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The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): During the past two years the Prison Service has been taking forward a significant programme of work to tackle racism. The programme, known as RESPOND, was launched in late September 1999 by the director general and the Prison Service's first race equality adviser. It aims to deliver improved race relations through the implementation of five objectives: developing and supporting minority ethnic staff; confronting harassment and discrimination; ensuring fairness in appraisal and selection; ensuring equal opportunities for minority ethnic prisoners; recruiting minority ethnic staff.
Among the measures introduced are new instructions to raise the standard of investigations into complaints by both staff and prisoners; the introduction into selection procedures for recruitment and promotion of an assessment of candidates' abilities to recognise and challenge inappropriate remarks; the launch of the RESPECT support network for minority ethnic staff in 2001 attended by 1,500 delegates; the allocation of £400,000 to RESPECT to enable it to establish a countrywide network of branches, a confidential telephone helpline and other support structures; the introduction of four new racially aggravated offences into the prisoner discipline manual; keeping regime interventions and activities under continuing review from the standpoint of diversity; the development and delivery of a new package of diversity training for all staff; and sponsorship and attendance at a wide range of minority ethnic community and recruitment events which have supported the Prison Service's success in increasing minority ethnic recruitment. The proportion of minority ethnic staff employed by the Prison Service has risen from 3.2 per cent in 19992000 to 4.9 per cent in 200102. The service has also introduced a ban on membership by staff of racist organisations.
While the Prison Service can point to a number of tangible successes over the past two years, it recognises that more needs to be done and will continue developing the programme of work that is already in place. To this end, the director general continues to seek the assistance of outside experts and communities to provide constructive criticism of Prison Service policy and practice.
Whether there are any actions which the Prison Service in England and Wales has failed to pursue over the past two years to meet its obligations under the Race Relations Act; if so, what those actions were and why they were not pursued.[HL5990]
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Prison Service's race equality scheme involves an initial assessment of all those activities relevant to the Act. Policy leads and managers have been reminded of their duty to consider the impact of policy development on people from different racial groups and of the circumstances when consultation may be necessary to avoid adverse disproportionate impact on those from minority ethnic groups.
Managers are required to monitor the impact of their policies to ensure that local race relations management teams develop strategies, monitor performance and ensure the implementation of the national race relations policy.
Results of assessments under the scheme will be published in the Prison Service annual reports and accounts; the Home Secretary's Race Equality Employment Targets Annual Progress Report; Home Office Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System; and on the Prison Service website.
To meet its specific employment duties, the Prison Service will continue to publish information on the ethnicity of staff, staff promotions and staff leavers and will publish the results of its monitoring of the performance management system. Procedures will be developed to monitor the ethnicity data relating to applicants for employment and promotion, staff training, grievance and disciplinary procedures.
Her Majesty's Prison Service seeks to fulfil all its obligations under the Race Relations Act. In recognising the service's previous shortcomings in the effective practice and management of race equality, the director general has publicly acknowledged that the service is institutionally racist. A programme of action is in hand to address problems identified at Brixton prison and elsewhere across the service by the service's race equality adviser. For example, the complaints procedures for prisoners and staff have been modified to reduce the time delay to respond to grievances; £750,000 has been invested to modernise equality training of all governing governors, policy leaders, the Prison Service management board, area managers and all race relations and equal opportunity officers in prisons.
Two years ago the director general invited the Commission for Racial Equality to assist the Prison Service in its efforts to fight racism. The CRE is approaching the end of a formal investigation. The director general awaits its findings, which he hopes will, among other matters, assist him to identify any areas which require further action.
The Home Office is considering with DCMS the feasibility of implementing a national database of unlawfully obtained cultural property, as recommended by the House of Commons Select Committee in a report entitled Cultural Property: Return and Illicit Trade published in July 2000.
The Government have also recently expressed their commitment to introducing a new criminal offence of "dishonestly importing, dealing or being in possession of any cultural object, knowing or believing that the object was stolen, or illegally excavated, or removed from any monument or wreck contrary to local law".
The United Kingdom formally accedes to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property on 31 October 2002. The convention enables countries which are parties to the convention to claim back stolen antiquities which surface in the countries of fellow signatories.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Section 11 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 allows for the Secretary of State to make "appropriate contributions" towards the costs incurred by the service providers to meet the provisions of the Act. We are in discussion with the industry on a formula which we hope will be concluded shortly.
However, there has been an extensive consultation process following the formation of an operators working group bringing together representatives of fixed line, mobile and internet communications businesses.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: At the request of the Association of Chief Police Officers, which believes that the improved accuracy of the L21A1 baton round means it is suitable for use in serious public disorder and also in dealing with individuals posing an immediate threat to life in circumstances where use of a conventional firearm may otherwise be necessary, we have sought and received a medical statement from the Defence Scientific Advisory Council on the use of the L21A1 baton round at ranges from 1 to 19 metres. This supplements its earlier assessment of the injury potential over longer ranges published on 2 April 2001.
The statement confirms that the probability of unintentional impact to the most vulnerable parts of the body remains low when the round is discharged at ranges of less than 20 metres and that there is no significant change in the probability of rounds striking the potentially vulnerable chest area. This means that the likelihood of serious injury or death occurring as the result of the impact of an L21A1 baton round is no greater at ranges between 1 and 19 metres than at the longer ranges which were the subject of the earlier statement by the Defence Scientific Advisory Council.
I will today be placing a copy of the statement in the Library. The Association of Chief Police Officers is considering, in consultation with the Government, what, if any, revision to its existing guidelines on the use of baton rounds may be appropriate in the light of this statement.
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