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Sentencing Decisions: Home Office Review

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): As part of our objectives of reducing crime and dispensing justice fairly, we have already put in place a comprehensive programme of work to reduce the rate of reoffending. This includes ensuring that the prison and probation services work more effectively together; improving the enforcement of community penalties; developing programmes, in custody and in the community, which are known to reduce reoffending (based on the "what works" strategy) and building on the opportunities which new technology opens up.

Together these developments present an opportunity to consider possible new forms of sentences which better protect the public and reduce reoffending. In particular, they open up the possibility of a more flexible sentencing structure in which the boundaries between custodial and community penalties are less rigid. However, the current legal framework established in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 may not be best suited to an approach of this sort. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has therefore decided to review that framework. The review will complement that of the criminal courts being conducted by Lord Justice Auld. Its terms of reference will be:

"In the light of the Government's objectives to protect the public by reducing crime and reoffending, and to dispense justice fairly and consistently, to consider what principles should guide sentencing decisions; what types of disposal should be made available to the courts in order to meet the overarching objectives; the costs of different disposals and their relative effectiveness in reducing reoffending; what changes therefore need to be made to the current sentencing framework, as established by the Criminal Justice Act 1991, so as more effectively to reduce reoffending, including any transitional and consequential arrangements; and the likely impact of any recommendations in terms of costs and the effects on the prison population. In particular, the review should bear in mind the desirability of promoting flexibility in the use of custodial and community based approaches."

The review will be led by a senior official from the Home Office. I want it to be a rigorous, evidence based exercise. It will operate in an open way, involving and

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seeking views from as wide a range of interests as possible. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary expects it to take about 12 months from now to produce recommendations, which will then be the subject of formal consultation.

European Parliament Elections: Review

Baroness Mallalieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to complete the review of the 1999 European parliamentary elections.[HL2493]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The review has been completed and copies have today been placed in the Library.

Journalists' Sources of Information: Protection

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is any public demand that judicial proceedings should not be brought against editors and writers who, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, refuse to submit their sources of information to the police; and, if so, what is their response.[HL2301]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government know of some recent concern in relation to police investigations into alleged offences under the Official Secret Acts.

Sections 11, 13 and 14 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 afford "journalistic material" special protection. It is recognised in Section 9 of the Act, however, that there are occasions when it will be right to allow the police to seek an order from a circuit judge for the production of such material. Failure to comply with a production order will leave it open for the judge to punish the person concerned for contempt.

This procedure is compatible with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which, in its third paragraph, recognises that freedom of expression carries with it duties and responsibilities. It sets out areas where that freedom may be subject to restrictions if they are provided by law and necessary in a democratic society. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights makes similar provision.

It is quite proper for the police to use these powers to investigate allegations of criminal wrongdoing and they should do so free from government direction or interference. It is also right for the courts to determine where the balance should lie between journalistic freedom and the other interests recognised both by the covenant and the convention.

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Exports Invoiced in Dollars

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of total exports of goods and services worldwide they estimate to be invoiced in dollars or dollar-related currencies either by virtue of destination or by type of product or service.[HL2388]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Information is not available on the proportion of total exports of goods and services that are invoiced in dollars or dollar-related currencies. Customs and Excise are engaged in a project which is examining the feasibility of the production of this information for trade in goods. However, no results are available yet.

Export Receipts Paid in Euros

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of total export receipts are paid in euros or euro-participating currencies.[HL2389]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Information is not available on the proportion of total export receipts that are paid in euros or euro-participating currencies. Customs and Excise are engaged in a project which is examining the feasibility of the production of this information for trade in goods. However, no results are available yet. .

Royal Parks Review

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 3rd February (WA 52) that they would publish their decisions regarding the conclusions and recommendations of the Review of the Royal Parks "as soon as Ministers had the opportunity to consider them", when they intend to publish their decisions on this matter.[HL2285]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The review has not yet been completed. Further work is being done following consideration of the draft report prepared by the independent consultant. Ministers have not yet seen the report. Once they have done so and reached decisions on the review's recommendations an early announcement will be made in Parliament.

BSE Research

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any experimental results that show that, when cattle infected with BSE are used in the preparation of substances used in making human vaccines and injectible medicines, no

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    infectious material reaches the final product; and, if not, whether they propose to sponsor any such research.[HL2368]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Research into the pathogenicity and epidemiology of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy has been extensive. Last year this Government spent over £26 million on research on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies. There has been no specific research to detect these agents in medicines. However, when bovine materials are used in the manufacture of some human vaccines and some injectable medicines, manufacturers are required to comply with the European Note for Guidance on Minimising the Risk of Transmitting Animal Spongiform Encephalopathy Agents via Medicinal Products. This requires careful sourcing of the bovine materials such as from countries where there have been no reported cases of BSE, the nature of the animal tissue used in the manufacture, and the production process and its control.

For injectable products that do not include bovine material as an ingredient in the finished product, purification processes designed to remove the material are used. The manufacturers of such products are required to provide validation of those processes to the Medicines Control Agency. For products that include bovine material in the finished product, compliance with the guidance minimises any risk of the presence of BSE infected material at any stage of the manufacturing process.

Young Asylum Seekers

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Department of Health will issue revised guidelines on the care of young asylum seekers; and[HL2364]

    Whether they will put arrangements in place to identify young asylum seekers better and to provide the statistical information necessary to plan better and more effective local services; and[HL2365]

    What consideration is being given to placing young asylum seekers as close as possible to their relatives or community.[HL2366]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We have commissioned a review of possible different models of care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and to consider what changes might be made to the current guidance. This should be completed in the summer. Officials at the Home Office and the Department of Health are currently working together to improve arrangements between the two departments in relation to unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and this piece of work includes considering the production of a database of information on unaccompanied asylum seeking children. It also includes discussion with the

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local authority associations about how to ensure up-to-date information about the numbers of such children supported by local authorities. Both elements of the work should be completed by the summer. The issue of placing unaccompanied asylum seeking children as close as possible to relatives and their community is being considered in these processes.


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