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Lord Elton: My Lords, which nations in the Security Council have obstructed the arrival at a consensus view condemning Burma?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am not able to give a view on that. Binding sanctions can be imposed only by the UN Security Council acting under Chapter 7 of the charter, and consensus is necessary to do so. It is clear that there is no consensus for this. It would be a mistake to push the point to clarify the position because it might give some comfort to the Burmese to know which countries are not as disturbed and distressed as we are about what is going on in Burma. Sometimes the public exposure of positions in that way can give comfort to those to whom we do not wish to give comfort.

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Prison Officers: Vetting Arrangements

3.7 p.m.

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to change the vetting system for the employment of prison officers.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, a formal investigation into the circumstances of the employment of David McGee at Woodhill prison is scheduled for completion by 27th June 2003. The terms of reference include a requirement to ascertain the causes of what took place and to recommend any changes to recruitment procedures and pre-appointment vetting arrangements. The Prison Service will consider and act upon these recommendations appropriately to prevent a similar occurrence. It would not be prudent to pre-empt the findings.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she accept that the control and discipline of a prison establishment depends very much on the quality of the prison staff? I am well aware of the example she has quoted, which is a matter of serious concern. The rising number of prisoners and the lack of staff is no excuse for sloppy procedures or cutting corners. What assurance can the Minister give that those presently employed in our prison establishments have been suitably cleared?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree that it is of critical importance that the serious nature of the procedures and the necessity to adhere to them is well understood. We have done everything to ensure that that is understood. The incident to which the noble Lord implicitly referred is a matter of concern. We shall take the opportunity to consider whatever recommendations come out of the investigation.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does not this case illustrate that there is a need for a national identity card, using biometrics positively to identify the person to whom the card has been issued?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says. We await the results of the inquiry. At the moment we do not know what instrument of identification may have been used by the person to prove his identity. Like your Lordships, I shall have to await the outcome of the investigation.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord opposite for asking exactly the same question as I was about to ask.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, rather than having an internal investigation, will the Minister consider asking Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons to conduct it?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have taken the view that we need to have a clear, rapid

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understanding of what happened and what were the circumstances, so that we can take immediate action to resolve the situation. The internal inquiry hopes to give us a preliminary outline of its recommendations on Friday of this week and to be complete by the following Friday. We believe that in this instance speed is of the essence.

Lord Elton: My Lords, will the Minister nevertheless undertake to consider a review by HM Inspectorate of Prisons after the local inquiry has been completed? This issue goes far beyond one particular establishment and touches on the security of all our prisons.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can certainly assure noble Lords that we will carefully consider any recommendations made by the investigation. The noble Lord has made a very valid suggestion. We certainly have not closed our minds to any arrangement that may be necessary to ensure that this very important issue is properly addressed.

Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, does my noble friend agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that the key issues are that prison staff are overworked, that there are too few of them, that the number of prisoners is growing, that steps are not being taken to reduce their numbers by the imposition of alternative sentences, and that as a result, whatever changes are now recommended, the situation will get worse?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot accept the very gloomy picture painted by the noble Lord. We are taking steps. Noble Lords will know that the provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill advocate a wide variety of alternative sentences, which seemed to me to be warmly welcomed by virtually everyone at Second Reading. Prison staff members must be of high quality. We are addressing the very serious issues raised by the noble Lord, and we see very good practice in a number of our prisons.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, with regard to the terms for the recruitment of prison staff without prejudice to the outcome of this particular investigation, is it the case that the staffing of prisons has been increased in line with the rising number of prisoners? Are there special problems in recruiting prison staff in particular parts of the country, and will the Minister confirm that identical standards are being maintained in recruitment procedures whether or not there are special problems in particular places?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can certainly confirm that identical standards are being applied throughout the country. Alongside that, we are trying to ensure that the sensitivities of the regions are recognised. I cannot give the right reverend Prelate specific answers about the numbers. However, I undertake to write to him in relation to those matters.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Chief Inspector of Prisons gave a

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specific warning about understaffing in the case of Woodhill Prison? Can she assure the House that on that account the Prison Service will not lower its sights with regard to its recruiting procedures?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can assure the noble Viscount that we will not lower our sights. The noble Viscount knows that the central recruiting policy was changed to enable us to have a regional opportunity to recruit people. There is no current intention to reverse that trend because of current issues. However, we shall have to look very seriously at the lessons that may need to be learnt from the incident at Woodhill Prison.

Lord Renton: My Lords, in view of the Minister's reliance on the effect of the Criminal Justice Bill, is she not aware that it is a very detailed Bill of 374 pages, that it will not come into operation for many months and that before that time it may be considerably amended in your Lordships' House?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I have, of course, had the joy of reading that Bill. I understand that it is 374 pages long. Noble Lords will know that I also had the delight of replying at Second Reading. I therefore know the challenges. However, that has not prevented us trying to put good practice into place and encouraging those invested with the huge task of sentencing to mix mercy with punishment.

Business of the House: Debate this Day

3.14 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Lord King of Bridgwater set down for today shall be limited to five hours.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Communications Bill

3.15 p.m.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clauses 1 and 2,

Schedule 1,

Clauses 3 to 27,

Schedule 2,

Clauses 28 to 60,

Clauses 62 to 70,

Clauses 74 to 103,

Schedule 3,

Clauses 104 to 115,

Schedule 4,

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Clauses 116 to 156,

Schedule 5,

Clauses 157 to 177,

Schedule 6,

Clauses 178 and 179,

Schedule 7,

Clauses 180 to 189,

Schedule 8,

Clauses 190 to 196,

Schedule 9,

Clauses 197 to 216,

Schedule 10,

Clauses 217 to 267,

Clause 61,

Clauses 72 and 73,

Clauses 268 to 289,

Schedule 11,

Clauses 290 to 305,

Clause 71,

Clauses 306 to 331,

Schedule 12,

Clauses 332 to 338,

Schedule 13,

Clauses 339 to 342,

Schedule 14,

Clauses 343 to 353,

Schedule 15,

Clauses 354 to 382,

Schedule 16,

Clauses 383 to 399,

Schedules 17 to 19,

Clauses 400 to 403.—(Lord Grocott.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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