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Volume 124: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent consideration he has given to reducing the minimum qualifying period for parole to that which applies in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 14 December 1987]: I have no present plans to reduce the minimum qualifying period for parole. This is one of the matters on which I will await advice from the review of the parole system in Scotland, which, as previously announced, I intend to institute. I have now decided that the best means of doing this would be to set up such a review in the wider context of arrangements for modifying the effects of custodial sentences. I am delighted that Lord Kincraig has accepted my invitation to act as chairman of a review with the following terms of reference:-

"To consider the present arrangements in Scotland for modifying the effect of custodial sentences and in particular:-
  • (a) the objectives of the parole system, and whether it should be retained in its present or in a modified form, including any changes which should be made to:-
  • (i) the current criteria for eligibility for parole;
  • (ii) the current criteria for remission;
  • (b) whether as an alternative or a supplement to the present arrangements, any different scheme might be introduced for the release of prisoners, for stated purposes, before the completion of the sentence ordained by the court;
  • (c) whether there should be any extension of the role of the judiciary in relation to the present parole or remission systems, or in relation to any alternative arrangements for the modification of the effects of custodial sentences;
  • (d) the role of the social work services in supervising convicted offenders released on licence;
  • (e) the current provisions for periods spent in custody on remand to be taken into account in the determination of sentences;
  • (f) whether or not powers should be conferred upon the courts to suspend sentences, or to ordain part-suspended sentences, in what circumstances and on what conditions;
  • (g) the conditions which should attach to parole, remission or any equivalent scheme;
  • (h) whether the conclusions reached in the context of determinate sentences have any relevance to current policy on life sentence prisoners;
  • (i) the overall resource implications and cost-effectiveness of the existing systems and of any modifications or alternatives which may be suggested;
  • and to make recommendations."
    The membership of the review, and arrangements for conveying evidence to it, will be announced later.