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18 Nov 1999 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Thursday, 18th November 1999.

Police Training

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the future of police training in England and Wales.[HL23]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): A consultation document on proposals for new arrangements for the structure and delivery of police training in England and Wales has been published today. Copies are available in the Library. Copies are also being sent to police forces, police authorities, police staff associations and other interested parties. They have been invited to comment by 7 January 2000.

The consultation period reflects the discussion and debate we have had during the extensive examination of police training in recent months. There has been an inquiry by the Home Affairs Committee, a thematic inspection of training by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, a report by Sir William Stubbs and Roger McClure of the London Institute and two reports by the Police Federation. I am grateful to all those who have carried out these surveys and to all those who contributed their time and views during their preparation.

The consultation paper published today is firmly based on these studies. The paper describes the changes which the Government believe will deliver real improvements. There are numerous examples of good practice and indeed excellence under present arrangements and the proposals will build on those. The proposals, however, also represent an opportunity for a fresh start in police training. The Government believe that the police service and all the stakeholders in police training in England and Wales are ready to take action in this important area.

The proposed new arrangements will enable the police service to benefit from new developments in education and training and in information and communications technology to achieve professional excellence.

The proposals published today provide an unprecedented opportunity to raise standards in police training across the board, to provide relevant profession-long training and development for all staff and to translate effective training into real outcomes.

Funding of Political Parties: White Paper

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many replies were received in response to the White Paper on the funding of political parties in the United Kingdom.[HL24]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Home Office has received 36 written responses to the White Paper on the funding of political parties in the United Kingdom. Of those, only two have asked to remain confidential. Copies of the rest have been placed in the Library.

We are giving careful consideration to the issues raised by respondents and will take them fully into account in the preparation of a Bill for introduction in Parliament.

Witnesses in Criminal Cases

Lord Clarke of Hampstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the proposed timetable for the implementation of (a) the recommendations relating to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses contained in the report Speaking Up For Justice; and (b) the measures designed to help witnesses give evidence in Part II of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.[HL25]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government are determined that action should be taken to implement the recommendations in Speaking Up For Justice as soon as possible, while ensuring that all the necessary equipment and underpinning guidance are in place. My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Home Department (Mr Clarke) today published an implementation plan, Action For Justice, which explains how the agencies working in the criminal justice system are responding to the report. It includes a timetable for implementation, including those witness measures contained in the 1999 Criminal Evidence Act. Copies are available in the Library.

Immigration Control

Lord Clarke of Hampstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to strengthen immigration legislation to tackle abuse of the United Kingdom's immigration control.[HL26]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government are firmly committed to ensuring that those who seek to migrate to the United Kingdom but have no grounds for doing so under the Immigration Rules are prevented from coming here.

From the first moment of 19 November we will require nationals of the Republic of Croatia to obtain visas to come to the United Kingdom. Croatian nationals will also have to obtain a direct airside transit visa when they intend to remain airside while in transit through the United Kingdom.

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Domestic Burglary: Minimum Sentence

Lord Clarke of Hampstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to implement Section 4 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997.[HL27]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Section 4 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 will come into force on 1 December 1999.

This provides a minimum sentence of three years imprisonment for those convicted for the third time of an offence of domestic burglary.

Public Trust Office: Quinquennial Review

Lord Plant of Highfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Quinquennial Review of the Public Trust Office will be published.[HL1]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I have today published the Quinquennial Review of the Public Trust Office, an executive agency of my department established in 1994.

The review found strong support for the Government offering protection for the financial affairs of people who are mentally incapable of managing them for themselves.

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The review recommends that the delivery of the Public Trust Office's key services should be carried out by organisations operating in the voluntary and public sectors, and private sector suppliers. I would remain ultimately responsible for the services provided. The Public Trust Office would focus on monitoring the provision of such services and ensuring that the needs of vulnerable people were met. The review recommends that the Public Trust Office's refinanced and refocused operations should be performed by other parts of the Lord Chancellor's Department: the Court Service and the Official Solicitor's Office. The current Public Trust Office would then be phased out as a separate executive agency.

I welcome the review's clear diagnosis of the challenges faced by the Public Trust Office. I agree that radical change is required and I, together with my colleagues, will wish to explore the review's recommendations in a programme of change for the Public Trust Office. In doing so, I will want to be satisfied that reform does not entail placing a greater financial burden on some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. I will announce, in February 2000, how I will take forward reform.

The Government's overriding objective will be to ensure that the interests of the Public Trust Office's clients are fully protected. To this end the recently established Consultative Forum representing the users of Public Trust Office services will be closely involved in considering how practical improvements to client services can be effected in working up the proposals for change that I consider necessary.

Copies of the review have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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