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17 Sept 2003 : Column WA175

Written Answers

Wednesday, 17th September 2003

Iraq: BBC Coverage

Lord McNally asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the more general criticisms made of the BBC coverage of the Iraq war made by Alastair Campbell represent government policy.[HL3712]

The Lord President of the Council (Lord Williams of Mostyn): As the Prime Minister's Director of Communications said in his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on 25 June, the BBC was responsible for some of the best journalism during the conflict in Iraq. However, as is well documented, the Government were critical of some aspects of its coverage. Mr Campbell was reflecting the Prime Minister's view.

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

    Whether they consider that a Minister of the Crown, civil servant, or special adviser has been wrongfully defamed in their governing reputation by the BBC in its coverage of the Iraq war and its aftermath; and, if so, whether they have any intention to bring civil proceedings for libel.[HL3860]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Any decision to initiate libel proceedings would be conducted in accordance with the requirements of the ministerial code.

Public Servants: Memoirs

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

    Whether they impose restrictions on the publication for reward of the diaries or memoirs of serving or former Ministers of the Crown, civil servants or special advisers; and, if so, what are those restrictions.[HL4284]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The rules on the publication by Ministers and former Ministers of memoirs are set out in the ministerial code. Paragraph 107 states:

    "Ministers may not, while in office, write and publish a book on their Ministerial experience. Nor, while serving as a Minister, may they enter into any agreement to publish their memoirs on leaving their Ministerial position, without the agreement of the Prime Minister. Former Ministers are required to submit their manuscript to the Secretary of the Cabinet and to conform to the principles set out in the Radcliffe report of 1976 (Cmnd 6386)"

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Serving and former civil servants, including special advisers, are bound by the requirements of the Civil Service code and the Civil Service management code. Section 13 of the Civil Service code states:

    "Civil servants should continue to observe their duties of confidentiality after they have left Crown employment".

Section 4.2 of the Civil Service Management Code states:

    "Civil servants must not publish or broadcast personal memoirs reflecting their experience in government, or enter into commitments to do so, whilst in Crown employment. The permission of their Head of Department and the Head of the Home Civil Service must be sought before entering into commitments to publish such memoirs after leaving the service".

"Rhyming Round Belfast" DVD

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 9 September (WA 107) concerning a DVD called "Rhyming Round Belfast", what role the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure had in its production.[HL4453]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure had no role in the production of the DVD, "Rhyming Round Belfast".

House of Lords: Peers' Recess Mail

Lord Wigoder asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether he will look into the possibility of Peers' parliamentary mail being forwarded during the recess in an envelope which is easy to open.[HL4497]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The envelopes used for forwarding Peers' mail are designed to ensure its security, and that must remain the top priority. They can be easily opened if torn along the perforated strip just below the seal. However, I have asked officials to explore the possibilities, once current stocks are used up, of either providing a new design of envelope or of printing clearer instructions on the existing design.

Prisons: Racism

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, prior to the Commission for Racial Equality embarking into formal investigation of the Prison Service in 2000, the Home Office had received reports from the Prison Service on racism in prisons; and, if so, why they did not fulfil their statutory responsibilities to take action to ensure its elimination, rather than referring the matter to the Commission for Racial Equality for investigation.[HL4105]

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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Prior to the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) investigation, the issue of racism in prisons was considered and reviewed regularly through a number of long standing arrangements and forums. The Minister for Prisons (Paul Boateng) at that time held meetings regularly with successive director-generals. They were satisfied that the Prison Service was tackling the problem of racism and that the director-general had been leading on this issue as a main priority.

The Home Office wished to show its good intentions, and its desire for transparency, by inviting an independent investigation by a body such as the Commission for Racial Equality, in addition to any internal policies that it was putting in place, and any actions that it was taking, on its own initiative.

Prison Escapes

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish in the Official Report a table showing for each of the past five calender years and for 2003 to date the number of category A and category B prisoners respectively who have escaped from custody, showing the location and date of escape and recapture in each case.[HL4141]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No category A prisoners have escaped since 1995. The number of category B prisoners who escaped from custody was one in 1998, seven in 1999, none in 2000, seven in 2001, six in 2002 and four in 2003, up to 17 July 2003. Escapes where the prisoner was recaptured within 15 minutes are not included.

As to locations and dates of escape and recapture, the information available in respect of category B prisons is shown in the tables. The second table shows data in respect of external escorts, mostly to court or to hospital. Dates of recapture are not always recorded. Locations of recapture are not recorded on the Prison Service's incident reporting system.

Escapes of category B prisoners from prisons between 1 January 1998 and 17 July 2003

PrisonDate of escapeDate of recapture
Altcourse20 May 199828 May 1998
Lincoln10 March 1999Recaptured, date not recorded
Parc23 June 199923 June 1999
Liverpool8 September 1999Recaptured, date not recorded
Grendon30 September 20012 October 2001
Winchester10 December 2001Recaptured, date not recorded
Norwich18 July 200231 July 2002

Escapes of category B prisoners from escort
between 1 January 1998 and 17 July 2003

LocationDate of escapeDate of recapture
Whittington Hospital10 May 1999Recaptured, date not recorded
Cardiff Crown Court18 June 199918 June 1999
Northampton Magistrates Court4 October 19994 October 1999
Andover Magistrates Court19 November 199919 November 1999
Banstead, en route9 March 20019 March 2001
Kings College Hospital10 April 200110 April 2001
Not recorded, funeral location6 June 20016 June 2001
Snaresbrook Crown Court25 September 200127 September 2001
Peterborough Crown Court12 October 200117 October 2001
Lincoln Crown Court18 January 200218 January 2002
Wood Green Crown Court26 March 200226 March 2002
Isleworth Crown Court1 October 200211 October 2002
Gloucester Royal Infirmary2 December 2002Recaptured, date not recorded
Kings College Hospital19 December 2002Recaptured, date not recorded
Solihull Magistrates Court22 January 200322 January 2003
Hull Royal Infirmary2 March 2003Recaptured, date not recorded
Salford Magistrates Court31 March 200331 March 2003
Leicester Royal Infirmary13 April 200313 April 2003

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Lord Wigoder asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For each of the past 10 years for which figures are available, in how many separate trials were convictions obtained for offences involving jury-tampering.[HL4190]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The information collected centrally for England and Wales does not allow the number of separate trials in which convictions for jury-tampering were obtained to be identified.

The number of persons convicted of offences of intimidating, harming or threatening to harm jurors or witnesses under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, since it came into force, is however, contained in the table.

Number of persons convicted of intimidating, harming or threatening to harm jurors or witnesses under section 51 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, England and Wales

Intimidating a juror or witness or person assisting in investigation of offence (Sec 51(1) CJ&POA 1994)Harming or threatening to harm a witness, juror or person assisting in investigation (Sec 51(2) CJ& POA 1994)

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

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