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Written Answers

Wednesday, 19th November 2003.

Starred Questions and Statements:Back-Bench Contributions

Lord Lucas asked the Chairman of Committees:

    In the last year for which data are available, and in the equivalent period 10 years ago, what was the average number of answers given to each Starred Question; and what was the average number of answers given during "Back-Bench time" on Statements.[HL5398]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): This information is not recorded and could not be collected in full without incurring disproportionate expense. I have, however, arranged for an analysis to be undertaken of the three-month periods January to March 1993 and 2003, with the following results:

January–March 1993January–March 2003
Average number of supplementary questions per Starred Question7.16.0
Average number of answers during "Back-Bench time" on Statements8.48.2

On some occasions (five out of 16 in 1993 and eight out of 22 in 2003) "Back-Bench time" on Statements lasted less than 20 minutes. If one counts only those Statements when Back-Bench time lasted 20 minutes or more, then the average number of answers during Back-Bench time was 9.5 in 1993 and 9.2 in 2003.


Religiously Aggravated Offences

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all police forces monitor and publish the number of religiously motivated incidents; and [HL4993]

    What are the latest available statistics for the number of faith-related incidents reported to each of the police forces in England and Wales.[HL4994]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Statistics at national level for religiously motivated offences are currently not kept centrally. The Metropolitan Police Force has begun to

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keep its own statistics on such offences, following the introduction of new religiously aggravated offences in December 2001 as part of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act. Their statistics are as follows:

Month/YearTotal Number of Religiously Aggravated Offences
2002
January36
February17
March19
April36
May45
June22
July16
August25
September20
October18
November16
December11
Total281
2003 (to date)
January15
February10
March27
April14
May26
June15
Total107

All police services now keep records of racist incidents in their areas, and the Home Office will be looking to encourage all forces similarly to record instances of religiously motivated incidents.

Since January 2002 the Crown Prosecution Service has had 57 cases of religiously aggravated offences referred to it for prosecution by the police.


Overseas Students: Visa Extension Charges

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will exempt students from charges for visas extensions for the purposes of completing their studies in the United Kingdom. [HL4996]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We fully recognise the contribution overseas students make to the United Kingdom and wish to encourage them to study here, but do not accept that the general taxpayer should fund the service. The benefits, are after all, reciprocal.

If we were to implement exemptions at reduced fees for students this would be argued, with some justification, to be unfair to other applicants paying the full fee, some of whom we are equally anxious to attract to the United Kingdom.

It is my expectation that new students will be granted sufficient leave to enable them to stay for a short time beyond the completion of their studies to enable them to travel in the United Kingdom or attend their graduation. Instructions to this effect have been reissued.

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Education, Family Care and Crime Prevention: Administrative Areas

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What scope they and local authorities have to align as closely as possible the catchment areas of:


    (a) secondary schools;


    (b) social workers and child care specialists;


    (c) probation officers;


    (d) youth offending teams; and


    (e) police districts; and whether they have considered the potential benefits for family care and crime prevention of small administrative changes of this kind.[HL4999]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government's position is that any changes to local boundaries of responsibility should be focused on local government boundaries.

In the case of secondary schools, it would be possible for local education authorities (LEAs) to review catchment areas for which they are the admission authority, but this is not for all schools. Foundation and voluntary aided schools set their own admission arrangements. Where they are the admission authority, LEAs would need to consider a range of issues, such as the number of places in the school, the number of children living in the area, access to other schools, when they set catchment areas. Not all LEAs designate catchment areas for their schools, but use other criteria such as distance from the school.

The organisation of social work is determined locally. With the advent of children's trusts, with their accent on integration of services to focus on the needs of individual children and families, social workers and child care specialists will be brought together in multi-disciplinary teams. They will work with many other professionals, including those in youth offending teams, and could be based in schools.

Section 39 of the Crime and Disorder Act places a duty on local authorities (in co-operation with chief officers of the police, probation committees or health authorities within their areas) to establish one or more youth offending teams. Demarcation of the catchment areas of youth offending teams (YOTS) and alignment of those areas would therefore be reliant on the independent decision of local authorities.

Paragraph 5 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 states that the various areas of the National Probation Service (NPS) should be aligned with the Police Service, in order for it to perform its functions. Therefore police and the NPS are already aligned and are not aligned with the other mentioned bodies.

Paragraph 6 of the Act does allow for the alteration of the division of areas from time to time, by order of the Secretary of State, but this would not mean that the police would change their boundaries. The structure of

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basic command units within police forces is a matter for the chief constable rather than central government. However, many forces have recognised the benefits of co-terminosity with local authorities. As a result many have now reviewed the boundaries of their basic command units and where possible have sought to align them with local authorities.

While it might be desirable to try and align boundaries as far as possible, differing service delivery areas and accountability mechanisms can make it difficult to co-ordinate closer alignment in all areas. Improvement in delivery is being undertaken with local partnerships, such as Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) and Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs), which bring together those responsible for delivery of a number of services including family care and crime prevention. We are working with partnerships to bring benefits through the better co-ordination of delivery and the reduction of bureaucracy.

Prisons: Child-centred Visits

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which prisons are able to offer child-centred visits (as pioneered in Northern Ireland).[HL5184]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Magilligan Prison in Northern Ireland launched a child-centred visits scheme in partnership with the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders in September 2001. The scheme was recently extended to include "Big Book Share". Maghaberry Prison plans to operate two child-centred visits pilots later this year for female and life sentence prisoners.

Prison Service policy within England and Wales is to encourage establishments to offer extended children's visits, where possible. An increasing number of prisons offer these visits, which assist imprisoned parents in maintaining their parental role, however, provision remains at the discretion of governors and is dependent on operational and resource considerations. Information on the establishments which offer child centred visits is not collated centrally by the Prison Service of England and Wales.

HM Inspector of Prisons

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

    Whether they intend to alter the functions or reduce the powers of HM Inspector of Prisons.[HL5305]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I will write to the noble Lord at the earliest opportunity and will place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

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Women's Security: Licensed Premises in London

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What statistics are collected by the Metropolitan Police on rapes and sexual assaults on women in London's bars and nightclubs; and whether as a result of these statistics they will recommend that the managers of these establishments provide additional security. [HL5330]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Metropolitan Police Service has developed Project Sapphire in order to improve rape investigations and enhance the care given to victims of rape across London. The Project Sapphire sexual offences database holds data on allegations of rape and indecent assaults at entertainment venues, including public houses and nightclubs.

The data shows that over a 21-month period (January 2002 to September 2003), 70 rapes were committed within entertainment venues. This represents two per cent of the total rapes reported during this period.

The provision of security within entertainment venues should always be of concern to the management of that venue. If licensed premises are currently giving rise to criminal activity of any kind, which a licensee is unable to prevent, it is open to the police or any other person to ask the licensing justices to consider revoking the alcohol licence for the premises. It is therefore in the interests of any licensee to co-operate fully with the police to prevent serious crime of this kind. Under the Licensing Act 2003, when fully implemented, all holders of premises licences will be under a duty to take steps to prevent crime and disorder and assure the safety of the public on the premises, including compliance with associated conditions. If a premises licence holder fails to do so, it would be open to the police to seek a review of the licence, which can lead to the imposition of new conditions or, in serious cases, to the revocation of the licence.

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is to license door supervisors on a rolling geographical programme, starting with a pilot in March 2004. To obtain an SIA licence, door supervisors will be required to meet certain competencies (achieved through training programmes), and pass a criminality check through the Criminal Records Bureau. By raising the professional standards of door supervisors, SIA licensing will contribute to a safer environment for all customers in pubs and clubs.


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