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Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to equalise the law of evidence on the admissability in criminal trials of telephone taps carried out (a) in the United Kingdom and (b) abroad. 
Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to liaise with ministers from the European Community on harmonizing laws on admitting the results of telephone taps in evidence in criminal trials. 
Mr. Hilary Benn: The Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between Member States of the European Union, signed by Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in May 2000, contains a number of detailed provisions relating to interception of communications.
Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the maintenance charges are for the probation STEPS contract during normal working hours; what the call out charge is between 6 pm and 10 pm; what the charge is for a Saturday and a Sunday call out; what the charge is in relation to an office relocation; what assessment he has made of the value for money of the contract with Bull/Integris for these matters; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hilary Benn [holding answer 2 July 2002]: It is normal in contracts such as these for the information requested to be covered by commercial confidentiality clauses. However, recent press reports on this subject
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have been so inaccurate and misleading that both the supplier and the National Probation Directorate felt it appropriate to correct some specific points.
The Standard Technical Environment for the Probation Service (STEPS) contract provides the foundation for the development of Information Technology (IT) in the probation service. Earlier this year it became one of the first contracts to pass through the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) Gateway process, set up to scrutinise Government contracts for value and purpose.
The core support hours for the contract are MondayFriday from 8am to 6pm. The "maintenance charges" to extend these hours to provide full service cover for a whole office between 6 and 10 pm on a weeknight would be £2,661. On a Saturday the cost to support the entire network of 15,000 desktops across England and Wales would be £8,704. On a Sunday, the same cost would be £11,600. To deliver this service the supplier has to provide people on call around the country, responding to incidents and resolving problems. These costs would only be paid should this work be needed. To date, in the lifetime of this contract, it has not been. The cost to move a workstation would be £192. By any standards this contract represents good value for money.
Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the financial position of Bull/Integris was taken into account before the Standard Technical Environment for the Probation Service contract was let on 1 January; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hilary Benn [holding answer 2 July 2002]: The National Probation Directorate commissioned the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) to assess the financial position of Groupe Bull and it's subsidiary Bull Information Systems (including the business division Integris) prior to the shortlisting of service providers for the STEPS contracts.
After shortlisting and prior to award of the STEPS contracts, the National Probation Directorate commissioned a firm of forensic accountants to evaluate the financial risks regarding the sale of Integris by Bull Information Systems to Steria.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the outstanding disclosure applications from Wirral borough council social services department to the Criminal Records Bureau will be processed; how large the backlog is of applications awaiting processing; and what the most recent average figure is for how long the processing procedure takes. 
Mr. Hilary Benn: Correctly completed applications are currently processed typically within six weeks; this time-scale applies to Wirral Borough Council Social Services. Around 70,000 Disclosure applications which have gone past the published delivery times (one week for standard Disclosures and three weeks for enhanced) remain to be completed.
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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people committed suicide in 2001 within one year of leaving prison in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. 
However, a recent research study found that during 1996 and 1997, 34 ex-prisoners died from self-inflicted injury whilst receiving statutory post-release supervision by the Probation Service. Data on the number of days between release and self-inflicted death was available for 32 cases: 28 prisoners died within one year of release.
Further details of this research are available in Home Office Research Study 231 which can be found on the Home Office website. Adult prisoners serving custodial sentences of less than 12 months were excluded from this study because they do not receive statutory post-release supervision. Self-inflicted death includes all verdicts of suicide, death by misadventure, accidental deaths and open verdicts.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what response he has made to the Howard League's recent report on suicide following prison release; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hilary Benn: The Government welcomes this report for the attention it rightly gives to the issue of suicide prevention. The National Probation Service is using it to inform the work it is doing in this area, which includes commissioning more detailed research into deaths in approved premises and the preparation of interim guidance on the reporting of and prevention of deaths.
The National Probation Service is also working with the Prison Service to improve arrangements for the release of prisoners into approved premises. Consideration is also being given to how investigations into deaths in custody and in approved hostels may be strengthened.
Mr. Stinchcombe: (1) To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners serving life sentences in England and Wales have had to wait (a) between three months and six months, (b) between six months and one year, (c) between one year and two years and (d) in excess of two years, for his Department to decide whether to accept a Parole Board recommendation of that prisoner's transfer to open conditions in each of the last five years. 
(3) how many prisoners serving life sentences in England and Wales have been returned to closed conditions for alleged misdemeanours occurring after a prior transfer to open conditions and/or release on licence, in each of the last five years; and what the nature of the alleged misdemeanour was in each such case. 
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(4) how many prisoners serving life sentences in England and Wales have had to wait (a) between three months and six months, (b) between six months and one year, (c) between one year and two years and (d) in excess of two years, for notification of the outcome of their Parole Board review in each of the last five years. 
(5) what (a) the average time and (b) the longest time which his Department has taken to decide upon Parole Board recommendations in respect of prisoners serving life sentences in England and Wales was in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Hilary Benn: The procedures for those life sentence prisoners removed from open conditions are set out in Chapter 4 of the "Lifer Manual (Prison Service Order 4700)". I have arranged for a copy of this to be placed in the Library.
Released life sentence prisoners are recalled to prison because they are deemed to present an unacceptable risk to public safety. In some cases this will involve criminal offences and other factors giving cause for concern of risk of harm either to specific individuals or the public at large. The numbers of lifers recalled in the past five years are as follows:
|1 April 200131 March 2002||26|
|1 April 200031 March 2001||35|
|1 April 199931 March 2000||39|
|1 April 199831 March 1999||35|
|1 April 199731 March 1998||20|
This represents around three per cent. of the total number of lifers under supervision in the community.
Her Majesty's Prison Service does not hold centrally information on the reasons for recall in each case. The other information requested is not held centrally in the form requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost by examining the individual records of the prisoners concerned.
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