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Prisoners

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the number of prisoners who have (a) drug and (b) alcohol problems; and what services are available to them. [59625]

Hilary Benn: Every prisoner on reception receives a health examination and during that assessment a prisoner will be encouraged to disclose any drug or alcohol misuse problem. Figures on those with substance misuse problems are not kept centrally. Epidemiological surveys show that around 80 per cent. of prisoners had used drugs prior to prison, with 54 per cent. admitting dependency. Random mandatory drug testing figures show that, nationally, 11.6 per cent. of prisoners tested positive for drugs in 2001–02.

An integrated range of drug treatment and support services is available to prisoners comprising:


Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what percentage of prisoners had no fixed accommodation upon release from prison in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what services are available to find accommodation; [59626]

Hilary Benn: The Prison Service undertook a large- scale survey in November and December 2001 of sentenced prisoners nearing release. 33 per cent. said they did not have accommodation arranged on release. 24 per cent. said they had a job to go to on release and six per cent. a training place.

By comparison, in a prisoner resettlement survey conducted by the National Association for Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) in 1992, 48 per cent. said they needed help with long-term housing and 89 per cent. were likely to face unemployment on release.

Many establishments provide services to help prisoners find accommodation and employment on release, often in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, the National Probation Service or voluntary sector organisations. These include housing advice centres, jobsearch training and support,

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and the piloting in eight prisons from summer 2002 of new technology giving access to Jobcentre Plus information on employment vacancies across the country. The Prison Service Custody to Work programme, with £30 million earmarked over 2001–04, is geared towards increasing the number of prisoners getting jobs or training places after release through the development of such resettlement activity.

Further impetus to improving the accommodation and employment services available to prisoners has been provided by the thematic review of resettlement published by the Inspectorates of Prisons and Probation in October 2001, and by the Social Exclusion Unit's current study on reducing re-offending by released prisoners, which is expected to report later in the year.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements are in place for prisoners held in the high secure unit at HMP Belmarsh to take regular daily exercise; and how much fluid is available to each prisoner per day. [59867]

Hilary Benn: All prisoners in the High Secure Unit are able to have one hour of exercise in the open air each day. In addition they are also able, subject to staff availability, to attend the gymnasium three times each week. Each residential spur has either an exercise bike, rowing machine or step exerciser available for use by prisoners.

Every cell contains a cold water tap providing drinking water. Each residential spur also has a water heater to provide prisoners with hot drinks. To cover those periods when prisoners are locked in their cells, each person is provided with a vacuum flask so as to enable them to make hot drinks, for which purpose they each receive a weekly allowance of tea, coffee and powdered milk. Every day each prisoner will also receive one 200ml carton of milk.

All prisoners are allowed to purchase items from the prison shop. Among items that are available are canned and bottled carbonated drinks as well as still drinks. Additional quantities of tea, coffee and hot drinks are also available for purchase.

Television Licences

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) male and (b) female prisoners are in prison in connection with non-payment of television licences. [58638]

Hilary Benn: The latest provisional data (representing 30 April 2002) show that there were no people in Prison Service establishments in England and Wales for using a television without a licence at that time.

Prisoner Suicides

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many (a) attempted suicides and (b) suicides there were in prisons in England and Wales in each of the last 20 years; and what percentage of the prison population this represents; [58634]

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Hilary Benn: The available information is set out in tables, which have been placed in the Library. Figures for "attempted suicide" (for which there is no separate definition) are subsumed within those for self-harm, which cover all acts of self-injury, however non-serious. The definition of self-harm and recording practices are under review. Information relating to prisons in Scotland and Northern Ireland is a matter for the Scottish Executive and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. John Reid) respectively.

HMP Belmarsh

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when and for what reasons the special secure unit at HMP Belmarsh was redesignated a high secure unit; and what the principal differences in prison regime are. [59866]

Hilary Benn: The high security unit at Belmarsh is a four spur, 48 cell facility holding both 'high' and 'standard' risk category A prisoners. In the event of a category A prisoner being received at Belmarsh with an 'exceptional' risk classification, then one spur of the unit will become a special secure unit. When this situation arises, the facility operates as a special secure unit.

There are no principal differences in the regime offered to prisoners caused by change of designation. The main difference arising from the change of designation would be in respect of general security measures taken by staff.

Hezb-e Tahrir

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his Department has classified Hezb-e Tahrir as a terrorist organization; what changes have been made in its classification since January 1999; and if he will make a statement. [59685]

Mr. Blunkett: This organisation is not on the proscribed list of organisations contained in schedule 2 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

The list of proscribed organisations is kept under review and decisions to proscribe or deproscribe are taken after careful consideration of all relevant aspects.

Animal Rights Protests

Martin Linton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many successful prosecutions of animal rights activists have occurred since the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 came into force; and what sentences were handed down. [57014]

Hilary Benn: Information on prosecutions under the provisions of the 2001 Act relating to intimidatory assemblies and malicious communications will be published for the first time in 2003, although this will not distinguish between prosecutions of animal rights extremists and other people since the characteristics of court defendants are not collected centrally.

Damilola Taylor

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to the answer of 15 May 2002, Official Report, column 700W, on Damilola Taylor,

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if he will define vulnerable or intimidated witnesses; what his criteria are for this definition; and which agents and agencies he consulted on this definition. [60080]

Hilary Benn: Sections 16 and 17 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 define vulnerable and intimidated witnesses in terms of their eligibility for assistance from special measures to achieve best evidence.

Vulnerable witnesses are those (other than the defendant) who are eligible for assistance because they are under 17 at the time of the hearing or because the court considers that the quality of their evidence is likely to be diminished for reasons of physical disability, physical or mental disorder or a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning.

Intimidated witnesses are those who are eligible for assistance because the court is satisfied that the quality of their evidence is likely to be diminished by fear or distress about testifying. The court has to take into account the nature and alleged circumstances of the offence, the age of the witness and any views expressed by him or her, and any behaviour towards the witness on the part of the accused, members of the family or associates of the accused or any other person who is likely to be an accused or witness in the proceedings.

Where relevant, the court must also take into account the witness's social and cultural background and ethnic origin, domestic and employment circumstances and religious beliefs or political opinions.

A complainant in respect of a sexual offence who is a witness in proceedings relating to that offence is also eligible for assistance unless the witness has informed the court that he or she does not wish to be eligible.

The definitions in sections 16 and 17 of the 1999 Act were based on the recommendations of 'Speaking Up for Justice', the report of the inter-departmental working group which is available in the Library and to which I referred in my earlier answer. This contains a literature review and a summary of representations received from organisations and individuals.


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