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9 Jan 2003 : Column WA223

Written Answers

Thursday 9th January 2003.

Prisoners: Mental Health Care

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the finding of the Chief Inspector of Prisons that 41 per cent of the patients in prison healthcare centres in three local prisons should have been in secure National Health Service accommodation; and what corrective action they intend to take.[HL759]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Government recognise the importance of improving mental health services for prisoners. Where prisoners are so seriously ill that they need to be treated in hospital they should be assessed and transferred as quickly as possible. The Government have put mechanisms in place to monitor this process. But, just as in the wider community, the majority of those with mental illness do not need hospital care, and the Government are also working, through initiatives such as the prison mental health in-reach project, to improve the range and quality of services available to prisoners.

Custody Plus Scheme

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the cost of implementing and running the custody plus scheme; and what sums have been set aside in the Home Office budget to ensure that custody plus can be fully implemented following the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill.[HL764]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The majority of the costs of implementing custody plus (both the costs of introducing the new sentence and of running it thereafter) fall on the Probation Service, which needs to build up capacity to manage an increased caseload of approximately 50,000 per annum as a result of this new sentence. Current estimates are that an additional £19 million, £70 million, £136 million, £175 million, £186 million and £194 million for the financial years 2003–04, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08 and 2008–09 respectively will be needed for the Probation Service to implement all the sentencing provisons in the Bill. Costs are expected to be in the order of £194 million annually thereafter. We are committed to delivering these reforms and the costs of implementation will be met from within departmental settlements, although final decisions regarding phasing to prove for effective delivery have not been made. Implementation planning is being taken forward within the Correctional Services Review.

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Prison Service Rules and Regulations

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether rules and regulations derived from Prison Service orders but not directly included in the Prison Service rules have the power of law; and whether they are legally enforceable; and[HL766]

    Whether there is a requirement for Prison Service orders and subsequent changes to them to be laid before Parliament in the same way as drafts and amendments to statutory instruments (that is, the Prison Rules) must be laid before Parliament under the Prison Act 1952; and[HL767]

    Whether the rules and regulations derived from Prison Service orders but not directly included in the Prison Rules have the authority of Parliament; and[HL768]

    Which body, if any, that is independent of the Prison Service has the function of monitoring rules and regulations that have a major impact on prisoners' rights in relation to fairness, reasonableness and compliance with human rights and other legislation.[HL769]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It is the obligation of the Prison Service, as a public authority, to ensure that its rules and regulations comply with the Human Rights Act 2000. The Prison Rules and Young Offender Rules are subject to scrutiny by Parliament, but there is no requirement for Prison Service orders or Prison Service instructions, or subsequent changes, to be laid before Parliament. While the instructions within Prison Service orders are neither primary legislation nor statutory instruments they are capable of having a legal effect. Prison Service orders and instructions are publicly available on the Internet and in prison libraries.

Prisons are inspected by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, who may also conduct thematic inspections and may comment on regulations and their application and make recommendations. Boards of visitors supervise the operation of the prisons for which they are responsible and report annually with recommendations. Individual prisoners who believe their rights have been infringed can complain to the local board of visitors and to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. They can also pursue the matter through the courts.

Firearms Register

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made since 29 October on the establishment of a central register of individuals who have applied for, or who have been granted, a shotgun or firearm certificate required under Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997; and when the register will become fully operational.[HL843]

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) is currently considering the responses to the notice it issued seeking non-binding expressions of interest for a retender. Urgent work is also in hand to see whether the project's aims and objectives can be met before summer 2004.

Crimes of Violence in the West End

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many crimes of violence were reported from the West End Central and Charing Cross police sectors of the Metropolitan Police in 2001; and[HL897]

    How many parking attendants were assaulted in the West End during 2001; and how many of those who committed these offences were charged with racially aggravated offence within the meaning of Section 39 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.[HL899]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Numbers of crimes reported to individual police sectors are not collected centrally.

Immigration Detainees

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why immigration detainees who have not been charged with or committed any criminal offence are still being held in prison.[HL760]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): Our policy on the use of prison accommodation to hold immigration detainees was set out in our White Paper Secure Borders, Safe Haven—Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain. We made it clear that, although the routine use of prison accommodation for immigration detainees had ended at the start of 2002, there would remain a need to hold small numbers of individual detainees in prison for reasons of security and control. There has been no change in that policy. bjc

Deer Management on Exmoor

Lord Mancroft asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What estimates have been made of the costs of a deer management scheme on Exmoor; and [HL882]

    When the Minister will publish an impact assessment on the integrity of the deer herd on Exmoor in the event of a ban on hunting. [HL883]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Local deer management schemes can be attractive to local land owners and occupiers where they help to manage wild deer populations in the interests of undertakings such as agriculture or forestry. We have not estimated the costs of such schemes.

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The aim of the Hunting Bill is to deal with the issue of cruelty. The Burns report concluded that, in the event of a ban on hunting, some overall reduction in total deer numbers might occur unless an effective deer management strategy were implemented. The Government's view is that appropriate control of deer populations can best be considered through local deer management groups. These groups operate both in areas where there is deer hunting and in other areas where there are healthy wild deer herds. Advice on setting up deer management groups is provided by the Deer Initiative, a partnership sponsored by the Forestry Commission. Partners in the initiative include Defra and English Nature, as well as forestry and agricultural interests.

Hunting Bill: Background Research

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What research has been carried out into alternative methods of culling wild mammals in order to enable the registrar proposed under the Hunting Bill to reach an objective and scientifc judgment as to the method of least suffering; and [HL888]

    What proposals are being considered to ensure that where hunting is prohibited alternative methods of species management are conducted in such a way that animal suffering is not increased and that best practice is always observed; and [HL889]

    What further research recommended by the report of the Burns Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales of 2000 has been carried out; when it will be published; and whether copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses; and[HL890]

    When any further research recommended by the report of the Burns Committee into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales of 2000 not yet carried out will be carried out. [HL891]

Lord Whitty: The proposal in the Hunting Bill is to establish a system for a registrar to make a case-by-case decision in regard to hunting activities to ensure that cruelty is prevented. It will be for the applicant to demonstrate to the registrar that no other available method of control causes significantly less pain, suffering or distress than the proposed hunting. The standard for the cruelty test is set out in the Bill. The definition of cruelty is well established in law: it is the causing of unnecessary or avoidable suffering.

The registrar must be satisfied that the proposed hunting would be for one of the purposes set out in Clause 8(1) of the Bill and that that purpose cannot reasonably be achieved by a method that would cause less suffering. He would do this by an objective assessment of the evidence provided by both the applicant and any evidence provided by a designated animal welfare body; and be guided by any relevant directions given by the tribunal in previous cases. If appropriate, on questions of bio-diversity the registrar may seek advice from English nature or the Countryside Council for Wales.

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Evidence relating to some of the issues mentioned in the Burns report was presented to the hearing in September 2002, including detailed studies of the humaneness and effectiveness, injuries, wounding and non-target captures associated with different methods. This information would be available to the registrar.

The Bill is concerned about hunting with dogs and not directly the issue of improving alternative methods of pest control. However, an automatic condition of all registrations is that reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that any wild mammal which is shot during the course of registered hunting must be shot by a competent marksman. Competence is a matter to be determined on the facts of each individual case and will reflect the appropriateness of the experience, skill and qualifications of the marksman to the difficulty of the shooting being carried out. As that difficulty will vary depending on which species is being hunted and as a result of local factors, the Bill does not prescribe a single standard of what is competent. lynne

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