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2 Jun 1998 : Column WA23

Written Answers

Tuesday, 2nd June 1998.

Association of Chief Police Officers for Scotland

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 11 May (WA 97), why they have not published a full copy of the accounts of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Scotland for the last year for which the accounts are available; and whether they will now place a copy of the accounts in the Library of the House.[HL1931]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): I refer the noble Earl to my Written Answer on 1 April (WA 35). I expect the Association's accounts for 1997-98 to be available shortly and I will write to the noble Earl. I will also arrange for a copy of the accounts to be placed in the Library of the House.

Grampian Police: Inspection Report

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland on the management and administration of Grampian Constabulary.[HL 2007]

Lord Sewel: Yes. Copies of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary's inspection report on Grampian Police will be placed in the House Library when it is published on 5 June 1998.

Dunblane Inquiry: Chief Constable's Report

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Sewel on 12 May (WA 114), whether they will state which of the versions of the report prepared by William Wilson, the Chief Constable of Central Police, for Lord Cullen's Inquiry into the Dunblane tragedy, has been placed in the Library of the House.[HL1979]

Lord Sewel: There is only one version of the report and that is the version presented to Lord Cullen's Inquiry on 21 June 1996.

Prisoners: Incentives and Privileges

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What new initiatives are planned to increase the effectiveness of the incentives and earned privileges scheme which encourages responsible behaviour by prisoners.[HL2056]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The national framework for Incentives and Earned Privileges was introduced in 1995 and has been operating in all prisons since mid 1996. These schemes seek to reward good prisoner behaviour and performance and penalise bad prisoner behaviour and performance. In a few prisons, one of the "Key Earnable Privileges" has been television in-cell and the Government now intend to extend the availability of this as an earned and forfeitable privilege more generally across the Prison Service. This will build on the previous government's introduction of the privilege in 1991, adding slowly to the approximately 2,500 sets already in place. Prisoners will pay for the privilege themselves. The weekly charge is likely to be about £1 against average weekly prisoner earnings of £7.50.

Prisoners' normal access to television is out of the cell in association with others. Television in cells was introduced in 1991, following a White Paper in response to Lord Justice Woolf's report on the disturbances at Strangeways prison (Manchester). About 1,000 prisoners in four establishments initially had this privilege; under the previous government the numbers had risen by 1997 to the current levels of about 2,500 (4 per cent. of the prison population), mostly in five establishments of varying types. At present, it is largely a matter of chance whether a prisoner will find himself or herself in a prison with the prospect of in-cell television.

Experience of in-cell television in recent years suggests considerable benefits. As an earned privilege it can be a powerful incentive to good behaviour and regime participation, and can help with order and control, reducing tension on the landings. Its loss is feared. It helps prisoners keep in touch with the outside world to which all but a few must eventually return. It has potential as a means of providing information and enhancing prison regimes.

The Government have taken into account the views on this subject expressed in a variety of contexts, including the Learmont Report on Prison Service security following the escape from Parkhurst in 1995, the Home Affairs Committee in March 1997, and in reports by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons and Boards of Visitors. The Learmont Report recommended the wider introduction of in-cell television and pointed to its potential benefits as an information as well as a recreational medium. The Home Affairs Committee recommended it in March 1997,

    " . . . given the potential of TV in-cell as a means of contributing to good order in a prison; so long as the availability of TV in this way is clearly an earned privilege rather than a right". Successive Chief Inspectors have urged the previous and this Government to make wider use of in-cell television and have reported on its existing successful use, most recently at Garth prison. Boards of Visitors of establishments with in-cell television frequently report favourably on its value. There is already extensive use of in-cell television in other European prison systems and in the United States and Canada.

In-cell television will be liable to be forfeited in a number of ways: when a prisoner is moved to the basic

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privilege level of the incentives and earned privileges schemes; when an adjudicating governor awards a disciplinary penalty of forfeiture of privileges; if local rules governing the use of in-cell television are broken; and if a judgment is made in a particular case that its availability appears to be damaging a prisoner's treatment or increasing the risk to the public on his or her release.

The Prison Service will be considering further the scope to use internal channels as an additional means of communicating information to prisoners and helping with education and regimes generally.

In-cell television can help to deliver educational courses--for example, through Open University and other relevant programmes. Garth prison--one of the first prisons to have in-cell television--uses an internal information channel to help communication with prisoners and to show videos.

A procurement process for televisions--which will receive terrestrial channels only--is starting with a view to the extension of this privilege from later in 1998. The option of in-cell television will initially be targeted on prisoners on the enhanced privilege level or in other priority groups, such as those who are "drug free". Those on the standard privilege level will not be precluded but the extension of in-cell television will be gradual and monitored closely. This is partly to maximise its benefits as an earned privilege and partly because in-cell electricity is not available in about 40 per cent. of accommodation and this is unlikely to change significantly for some time.

Extension of in-cell television will be broadly self-financing, with the costs of Prison Service-owned televisions and their replacement, warranties and wall brackets recovered from prisoners allowed the privilege. At present, licence fees are not payable in respect of prisoners because of Crown exemption. The Government propose to consider the practicability of a licensing arrangement for prisoners later on in the context of licensing arrangements more generally.

"Public Authority": Definition

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the definition of a public authority under Clause 6 of the Human Rights Bill.[HL1970]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Clause 6 provides for a non-exhaustive definition of "public authority" for the purposes of the Human Rights Bill. The term includes (i) organisations, such as central government and the police, which are so obviously public authorities that it is not necessary expressly to define them as such; (ii) a court or tribunal; and (iii) any person certain of whose functions are functions of a public nature, except where the nature of the act is private. The definition specifically excludes either House of Parliament or a person exercising functions in connection with proceedings in Parliament. Although the Bill was amended so that the definitions in (ii) and (iii) above are currently qualified by clauses 6(5) and 6(6) respectively,

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we are inviting another place to remove those two subsections.

It will be for a court or tribunal to decide in individual cases which come before it whether a person falls within the above definition.

Police Officers and Surrendered Firearms

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 12 May (WA 116), how many police officers of all ranks and police civilians in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have, over the last 25 years, acquired firearms or shotguns surrendered to the police or confiscated from the public or firearms or shotgun certificate holders for their personal collection, possession or use while in the employment of the Police Service; and how many who have acquired such firearms or shotguns have passed them to relatives for collection, possession, use or sale; and [HL1980]

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 12 May (WA 116), whether they intend to trace all firearms or shotguns held by police officers and police civilians by enquiring how each firearm or shotgun came into their possession; and [HL1981]

    When they will require, and why they have not to date required, (a) each police force, (b) the National Audit Office or (c) other independent body to investigate the ownership and possession of all firearms and shotguns possessed by police officers and police civilians over the last 25 years.[HL1982]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government are not aware of any instances where such weapons have been retained or passed on to relatives by police officers or police civilians. It would be for individual chief officers of police to follow up any cases involving the alleged misappropriation of firearms surrendered or confiscated by officers of their force.

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