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House of Lords Authorities

Lord Barnett asked the Chairman of Committees:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): Depending on the context, the House authorities include the Chairman of Committees, the Clerk of the Parliaments, Black Rod and the members of the Usual Channels.

Homeless Prisoners: Discharge Grant

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): Discharge grant is paid to help prisoners meet their immediate needs on release. Whether the grant is paid at the standard rate for those with a settled home to return to, or at the higher rate to those who have no settled home, the funds are taken from each prison governor's agreed annual budget. Governors do not have recourse to a separate central source of funding for this purpose.

Women in the Fire Service

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr O'Brien) announced on 11 February targets for the recruitment, retention and career progression of women in the fire service. By 2009, the Government expect 15 per cent of the operational fire service (whole-time and retained firefighters and their officers) in England and Wales to be women and for them to remain in the service and be promoted at the same rate as their male colleagues.

At present, the number of women in the whole-time operational fire service is only 1 per cent. A recent report from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Fire Services has confirmed that there is no possible justification for such low numbers. The target is deliberately challenging and will require brigades to take steps to encourage a more open inclusive culture and to revise procedures and practices which the Chief Inspector's thematic review found to be potentially discriminatory.

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General Pinochet

Lord Sawyer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will make a decision on the case of Senator Pinochet.[HL1047]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will do so as soon as possible, but not before the High Court gives judgment in the current judicial review proceedings. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary proposes to give notice to the parties to the case on the day before he expects to make his decision, and will notify the parties and another place immediately when the decision has been taken. It also remains his intention to make a full oral statement in another place when he is clear that it is appropriate to do so.

Parole Board

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to review the work of the Parole Board.[HL1048]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Parole Board is an executive Non-Departmental Public Body, established on 1 July 1996. The Government are committed to regular review of Non-Departmental Public Bodies, and have decided to conduct a review of the board during the current year. The review will incorporate the requirements of the "Quinquennial Review" process. The review will also look at the scope for improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the Parole Board and the wider parole process (for both determinate and life sentenced prisoners).

The review has the following terms of reference:

Within the context of a required Quinquennial Review of Parole Board functions, and the requirements of Better Quality Services and the Civil Service modernisation programme:

    to identify the key issues facing the parole and lifer review processes and the Parole Board over the next five years; and as part of the Quinquennial Review programme, to consider whether the functions of the Parole Board continue to be required, and, if so, whether a Non-Departmental Public Body is the best option for delivery.

To recommend changes to the parole and lifer processes which ensure that:

    existing procedures are made as efficient and effective as possible;

    new casework is dealt with efficiently and effectively and that demanding performance targets and measures are established with clear plans for delivery stated;

    wider developments, including advancements in information technology, are integrated successfully into the parole and lifer review processes; and

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    to recommend necessary changes to the Parole Board's status, organisation, structure and funding.

Crime Reduction Targets

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What crime reduction targets police authorities will be expected to set over the next five years under the Best Value regime.[HL1046]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: All police authorities and police forces have been told that statutory guidance under the Best Value regime (Section 5(7) of the Local Government Act 1999) will indicate that specific targets should be set by all police authorities for domesitc burglary and for vehicle crime. In addition, five forces are being asked to set a target for robbery.

The table shows the five-year targets for each force area, based on our latest information. It will be for each police authority to decide what targets should finally be set and published.

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Proposed Five Year Crime Reduction Targets

Vehicle Crime Burglary Dwelling Robbery
% Change % Change % Change
Apr-Mar 1998-99 Oct-Sep 1998-99 Apr-Mar 1998-99 Oct-Sep 1998-99 Apr-Mar 1998-99 Oct-Sep 1998-99
Avon and Somerset30%28%29%26%----
City of London10%13%18%3%----
Devon and Cornwall33%31%34%31%----
Greater Manchester34%33%25%19%10%15%
Hertfordshire114%210% 14% 16% ----
Metropolitan Police131% 35% 310%310%3 415%3 415%
North Wales28%31%26%22%----
North Yorkshire25%20%44%47%----
South Wales34%35%29%27%----
South Yorkshire30%28%34%34%----
Thames Valley30%32%40%44%----
West Mercia10%7%14%13%----
West Midlands30%34%23%23%34%45%
West Yorkshire37%34%42%40%22%23%
National figure530%29%26%24%12%19%

1 Contains areas affected by boundary chabnges from 1 April 2000.

2 Subject to verification.

3 Based on projected recorded crime from April 1999-March 2000.

4 Figure refers to street crime.

5 National figures subject to verification against police authorities, Best Value performance plans.

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