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Councillors: Bicycle Allowances

Lord Tope asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Under the statutory regime for councillors' travel and subsistence,

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established under the Local Government Act 1972, local authorities have no power to pay bicycle allowances.

Fines: Alternative Sentences

Lord Gisborough asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether magistrates may award a period of Community Service to a guilty person in lieu of a fine, where the only appropriate fine is above the ability of the person to pay but where the offence itself would not otherwise be so serious as to merit Community Service.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The overriding principle is that the sentence imposed by the court should be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence. This is the effect of the sentencing framework set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1991. A period of Community Service is a more severe sentence than a fine. It represents a substantial loss of leisure time, and involves reparation to the community, and a demanding regular commitment. Section 6 of the 1991 Act provides that a court shall not impose a Community Sentence unless the offence or offences are sufficiently serious to justify such a sentence. At present, therefore, magistrates may not award a period of Community Service to a low income offender in lieu of a fine if Community Service would not otherwise have been an appropriate sentence for the particular offence or offences.

Northern Ireland: Judges

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the pool of persons from whom judges are appointed in Northern Ireland has increased, decreased or remained stable since 1990.

The Lord Chancellor: Information supplied by the General Council of the Bar and the Law Society of Northern Ireland indicates that, since 1990, the pool of persons from whom judges are appointed in Northern Ireland has increased.

Emma Humphries: Transcript of Trial and Appeal

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House the transcript of the trial and appeal of Emma Humphries.

The Lord Chancellor: Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Court Service under its Chief Executive, Mr. Michael Huebner. I have accordingly asked the Chief Executive to reply direct.

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Letter to Lord Braine of Wheatley from the Chief Executive of the Court Service, Mr. Michael Huebner, dated 4/12/95:

The Lord Chancellor has asked me to reply to the above Question about the transcript of the trial and appeal in the case of Emma Humphries.

I can confirm that a copy of the trial judge's summing up and of the Appeal Court's judgment are available in the Library at the House of Lords. However, no transcript was made of the rest of the trial, which took place in 1985, and the shorthand writer's notes have now been destroyed. No note was taken of the appeal apart from the judgment. A note of the full appeal will usually only be taken if the judge specifically requests it.

Pregnant Women Prisoners on Escort: Handcuffing

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the rules, instructions and administrative practice within the Prison Service governing the use of handcuffs and other physical constraints on pregnant women attending maternity and other appointments in hospitals outside prison.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the temporary Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Lester of Herne Hill from the Director of Operations-South, HM Prison Service, Mr. Alan Walker, dated 4/12/95:

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about the handcuffing of women prisoners on escort.

The requirement for female prisoners to be handcuffed on escort from prison, as men are, was introduced in April 1995. This removed a governor's discretion to escort female prisoners without the use of handcuffs or a closeting chain. The new arrangements were considered necessary in order to improve security, as the rate of escapes by escorted female prisoners was considerably higher than that by male prisoners.

During medical examinations or treatment, the officer in charge of the escort must remove the cuffs if this is necessary for medical, clinical or surgical reasons. Restraints must also be removed during labour. It is also possible to allow sentenced women who are visiting their children to be released on compassionate licence if they are not category A, if they fulfil the criteria for temporary release and if risk assessments have shown that there is little risk of the prisoner trying to escape.

We are reviewing the policy to see if governors need to be allowed to have discretion not to use handcuffs on women prisoners in certain limited cases.

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The results of the new security arrangements so far have been very successful in reducing both the number of escapes from escorts and failures to return from temporary release.

UN Convention on Racial Discrimination: UK Report

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make generally available to the public the 13th Periodic Report of the United Kingdom to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, including the annexes to the report.

Baroness Blatch: We submitted the United Kingdom's 13th Periodic Report under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to the United Nations on 21 April 1995 and copies were that day placed in the Library. In accordance with the policy that the report should be freely available outside Parliament for those who wish to receive a copy, we sent copies to those non-governmental organisations with a particular established interest in the report, and we have since supplied copies on request.

Royal Household: Appointments

Lord Marsh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list those appointments to the Royal Household which would normally involve Ministers in either consultation or approval.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): There is no formal requirement to involve Ministers in either consultation or approval over any appointments in the Royal Household.

The "Derbyshire"

Lord Mountevans asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish Lord Donaldson's assessment of what further work should be undertaken to identify the cause of the sinking of the "Derbyshire".

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): We have today published Lord Donaldson's assessment. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

The Formal Investigation in 1987 into the loss of the "Derbyshire" decided that "...the Derbyshire was probably overwhelmed by the forces of nature in Typhoon Orchid"..., and added that "the evidence available does not support any firmer conclusion".

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Following the discovery in June 1994 of the wreckage of the "Derbyshire" during a search sponsored by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), Lord Donaldson of Lymington was appointed to undertake an assessment of what further work might be undertaken to seek to determine the actual cause of the loss of the "Derbyshire", together with assessments of the costs involved, the likelihood of establishing the cause, and the likely benefits to ship safety.

Lord Donaldson has recommended that a second, and final, re-examination of the wreck should be carried out, at a cost which he estimates at around £2 million. He believes there is a compelling case for seeking to establish the cause of the loss, with resulting benefits to ship safety.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has decided to accept his recommendation. The timing of this re-examination will depend on making the necessary arrangements (drawing up a specification, inviting tenders, and selecting a contractor) and will take place as soon as practicable--in either spring 1996 or spring 1997. We have raised with the European Commission the possibility of sharing the costs with them, given that the potential benefits are not confined to British ships and seafarers. The Commission have confirmed their readiness to assist financially.

Black Rod's Garden: Conversion

Lord Kennet asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether any amenity societies were consulted about the recent conversion of Black Rod's Garden; and, if so, what were their views.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): A number of societies and other bodies were consulted by the City of Westminster as part of their planning approval process, including the Victorian Society, the Westminster Society, the Thorney Island Society, English Heritage, the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the Royal Fine Art Commission.

The consultation process enabled objections raised by the above societies to be accommodated in the final proposal, and in the end only the Victorian Society and the Royal Fine Art Commission had objections outstanding. In both cases the objection was to the general principle that Black Rod's Garden be converted into a service area.

House of Lords in Session: Painting by Mr. Andrew Festing

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What fee has been agreed with Mr. Andrew Festing for painting the House in session; and

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    Whether the fee agreed with Mr. Andrew Festing for painting the House in session is fixed or subject to variation, and on what grounds; and

    Whether the number of Lords who will appear in the painting has been fixed.

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The Chairman of Committes: The fee is under discussion and I will write to the noble Lord when the matter is finalised.

The fee will be fixed, on the basis of the number of individual portraits in the painting.

The number of Lords is 330.

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