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23 May 2000 : Column WA73

Written Answers

Tuesday, 23rd May 2000.

Western Sahara

Lord Morris of Castle Morris asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there has been any progress on resolving the dispute over the Western Sahara.[HL2580]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): With the support of the UN Security Council, James Baker, the UN Secretary-General's Personal Envoy on the Western Sahara, recently visited several north African countries to assess the prospects for resolving the long-standing dispute over the Western Sahara.

Following these visits, Mr Baker invited the two main parties, Morocco and the Polisario Front, and the two front-line states, Algeria and Mauritania, to meet in order to consider the options for moving discussions forward. The UN asked the British Government whether we could provide a venue for

14 May. We agreed, and the UN accepted our offer of Lancaster House.

We welcome the willingness of the two parties to engage. We hope they will respect the spirit and aims of Mr Baker's mission and work with him to secure an early, durable and agreed resolution of this dispute.

The 14 May talks were private and conducted throughout by Mr Baker and his United Nations team. The UK's role was limited in this instance to logistical support. But I hope it sends a clear signal of our continuing willingness to support UN efforts to resolve conflicts on the African continent.

Blantyre House: Move of Governor

Lord Mayhew of Twysden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the circumstances in which Mr McLennan-Murray, Governor of HM Prison Blantyre House, was recently removed from his post.[HL2442]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): Mr McLennan-Murray's career move to a different type of prison had been planned for some time. The Director General of the Prison Service decided that this move should take place to coincide with the recent security operation, so that the programme of action required to take the establishment forward could be driven through from the outset by the new governor.

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Lord Mayhew of Twysden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What notice Mr McLennan-Murray was given of the recent decision to remove him from his post as Governor of HM Prison Blantyre House before he was required to leave.[HL2443]

    Who authorised the recent decision to remove Mr McLennan-Murray from his post as Governor of HM Prison Blantyre House; and what notice was given to him that his removal from post had been authorised.[HL2444]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Mr McLennan-Murray's career move to a different type of prison had been planned for some time. The decision to effect this move was taken by the Director General of the Prison Service. Mr McLennan-Murray was told of the actual date on 5 May and officially took up his new post on 7 May.

Blantyre House: Prison Search

Lord Mayhew of Twysden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Over how many hours was a prison search carried out at HM Prison Blantyre House in May; and what contraband, if any (identified by quantity and category), was discovered.[HL2445]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The search took just under six-and-a-half hours. The search made 98 finds of unauthorised articles, including cash to the value of £370, nine mobile telephones, 25 bank and credit cards and bank books, a small quantity of illicit drugs, 12 cameras, two computers, two televisions, a set of building tools, seven examples of hard core pornography, tattooing equipment, computer disks, screwdrivers and blank visiting orders for Elmley prison.

Blantyre House: Reconviction Rates

Lord Mayhew of Twysden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the record in recent years of H M Prison Blantyre House by reference to the proportion of its inmates who have been reconvicted within two years of their discharge or to any other stand and measure of recidivism; and comparing that record with other establishments of the same category in England and Wales.[HL2464]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Recent two-year reconviction rates for Blantyre House, all closed category C establishments and all prisons are shown in the table. The reconviction rates are produced by analysing a stratified random sample of discharges from all prisons during a given year. The numbers in the samples who were discharged from Blantyre House are small but the rates are consistently over 35 percentage points lower than the national rates.

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There is a selection criterion for prisoners of Blantyre House. This criterion means that the

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reconviction rates for this prison are not directly comparable with reconviction rates for other prisons.

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Table: Two-year reconviction rates

Blantyre House Closed category C establishments All establishments, England and Wales
YearRate % Sample size Rate % Sample size Rate % Sample size

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Involuntary Manslaughter

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to reform the law relating to involuntary manslaughter and in particular corporate manslaughter.[HL2578]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today issued a consultation document containing the Government's proposals on how the law on involuntary manslaughter might be reformed. The paper accepts and builds on the Law Commission's proposals contained in its report No. 237 Legislating the Criminal Code: Involuntary Manslaughter.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library.

This is an important document dealing with a complex area of the law but one which most commentators accept is in need of reform. The Government are deeply indebted to the Law Commission, not only for the detailed consideration it gave to this subject in its report No. 237 but also for its continuing help by participating in the inter-departmental working group we set up to consider its proposals.

The consultation document concentrates on those areas of the Law Commission's proposals which are more contentious or where, for the reasons set out in the document, we have taken a different view from the Law Commission. In a number of areas we have not come to any conclusion but are seeking comments on possible options.

We wish to clarify and rationalise the existing law relating to individual involuntary homicide and we agree with the Law Commission that the law relating to corporate liability for involuntary manslaughter is in need of radical reform. Our proposals in this respect raise important and difficult issues of policy, principle and practice.

I would urge all those who are concerned about the reform of the law on involuntary manslaughter to read this paper and respond to it.

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Financial Bonds: Pilot Study

Baroness Howells of St Davids asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will announce the results of the consultation process on the design of a pilot study for financial bonds for visitors under Sections 16 and 17 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.[HL2605]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Roche) has today placed in the Library a detailed analysis of responses to our recent consultation paper on bonds for visitors, together with an analysis of responses to this proposal in the 1998 White Paper on Immigration and Asylum. She is grateful to all those who responded to our consultation document. We have taken full account of their views, and of the many other representations made to us, in considering how the pilot study should run.

The pilot study on financial bonds will begin in October at two posts overseas, Manila and Casablanca. It will run for six months, followed by a further six months to monitor departure from the United Kingdom, and a further, brief period for analysis of the results.

The scheme is intended to enable more people to visit the United Kingdom by providing an additional facility to prospective visitors in borderline cases where their intention to return is in doubt. It will enable a British citizen or overseas national settled in the United Kingdom who is a family member to provide a financial bond in the form of a cash payment in advance as an additional guarantee that the visitor will leave the United Kingdom at the end of their stay. The scheme will be open to those seeking to visit close family members in the United Kingdom. The amount of the bond will be set at £3,000. The bond will be returned when the visitor leaves the United Kingdom.

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We shall monitor the scheme closely to ensure that it operates fairly, effectively and swiftly. We shall make available our analysis of the operation of the pilot study when it is complete.

Further details about how the scheme will operate will be provided nearer the time.

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