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Public Authority Decisions: Publication of Reasons

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

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The draft Freedom of Information Bill was published on 24 May (Cm 4355). The Bill does not place public authorities under an obligation to publish the reasons for their administrative decisions to the particular person/persons affected by those decisions. The circumstances in which public authorities come under such a duty will continue to be governed by the developing administrative law jurisprudence. However, Clause 6 of the draft Bill places a duty on every public authority to adopt and maintain a scheme which relates to the publication of information by the authority.

In adopting or reviewing a publication scheme, a public authority is required to have regard to the public interest in the publication of reasons for decisions made by the authority. Public authorities will therefore be expected to publish appropriate information about the reasons for their administrative decisions in accordance with the publication scheme. The Commissioner must approve, and promote compliance with, the scheme.

New Criminal Offences

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Although the Home Office is responsible for scrutinising proposals for new offences in both public and private legislation, no comprehensive records are kept centrally of all new offences created in public legislation. The following information about public legislation therefore relates only to Home Office measures which have been passed or introduced into Parliament since 1 May 1997. It does not include provisions enacted before that date but implemented after it, proposed measures which have not yet been introduced in either House or amendments to existing offences. The information about private legislation covers all private measures during the period in question. Public Legislation

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 creates two new offences: breach of anti-social behaviour orders and breach of sex offender orders. It also creates nine racially-aggravated offences, but these are based on existing offences and do not render unlawful behaviour which would otherwise have been lawful. All these measures have been implemented.

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The Data Protection Act 1998 creates four offences, which have yet to be implemented.

The following proposals for new offences are currently before Parliament:

    the Immigration and Asylum Bill: 12 new offences;

    the Sale and Breeding of Dogs (Welfare) Bill: 10 new offences (of which four apply only in Scotland);

    the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill: four new offences; and

    the Football (Offences and Disorder) Bill: one new offence. Private Bills/Acts

The City of Westminster Act 1999 contained eight new offences.

Four private Bills proposing the creation of new offences are currently before Parliament:

    Kent Council Bill: 23 new offences;

    Medway Council Bill: 23 new offences;

    City of Newcastle upon Tyne Bill: 13 new offences; and

    London Local Authorities Bill: 14 new offences.

The 23 offences proposed in the Kent Council Bill are identical to those in the Medway Council Bill.

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What principles they observe, and what consideration they take into account, when proposing the creation of new criminal offences and the maximum penalties which they should attract.[HL2832]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government are mindful that the criminal justice system is a scarce resource and take the view that new offences should be created only when absolutely necessary.

In considering whether new offences should be created, factors taken into account include whether:

    the behaviour in question is sufficiently serious to warrant intervention by the criminal law;

    the mischief could be dealt with under existing legislation or using other remedies;

    the proposed offence is enforceable in practice;

    the proposed offence is tightly drawn and legally sound; and

    the proposed penalty is commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.

The Government also take into account the need to ensure, as far as practicable, that there is consistency across the sentencing framework.

Closed Prison Resettlement Units

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans there are for the future development of resettlement units in closed prisons in urban areas.[HL2926]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am considering proposals to house two or three ex-offenders at Nottingham Prison. I have no such plans for other units of this sort at any other prison.

Yorkshire Miner's Welfare Trust Fund Scheme

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Pursuant to the annual report of the Charity Commission for England and Wales 1998, who were the trustees found guilty of misconduct in the case of the Yorkshire Miner's Welfare Trust Fund Scheme, and what was the trustees' status.[HL2861]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The trustees removed from the Yorkshire Miner's Welfare Trust Fund Scheme and the Yorkshire Miner's Welfare Convalescent Home were Mr. Arthur Scargill and Mr. Frank Cave.

At the time of his removal, Mr. Scargill was suspended but had, until his suspension, been the chairman of both charities' trustee bodies. Mr. Scargill and Mr. Cave are, respectively, the President and Vice President of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Speed Camera Vehicle Front Photographs

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have given to police forces on front-photos of vehicles taken by GATSO speed cameras; and whether they have updated their 1995 advice.[HL2888]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The identification of any speeding offender detected by a speed camera is normally achieved by tracing the vehicle's owner and/or user through the vehicle's number plate. This applies to both front and rear photography. ACPO's guidance provides that where front photography has been used, the registered keeper of the vehicle should be told a record exists that may assist in the identification of the driver. If the registered keeper nominates another person

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as the driver then they too should be advised that the photograph may identify the driver. Any potential defendant should be given the opportunity to view the image and the displayed image should only show that part of the vehicle which permits the identification of the driver with the remainder of the passenger compartment obscured. Police forces may also use the image in other prosecutions if it contains prima facie evidence relating to any other serious offence. The initial image should remain in its unaltered condition as the best evidence for subsequent production in court if necessary. ACPO sees no need to update this 1995 advice.

Human Rights: Joint Committee

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Jay of Paddington of 27 May (WA 102), whether the reference to the examination of legislation by the proposed joint committee on human rights includes secondary legislation.[HL2779]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): As I have said in previous Answers, no decision has yet been taken about what terms of reference to propose to both Houses. Until the terms of reference appear on the Order Paper, I cannot be more precise about what will be included.

Blood Donations from Butchers

Viscount Addison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What instructions have been given to the National Blood Transfusion Service regarding the acceptance of blood donations from butchers.[HL2982]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): Guidelines on the medical assessment of donors are prepared by the United Kingdom Blood Services' standing advisory committee on the care and selection of donors. All donors are subjected to careful screening, but no specific advice regarding donations from butchers has been issued by the National Blood Service.

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