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Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Criminal Justice Bill, which is currently before Parliament, contains measures for determining the minimum term to be served in relation to a mandatory life sentence. The Bill also makes provision for a minimum sentence for certain firearms offences.

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: On 30 April 2003, there were 3,376 adults and 871 young offenders serving sentences of six months or less in Prison Service establishments in England and Wales.

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is for the courts to decide in individual cases whether a prison sentence is appropriate. Where imprisonment is the most appropriate punishment, it should be applied and we should, and are, developing our capacity to meet demand. There is already a range of demanding community sentences available to sentencers. In addition we are introducing tough new programmes such as the "Intensive Control and Change Programme" (ICCP) for 18 to 20 year-olds. ICCP, which was launched as a pilot in April, involves probation supervision and police surveillance, for 25 hours a week.

The Criminal Justice Bill will provide sentencers with further options. A generic community sentence will replace the current series of stand-alone orders and will provide sentencers with the flexibility to impose a package of requirements to meet offences of varying degrees of seriousness. Additionally the introduction of two "intermediate" sanctions—custody minus and intermittent custody, allowing offenders to retain employment and family contact will provide options short of full time custody.

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Parenting Orders

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many parenting orders have been made since the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 came into effect; and whether compulsory counselling and guidance has made parents receiving it more responsible and thus reduced youth crime and anti-social behaviour.[HL4402] Rebo

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: 4,047 parenting orders were made between September 1998, when piloting started, and June 2003. The orders were available nationally from June 2000.

Independent evaluation of the Youth Justice Board's parenting programme, which included parents under parenting orders and voluntary participants, has shown improvements in a range of parenting skills. In the year after counselling and guidance, offences by their children fell by 50 per cent. The parenting order has clearly played a significant role in this.

Inter-faith Dialogue in the UK

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support inter-faith, inter-religious dialogue within communities in the United Kingdom; and what initiatives have been taken to encourage this work.[HL4462]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government strongly support inter-faith dialogue in the United Kingdom. My department provides core funding to the Inter Faith Network, which since 1987 has been linking inter-faith initiatives and developing good relations between people of different faiths in this country. Recently we have provided additional funding to the network to carry out a survey of local inter-faith activity and produce a good-practice leaflet. We welcome the activities of the many other well-established inter-faith initiatives operating in this country, and my colleagues have on many occasions met representatives of these and offered encouragement.

The Community Cohesion Faith Practitioners Group, one of the many groups which my department has established to help us promote community cohesion, is looking at how faith communities can co-operate in local areas to address social problems. The present review of the Government's Interface with the Faith Communities, led by my honourable friend Fiona Mactaggart, is making good progress and is due to report at the end of this year. It is identifying more effective ways for relevant perspectives from faith communities to be taken into account when planning government policy. This should also have the effect of encouraging co-operation between faith communities in responding to government initiatives.

Finally, we have taken the opportunity of occasions like the Millennium and Golden Jubilee celebrations

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to bring together religious leaders and young people from the different faith communities to discuss issues and explore their shared values. Noble Lords may recall the shared act of reflection and commitment by the faith communities of the United Kingdom, which took place in this House on 3 January 2000.

This process will be continued though a number of mock Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings for young people, including many from the faith communities, which my department is planning in association which the Royal Commonwealth Society. We expect that up to six of these will take place around the United Kingdom during the month of November, with their conclusions being presented to the real Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Nigeria in December.

Mr Rasul Guliev

Lord Russell-Johnston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give free passage to Mr Rasul Guliev who seeks to be a candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan; and, if the authorities there persist in denying him an opportunity to do so, whether the Government will not restrict his freedom to move through this country or express his opinions freely.[HL4482]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Any person who seeks to visit this country, and who is subject to immigration control, must meet the necessary conditions for admission. Such a person, once admitted, may travel freely and express opinions within what is permitted by the rule of law.

Criminal Records Bureau: Certificates

Baroness Greengross asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How long a Criminal Records Bureau certificate remains valid once issued to an individual by the bureau.[HL4513]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Criminal Records Bureau issues two levels of certificate to applicants, standard disclosure and enhanced disclosure. Neither level carries any predetermined period of validity. Disclosures are intended to be used at the point of recruitment or a licensing decision for a particular position. This is because a conviction or other matter could be recorded against the subject of a disclosure at any time after it was issued.

Nevertheless, this does not preclude an individual from presenting his or her disclosure to another organisation after having used it for its originally intended purpose. However, given that there is no pre-determined period of validity associated with disclosures, it must be for the organisation concerned to decide whether it is prepared to accept a disclosure that was originally requested by another organisation.

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Guantanamo Bay: British Detainees

Lord Morris of Aberavon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 8 September (WA 17–18), why there have been no visits from lawyers to the British citizens held at Guantanamo; what representations the Government have made to the United States Government to allow such legal visits; why there have been no visits by British officials since April; and whether further visits by British officials have been requested and denied.[HL4448]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The British detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not presently allowed by the US Government to have access to lawyers.

The Attorney-General has recently held a number of rounds of talks with the US Administration. His objective has been to ensure that the British nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay, if prosecuted, are assured of fair trials that meet generally recognised principles. The issue of the role of defence lawyers has been discussed. Further talks are planned for the near future.

British officials have visited the British detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, six times, most recently two weeks ago. Parliament will be informed about the visit.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the conditions of detention for British prisoners at Guantanamo (Cuba) are inhuman and degrading; what is the present weekly amount of time for exercise; and what improvements they have asked for, particularly regarding exercise and access for relatives and legal counsel.[HL4483]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: British officials have visited the British detainees held at Guantanamo Bay six times, most recently two weeks ago. One of the main objectives of the visit was to check on the detainees' welfare. This is generally satisfactory. The visiting official did not see or hear of mistreatment of the UK detainees by the camp authorities.

The physical conditions of their detention are also satisfactory. Detainees have cells with individual sleeping, washing and toilet facilities. They are allowed to practise their religion and have access to religious and non-religious books, including novels. The standard period for exercise has increased to 30 minutes per day. Welfare concerns are raised with the camp authorities on such visits.

The Attorney-General has recently held a number of rounds of talks with the US Administration with the objective of ensuring that if British detainees are prosecuted the trials are fair and meet generally recognised principles. The issue of the role of defence lawyers has been discussed. Further talks are planned for the near future. Proceedings against the two designated British detainees remain suspended until completion of the discussions.

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