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24 Mar 2003 : Column WA47

Written Answers

Monday, 24th March 2003.

China: Aid

Lord Chan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which specific activities they are funding through the Chinese Ministry of Health. [HL2169]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): We are funding a number of activities implemented in partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Health. We are providing support to the Ministry of Health to implement the Government of China-World Bank Basic Health Services Project. We are helping to develop replicable models of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care for high-risk and vulnerable groups in Yunnan and Sichuan. We are also supporting the development of sustainable and replicable community health systems which improve access for the poor in four cities. We have also made a significant contribution to the Government of China-World Bank TB prevention and control programme.

Lord Chan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider diverting funding to China from abortion towards other healthcare needs. [HL2170]

Baroness Amos: The Government do not fund abortions in China and are working to raise the health status of poor people in China through support that improves their access to basic health services that cost less, are of higher quality and target specific public health challenges like TB and HIV/AIDS.

The Government do not support coercive family planning practices. All UK assistance for health programmes is provided in support of the principles of free and informed choice set out at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994 and reaffirmed at the Cairo plus 5 meeting in New York in 1999.

Cayman Islands Attorney-General

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Attorney-General of the Cayman Islands has departed.[HL2174]

Baroness Amos: The Attorney-General of the Cayman Islands, Mr David Ballantyne, decided to leave office on 15 March, by mutual agreement with the Cayman Islands Government. Mr Ballantyne had come under criticism in the Cayman Islands following the collapse of the Eurobank money-laundering trial. He took the view that this made it impossible for him to carry out his role there effectively. Press allegations that Mr Ballantyne had prior nowledge of, or had

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approved, the destruction of evidence which led to the collapse of the Eurobank trial are inaccurate. He acted to ensure the disclosure of all relevant information to the defence in order to secure a fair trial and acted properly in bringing the trial to an end when he concluded that a fair trial could not be ensured. In doing so, he carried out the independent role the Cayman Islands constitution assigns to the Attorney-General. Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that Mr Ballantyne has throughout acted with professional integrity and in the best interests of the administration of justice in the Cayman Islands.

Press reports suggesting that I agreed, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to the dismissal from office of Mr Ballantyne are also incorrect. The independence and security of tenure of the Attorney-General is constitutionally protected in the Cayman Islands.

Prisoners: Resettlement

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the principal steps which the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Home Office, the Prison Service, the Youth Justice Board, the Department for Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus and the Learning Skills Council have each taken over the past year to promote the resettlement of prisoners.[HL1982]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The principal steps taken by Her Majesty's Government over the past year in promoting the resettlement of offenders are as follows: Office of Deputy Prime Minister

The Homelessness Act 2002 places new duties on local housing authorities to undertake a review of homelessness in their areas and develop a homelessness strategy based on that review by July 2003. This will need to cover all homeless groups, including ex-prisoners.

In 2002 the Homelessness Directorate funded a number of new pilot schemes with voluntary sector organisations and local authorities to prevent homelessness among released prisoners. It has also funded a scheme to secure hostel bed spaces for remand and short-term prisoners who are vulnerable to sleeping rough on release.

The Homelessness Directorate has worked with the Department for Work and Pensions to update the B79 (notification of discharge from prison) form and to support guidance used by Jobcentre Plus staff that can help prisoners verify their identification.

From April, local commissioning bodies, on which local probation services are represented, will develop Supporting People strategies setting out how they will meet the needs of vulnerable people in their areas, including ex-offenders.

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Home Office National Rehabilitation Strategy

In July 2002 the Social Exclusion Unit published its report Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners. The principal recommendation of the report was the development and implementation of a national rehabilitation strategy.

This work is being taken forward within the Home Office by the Adult Offenders and Rehabilitation Unit. The unit is currently working with a number of government departments towards producing an action plan, responding to the SEU report. Criminal Justice Bill

The Criminal Justice Bill introduces new sentences, such as custody minus, custody plus and intermittent custody, which have been designed so that they may promote the effective resettlement of offenders. National Probation Service

A joint project board has been etablished with the Prison Service to oversee the development of the Joint Resettlement Pathfinders and other programmes for short-term prisoners.

The Probation and Prison Services are also continuing to develop the joint offender assessment system (OASys). This joint working and assessment system will enhance overall case risk and needs management.

The Probation Service is continuing to build, and to be involved in, resettlement partnerships with a wide range of other relevant statutory and voluntary agencies. HM Prison Service

The Prison Service has continued to develop its Custody to Work initiative, in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, the National Probation Service, employers, housing providers and the voluntary sector.

Funding has been provided through SR2000 to expand the delivey of accredited offending behaviour programmes (OBPs) during 2002–03 and beyond and to increase the range of accredited programmes available to prisoners.

Funding, allocated through SR2000, is being channelled into further development of the Prison Service drug strategy.

Last year the Prisoners' Learning and Skills Unit broadened basic skills targets for prisons to help establishments meet the range of learning needs among their prisoners.

A new diagnostic assessment has been trialled to make sure that learning programmes address the needs of individual prisoners.

A practitioners' guide had been shared with all establishments for teaching people with learning difficulties.

£4.5 million of capital was made available in 2002–03 for establishments to buy computers for libraries so that they can support learning; purchase computers and software to improve initial assessment

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in local prisons; upgrade their vocational training provision so that it is more relevant to the labour market; and provide classroom space next to prison workshops so that prisoners can gain a broad range of employability skills.

£1 million was invested in a partnership initiative with NACRO and the private sector IT company Cisco to provide opportunities for prisoners to gain ICT skills and either to continue learning or gain work on release. Youth Justice Board for England and Wales

The Youth Justice Board is a key partner in the PRISE initiative, a new national development partnership which has as its aim the re-engineering of the resettlement process for offenders aged 16 to 18, prior to sentence, through custody, back into the community and toward sustainable employment.

A joint re-engagement target has been agreed with the Connexions service to ensure that 90 per cent of young offenders are in suitable full-time education, training and employment during and at the end of sentence by the end of 2004. Department for Work and Pensions

Employment and benefit surgeries are at various stages of development in 13 prisons; 11 of these serve the street crime areas in England and one each in Scotland and Wales. This work is in advance of full national roll-out which is scheduled to commence from April 2003.

Surgeries will continue to build on the work with prisons to increase take-up of Freshstart.

Progress2work began in 2002, providing co-ordinated specialist employment help for those wishing to move away from drugs misuse and into more stable and productive lives.

Progress2work linkUP builds on the progress2work model and broadens the approach to a wider customer group, particularly those disadvantaged because of an offending background, whether or not they are drug misusers.

Jobpoints in prisons is a joint initiative between Jobcentre Plus and the Prison Service, providing access to this information to prisoners in the pre-release phase of their sentence.

The Ambition Construction initiative has established close links with major employers in the construction sector. Ex-prisoners are eligible to join and to have early access to the selection process. Learning and Skills Council

During 2002 Entry to Employment (E2E) pathfinder projects commenced in 11 areas, with offenders and ex-offenders forming part of the target group in six of these.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Learning and Skills Council agreed to fund up to 400 category D prisoners in England to enrol in courses on a day-release basis for the academic year 2002–03, widening prisoners' access to learning opportunities, particularly in vocational training.

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