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Prison and Probation Ombudsman

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when the prison and probation ombudsman was established; [48134]

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Mr. Blunkett: The office of prisons ombudsman for England and Wales was established in 1994 under the previous Conservative Administration following the report by Lord Woolf and Sir Stephen Tumim on Prison Disturbances (Cm 1456) and the White Paper "Custody, Care and Justice" (Cm 1647). The remit was extended on 1 September 2001 to encompass complaints both from prisoners and those supervised by the National Probation Service (NPS). The office was re-titled prisons and probation ombudsman.

The prisons and probation ombudsman is independent of the Prison Service and National Probation Service. The ombudsman is appointed by the Home Secretary and reports to him. The ombudsman investigates complaints from prisoners, and those on license or otherwise under probation supervision, regarding aspects of their treatment. Complainants must first have sought redress through use of the internal Prison Service or NPS complaints systems. The number of complaints has increased rapidly over the last two years. In 2001–02, 1,100 complaints were investigated.

The ombudsman submits an annual report to the Home Secretary which the Home Secretary lays before Parliament.

Provisional outturn operating costs for the financial year April 2001 to March 2002 were £1.66 million. The unit employs 41 members of staff.

Strategic Policy Team

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many members of staff are employed by the Strategic Policy Team; [48532]

Mr. Blunkett: The Strategic Policy Team was established in August 2000. Its role is to support Ministers and the Home Office Board by developing overall strategy, and individual policies and cross cutting work. Estimated outturn operating costs in 2001–02 were £0.9 million. The Strategic Policy Team is a mix of civil servants, secondees and a small number of people with specialist skills on short-term contracts. There are usually between 20 and 25 members in post.

Animals (Scientific Procedure) Inspectorate

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when the Animals (Scientific Procedure) Inspectorate was established; [48102]

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Mr. Blunkett: The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate was established on 1 January 1987 under the previous Conservative Administration.

The statutory functions of the Inspectorate are set out in section 18 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

"18 (2) It shall be the duty of an inspector:

18 (3) If an inspector considers that a protected animal is undergoing excessive suffering he may require it to be immediately killed by a method appropriate to the animal under Schedule 1 to this Act or by such other method as may be authorised by any personal licence held by the person to whom the requirement is addressed".

In addition, the Inspectorate is also involved in a number of initiatives to continuously raise awareness of opportunities to implement the three 'R's (of reduction, refinement and replacement) in animal experimentation, to promote a 'culture of care', and to identify and disseminate best practice.

For the year 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002 the provisional outturn operating costs of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate were approximately £1.55 million.

A total of 25 staff are currently employed by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate.

National Technical Assistance Centre

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many members of staff are employed by the National Technical Assistance Centre; [48483]

Mr. Blunkett: The head of the National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC) was appointed in March 2001 in response to the 1999 Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit report "Encryption and Law Enforcement".

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NTAC will provide assistance to the investigations in the United Kingdom intelligence and law enforcement agencies; by providing techniques for lawful interception of modern multimedia communications, and by processing those lawfully intercepted communications to provide intelligible material to the intercepting agencies. NTAC also provides techniques to derive intelligible evidence from lawfully seized computer data.

Since the summer of 2001 NTAC has been operational in its role in respect of lawfully seized computer data. Operational work in respect of lawfully intercepted communications is planned to commence in late summer 2002.

The provisional outturn for 2001–02 was £1.9 million. NTAC currently employs 33 staff.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many members of staff are employed by HM Inspectorate of Prisons; [48129]

Mr. Blunkett: The Inspectorate of Prisons was set up as an independent body in 1981 under the previous Conservative administration. Its remit is to inspect and report the treatment and conditions of those in Prison Service custody, and Immigration Service detention. In the financial year 2001–02 Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons costs were £1.89 million. There were 26 full-time members of staff and eight consultants in post on 31 March 2002.

Financial Crime Team

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what the cost of the Financial Crime Team was in the last 12 months; [48449]

Mr. Blunkett: The Financial Crime Team was set up in April 2000 to secure delivery of the Government's policy on the recovery of criminal assets which is a priority for this Government. In particular, the Financial Crime Team is responsible for:

The estimated operating costs of the team for the financial year 2001–02 were £0.41 million. 18 members of staff were in post on 31 March 2002.

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Legal Adviser's Branch

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what the remit is of the Legal Adviser's Branch; [48489]

Mr. Blunkett: The first permanent Home Office Counsel was appointed in 1835 but the current Legal Adviser's Branch (LAB) can be said to date from the appointment, in 1869, of the first Assistant Under-Secretary (Legal). LAB provides specific legal services to other parts of the Home Office, and a similar service to the Northern Ireland Office. The cost of LAB in the last 12 months was £2.76 million. As at 31 March 2002 there were 57 members of staff employed.

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