Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

20 Oct 2003 : Column WA141

Written Answers

Monday, 20th October 2003.

Prime Minister: Working Days

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many days of each year since 1997 the Prime Minister of the day has been working; and, of these, on how many he has been abroad.[HL4421]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): The Prime Minister's responsibilities are on a full-time basis throughout the year. I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the Member for Colchester (Mr Russell) on 3 February 2003, (Official Report, column 16W).

Details of official overseas visits made by the Prime Minister during the period 2 May 1997 to 31 March 2003 costing more than £500 are a matter of public record and are available in the Library of the House.

Information on official overseas visits made by the Prime Minister for 2003–04 will be published as soon as possible after the end of the current financial year.

Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan Draft

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many times the publication of the Belfast metropolitan area plan draft has been postponed; and when it will be published.[HL4552]

Baroness Amos: The publication of the Belfast metropolitan area plan draft has been postponed on three occasions. When work began on the plan in January 2001, publication was programmed for December 2002. Publication was initially postponed until March 2003 to allow the research to be informed by the release of the 2001 Census data. Following further discussion with the six councils covered by the plan, it was agreed that publication should be delayed until September 2003 to allow them longer to consider and respond to the research which has been carried out. The third postponement was necessary to ensure that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive was given time to prepare a housing needs assessment to meet a new plan requirement introduced by draft Planning Policy Statement 12 Housing In Settlements.

The draft plan is now programmed for publication in March 2004.

Northern Ireland: Planning Appeals

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In what circumstances the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment would feel it necessary to employ professional advocates at planning appeals commissions hearings.[HL4553]

20 Oct 2003 : Column WA142

Baroness Amos: The Department of the Environment's planning service would only feel it necessary to employ professional advocates in situations where specialist expertise would be required and where such expertise was not available within the department. The planning service does, however, as a matter of practice, use legal advisers in most non-routine hearings.

Government Bills: Hours Spent in Committee

Lord Jopling asked the Leader of the House:

    Whether she will publish before the first day in Committee on the Hunting Bill a table showing the number of hours of consideration given to completed Committee stages of each government Bill in the current session.[HL4918]

Baroness Amos: The following table shows the number of hours spent in Committee in the House of Lords on each government Bill this Session.

Bill name (No of clauses(1), No of schedules)Hours in Committee of the Whole House
Anti-Social Behaviour (71, 3)15hrs 47mins
Arms Control and Disarmament (Inspections) (3, 2)14mins
Communications (403, 19)45hrs 16mins
Community Care (Delayed Discharge etc) (17, 0)11hrs 1min
Courts (101, 7)27hrs 3mins
Criminal Justice (307, 32)60hrs 2mins
European Union (Accessions) (3, 0)19mins
Licensing (196, 8)31hrs 21mins
National Minimum Wage (Enforcement Notices) (2, 0)16mins
Northern Ireland (Monitoring Commission) (10, 0)1hr 37mins
Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections and Periods of Suspension) (7, 0)15mins
Northern Ireland Assembly Elections Bill (2, 0)43mins
Regional Assemblies (Preparations) (29, 1)21hrs 41mins
Sexual Offences (128, 5)31hrs 21mins

Bill name (No of clauses(1), No of schedules)Hours in Grand Committee
Crime (International Co-operation) (94, 5)17hrs 7mins
Electricity (Misc Provisions) (5, 0)2hrs 48mins
European Parliament (Representation) (25, 1)99mins
Extradition (213, 1)34hrs 46mins
Fire Services (2, 0)10hrs 47mins
Health (Wales) (10, 4)1hr 55mins
Local Government (128, 7)30hrs 9mins
Police (Northern Ireland) (28, 3)4hrs 46mins
Railways and Transport Safety (119, 7)7hrs 46mins
Waste and Emissions Trading (35, 0)8hrs 5mins
Water (97, 9)27hrs 27mins

Clause count represents the number of clauses in the Bill when it was introduced in to the House of Lords

NB. These lists do not include Bills where the Committee stage was negatived. Nor do they include Bills which have not yet completed their Committee stage in this House.

Prisoners: Voting Rights

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

    Whether denying prisoners the right to vote affects their ability to persuade Ministers of the Crown and those responsible for the Prison Service to improve the conditions in which they are imprisoned; and[HL4524]

20 Oct 2003 : Column WA143

    Whether denying prisoners the right to vote amounts to an additional punishment; and whether this is compatible with Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as interpreted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.[HL4523]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): It has been the view of successive governments that prisoners convicted of a crime serious enough to warrant imprisonment have lost the moral authority to vote. The working party on electoral procedures, which examined and reviewed all electoral arrangements after the general election held in 1997, published its findings on 19 October 1999. It could find no reason to change the existing system in which convicted prisoners found guilty of a crime serious enough to warrant imprisonment are denied the right to vote for the duration of their imprisonment.

Prisoners have a variety of ways in which they can express their views about conditions in prison, including by writing to their Member of Parliament—and many do so.

Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights covers the rights of the individual to be involved in public affairs and to vote in periodic free elections without unreasonable restrictions. The covenant has not been incorporated into English law, but the UK is signed up to the covenant.

Parliament has decided that convicted prisoners have forfeited their right to have a say in the way the country is governed for the period during which they are in custody. This temporary disenfranchisement pursues a legitimate aim and is proportionate, and is considered a reasonable restriction within the terms of Article 25. It does not, in our view, affect the substance of Article 25, which is concerned with universal franchise and the free expression of the people in the choice of legislature. Long-standing precedent set by the European Court of Human Rights upholds that certain sections of society, including convicted prisoners, can be excluded from voting.

Violent Crime: Convenience Stores

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What statistics they have on violent attacks on people who work in convenience stores for each of the last three years and the current year to date; what is the average time taken by police forces to respond to emergency calls from them; whether they are content with current response times; and what action they are taking to work with retailers to combat violent crime in their stores. [HL4611]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The requested information on the levels of violent attacks on people who work in convenience stores and the time taken by police to respond to these is not collected centrally.

20 Oct 2003 : Column WA144

The Government do take crime against the retail sector very seriously and the Business Crime Section within the Home Office is focusing on this issue. Advice on reducing violent crime has been provided by the Home Office in a booklet for retailers entitled Don't discount crime, which covers all aspects of crime prevention and includes a section on keeping safe. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published Work-related violence: managing the risk in smaller businesses on 9 July 2002. The publication includes 10 case studies on how some businesses have reduced the risk of violence to staff. It has also published specific guidance for the retail sector, called Preventing Violence to Retail Staff. This provides practical guidance for retailers and their staff on how the problems and causes of violence might be tackled. It sets out an approach that can be adopted as everyday practice.

These issues can only be addressed by a joint approach and the Government are committed to working with the retail industry to combat all types of crime against the industry. An example of this is the DTI-sponsored Retail Strategy Group, comprising members from both the public and private sectors, which has a specific sub-group that includes officials from the Home Office, DTI and Small Business Service to look at crime issues.

Retail crime reduction partnerships, which exist in many town and shopping centres, enable members to share information and exclude offenders, including potentially violent offenders, from their stores. The Home Office paid for a consultant to work with the British Retail Consortium over a two-year period to develop these partnerships, many of which are supported by the government offices in the regions.

The Home Office has also provided £15 million over three years to help small shops in deprived areas, many of which are convenience stores, with security.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page