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Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what his policy is in respect of making representations to (a) the Prison Service and (b) the Commissioner for Correction, concerning the exercise by the Parole Board of its judgements on parole; [117583](2) on how many occasions since June 2001 he has made representations to the

(a) Prisons Service and (b) Parole Board concerning the exercise of the Parole Board's judgment on parole decisions. [117587]

[holding answer 9 June 2003]: Information is served on the Parole Board on behalf of the Secretary of State in every case which is referred to the Parole Board to consider an application for early release. All such information is served to the prisoner, save in special circumstances described below.The Secretary of State has made no undisclosed representations to the Parole Board in respect of any individual case. Such action would undermine the transparency and fairness of the parole and early release process, as well as the independence of the Parole Board, which he considers an essential contribution to public confidence in the criminal justice system.Under the Parole Board Rules 1997 (which apply to oral hearings of the Board) the parties to a parole hearing are the prisoner and the Secretary of State. Paragraph 5 of the Rules requires the Secretary of State to serve on the Board and on the prisoner, information relating to the prisoner, reports relating to the prisoner and such further information which he considers to be relevant to the case. This material takes the form of a dossier of reports from prison and probation staff, prison psychologists where appropriate, court and police reports at the time of the trial, and any other relevant information, including an assessment of risk which the prison may pose if released. Where the Parole Board decides that an oral hearing should take place, both parties are entitled to be represented at the hearing and to hear each other's evidence.The same principles apply to paper reviews by the Board, and the information which is required to be put before the Board on behalf of the Secretary of State in these cases is set out in Prison Service Order 6000, a copy of which is in the Library. All material must be disclosed to the prisoner unless for reasons set out in the Order—which include risks to the health and welfare of others—disclosure is withheld.From time to time my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary discusses the operation of the parole and early release system with officials. The Home Secretary has made no representations to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the exercise by the Parole Board of its judgments on parole.