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29 Mar 2000 : Column WA71

Written Answers

Wednesday 29th March 2000.

Liquor Licensing

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the White Paper dealing with liquor licensing to be published.[HL1634]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): We expect to publish a White Paper on the reform and modernisation of the liquor and public entertainment laws shortly.

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they expect the existing local licensing committees to retain the licensing jurisdiction; and, if not, what alternative arrangements they have in mind.[HL1635]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: A White Paper on the reform and modernisation of the liquor and public entertainment licensing laws, to be published shortly, will set out the new arrangements we have in mind for the licensing of relevant premises.

Arson Scoping Study

Lord Orme asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will respond to the report of the Scoping Study in relation to arson prevention in England and Wales.[HL1788]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Mr O'Brien, is pleased to announce today that the Government have accepted all of the main recommendations of the Scoping Study.

We have pledged quite clearly our determination and commitment to providing safer communities. The police and fire services have a vital role to play in helping to maintain a safer society, not just by reducing crime and the fear of crime but also by reducing the number of deliberate fires and associated deaths and casualties.

The report of the Arson Scoping Study was published last May and set out a series of recommendations aimed at addressing the growing problem of deliberate fires. The report was welcomed as an enormous opportunity for the Government and the police and fire services to reduce the pain and suffering caused by deliberately set fires.

When the report was published we made it clear that we wanted to hear the views of chief officers, local authorities, the insurers and all those involved in the administration of justice, all of whom have a crucial role to play in translating the recommendations into action. My honourable friend is pleased to say that

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the response to the Scoping Study has provided a strong mandate to carry forward all of its key recommendations and for a refocusing of efforts to prevent arson.

My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office is writing to those same organisations today to explain how we intend to take the recommendations forward. In particular, he wants to see the efforts of government, police and fire authorities, the insurers and other local agencies integrated and co-ordinated as the Scoping Study recommended so that the whole effort achieves more than the sum of its parts. We shall be taking steps to put these arrangements in place shortly. He also accepts, with the strong endorsement of the police and fire services and the insurers, the recommendation to create a new government-led arson control forum to take forward the arson prevention strategy.

Arson prevention must become a core activity of the police and fire services and we must work in partnership with other agencies and with business to eliminate deliberately set fires. The success of this approach will mean a safer society for us all.

Juvenile Offenders: Custodial Arrangements

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What priorities will be set for placing juvenile offenders when the detention and training order comes into operation.[HL1789]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The detention and training order (DTO) will come into force on 1 April 2000. It will become the main custodial sentence for juvenile offenders aged 12 and under 18, replacing detention in a young offender institution for under-18s and the secure training order. Detention under Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 will remain available for the minority of young offenders aged 10 and under 18 who commit grave crimes.

Subject to parliamentary agreement to an order laid on 27 March, for under-18s sentenced to custody under the DTO or Section 53 and those remanded to Prison Service custody or direct to local authority secure accommodation, new more co-ordinated arrangements for the juvenile secure estate will start operation in April. The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales will commission and purchase places from the Prison Service, the secure training centre (STC) contractors and local authority secure units (LASUs). This will give it considerable influence over the management of custodial placements for under-18s and enable more appropriate and cost-effective use of facilities. The board has drawn up commissioning and placement strategies to support its proposed new role and a copy of these has been placed in the Library.

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Initially there will be 13 Prison Service establishments holding under-18s, three STCs and 200 to 300 places the Youth Justice Board expects to purchase from LASUs through current negotiations. (LASUs have 480 places in total but have to keep enough free for local authority placements for welfare purposes or for those placed in secure accommodation following a remand to ordinary local authority care.) So altogether there will initially be some 3,200 places for youth justice purposes.

Two thousand eight hundred of these places will be provided by the Prison Service. Fifty-one million pounds is being invested in a substantial capital development programme throughout the juvenile estate, plus improvements in education, training and work designed to prevent reoffending and drawing on "what works" evidence-based research. This will, over time, make its establishments better equipped to deliver the acceptable and positive environment required to meet the needs of those held within them. However, the Government and the Youth Justice Board believe that further steps should nonetheless be taken to protect the most vulnerable under-18s. Within its total budget for secure placements in 2000-01 the board will push this process as far as it can during the coming year, particularly in respect of the 100 girls under 18 serving custodial sentences.

Beyond this, what the Youth Justice Board can do to move them elsewhere, and how quickly, depends on the numbers remanded and sentenced to custody by the courts and the physical and financial resources available to cater for them. If the numbers decline, the new powers will provide further opportunities to place more of these vulnerable young people in LASUs and STCs. In all placement decisions the focus will be on matching the needs of individual young people to the available accommodation, based on the evidence of "what works", not least in reducing crime. The board will monitor establishments' performance--within the Prison Service, LASUs and STCs--against service specifications to ensure regimes are of an appropriate standard and that the well-being of the young people is being properly addressed.

As to future years, we have previously announced plans for two more STCs providing approximately 80 places. The Youth Justice Board will take over development work on these in April. We will be considering in this year's spending review what further provision should be made for new establishments to be commissioned by the board.

With the improvements to the quality of the Prison Service juvenile estate, the greater flexibility available to place DTO trainees and the consolidation of commissioning and purchasing responsibilities with the Youth Justice Board, the new arrangements represent a significant opportunity to drive up standards and place young people according to their relative needs in terms of welfare and action to prevent re-offending. I am confident that the Youth Justice Board, working with the various providers, will fully seize this opportunity.

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Legal Services Ombudsman Review

Lord Clarke of Hampstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Ms Ann Chant has completed her review of the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman and when it is intended to publish her report.[HL1757]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Ms Chant has completed her review of the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman. My department has today published her report and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Malawi's debts will be waived, in part or in total, under the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative.[HL1735]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Malawi, as a country eligible for relief under the HIPC initiative, will receive debt relief under the terms of that initiative. The level of relief is calculated by World Bank staff at the time the country reaches decision point but, in the case of the Paris Club creditors, will be equivalent to 90 per cent or more debt cancellation.

Malawi will, of course, also benefit from the UK's bilateral policy of providing 100 per cent debt relief for countries qualifying under the HIPC initiative. Several other bilateral creditors (including the US, Canada and France) have indicated that they are also willing to provide 100 per cent debt relief.

Health Spending

Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the proportion of national income that is estimated will be spent on health by the end of 2003-04.[HL1791]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): As announced by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 21 March, provision has been made available for the UK which will allow the average real terms increase for the UK health service over the next four years to be 6.1 per cent. So health service spending will rise from last year's £45.1 billion and this year's £49.3 billion to; next year, £54.2 billion, the year after, £58.6 billion; then £63.5 billion; and then from April 2003, £68.7 billion.

As a result, on current forecasts, UK health spending as a proportion of GDP will increase to around 7.6 per cent by 2003-04. It is expected that spending within the private healthcare sector will remain at around 1 per cent of GDP and the overall rise to 7.6 per cent is almost solely accounted for by the real terms increase in NHS spending.

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The 8 per cent EU average, as calculated by the OECD, is based on total healthcare spending. It is therefore directly comparable to the 7.6 per cent figure.

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