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Prison Population

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government have made it clear that it is for the courts to decide, in individual criminal cases, the appropriate sentence for an offender by reference to the facts of the case and the offender's circumstances. It is not for the Government to determine the size of the prison population but they

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do believe that prison should be reserved for serious, dangerous and the most persistent of offenders.

It is the duty of the Prison Service to receive and accommodate, in humane conditions, those prisoners sent to it by the courts. The Government are keeping under review the demand on prison places and the capacity of the Prison Service to meet those demands.

Religious Discrimination

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to implement their strategy to combat religious discrimination.[HL3868]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are currently undertaking a review of the way that the Government relate to faith communities. This review will lay the foundations for the effective long-term involvement of the faith communities' perspectives and needs in policy development across government.

The Government have introduced new legislation to tackle discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 will come into force in December 2003 and will prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the areas of employment and vocational training.

We have also recently created a new unit in the Home Office—the Faith Communities Unit. Its work will support our efforts to address issues of religious discrimination.

We believe that these initiatives will enable us for the first time to identify and tackle the disadvantages faced by the members of religious communities in a structured and coherent way.

Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000: Implementation by Public Bodies

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the progress being made by public bodies to comply with the requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 is satisfactory; and what steps they propose to take with regard to those public bodies which did not produce policies and schemes as required by 31 May 2002, and still continue to disregard their statutory duty. [HL3891]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Independent research commissioned by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has found that between 83 per cent and 99 per cent of relevant authorities and institutions had produced a race equality scheme or policy; 43 per cent of these were found to be fully or mainly developed. The aim now is to move from process—getting the structures and systems in place—to delivery of improvements.

The CRE has the power to take enforcement action against any public authority failing to comply with any specific duties imposed on it. However, the emphasis is

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on supporting public bodies to get implementation of the requirements of the Act right. The Home Office is working closely with the CRE to develop ways to offer this support and to monitor progress.

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect institutional racism to have been eliminated from the policies and practices of public bodies; and what involvement the victims of discrimination will have in the evaluation processes.[HL3892]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which came into force in April 2001, placed a general duty on listed public bodies to be proactive in promoting race equality. It is a positive duty, requiring public authorities to seek to avoid unlawful discrimination before it occurs. As policy makers and service providers they need to take steps to ensure that their policies and services are fair, and to put things right when they are unfair or unlawful. As employers, they need to ensure that their procedures and practices are fair so that the public sector can better reflect the society it serves. The duty under the Act is a lever to raise standards of practice and to lead towards elimination of discrimination.

Public bodies were required to have in place by 31 May 2002 realistic and timely plans for complying with their new obligations under the RR(A)A. The aim of the duty is to lead to sustainable and significant change over a period of time—it is not about putting in place "quick fix" solutions or arrangements. The time-scale for delivery of improvement will vary across different bodies. The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has issued codes of practice which provide guidance to public bodies. The Home Office is working closely with the CRE to support effective implementation of the duty to promote race equality.

The Act requires public bodies to consult on the likely impact of proposed new policies on race equality and this should involve a wide range of black and minority ethnic communities. Race equality schemes should include arrangements for assessing which of their functions are relevant to the duty, which should be reviewed at least every three years.


Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the abortions of girls under 16 years of age have led to criminal prosecutions of those individuals responsible for making these girls pregnant in the past five years for which statistics are available.[HL3898]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The information requested is not available centrally for England and Wales. The figures collected on persons proceeded against for various offences connected with unlawful sexual intercourse do not identify cases where abortions may have taken place.

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Information for Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Office and that for Northern Ireland for the Northern Ireland Office.

Identity Cards: Biometric Data

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what basis they estimate that there would be a £39 charge for the issue of proposed identity cards containing biometric data; and whether it includes an allowance for the cost of the appropriate infrastructure, card readers, and associated hardware.[HL3905]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government have not reached a conclusion following the recent consultation exercise on whether or not to implement a card scheme. There are a number of ways in which a scheme could be implemented which would give rise to different estimates of cost.

Criminal Records Bureau: Capita Contract

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what proportion by value of the work contracted to Capita Hartshead by the Criminal Records Bureau is undertaken in the United Kingdom; and

    (b) what is the total annual value of contracts between the Criminal Records Bureau and Capita Hartshead.[HL3946]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The information sought by the right honourable gentleman in relation to the proportion by value of the work contracted to Capita Group plc by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) undertaken in the United Kingdom is not available. Under the terms of the CRB contract, all of the work contracted to Capita Group plc is carried out in the United Kingdom, with the exception of an element of the disclosure data entry process which is conducted in India. That process involves the data entry of personal information from the application form into an electronic format. This work is conducted at the beginning of the process and no information from police sources or other data sources is involved. The price paid for this work is commercially sensitive between Hays Commercial Services and Capita Group plc and cannot therefore be disclosed according to the terms of the contract.

At the time the contract was awarded in August 2000, it was estimated to be worth £400 million over 10 years. The annual value of the contract between CRB and Capita is dependent on activity volumes. In the financial year to 31 March 2003 the CRB paid Capita £22.7 million in service charges under the contract and £13.1 million in respect of contract changes in that year.

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Prisons: Racist Incidents

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) What proportion of prisoners' complaints about racist incidents are upheld; (b) how many prison staff have been dismissed since April 2002 as a result of findings of racial discrimination or harassment at employment tribunals; (c) what systems exist in the Prison Service for staff and prisoners to report racist incidents to third parties; and (d) what figures are available on recalls to prison for breaches of parole, broken down by ethnic group. [HL3947]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Prisoners' complaints about allegedly racist incidents are investigated locally by individual establishments and no central record is maintained about the number of incidents that are upheld. This information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Since April 2002, no member of prison staff has been dismissed for racial discrimination or harassment as a result of an Employment Tribunal. However, since April 2002, five members of staff have been dismissed for this type of offence as a result of internal disciplinary action under the Prison Service code of conduct and discipline. The dismissals arose because of two incidents of staff against staff; two incidents of staff against prisoners and one incident of staff against a member of the public.

Prisoners and staff can report racist incidents to a number of third parties. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman can investigate any incident on behalf of a prisoner once internal investigation procedures have been exhausted. Prisoners can raise any issues, including racial incidents, with the independent members board at any stage. Both staff and prisoners can report racist incidents to the Commission for Racial Equality. Serious racist incidents can also be referred through the Governor to the police.

The most recent period for which complete statistics are available on recalls to prison for breaches of parole, broken down by ethnic group are for the period 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2003. During this period, there were a total of 420 prisoners recalled to prison as a result of breaching their parole. Their ethnic breakdown is as follows:

    White 335

    Black 57

    South Asian 9

    Mixed ethnicity 19

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