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Written Answers

Monday, 19th June 2000.

Asylum Seekers: Private Sector Accommodation (Contracts)

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the private sector housing used for asylum seekers and identified by Lord Greaves in his oral question on 8 June compares with the best value standards set by the Government. [HL2775]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): In negotiating contracts with the private sector to provide accommodation for asylum seekers, the National Asylum Support Service worked closely with the Home Office Procurement Unit. The processes followed in negotiating contracts with prospective accommodation providers were consistent with those followed by the Home Office on other major procurement projects.

Winning Consent: Metropolitan Police Commissioner's Response

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will make available the formal response by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to the Report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, Winning Consent.[HL2954]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Winning Consent, the report of an inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), was published on 10 January. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary today arranged for a copy of the commissioner's formal response to the report, submitted to me in my capacity as Police Authority for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), to be placed in the Library.

The inspection was carried out as a direct response to a recommendation of the report of the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence.

It was one of the most detailed and thorough inspections ever carried out by HMIC into specific aspects of policing in one police force, and examined community and race relations policies, and the handling of murder enquiries, in the MPS. Winning Consent contains 41 recommendations. Twenty-nine relate to diversity issues, and 12 are concerned with the content of murder investigations.

I welcome the commissioner's candid and very positive response. When the report was published, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary said that he expected senior management in the MPS to address the issues in it urgently and with vigour. This response confirms that they have done so. It demonstrates how

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much has already been achieved by the Metropolitan Police in implementing the report and reflects the commissioner's total commitment to meeting the challenges laid down and continuing the process of improvement.

The report makes 41 recommendations. The commissioner has accepted all of them (except one, which concerns a matter of professional, operational judgement, in the allocation of murder investigations within the Metropolitan Police). Many of the recommendations are for action to be implemented over time. The commissioner explains that there is a specific plan of action in place for each such recommendation; and some recommendations have already been implemented in full.

A fuller account of my assessment of the commissioner's response is being placed, together with it, in the Library.

Financial Fraud in the EU: Requests for Information

Lord Roper asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many formal inquiries for information on financial fraud (Commissions rogatoires internationales) were received from each of the other member states of the European Union in 1999; and how many have been replied to.[HL2776]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The numbers of Commissions rogatoires (requests) for information on fraud received, actioned and completed in 1999 are shown in the tables.

Requests sent to the Home Office are dealt with by the United Kingdom Central Authority (UKCA) for Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, in the Organised and International Crime Directorate of the Home Office.

The UKCA database does not distinguish between different types of fraud cases, so the figures cover not only financial fraud, but other types of fraud as well, such as fraudulent trading.

As requests for asset restraint and confiscation may be made in the context of financial fraud, these have been shown as well.

"Actioned" denotes action taken by UKCA to forward the request to the appropriate agency, be it a police force, Customs and Excise, the Serious Fraud Office, a magistrates' court, or--less frequently--another agency. At the same time as actioning requests, the UKCA sends an acknowledgment to the requesting state, notifying it of the action taken.

The UKCA has a target for actioning incoming requests of 20 working days. Therefore those requests received after early December will not have been actioned until early in 2000. Similarly, the figures for requests actioned will cover some requests received at the end of 1998. This explains the discrepancy between the "Received" and "Actioned" figures.

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How long requests take to be executed by these agencies is beyond the Home Office's control and depends on a wide variety of factors--for example, the complexity of the request, the availability of witnesses, the level of detail in the original request. The figures in the "Completed" columns will therefore represent a substantial number of requests received in 1998 or even earlier.

Requests for Assistance in Fraud Cases 1999

CountryRequests receivedRequests actionedRequests completed

Requests for Asset Restraint/Confiscation 1999

CountryRequests receivedRequests actionedRequests completed

Firearms Certficate Holders: Database

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they can now give a date by which the central register, required under Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which came into force on 1 October 1997, of persons who have applied for a firearms or shotgun certificate or to whom a firearm or shotgun certificate has been granted, will be in place; and on what date the detailed impact assessment on the project, which was due to be completed in April 2000, was placed in the Library of the House. [HL2768]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The results of the detailed impact assessment which was undertaken to scope the work and resources required to provide a database of firearms certificate holders as required under Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 were considered by the Police National Computer Steering Committee on 8 June. The assessment, which was endorsed by the committee and authority given to proceed, confirmed that the database would take some 12-15 months to establish. Copies of the assessment have now been placed in the Library.

Lead Shot Restriction Regulations

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prosecutions and how many convictions there have been in each county of England for infringements of the Environmental Protection (Restriction on the use of Lead Shot) (England) Regulations 1999 (S.I. 1999/2170). [HL2769]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Home Office Court Proceedings Database does not identify such offences separately from other summary offences.

However, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has informed us that the Association of Chief Police Officers' Wildlife and Environmental Crime Adviser surveyed a number of police forces following the first season's operation of the Environmental Protection (Restriction on the Use of Lead Shot) (England) Regulations 1999. The responses suggest that a very small number of potential infringements were reported to the police, that all were dealt with by advice and no court proceedings were undertaken.

Community Sentence Non-compliance: Instigation of Proceedings

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what records are maintained of the lapse of time between a Probation Officer's decision to deliver an offender serving a community sentence in England and Wales to court and the offender's appearance in court; and (b) what is the pattern of delay shown by any such data.[HL2786]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: National standards for the supervision of offenders in the community set down time limits which require probation services to instigate breach proceedings, where appropriate, within 10 days of a failure to comply with the requirements of a community sentence. Information is not normally collected on the time taken between proceedings being initiated and the offender appearing in court. But we have recently conducted a very limited exercise in order to obtain information in this area. The results are still being analysed. I will write to the noble Lord with the results when they are available.

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