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Callander Rifle and Pistol Club: Records

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Advocate (Lord Hardie): The Procurator Fiscal at Stirling has confirmed with Central Scotland Police that the items to which my noble friend refers were in fact returned to Callander Rifle and Pistol Club on 4 and 8 February 1997.

Bridge Tolls: Non-Payment

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hardie: The recent decision regarding the prosecution of those who refuse to pay tolls on the Skye bridge was taken in light of the exceptional circumstances prevailing there. It is not in the interests of justice to treat these cases differently from others by prosecuting each and every offence. In future, the question of prosecution will be left to the discretion of the procurator fiscal. Decisions whether to prosecute those who refuse to pay tolls when crossing the Erskine, Forth and Tay bridges will continue to be considered by procurators fiscal based on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Defamation: Legislation

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

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Government have no such plans. The Government will await the recommendations of a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament on Parliamentary Privilege and related matters which is in the course of being established under the chairmanship of Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead.

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Litigation: Conditional Fees

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

    Whether they will extend the "no win--no fee" scheme for lawyers so as to include judicial review proceedings.

The Lord Chancellor: I personally favour the extension of the availability of conditional fees into more areas of litigation and I am currently considering the scope for extending conditional fees. I hope to be in a position to make an announcement in the autumn. I will give careful consideration to the noble Lord's suggestion.

Overseas Policy Documents:Publication Rule

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To confirm that Section 5(1) of the Public Records Act 1958 as amended is still observed, and if so, whether the Lord Chancellor has received a request to publish certain documents relating to British policy overseas for the period 1968-1975, and on what date he prescribed the appropriate period.

The Lord Chancellor: Section 5(1) of the Public Records Act 1958, as amended in 1967, is the section that provides for the 30-year rule. It is still observed. It applies to public records in the Public Record Office, other than those to which the public had access before their transfer to the Public Record Office. Access to records not yet transferred is a matter for the department concerned. The documents relating to British policy overseas that it is proposed to publish are not yet in the Public Record Office, and there is no requirement under the Public Records Act for me to prescribe any period for them to be published.

Guide Dogs and Quarantine Rules: Consultation

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

    Whether they will introduce a change in existing law so as to permit blind people to bring their guide dogs into the United Kingdom if they have appropriate documents establishing that they have been vaccinated against rabies, without the need for the dogs to be placed in quarantine.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): We are considering whether alternatives to quarantine may give equal or better protection against the importation of rabies and would expect to consult on the matter. Decisions on when and how to do so have yet to be taken. Organisations representing the interests of blind people will be included in the consultation.

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Northern Ireland Cattle Slaughter Scheme: Availability

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the current process of tendering by the Intervention Board, in respect of the over 30 months scheme for the slaughter of cattle in Northern Ireland, will ensure a sufficient geographical spread and practical availability of abattoirs for the use of farmers throughout Northern Ireland.

Lord Donoughue: With effect from 28 July 1997, two abattoirs in Northern Ireland will have contracts to slaughter cattle qualifying for the over 30 months scheme. Having regard to the location and capacity of the two abattoirs, I am satisfied that these new arrangements will strike the right balance between the cost to the taxpayer and reasonable access to the scheme for producers in Northern Ireland.

Prison Service: Audit Report

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will comment on the Prison Service audit report.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Our manifesto said that the Prison Service faced serious financial problems and that we would audit the resources available. Shortly after taking office therefore, we asked the Director General of the Prison Service to carry out an audit of the resources available to the Prison Service, and current and projected demands on it.

The audit has now been completed and a report of its findings was placed in the Library on 25 July.

The main findings are:

    the prison population rose by 17,000 or nearly 40 per cent. in the four years up to this June to reach 60,580. It is expected to rise to at least 68,900 by March 2000. In the three months since the election, it has risen by 2,440, far exceeding any projection published before 1 May. This three month rise is equivalent to the total capacity of four average sized prisons;

    resources have not kept pace with this rise in numbers. The building programme approved by the previous government is already being outstripped by the rise in population, which on latest assumptions will exceed maximum capacity later this year, and will do so again by a larger margin by early 1999;

    the number of prisoners "doubled"--held two to a cell designed for one--has already increased from

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    7,251 in 1992 to 10,926 at the end of June and, on current plans, would have to increase to around 16,000 by early 1999;

    meanwhile, the level of purposeful activity for prisoners has dropped over the last two years, so limiting scope for reducing the risk of prisoners re-offending on release;

    there is a growing risk of prisons having to close because heating, electrical and water systems, roofs and other infrastructure have not been adequately maintained.

We pay tribute to the dedication and professionalism of the Prison Service in coping with these intense pressures.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced on 24 July in an answer to my honourable friend the Member for Luton North, Mr. Hopkins, (Official Report, Commons, col. 682) that the Prison Service will be able to spend up to an extra £43 million during this year and next to accommodate the projected numbers safely.

Prison Probation Officers

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many probation officers were working in prisons in England and Wales in June 1997.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The number of probation officers working in prisons at 31 December 1996 (the latest date for which figures are available) was 543.

Mr. William Goodwin

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

    Whether, in the light of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 27 March 1996, in Goodwin v. United Kingdom they will recommend the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to grant a free pardon to Mr. William Goodwin in respect of the fine of £5,000 imposed upon him for contempt of court.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government will not, in the light of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 27 March 1996 in Goodwin v. United Kingdom, be recommending the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to grant a free pardon in respect of the fine of £5,000 imposed on Mr. William Goodwin for contempt of court.

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Prison Population and Accommodation Statistics

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the inmate population of each local prison in England and Wales on 15 July 1997; and what was the percentage by which the number held in custody exceeded the certified normal population.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Information detailing the recorded prison population and certified normal accommodation for each local prison in England and Wales on 15 July 1997 is given in the attached table. A comparison of the two figures expressed as a percentage is also listed.

Prison population and certified normal accommodation for local prisons as at 15 July 1997.

NameIn use CNA(1)Op Cap(2)PopulationPopulation/In use CNA (per cent.)
Camp Hill470531532113
Wormwood Scrubs1,1711,3621,301111
Holme House871871872100

(1) CNA = Certified normal accommodation.

(2) Op Cap = Operational capacity.

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