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Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Arrangements are in hand for a medical examination of Senator Pinochet to take place as soon as practicable.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Her Majesty's Government have not received any representations from either candidate in the Chilean Presidential elections on this matter.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I refer the noble Lord to my Answers given to him on 11 November (Official Report, WA 185) and 9 December (Official Report, WA 101).

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton : Yes. A team of clinicians has been appointed.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton : This would be an operational matter for an individual Governor to respond to after consultation with his or her Area

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Manager and the local police. The role of the police in controlling demonstrations is to preserve the peace, to uphold the law and to prevent the commission of offences. Police tactics and decisions on how to achieve these objectives are a matter for the independent operational judgment of chief officers of police. They are not matters in which government Ministers can intervene.

Aged Prisoners

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners there are in the United Kingdom aged over 80; and what is the age of the oldest prisoner in the United Kingdom.[HL298]

Lord Bassam of Brighton : The latest available provisional information is for 31 October 1999. On that date there were 15 persons aged over 80 years in prisons in the United Kingdom. Of these the oldest individual was aged 88 years.

Detention during Her Majesty's pleasure

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What criteria are used in deciding whether a young prisoner detained during Her Majesty's pleasure has shown a significant alteration in maturity, which would justify a lower tariff than originally set.[HL427]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary made a statement on 10 November 1997 about the House of Lords judgement in V and T, which set out the approach to be taken to the review of the tariffs of those sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure.

The statement made clear that public confidence in the sentence would not be maintained if initial tariffs were to be curtailed without very good reason or as a matter of course. A tariff should be reduced only where the balance between the public interest in punishment and the public interest in the offender's welfare has clearly shifted so as to justify a reduction. The standard required to achieve a reduction in tariff in such cases is, therefore, very high. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will, in particular, look for: evidence of a significant alteration in the maturity and outlook of a detainee over and above that which can be expected in the normal course of development in the detainee between the date of the offence and that of the review; risks to the offender's continued development that cannot be sufficiently mitigated or removed in the custodial setting; and any matter that calls into question the basis of the original decision to set tariff at a particular level.

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Among the factors that might be relevant in determining whether the high threshold required to achieve a reduction in tariff has been met in a particular case are: evidence of genuine remorse; full acceptance of responsibility for the murder; a very good work and disciplinary record in custody; and a very good performance in relation to offence-related courses. Other factors in an individual case which are not readily susceptible to definition may also be relevant. For this reason, each case must be carefully considered on its merits.

Asylum Seekers: Dispersal and Support Arrangements

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What would be the net effect on public expenditure of scrapping the arrangements for dispersal and support of asylum seekers set up in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and restoring full entitlement of social security benefits (a) at a 90 per cent rate of income support and (b) at a 100 per cent of income support.(HL399)

Lord Bassam of Brighton: It is not possible to identify the precise effect on public expenditure. The Government believe that cash benefits represent a strong pull-factor and an encouragement to those who seek to come to this country to claim asylum in order to improve their economic well-being. This was particularly well illustrated when the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 was introduced. That legislation had the effect of cutting off benefits for those who did not claim asylum at their port of entry. It resulted in an overall decrease in total asylum applications of 45 per cent over eight months. Although it is not possible to make precise calculations, the Government conclude that the effect of not having a dispersal scheme (which would mean that the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers would need to continue to be accommodated in the London area, which is already under intense housing pressure) and the restoration of cash benefits would result in large increases in costs in public expenditure terms.

Geneva Conventions, Common Article 3

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they changed their minds from the policy articulated by the Lord Williams of Mostyn on second reading of the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Bill (H.L. Deb., 15 July 1997, col. 989) that they could not support the criminalisation of offences under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions in the United Kingdom domestic law.[HL294]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: In the debate on 15 July 1997, Official Report, col. 991, Lord Williams of Mostyn emphasised that "the best approach to these issues is to deal with them on the basis of international consensus". The Statute of the International Criminal

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Court gives jurisdiction to the Court over serious violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions; we gave this provision our strong support during the Rome Diplomatic Conference, which adopted the Statute.

European Convention on Human Rights: Compatibility Audit

Lord Norton of Louth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what date the government-wide audit of compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights was begun; and on what date it is expected to be completed.[HL358]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: It is the responsibility of every department to review its legislation and procedures for compatibility with the convention. This is a continuous process. The convention is a living instrument, and departments will need to take into account Human Rights Act jurisprudence as it evolves.

Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill

Lord Wigoder asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 9 December (WA 103), what is their estimate of savings obtained or expenditure incurred by making separately each of the six assumptions set out in the Answer; and what is the basis of the calculation in each case.[HL342]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Every additional:

    100 defendants tried in the magistrates' courts instead of the Crown Court, would save £900,000;

    week of remand time avoided, would save £600,000;

    percentage point increase in the timeous guilty plea rate*, would cost £600,000;

    percentage point increase in the late guilty plea rate*, would cost £400,000;

    percentage increase in the not guilty plea rate*, would save £1 million; and

    percentage point increase in appeals against mode of trial decision would cost £200,000.

*Assumes that the corresponding reduction in the other two plea rates is equally split.

Justice and Home Affairs Council,2 and 3 December

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Justice and Home Affairs Council held in Brussels on 2 and 3 December.[HL505]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Home Office (Mrs Roche) and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary represented the United Kingdom at the Council. The main matters dealt with were as follows: 'A' points

The Council agreed as an 'A' point, among other things, the draft Council Conclusions on the implementation of measures to combat child sex tourism. Follow-up to the Tampere Council

The European Commission presented its proposals for a "scoreboard" to monitor the implementation of the conclusions of the Tampere Special European Council and commitments arising from the Treaty of Amsterdam. Draft Mutual Legal Assistance Convention

Good progress was made on the negotiation of this important instrument and a number of member states were able to lift their reservations. Counterfeiting the Euro

The Council agreed the substance of the proposed Framework Decision subject to a small number of, mainly procedural, reservations Draft Insolvency Regulation

All aspects of this draft instrument were agreed except for the question of territorial application, on which discussions are continuing. Draft Service of Documents Regulation

The Council agreed the text of the proposed regulation subject to a United Kingdom parliamentary scrutiny reservation and reserves relating to the instrument's scope Draft Directive on Electronic Commerce

The Council discussed the criminal law aspects of this draft directive, the overall objectives of which the United Kingdom fully supports. Organised Crime

The Council considered progress of work on two draft documents: Prevention and Control of Organised Crime: A European Strategy for the New Millennium; and the 1998 European Union Organised Crime Situation Report. Draft Eurodac Regulation

The Presidency reported that considerable progress had been made on the draft regulation. It was noted that the European Parliament would need to be re-consulted on the draft instrument and that the United Kingdom maintained a parliamentary scrutiny reserve. Commission Proposal on Admission on Family Reunification

The Commission introduced its proposal to give European Union citizens and legally resident third country nationals the right to have non-European Union family members join them. Member states gave a general welcome to the proposal, which was remitted

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to the relevant working group for detailed consideration. Draft Negotiations mandate on Dublin Parallel Agreement with Norway and Iceland

The Council noted that the negotiating mandate had effectively been agreed, other than as regards the question of its territorial application.

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