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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, perhaps I may respond briefly to the contributions that have been made. I am grateful to both noble Lords who have spoken for the broad welcome that they have extended to these orders. I am sure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be gratified to know that the noble Lord thinks he is an appropriate person to take decisions. But more generally there is an appreciation that it is desirable in those cases of under 10 years that I have indicated that the greater independence of the Parole Board should be asserted. I can certainly give an undertaking to the noble Earl that the independence that is properly vested in the board is a principle that will be studiously maintained.

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, was quite properly concerned to ensure that if there were representations to be made by a particular member of another place or someone elsewhere with regard to the eligibility for parole of a particular prisoner, they should be heard. I can give him the clear reassurance that any representations made by Members of Parliament, or others, will be carefully examined and considered. Indeed, if the noble Earl were to look to the Parole Board (Scotland) Rules of 1993, he would see that there are now in place very much clearer and much more open requirements in relation to what will go before the

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Parole Board. The prisoner will have a dossier which will reveal to him exactly what reports will be put before the Parole Board. That will be some four weeks before they are to be considered. It will allow him to make written representations about why he or she should be given early release on parole. I am sure that the noble Earl will accept that that is a desirable change.

So far as the single homeless are concerned, certainly the question of supported accommodation for released prisoners is a matter that will always be of concern to the board. The board is unlikely to recommend any early release unless the prisoner has a proper home or a supported hostel place to return to. I recognise, as he does, the desirability of ensuring that there is sufficient provision for that. The matter of housing benefit is a rather different issue relating to a rather different point.

Finally—

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister one question relating to the subject of single people. I am sorry if he thinks that I am intruding. I happen to be the chairman of an organisation in Greater Manchester called SELCARE. I inherited it from the former distinguished Member of this House, Lord Rhodes. Our organisation has properties which we are able to offer to people as somewhere to go if they are viewed as suitable for release into the community. Is anything else like that in being? I am sorry to intervene, but I wanted to put that question to the Minister because our organisation works very well in our situation.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, the noble Lord should certainly not apologise for intervening.

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What he says on these matters is always to be regarded very carefully, given his personal involvement in a number of very worthwhile schemes. Whether our schemes work as well as those for which he has a responsibility, I am not sure. But certainly, as I understand it, there are a number of very good schemes in place. If, by means of such schemes, people can be placed, so much the better. That would certainly help any prisoner who is otherwise regarded as capable of facing up to what would be responsibilities in the community once he or she is released. I feel that we were on a slightly different point from the benefit point, which often has to do with giving up houses that otherwise are held empty for a long period.

Finally, the noble Earl was concerned that parole decisions come too late. The new procedures are designed to ensure that the parole decision will come at least six weeks before the parole qualifying date. This should allow adequate time for pre-release arrangements to be made by social workers. If there are prisoners who do not have sufficient regard for them, I hope that the change in arrangements will redress the balance there.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 (Release of Prisoners etc.) Order 1995

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 16th February be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee]. —(Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at twenty-nine minutes before nine o'clock.


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