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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Prison Service, which holds responsibility for these matters on behalf of NOMS, is aware of the difficulties many visitors experience when trying to book visits. The procedures and resources for booking visits are at the discretion of governors and directors in each prison.
The Prison Service has been pursuing improvements to visits booking and is currently examining alternative options such as using a shared service centre to take calls. In 2006, guidelines were sent to all establishments setting out practical ways of improving visits booking including booking at the prison. An IT package, as well as facilities to book by e-mail have also been made available to public sector prisons to streamline the process and ease pressure on the telephone booking lines.
In addition, in September 2007 the Prison Service published a revised policy about visits, which introduced a mandatory requirement for all governors and directors to ensure that any system for visits booking is efficient. In future this will be monitored through the relevant performance standard on visits.
Whether their proposals to amend the existing statutory public sector ombudsmen arrangements through the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill by making provision for the establishment of HM Commissioner for Offender Management and Prisons will satisfy the Council of Europe's criteria for the essential attributes of an ombudsman institution, namely, (a) full statutory independence; (b) complete operational discretion as to which complaints should be taken for investigation; (c) a guarantee of sufficient resources; and (d) complete autonomy over issues relating to budget and staff. [HL1081]
Under the Bill the independence of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will be significantly strengthened. The office will for the first time be underpinned by statute, giving the commissioner formal powers of investigation. Moreover, it will be possible to remove the commissioner from office only following an address in both Houses of Parliament.
The commissioner will have a large degree of discretion in what complaints will be taken for investigation. For example, the commissioner will be able to waive the requirements relating to the time elapsed between events occurring and the making of a complaint and the requirement that an authority has had an opportunity to deal with the complaint. In addition, the commissioner will be able to determine the procedures for making complaints.
The commissioner will continue to be provided with adequate funding, as now, to allow performance of the duties of the office. Placing this office on a statutory basis demonstrates our commitment to preserving its existing functions intact for the foreseeable future. Where significant new pressures have emerged previously, we have always sought to provide additional funding.
We consider that the proposed arrangement for funding and staffing the commissioner's office will minimise the administrative burden. However, we are re-examining those arrangements to ensure that they offer the required level of independence.
Whether their proposals to amend the existing statutory public sector ombudsmen arrangements through the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill by making provision for the establishment of HM Commissioner for Offender Management and Prisons will ensure that those who might want to use the service of the new commissioner, including both family members and third parties, will be provided with arrangements which are clear, accessible and user-friendly. [HL1082]
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The current provisions in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill for the establishment of HM Commissioner for Offender Management and Prisons provide arrangements for easy access to the commissioner's service. For example, complaints can be made orally and commissioner reports can be issued orally; the commissioner has discretion to waive the conditions that determine the eligibility of a complaint; and the commissioner has discretion over the detailed arrangements for dealing with a complaint. In addition, we expect that the commissioner will produce and publish detailed guidance about his procedures for dealing with complaints, for use by his staff, complainants and the bodies against whom complaints can be made.
There are currently no proposals in the provision for the establishment of HM Commissioner for Offender Management and Prisons in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill to extend the commissioner's remit to complaints from family members and third parties. The purpose of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has always been to deal with grievances about the custodial or offender management experience by those subject to it, not complaints against the Prison and Probation Services generally. The current provisions preserve that focus.
However, we are considering carefully whether to extend the commissioner's remit to complaints from family members and third parties, and we will base our decision on the outcome of any consultation on the proposal. There is provision in the Bill to extend
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): There were 80,997 prisoners held in all prison establishments in England and Wales on 31 October 2007, the latest date for which figures are available. At the end of October 1997 the corresponding figure was 63,226.
There were 4,588 total staff in post (4,445 FTE) as at 31 October 2007 in the 11 contracted prisons (information for one of the prisons was as at 31 May 2007, but this is not expected to differ greatly from the current position). Information for staff in post for contracted prisons is not available for 1997. There were only four contracted prisons in 1997, Altcourse, Doncaster, Parc, and Wolds.
The attention of the House is drawn to the publication, The Story of the Prison Population: 1995-2007, copies of which will be placed in the Libraries of this House and another place. It is hoped that this will provide additional context to the statistics supplied in the answer.
