Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


9 Jul 1996 : Column WA9

Written Answers

Tuesday, 9th July 1996.

Japanese Research and Exchange Initiative

Lord Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the UK is benefiting from the Japanese Government's "Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative".

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The UK is specifically included in this 10-year £650 million programme; under it, the Japanese Government--in close consultation with ourselves--is helping to fund historical research as well as various exchange programmes aimed at fostering mutual understanding between the peoples of the UK and Japan. Participants in the exchange visits, initiated by private organisations, include former prisoners of war and their families. These research and exchange programmes are expected to continue in coming years.

Iran: Human Rights

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the allegation made by Ms Elahe Hicks of Human Rights Watch/Middle East, in an interview with Mahmoud Tehrani of the BBC Persian service broadcast on 22nd June 1996, that Mr. Rajae Khorasani, a former member of the Iranian Majlis and founder/chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission of Iran, said that torture is practised in Iran, and is legitimate when it is applied to "political groups such as the hypocrites", and whether they will ensure that a recording of this broadcast is made available to the United Nations Human Rights Centre in advance of the forthcoming meeting of the Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We take a very serious view of all human rights violations in Iran. The most recent EU sponsored human rights resolution on Iran, adopted in April by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, reaffirmed our specific concern about cases of torture in Iran. We deplore unequivocally the use of torture in all its forms. Torture is never legitimate. We are making enquiries to establish whether Human Rights Watch have passed on a recording of their 22nd June interview with the BBC Persian Service to the UN Human Rights Centre.

9 Jul 1996 : Column WA10

Torture and Unlawful Killing: UN Rapporteurs' Reports

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list: (a) countries where the United Nations Agencies and Special Rapporteurs have in the last five years found evidence of consistent and widespread use of torture or extra-judicial killing; (b) countries which have failed to invite or denied access to the Special Rapporteurs already mentioned during the last five years.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: This assessment could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Reports of the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Summary, Arbitrary or Extra-judicial Executions, which contain governments' replies to allegations and requests to visit, are routinely made available in the Library of the House.

Stalking Consultation Paper

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish their proposals to deal with stalking.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): I am today publishing a joint consultation paper with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. A copy has been placed in the Library.

Stalkers can have a devastating effect on the lives of their victims, who are entitled to expect that the law will protect them. But this is a difficult area in which to legislate, as stalkers often behave in ways which do not overtly threaten their victims. But its sheer, oppressive persistence makes this activity so threatening.

The consultation paper proposes a new tort which will allow the victims of stalkers to seek an injunction against further harassment. It also proposes two new criminal offences which are intended to ensure that stalkers can be punished for activity which causes people to fear for their safety or which more generally causes harassment, alarm or distress.

It is important that any new measures against stalkers deal effectively with the problem whilst at the same time they do not prevent people from going about their lawful business. That is why it is important for the Government to consult on this subject.

Police Search Warrant Applications

The Marquess of Ailesbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What incentive there is for a police officer to apply for a warrant when a warrant is required, despite knowing that Her Majesty's Government will refuse to disclose to Parliament any failure to do so.

9 Jul 1996 : Column WA11

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The incentive is that failure to comply with the law may render any evidence obtained inadmissible in court and may result in criminal or disciplinary charges being brought against the officer responsible. If a breach of the law by a police officer is suspected, a complaint should be made to the chief police officer of the force concerned, who is required to investigate the complaint and refer the report of the investigation to the independent Police Complaints Authority.

Asylum Seekers: Safe Third Countries

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider all countries within the European Union to be "safe" countries to which asylum seekers may be returned, and if not which are the exceptions.

Baroness Blatch: Cases where it may be appropriate to remove an asylum applicant to a safe third country are considered in accordance with the Immigration Rules. Under the rules, a safe third country is considered to be one in which the life or freedom of an asylum applicant would not be threatened (within the meaning of Article 33 of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees) and the government of which would not send the applicant elsewhere in a manner contrary to the principles of the convention. The states of the European Union have highly developed asylum procedures and there is a strong presumption that they meet these criteria. Cases are, however, considered on an individual basis.

Asylum Seekers: Advice and Representation

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether asylum seekers are advised of the names and addresses of recognised organisations which provide free advice and representation at the time of their initial approach to the Home Office.

Baroness Blatch: All applicants for asylum whose claims are refused and who have the right of appeal against that refusal are informed in writing of the services of the Refugee Legal Centre and the Immigration Advisory Service. They are not routinely advised of the services of these organisations at the time of their initial application.

Asylum Seekers: Pregnant Women

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the statement made by Baroness Blatch on 20th June 1996 (H.L. Deb., col. 476) to the effect that they would not remove from the country a pregnant

9 Jul 1996 : Column WA12

    woman where there was a likelihood that she would be subject to forcible abortion, means that they would wait for the child to be born and then remove them both.

Baroness Blatch: Removal of the asylum applicant following the birth of the baby would depend entirely on the circumstances of the case and the grounds on which asylum had been claimed.

Prisoner Reports

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will issue an instruction to governors of prisons in England and Wales that parole, "lifers" and other reports on prisoners belonging to non-Christian faiths should not be prepared by Christian chaplains unless there is no visiting minister available, and that, when any such report is required, the governor will contact the relevant visiting minister to ascertain whether he or she is ready to prepare the report.

Baroness Blatch: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Avebury from the Director General of the Prison Service, Mr. Richard Tilt, dated 9th July 1996.

Lady Blatch has asked me to reply to your recent Question asking for an instruction to governors about report writing on prisoners of other faiths.

In order that the report on any prisoner should be of benefit, it must be written by someone who knows the prisoner well. There is nothing to prevent that report being written by a visiting minister of the same faith as the prisoner. Sometimes, however, the chaplain would know the prisoner better than the visiting minister and the prisoner has confidence in the relationship with the chaplain. In those circumstances, it would be important for the report to be made by the more appropriate person. There are no plans to alter these arrangements.

Prisons: Visiting Ministers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will issue an instruction to governors of prisons in England and Wales to appoint visiting ministers of other faiths only after consultation with the authorities of the faiths concerned, and, in the case of prisons which are remote from larger centres of population, not to raise objections to the appointment of a visiting minister on the grounds that it would involve higher travel costs, but always to negotiate special arrangements with the authorities of the faith concerned.

9 Jul 1996 : Column WA13

Baroness Blatch: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Avebury from the Director General of the Prison Service, Mr. Richard Tilt, dated 9th July 1996.

Lady Blatch has asked me to reply to your recent Question asking for an instruction to governors to be issued about the appointment of visiting ministers and the payment of their expenses.

Advice to governors 42/1994 contained information about appointment of part-time sessional and substitute chaplains and visiting ministers to establishments with effect from 1st November 1994.

Detailed guidance notes were issued in October 1994. The Nomination for Employment makes it clear that the nominating authority must agree that appointment. Details of the nominating authority will be found in the directory and guide on religious practices in the Prison Service.

The payment of fees and travelling expenses of sessional chaplains, substitute chaplains and visiting ministers is detailed in instruction to governors 106/1995. Paragraph 8 of that instruction makes it clear that special provision is made for an approved visiting minister travelling 45 miles or more to an establishment to receive proper reimbursement.

In view of the present guidance and instruction I do not believe further instructions are required. Copies of the Prison Service notices have been placed in the Library.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page