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3 Mar 2000 : Column WA115

Written Answers

Friday, 3rd March 2000.

Prison Service Website

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the cost of setting up the Prison Service website; who is responsible for maintaining it; what is the estimated cost of maintenance for the year 2000-2001; and whether any improvements in content are planned.[HL1196]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The initial cost of setting up the Prison Service website is commercial in confidence. The contract was subjected to a rigorous tendering process, and the successful company was chosen on the basis of price, technical competence and previous experience in establishing government websites.

The site is maintained in-house by the Prison Service's media relations unit. Currently there is one permanent website manager, who is assisted by one other member of staff. In order to ensure that the content is as accurate as possible, updates are undertaken only once individual prison establishments and groups and units from prison service headquarters who provide the information have agreed the contents.

It is estimated that the cost of maintenance for the year 2000-2001 will be in the region of £36,000. This figure comprises the following:

Staff costs:£33,000
Hardware costs:£3,000 (server rent costs)

Forthcoming content improvements over the next 12 months include publication of all non-restricted Prison Service Orders, more detailed information on each individual prison establishment, increasing the number of prison service reports and other publications which will be available on-line, details on the Prison Service's Management Board, and an on-line version of the service's in-house magazine Prison Service News. In addition, there will be increased hyperlinks, both internal and external.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give statistics on Immigration Act detainees, now provided monthly in the form of hard copy summaries to the House of Lords Library, in the statistics page of the Prison Service webside.[HL1194]

Lord Bassam of Brighton : Immigration detainees are the responsibility of the Immigration Service, rather than the Prison Service. The Home Office's Research Development and Statistics Directorate is responsible for the production of this information, and it is available from their website at

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The Prison Service will in future have a hyperlink to the appropriate page of the Home Office's Research Development and Statistics Directorate site.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why HM Prison Springhill is not included in the list of establishments covered in the website HM Prison Establishments; and why the list of establishments covered in the Prison Service website does not include HM Prisons Springhill, Grendon Underwood, The Verne and Wandsworth.[HL1192]

Lord Bassam of Brighton : The Prison Services's website continues to be developed and details of all establishments are added once accurate information is obtained from and agreed with establishments. The Prison Service hopes shortly to add details of the prisons mentioned.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they decided to show a photograph of HM Prison Wandsworth on the home page of HM Prison Establishments website, but not to include HM Prison Wandsworth among the establishments listed on that site.[HL1191]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Prison Service website's section on establishments is illustrated by a picture designed to show a generic prison. As good quality photographs become available for each establishment, they will be used to illustrate their respective prisons.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Annual Reports of the Boards of Visitors are not available on the Prison Service website.[HL1195]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Board of Visitors is independent of the Prison Service and, therefore, does not appear on the Service's website. Annual reports for Boards of Visitors as an organisation are available from the Home Office's website at

The National Advisory Council for Boards of Visitors is currently in the process of considering whether to post published Board of Visitors' annual reports on prisons on the Board of Visitors website. Until recently, technical and resource limitations prevented this from being done. These now appear to have been overcome, and, provided boards themselves are in agreement, this may be possible.

There is a link from the Prison Service website to the Boards of Visitors website.

Smoke-free Areas in Public Places: Research Project

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they consider to be the achievements thus far of the "no smoking in licensed premises"

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    research project conducted by the South Staffordshire Health Authority; and whether they will (a) continue funding the project after 31 March; and (b) extend it to other parts of the country.[HL1136]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The South Staffordshire Health Authority's project has provided useful data which will aid discussion on the provision of smoke-free areas in public places.

Decisions on funding and expansion of the study will form part of the future planning of the tobacco control strategy.

Ilisu Dam Project

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in considering Export Credits Guarantee Department support for the Ilisu Dam project in Turkey, they will take into consideration the seismic risks of the dam; and whether they will ask the Turkish authorities to allow free access to the dam site and its neighbourhood by journalists from Europe.[HL1167]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Salisbury of Turville): It is the responsibility of a dam's designers to assess seismic risks and design the dam accordingly. We understand that the designers of the Ilisu dam (a UK led consortium of consultants) have taken full cognisance of seismic risk. We also expect the issues to be addressed in the Environmental Risk Assessment Report.

We do not intend to ask the Turkish authorities to allow free access to the dam site and its neighbourhood by journalists from Europe.

Act of Union of 1801: Bicentenary

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have to celebrate the creation of the Union flag as the flag of the United Kingdom through the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland of 1801.[HL1058]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): I refer the noble Lord to the Answers given by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 7 February 2000 (HL742) (WA 60) and 22 February 2000 (HL949) (WA 13).

Prime Ministerial Visits: Press Accreditation

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many publications were granted press accreditation during the Prime Minister's visit to the West Country in February.[HL1068]

    What rules govern the granting of press accreditation by the Prime Minister's office to journalists who wish to report on Prime Ministerial tours.[HL1069]

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Accredition is given to all bona fide journalists, and all media organisations who requested accreditation were granted it.

Because of the nature of the visit, and the inaccessibility of the various locations, some of the Prime Minister's meetings were pooled media access only, others were private.

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, during the Prime Minister's recent two-day visit to the West Country, the magazine Country Life was denied press accreditation, not allowed on the press bus, and refused an itinerary; and, if so, why.[HL1065]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: All media organisations who requested accreditation were granted it. Press passes were formally distributed during the visit itself. In order to gain access to country lanes, the press bus was smaller than would normally be expected. Places were extremely restricted and were reserved for Lobby journalists, and thereafter on a first-come, first-served basis. For security reasons, details of the Prime Minister's itinerary are never given out in advance.

New Millennium Experience Company: Additional Grant

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what basis a £32 million loan has been granted by the Millennium Commission to the New Millennium Experience Company; and for what purpose it will be used.[HL1020]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Millennium Commission has approved an additional grant of up to £60 million to assist the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) with its cashflow. The precise amount of additional grant payable up to that maximum will have to be demonstrated, to the Millennium Commission's satisfaction, by NMEC on the basis of need--so far, £32 million has been released by the Commission. As with the original grant of £449 million (gross), this additional grant is repayable from any operating or disposal surplus. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State, in his capacity as Chairman of the Millennium Commission, has written about this issue to the noble Lord and has placed a copy of his letter in the Libraries of the House.

RAC and AA Hotel Classification System

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions they have had with the Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association with regard to the organisations' decision to rate Scottish and Welsh hotels and guesthouses according to the English system of classification.[HL1117]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: None. I understand that the RAC and AA have always used one method of assessing accommodation throughout Great Britain. They decide what will be of most service to their members, so we are pleased that they have also worked so constructively with the English Tourism Council to agree on a single quality standard for England, in accordance with the national tourism strategy.

Goodwin Sands

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans to grant national heritage park status to the Goodwin Sands.[HL1118]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There is presently no recognised concept of a "national heritage park" and no formal approach has been made to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for support of this project. Legislation, following extensive public consultation, would be required to create "national heritage parks" and to then apply the designation to the Goodwin Sands. It may be that the concept could be explored in the Government's review of policies relating to the historic environment currently being undertaken by English Heritage.

The Government are aware that proposals are being developed locally for the designation as a maritime heritage park of an area of the Goodwin Sands where four shipwrecks designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 are located.

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