Lord Davies of Oldham: The detailed information requested is not held centrally. Under the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, upper age limits are
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government have always stood firmly against discrimination in all its forms, including against Roman Catholics, and they will continue to do so. To bring about change to the law on succession would be a complex undertaking involving amendment or repeal of a number of items of related legislation, as well as requiring the consent of legislatures of member nations of the Commonwealth. The Government have no immediate plans to legislate in this area.
Whether they will seek to obtain information as to whether and to what extent Muslim religious and political organisations in the United Kingdom are funded by groups or organisations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [HL908]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Government do not hold information on Muslim religious and political organisations in the UK that are funded by groups or organisations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Government are working with a range of partners to further develop their understanding of all faith communities in the UK and their infrastructure.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Victim Support + (formerly called victim care units) aims to provide faster, more tailored support for victims of crime, based on a standard needs assessment within two days of referral from the police. At present, restorative justice is not one of the services being offered to victims, however the model is currently in its early
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The existing Code of Practice for Conditional Cautioning provides that restorative justice (RJ) processes may be used to help determine the conditions to be attached to a conditional caution. It also provides that participation in an RJ process may be a condition of the caution itself; where the requirement is positive participation in the process, any actions arising out of the RJ process will form a voluntary agreement between the offender and the victim or victims.
Earlier this year we consulted on a revised draft Code of Practice for Conditional Cautions. That draft made the same provisions in respect of RJ. We have not yet sought parliamentary approval for the implementation of the revised code of practice, but there are no plans to change the RJ provisions in the code before we do.
Areas are encouraged to use RJ processes where appropriate. Seminars on RJ processes at a recent series of conditional cautioning practitioner events were aimed at raising its profile and increasing uptake.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: All local criminal justice boards have key targets to meet as agreed by the National Criminal Justice Board, which include bringing more offences to justice, improving enforcement and increasing public confidence. But the use of restorative justice, which is largely delivered as part of a caution or a sentence, is not measured discretely within these targets.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We have no current plans to change the sanction detection system in order to count restorative justice outcomes. The majority of restorative justice interventions are delivered as part of, or in addition to, a caution or a sentence, which already count as sanction detections.
Lord Davies of Oldham: The average strength of wine is based on the data from excise duty returns on hectolitres of wine cleared within categories based on duty rates. The strength-related duty bandings are as follows:for still wine of fresh grapeabove 1.2 per cent but not exceeding 4 per cent, above 4 per cent but not exceeding 5.5 per cent, above 5.5 per cent but not exceeding 15 per cent, above 15 per cent but not exceeding 22 per cent;for sparkling wine and made wineabove 1.2 per cent but not exceeding 4 per cent, above 4 per cent but not exceeding 5.5 per cent, above 5.5 per cent but not exceeding 8.5 per cent and above 8.5 per cent but not exceeding 15 per cent; and for still made wineabove 1.2 per cent but not exceeding 4 per cent, above 4 per cent but not exceeding 5.5 per cent, above 5.5 per cent but not exceeding 15 per cent and above 15 per cent but not exceeding 22 per cent.
The overall estimated wine strength is based on an estimated strength for each of these categories weighted by the number of hectolitres cleared for each category. The bulk of wine cleared for consumption falls into the first category.
The wine and made wine duty category does not solely include table wines but also the lower duty rated fermented alcohol-based ready to drinks (coolers). The weighted average strength for wine thus provides a more accurate reflection of alcohol released for consumption across a range of alcoholic products. This category also includes fortified wines up to and including those with ABV 22 per cent.
The average strength for total beer is also a weighted average strength taking into account the origin of the beer. Unlike the wine category beer duty is calculated on alcoholic strength from 1.2 per cent in 0.1 increments. The bulk of the beer released for consumption in the UK is produced in UK registered premises. Precise data are available from traders' returns to produce an average strength for this beer. The strength of the residual beer released from bonded warehouses and imports is an estimated average strength of alcohol based on the national statistics retail prices index basket of goods.
The average strength of cider is based on the data from excise duty returns on hectolitres of cider cleared within categories based on duty rates. The categories are: still cider 1.2 per cent to 7.5 per cent; still cider over 7.5 per cent but less than 8.5 per cent; and sparkling cider 1.2 per cent to 5.5 per cent over 5.5 per cent but less than 8.5 per cent. The overall estimated cider strength is based on an estimated strength for each of these categories weighted by the
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