfare officers, named veterinary surgeons and other licensees.

(c) Central records are maintained of all imported, genetically modified animals and their origins. However, checking whether each strain of genetically modified animal contains human genetic code could only be carried out at disproportionate cost by checking individual cases.

(d) Detailed information is not held centrally, but either:

    (i) the animals are still alive;

    (ii) the animals were killed during the course of a procedure or by a humane method approved in Schedule 1 to the Act; or

    (iii) the animals were discharged from the controls of the Act so that they could be exported.

    No genetically modified animals have been released from the controls of the Act other than for export.

(e) Genetically modified animals will have been intentionally interbred with normal animals but only under the authority and control of licences issued under the terms of the 1986 Act.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Failure of Computer Systems

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will explain the causes of the failure of computer systems used by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office; the steps being taken to remedy the problems; the estimated time-scale for completion of the work, and the probable delays in processing asylum applications; and whether they will include a copy of this statement with all letters from Ministers responding to Members inquiring about delays in relation to particular asylum applications.[HL1544]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As the noble Lord is aware from my Written Answer on 13 October col. 96, the Integrated Casework Directorate was implemented last year with only a part of the Information Technology (IT) system, which is to be delivered later this year. The

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present disruption to Immigration and Nationality Directorate services to the public is in part attributable to the delay in making the full IT system available. A number of steps have been taken to improve the present situation including taking on additional staff and running special exercises to target priority cases. We are aiming to provide our normal service as soon as possible.

Citizenship Rights: Channel Islands and Gibraltar

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, and in what ways, the rights as British citizens of residents of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man differ from those of British citizens resident in Gibraltar.[HL1518]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: British citizens who have become resident in each of the territories under reference are subject to their respective constitutions and other laws. These are not uniform and it would not be practical to list and define the full possible range of rights in each territory, many of which are determined by local primary and secondary legislation.

Interception Warrants

Lord Bach asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to implement the recommendation, in the report for 1997 of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, that nominated officials in the law enforcement agencies be permitted to modify serious crime warrants on behalf of the Secretary of State where the warrants are specifically endorsed to permit it.[HL1689]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We intend to implement the change, as recommended by the Interception Commissioner, on 1 April. Thereafter, nominated senior officials in the intercepting agencies will be empowered to modify existing interception warrants by the insertion of new addresses in urgent cases. This is in accordance with Section 5(4) of the Interception of Communications Act 1985.

The change will not enable officials to issue interception warrants against new targets. Interception warrants may only lawfully be issued by (or on the express authorisation of) my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

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