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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): The Government look forward to the day when the Holding Centres can be closed permanently. Although this is not possible at present, the position is kept under regular review, in consultation with the Chief Constable of the RUC.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today laid before the House the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 1999-2000 (HC 179). The Report sets out his determination for 1999-2000 of the aggregate amount of grants that he proposes to pay under Section 46(2) of the Police Act 1996, and the amount to be paid to each police authority, including the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The first two stages of the Quinquennial Review of the Prison Service have now been concluded and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today placed in the Library copies of the Evaluation of Performance and the Prior Options Report. A revised Framework Document is being finalised and will be published shortly.
The Evaluation of Performance concludes that since becoming an agency, and during a period of rising prison population, the Prison Service has achieved a remarkable turnaround in performance, to which agency status has contributed for the following reasons:
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Mentally disordered offenders are found in a variety of settings. Some are in secure psychiatric hospitals, some are in Prison Service establishments and others, who have committed relatively minor offences and pose less risk to the public, remain in the community. Information about what proportion of the total number are in prison is not available. However, a survey of psychiatric morbidity among prisoners in England and Wales, undertaken in 1997 by the Office for National Statistics for the Department of Health, showed that around 90 per cent. of prisoners sampled displayed evidence of at least one of the five disorders (personality disorder, psychosis, neurosis, alcohol misuse and drug dependence) considered in the survey.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Mandatory drug tests proving positive fell from 24.4 per cent. in 1996-97 to 18.8 per cent. in the first seven months of 1998-99. This is an indication of the success of the Prison Service's drug strategy. Mandatory drug testing acts as a deterrent to drug misuse, provides information on trends in drug misuse, and enables the identification and referral of drug misusers to treatment programmes. The number of voluntary drug test samples sent for laboratory analysis has risen from 9,992 in 1996-97 to 14,759 in 1997-98 and 10,340 in the first seven months of 1998-99. Many more tests have been undertaken using on-site screening machines or test kits. This is a welcome sign of a growing commitment amongst prisoners to remain drug free.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: There are no plans at present to ask chief constables to inform the Government specifically whether child prostitution and the exploitation of children for pornography appear to be significant in their areas. The Crime and Disorder
The National Plan we are developing will put the wide range of work the Government are undertaking to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children within a coherent framework. The contents of the plan have yet to be agreed but it will include the action we are taking to combat the problems of child prostitution and child pornography. We will consult interested organisations about the contents of the plan in March.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My written reply of 7 July 1998 (Official Report, col. 125) explained that prisoners serving a punishment of cellular confinement are allowed all normal privileges (except for those incompatible with cellular confinement), unless a concurrent punishment of forfeiture of privileges has been imposed. Normal privileges include a reasonable number of personal possessions including access to a range of reading material. Where, exceptionally, reading material is withdrawn from a prisoner undergoing cellular confinement, the prisoners would nevertheless retain access to those religious books approved by the Secretary of State for use in prisons under Prison Rule 16. There are no current plans to alter the list under Prison Rule 16, but I am always ready to receive representations on the matter.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Currently, there are 25 liaison officers from overseas police forces in post in London. They are drawn from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the USA, Canada, South Africa, Spain and Norway.
This figure is subject to minor fluctuation as new postings are agreed and others end. It does not include those who are posted to London in another primary capacity but who occasionally carry out functions similar to those of a police liaison officer, or Customs liaison officers.
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): As temporary civil servants, special advisers have access to material produced by permanent civil servants in accordance with the terms and conditions laid down in the Model Contract for Special Advisers, copies of which are in the Libraries of the House. Their contract lays down their duty of confidentiality, and security and other limited restrictions on their access to papers.
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