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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that it is important to identify the needs of specific prisoners and to ensure that they are met in a way that enables them to stay healthy. I assure my noble friend that everything is being done to ensure that the highest possible quality of care is provided to those who are incarcerated in our prisons.

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, given the Government's and the Minister's commitment to crime reduction and to keeping prison numbers down, does she agree that the research to which the noble Lord's Question refers needs also to be looked at in relation to the diet of young people who are particularly vulnerable to being drawn into a life of crime, before they get into prisons? I appreciate the work being done on prison diets and regimes, but all of that can be jeopardised if we do not attend to the causes that bring people into prison. If diet is a part of that, it should be a matter for careful research.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with the right reverend Prelate that the question of diet is relevant not just to those in prison; it is relevant to all of us for healthy living. The Department of Health's
 
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Choosing Health agenda applies to everyone including those in prison and provides a further impetus to improve meals. Prison catering staff are provided with regular training and information. However, the general thrust for all of us to become healthier, including healthy provision for our children, is of real importance. The five pieces of fruit a day that we are all exhorted to eat together with children is a jolly good thing.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the noble Baroness consult the Chief Inspector of Prisons, who has said in her annual report that diet can have a significant effect on behaviour? Does she think that the average budget of £1.87 per day allocated for food in prisons allows governors to provide the effective diet that the chief inspector calls for, and has the NAO report, which criticises the level of salt in prison diets—93 per cent over the recommended limits—and the inadequate level of fibre been taken note of in the Home Office?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord will know that we have taken seriously issues of food quality, reduction in fat intake, promotion of fibre-rich foods and appropriate food preparation. I think that it was Sir Stephen Tumim who observed back in 1991 that the issue was not money but our attitude to how we provided it and dealt with it. We have certainly addressed those issues. It is therefore a matter of some satisfaction and pleasure that the quality of provision that we are now making is so much higher than it has ever been before.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is a great pity that the prison farms and kitchen gardens that prisoners have been tending until now are being closed? Apart from being good for their diet, the work was good for their behaviour pattern. It gave them something of real interest to pursue. I am not suggesting that they should eat horses, but I think it a great pity—I hope that the Minister will agree—that the Suffolk Punch stud farm is being closed.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot comment directly on the Suffolk Punch stud farm, but I agree with the noble Baroness that the exercise and general contribution provided by kitchen gardens is to be applauded. I know that a number of prisoners have gained some quite wonderful rewards as a result of them.

Armed Forces: US Missile Defence

3.23 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consultations they will hold on the implications of the announcement by the head of the United States Missile Defence Agency that the
 
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United Kingdom has been chosen as a prime candidate to host missiles for the United States' missile defence system.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, the United States announced that it is,

In Washington last week, the United Kingdom was mentioned as a candidate for a possible missile defence site. The US has made no request about an interceptor site in the UK. It has said that it will continue to consult allies on missile defence issues. We expect to be engaged in those discussions. No decisions on further UK participation in missile defence have been taken.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful Answer. Can the Government assure the House as to the kind of consultation that they will have with parties and Parliament when such a request comes? Does the Minister recognise that the current American Administration have a rather unilateral approach to their use of bases in other sovereign states and that the degree of extra-territoriality that some of us have already witnessed in US bases in this country is a little worrying? We are therefore concerned. It is a particularly sensitive subject, and we wish to ensure that there is full and open consultation, once an American request is made.

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I can assure the House that we recognise the complexity and sensitivity that surround these matters. We have had discussions on these matters for more than 20 years with the United States as the technology surrounding the possibility of missile defence has emerged. Given the recognition of the sensitivity, I will pass on to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State the point that the noble Lord has made about the need for full consultation on these matters.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that in the United States the question of how effective missile defence is likely to be is a very lively one? There is no consensus on it. The argument, of course, is that missiles are not particularly effective against terrorism. Will the Minister comment on that?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, we recognise, as the noble Baroness states, that the matters are under debate. We have to look at the possibilities of the technologies surrounding missile defence in the wider defence context. Of course, any potential technology—I say "potential" technology—would not have any merit relating to terrorist attacks, but that is not the purpose for which it may be envisaged. However, we recognise the complexity and sensitivity of the issue and note that it would require a full debate if such a request was made to the United Kingdom.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, following on from that question, in the light of the fact that when
 
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President Reagan launched his space defence initiative almost all strategists in this country believed that it would make the world a more dangerous place, is the Minister convinced that the situation is now sufficiently different so that our association with any American defence system would enhance rather than undermine our security?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, it is correct to say that there are different schools of thought with regard to the impact that such potential missile defence technology may have on proliferation. There are some who take the view that it would decrease the rate of proliferation by taking out the incentive to develop said weapons; there are others who feel that it would increase the complexity of development. As I have said, they are matters of some complexity, which need full consideration—not least of which is the complexity relating to the technology, which is separate to issues relating to politics and discussion.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that some critics have labelled this an expensive Maginot line in the sky. Nevertheless, it may have some merit against rogue states which possess long-range weapons. As far as my noble friend is aware, is it the current thinking of the US Government that any protection that is offered will be for the whole of Europe, or will it be more limited?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, the matters are under discussion. The United States has indicated that it is prepared to discuss the extension of the provision of a missile defence system, should one be put in place, to provide protection to its friends and allies. Those matters are also under discussion under the auspices of NATO.

Lord Garden: My Lords, given the particular dangers from anti-missile missile systems of friendly fire incidents, as we have seen in various tragic cases, can the Minister today assure the House that, if any missiles were placed on United Kingdom territory by another nation, we would retain dual key control of them?


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