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Detention in Police or Court Cells

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: Some data collected centrally on numbers of persons detained in police or court cells

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may have ceased, although none so far has come to light. Certain central collections continue for specific purposes but they do not give figures for the numbers of persons by category detained in police or court cells.

In England and Wales there are two sources of central information. One source monitors the total number of prisoners held in police cells due to prison overcrowding (the number has been zero since June 1995 when the overspill from prisons ceased). The other source counts persons by age, sex and offence sentenced to "one day" either in a police or Crown Court cell where detention can last up to eight o'clock of the evening of the day of sentence.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland no data are available centrally in respect of court cells. In Scotland the only data available centrally in respect of police cells are on the basis of person nights in legalised police cells which fall under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Prison Service. Hence the data do not count persons and no data are available centrally on ordinary police cells.

In Northern Ireland annual totals are available for numbers of persons detained in police (PACE designated) cells for non-terrorist suspects and holding centres for terrorist suspects but this data cannot centrally be broken down further.

Data on the number of persons held in police cells under Immigration Acts are not collected centrally by the immigration authorities since virtually all such persons are arrested and detained by the police and in such cases the immigration authorities will only get involved if asked to do so. In these circumstances, where detention is maintained, arrangements are made to transfer such persons into the immigration detention estate as soon as possible.

Home Office PFI Projects

Lord Cope of Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) how many private finance initiative projects currently in negotiation on behalf of the Home Office are currently at the "preferred bidder" stage; (b) how many of these have been at the "preferred bidder" stage for more than 12 months; and (c) what is the longest period for which any of the projects mentioned in (a) have been at the "preferred bidder" stage.[HL2101]

Lord Bach: There are no Home Office private finance initiative projects which are currently at "preferred bidder stage".

Lord Cope of Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In relation to all private finance initiative agreements initiated on behalf of the Home Office since 1 April 1998, what has been the average period of time between identifying a preferred bidder and reaching "financial close"; how many such agreements have been so concluded; and how many have not yet been concluded.[HL2102]

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Lord Bach: The average period of time between identifying a "preferred bidder" and reaching "financial close" is six months. Three such agreements have been concluded and there are no such agreements not yet concluded.

Prisoners: Religion and Language Arrangements

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will draw the attention of governors of prisons in England and Wales to the practice, commended by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, of HM Prison Brockhill in making reception leaflets and tapes available to prisoners in 18 different languages; and whether they will also ensure that at any prison where Immigration Act detainees are held, or have been held, separate leaflets are available in appropriate languages for those who cannot speak English, asking them to state their religion on a multiple choice form; and whether they accept that this is necessary to ensure that visiting ministers can be given accurate information about the number of detainees belonging to their faiths.[HL2122]

Lord Bach: The Prison Service is committed to ensuring that all prisoners can practice their religion. A key part of this is ensuring that visiting ministers are given accurate information about prisoners from their faith. Prisons are required to record the declared religion of a prisoner on arrival and to make arrangements for the appropriate minister to be informed. The Prison Service recognises that foreign national prisoners, including Immigration Act detainees held in prison establishments, may need help with translating and interpreting.

Prison Service policy is for information to be provided in a form and language the prisoner can understand. All establishments, including those holding Immigration Act detainees, have access to Language Line, a 24-hour telephone interpreting service. The four books making up the Prisoners' Information Book, which contain information on all aspects of prison life, including on religious rights and registration, have been translated into 20 languages.

Other foreign language material, such as that mentioned by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons at Brockhill Prison, may have been produced locally by prison establishments. As part of a review of the management of foreign national prisoners which the Prison Service has recently begun, an audit of locally produced literature is under way to assess the possibility of disseminating such material more widely.

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The need for additional arrangements to obtain a prisoner's religion at reception will be considered as part of the review of foreign national prisoners and in the review of reception procedures which the Prison Service is shortly to start.

Detention Estate: Future Plans

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many places they plan to have available for Immigration Act detainees at the end of 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003; and what capital expenditure on the provision of new or refurbished accommodation is budgeted for each of the years from 2000-01 to 2003-04 inclusive.[HL2123]

Lord Bach: This Answer assumes that the Question refers to detention places. Current plans for the detention estate for each of the years is as follows: by the end of 2000, 889 places; 2001, 889 places; 2002, 1,381 places; and 2003, 1,381 places. In addition, the reception centre at Oakington has 400 places used under detention powers. The increase represents the new centres at Aldington and the replacement for Harmondsworth, less the return of Rochester to the Prison Service. Present proposals are for Aldington and the Harmondsworth replacement to be procured through the private finance initiative route, not capital.

In the context of the Spending Review 2000 and the need to increase the removal of failed asylum seekers, consideration is being given to a further expansion of the detention estate. Preliminary work is under way on finding possible sites. I am unable to give the noble Lord information about the extent of that possible expansion until funding has been settled.

Firearms Act

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the incidence of the carriage or use of firearms by persons engaged in crime has decreased since the passage of the Firearms Acts.[HL2148]

Lord Bach: Details of the carriage of firearms are not collected. Numbers of firearms offences in the year ending March 1999 were given in Chapter 3 of Criminal Statistics England and Wales 1998, published in March this year. The Scottish Executive has also published details for 1998 in Recorded crimes and offences involving firearms, Scotland 1998, published in October 1999.

The figures relating to the use of handguns in crime for England and Wales are given in the following table. The figures for 1998-99 will be somewhat inflated relative to earlier ones on account of changes in the counting rules for recorded crime introduced in April 1998. This expanded the coverage of offences to include, for instance, illegal possession of firearms and trading in and altering firearms. The degree of

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inflation cannot be assessed precisely. Figures for Scotland are also given in the following table.

All recorded crimes in which handguns were usedHomicides in which handguns were usedAll incidents in which handguns fired and caused injury
England and Wales

There were three homicides in Scotland in 1998 in which the firearm was unidentified.

UN Human Rights Treaties

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

    Further to the Written Answers by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 12 April (WA 49-50), in what way would acceptance of new rights of petition under United Nations human rights treaties, by which the United Kingdom is already bound, affect the implementation and bedding down of the Human Rights Act 1998.[HL2165]

Lord Bach: There is a great deal of work to be done by public authorities across the United Kingdom to prepare for the commencement of the Human Rights Act 1998 and to ensure that it is assimilated successfully. The Government consider that preparing for the right of individual petition to United Nations human rights treaties by which the United Kingdom is already bound, and responding to any complaints which may be brought under those procedures, is likely to divert resources from implementing the Human Rights Act 1998.

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