Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Inmates Information System (IIS) which incorporates the Local Inmates Database System is expected to be replaced as part of the business change process which will be facilitated by the Quantum project. The nature of the prison population is such that IIS has had to deal with dates beyond 2000 from its inception in 1989 and it was designed with this in mind. In addition, it has been subjected to exhaustive further testing as part of the Prison Service year 2000 programme and appropriate

18 Feb 1999 : Column WA91

changes were implemented by the end of 1998 to ensure year 2000 readiness. Other Prison Service systems covering areas such as finance and personnel were similarly upgraded.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the Prison Service has sufficient information technology expertise in-house to evaluate competently the proposals made to it by outside contractors[HL1017]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I believe that, in conjunction with the Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency, the Prison Service can call upon personnel with relevant knowledge, experience and skills to evaluate proposals from bidders. To a limited extent, this may involve the use of outside specialist assistance.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to develop a web site for the Prison Service; why a separate Board of Visitors web site has been inaugurated; and what was the cost of this project.[HL1018]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prison Service is currently undertaking the preliminary scoping work for setting up its own web site with a view to having a presence on the Internet by the spring of this year.

The Board of Visitors web site was initially one page within the Home Office web site which became available in late 1996. The Board of Visitors site was redesigned and relaunched on 27 January 1999 at a cost of £7,000 to coincide with their new recruitment for volunteer board members.

Police Stop and Search Powers

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what they attribute (a) the 20 per cent. year-on-year increase in the use of police stop and search powers shown in the most recent national figures; and (b) the 60 per cent. increase in such areas as Devon and Cornwall and Kent while forces such as the West Midlands have decreased their use of these powers; and whether there is any evidence linking the level of use of stop and search to crime rates or clear up rate between areas; and[HL967]

    Whether, in view of the potential impact on community relations, they consider that a continuation of the current level of use of stop and search powers can be justified.[HL968]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The use of stop and search powers is an operational matter for chief officers of police. Several factors may influence the recorded level of use of police stop and search powers in an area. The factors include local operational priorities; the extent to which policing is intelligence-led; and the accuracy of local recording and data collection. The stop and search statistics show the proportion of stop/searches leading to arrest, but it is not possible from this to say exactly what proportion led to a crime being

18 Feb 1999 : Column WA92

cleared up. However, Home Office research has shown that 11 per cent. of all arrests resulted from a stop/search and that stop/searches led to a clear up by charge or caution at almost the same rate as arrests arising from other circumstances. It can be deduced from this that roughly 11 per cent. of primary clearances by way of charge or caution arise from a stop and search.

The proper use by the police of their powers of stop and search is an important weapon in the fight against crime. Research published by the Metropolitan Police Service in August 1998 found that stop and search accounted for 7 to 8 per cent. of all clear ups for burglary and robbery; a quarter of all clear ups for possessing drugs with intent to supply; two thirds of all clear ups for drugs possession and almost all clear ups for possessing weapons (Stop and Search: Renewing the tactic published by the Metropolitan Police Service August 1998). Experience has also shown that there appears to be a relationship between the level of searches and the overall level of crime. For example, during an initiative in Tottenham in 1994 and 1995, recorded crime steadily increased as the level of searches fell. Similar findings have been noted in San Diego and the City of London.

However, the continuing disproportionate use of stop and search on black people in particular, as revealed by the latest figures published under Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, is a cause for concern. Getting to grips with this issue will be a key challenge for the police service as it works to maintain the trust and confidence of all sections of the community. Proper supervision and management of police officers' use of their powers is crucial. We welcome the initiative currently being piloted in the Metropolitan Police Service to manage the use of stop and search fairly and effectively. The revised PACE Code of Practice, which has recently been approved by the House, stresses that supervising officers should address any evidence that these powers are being used in a discriminatory way.

Welsh Community Health Councils: Aggregate Budget

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the aggregate budget set for community health councils in Wales in 1999-2000 and in 1998-99. [HL992]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The 1998-99 aggregate budget, including training and contingencies, is £1.317 million. The 1999-2000 budget will be determined in the light of my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Wales' spending decision for health.

General Pinochet and MoD

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Gilbert on 26 January (WA 139-140) saying that members of

18 Feb 1999 : Column WA93

    Her Majesty's Government have not been in discussion with General Pinochet since 1997, whether any officials have had such discussions with General Pinochet in that time.[HL895]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): I can confirm that government officials have not discussed defence export matters with Senator Pinochet since May 1997.

Airborne Stand-Off Radar

Lord Birdwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the timetable for the announcement of the successful bid for the Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) programme.[HL1021]

Lord Gilbert: The Ministry of Defence is currently in the process of evaluating bids for the full development and production phase of the Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) programme. On current plans, we aim to announce a decision in the spring, and award a contract later this year.

VAT on Postal Services

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will veto any proposal by the European Union to impose VAT on postal services.[HL918]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The Government will give careful consideration to any proposals by the Commission taking account of liberalisation of postal services across the European Union and the reform package announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 7 December 1998.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the recent increase in the cost of letters to other European Union countries from 26p to 30p was in response to European Union proposals to levy VAT on postal services; and what public consultation took place prior to this increase.[HL917]

Lord Simon of Highbury: No proposals have been received from the European Commission on the levying of VAT on postal services. Last year's increase in the price of sending a letter to other European countries was prompted by increased handling costs and is in line with the agreement, set out in the European Postal Services Directive, that prices should be geared to costs. The increase was introduced by the Post Office following consultation with the Government and with the Post Office Users' National Council (POUNC).

18 Feb 1999 : Column WA94

Standard Spending Assessments

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their current definition of and the purpose assigned to the term "Standard Spending Assessment" as applied to local authorities.[HL905]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Standard Spending Assessments are the Government's way of dividing up total standard spending (not including specific and special grants) between local authorities. The formulas used to work out Standard Spending Assessments make use of information on the demographic, social and physical characteristics of local authority areas. They are set out in Section 4 of the Local Government Finance Report.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page