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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Criminal Justice Bill, which is currently before Parliament, contains measures for determining the minimum term to be served in relation to a mandatory life sentence. The Bill also makes provision for a minimum sentence for certain firearms offences.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is for the courts to decide in individual cases whether a prison sentence is appropriate. Where imprisonment is the most appropriate punishment, it should be applied and we should, and are, developing our capacity to meet demand. There is already a range of demanding community sentences available to sentencers. In addition we are introducing tough new programmes such as the "Intensive Control and Change Programme" (ICCP) for 18 to 20 year-olds. ICCP, which was launched as a pilot in April, involves probation supervision and police surveillance, for 25 hours a week.
The Criminal Justice Bill will provide sentencers with further options. A generic community sentence will replace the current series of stand-alone orders and will provide sentencers with the flexibility to impose a package of requirements to meet offences of varying degrees of seriousness. Additionally the introduction of two "intermediate" sanctionscustody minus and intermittent custody, allowing offenders to retain employment and family contact will provide options short of full time custody.
Independent evaluation of the Youth Justice Board's parenting programme, which included parents under parenting orders and voluntary participants, has shown improvements in a range of parenting skills. In the year after counselling and guidance, offences by their children fell by 50 per cent. The parenting order has clearly played a significant role in this.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government strongly support inter-faith dialogue in the United Kingdom. My department provides core funding to the Inter Faith Network, which since 1987 has been linking inter-faith initiatives and developing good relations between people of different faiths in this country. Recently we have provided additional funding to the network to carry out a survey of local inter-faith activity and produce a good-practice leaflet. We welcome the activities of the many other well-established inter-faith initiatives operating in this country, and my colleagues have on many occasions met representatives of these and offered encouragement.
The Community Cohesion Faith Practitioners Group, one of the many groups which my department has established to help us promote community cohesion, is looking at how faith communities can co-operate in local areas to address social problems. The present review of the Government's Interface with the Faith Communities, led by my honourable friend Fiona Mactaggart, is making good progress and is due to report at the end of this year. It is identifying more effective ways for relevant perspectives from faith communities to be taken into account when planning government policy. This should also have the effect of encouraging co-operation between faith communities in responding to government initiatives.
This process will be continued though a number of mock Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings for young people, including many from the faith communities, which my department is planning in association which the Royal Commonwealth Society. We expect that up to six of these will take place around the United Kingdom during the month of November, with their conclusions being presented to the real Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Nigeria in December.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Any person who seeks to visit this country, and who is subject to immigration control, must meet the necessary conditions for admission. Such a person, once admitted, may travel freely and express opinions within what is permitted by the rule of law.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Criminal Records Bureau issues two levels of certificate to applicants, standard disclosure and enhanced disclosure. Neither level carries any predetermined period of validity. Disclosures are intended to be used at the point of recruitment or a licensing decision for a particular position. This is because a conviction or other matter could be recorded against the subject of a disclosure at any time after it was issued.
Nevertheless, this does not preclude an individual from presenting his or her disclosure to another organisation after having used it for its originally intended purpose. However, given that there is no pre-determined period of validity associated with disclosures, it must be for the organisation concerned to decide whether it is prepared to accept a disclosure that was originally requested by another organisation.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The British detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not presently allowed by the US Government to have access to lawyers.
The Attorney-General has recently held a number of rounds of talks with the US Administration. His objective has been to ensure that the British nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay, if prosecuted, are assured of fair trials that meet generally recognised principles. The issue of the role of defence lawyers has been discussed. Further talks are planned for the near future.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: British officials have visited the British detainees held at Guantanamo Bay six times, most recently two weeks ago. One of the main objectives of the visit was to check on the detainees' welfare. This is generally satisfactory. The visiting official did not see or hear of mistreatment of the UK detainees by the camp authorities.
The physical conditions of their detention are also satisfactory. Detainees have cells with individual sleeping, washing and toilet facilities. They are allowed to practise their religion and have access to religious and non-religious books, including novels. The standard period for exercise has increased to 30 minutes per day. Welfare concerns are raised with the camp authorities on such visits.
The Attorney-General has recently held a number of rounds of talks with the US Administration with the objective of ensuring that if British detainees are prosecuted the trials are fair and meet generally recognised principles. The issue of the role of defence lawyers has been discussed. Further talks are planned for the near future. Proceedings against the two designated British detainees remain suspended until completion of the discussions.
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