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Written Statements

Volume 407: debated on Thursday 19 June 2003

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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 19 June 2003

Home Department

Yarl's Wood Inquiry

In a statement on 25 February following the disturbance at Yarl's Wood removal centre on 14/15 February, the Home Secretary indicated that Stephen Moore, a member of the Prison Service, would conduct an over-arching investigation of the events. He has made significant progress with this investigation, but it cannot be completed until any associated court proceedings have concluded. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, has provided an independent overview of the work done so far.In view of the interest which has been shown in the events at Yarl's Wood, I have concluded that it would be preferable for the outcome of the investigation to be fully independent, and have therefore asked Stephen Shaw to take overall responsibility for the investigation (with the same terms of reference) and bring it to a conclusion. He will submit his report to the Head of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in due course. I am grateful to Mr Moore for his important contribution to the investigation thus far.

Hmp Woodhill

The report of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the act of self-harm by Ian Huntley was received by the Prison Service on Friday 13 June. I received that report together with the Prison Service's response to it in my office on Tuesday 17 June. Whilst the investigation report itself is, for a variety of reasons, confidential, I am providing this statement because I want Parliament and the public to have confidence that this matter has been properly dealt with. I have been mindful of the Attorney General's guidance concerning the publication of matters relating to Mr Huntley prior to his trial, to matters of security and medical confidentiality.The report highlights a number of serious systems failures. I can confirm that these have already been addressed and corrected. In essence the systems for managing Ian Huntley concentrated more on protecting him from other prisoners than on the risk of self-harm. The Prison Service should have given equal importance to both risks. The report also highlighted the risks in managing a single prisoner in special conditions for a protracted period. The arrangements for briefing staff supervising Mr Huntley and the arrangements for overall management oversight were not robust enough to combat complacency and conditioning. Finally, the procedures for dispensing medication to Mr Huntley fell well short of accept able standards and failed to take into account the risk of self-harm.The report acknowledges the complex multifunctional role of Woodhill Prison and the challenge this poses to managers and staff but I have made it clear that the safe custody of Mr Huntley is an absolute priority for the Prison Service and that revised arrangements for his supervision must reflect this. The report concludes that lines of accountability for the management of Mr Huntley were unclear. I have made it clear to the Director General that there must be clear lines of accountability in the future so that all staff are fully aware of their responsibilities and that management oversight is to a consistently high standard. The report did not recommend that any disciplinary action be taken against individual officers.The Investigating Officer concluded that:

Any failures were corporate failures and not the failure of any one individual.
The management arrangements for Mr Huntley lacked clarity, were not communicated well and failed to respond effectively to the developing needs of the circumstances.
The day-to-day management of this situation had effectively become the responsibility of one manager who had a wide range of other responsibilities. This was not appropriate.
There were failings in communication and input from senior managers.
There were deficiencies in searching practices, which were predictable and did not include the items stored outside of his cell.
The management of staff deployed to carry out the task of supervision of Mr Huntley did not fully recognise the full risks inherent in working long shifts without relief.
Information was not systematically reviewed. There was a time lapse in some cases between information being submitted and consideration being given to that information.
Staff must have the appropriate resources, instructions and support to enable them to remain vigilant at all times they are carrying out this duty.

The recommendations of the Investigating Officer include:

One operational Manager should have responsibility for the care of Mr Huntley.
A clear and effective structure for the management of Mr Huntley must be established and published to staff.
A multi disciplinary team should review the current operational instruction. An amended instruction must be authorised by the Governor.
The amended operational instruction must be communicated to all staff who have contact with Mr Huntley. The implications of the new instruction should be communicated to Mr Huntley.
A multi disciplinary team should meet weekly to review the management of Mr Huntley.
Staff still in their probationary period should not supervise Mr Huntley.
All recommendations made by Prison Service Safer Custody Group should be actioned.
The searching strategy should be reviewed. There should be management oversight of the reviewed strategy.
A review of security intelligence systems, including use of CCTV, at Woodhill should be carried out by an independent person.
All recommendations made in relation to medical issues should be implemented.
There should be an audit of prescribing practice after three months.
Staff should be reminded of their personal responsibilities in relation to the supervision of prisoners.
The findings of the significant event audit should be circulated to Health Care staff who should be engaged in resolving issues raised and implementing change.
There should be an audit of compliance with the administration of medication policy after three months.
There must be a specific Integrated Care Plan for Mr Huntley, which should record all issues relating to him. This document should be reviewed daily and submitted to the Governor weekly.

The Prison Service has advised me that all the recommendations in the report have been accepted and have been implemented with effect from Monday 16 June. Revised and comprehensive operational instructions have been put in place that will be overseen by a clearly identified manager at all times who will report direct to the Governor. The instructions are underpinned by an integrated care plan in which comprehensive written details of all events concerning Mr Huntley will be recorded. This plan will be reviewed daily. Medical procedures have also been reviewed in consultation with the appropriate Primary Care Trust and a multi-disciplinary team will supervise Mr Huntley's health care. The effectiveness of these revised procedures will be formally reviewed each week by the accountable manager together with those other managers who have designated responsibilities laid down in the operational instructions. The Governor will supervise their work. The Prison Service will also make arrangements for regular audits of the operational instructions to be carried out independently of the establishment to provide assurance that full compliance with the instructions is being maintained. Audit reports will be sent to the Deputy Director General for his personal attention.

I have made it clear to the Director General that the conclusions of the report describe a completely unacceptable situation, that the lessons to be learned must be applied immediately and that the highest standards of supervision must be sustained from now on.

Proceeds Of Crime Act

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Caroline Flint)

I am pleased to announce that the first annual report of the appointed person under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been laid before Parliament. The appointed person is an independent person who scrutinises the use of the new search power introduced to support the scheme to seize and forfeit criminal cash.

The report gives the appointed person's opinion as to the circumstances and manner in which the search powers conferred by the Act are being exercised. I am pleased that the appointed person, Andrew Clarke, has expressed satisfaction at the operation of the search power in its first three months.

Over £12½ million had been seized under the scheme by the end of March. While most of the cash was discovered when police and customs officers were conducting searches under other legislation, it is significant and very good news that over £2 million was found and seized as a direct result of this new search power. The power is a welcome addition in the fight against crime and the report shows that its operation has been, and will continue to be, closely monitored.

Deputy Prime Minister

Supporting People Programme

The Supporting People Programme aims to improve the quality of life of vulnerable people by supporting them to live independently in the community. On 19 February my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) announced the total provisional amounts of Supporting People Grant. At that point I announced that as part of this we had made a provisional allocation for services in the pipeline, which are currently incurring capital spend, and which require revenue funding once the buildings are completed. These allocations were subject to confirmation of progress, including amounts.I have today confirmed the amounts allocated to each authority in respect of pipeline services. These amount to some £29m in this year and £52m in next. Careful consideration has been given to ensure that pipeline funding is focused on services which have reached an advanced stage of capital commitment. We have also taken a view on the level of funding requested, and in certain cases allocated a reasonable level of funding based on the overall pattern of costs for similar services regionally. We have also taken into account the fact that Supported Housing Management Grant previously awarded by the Housing Corporation will be available to some of the services. Authorities, in conjunction with their provider partners, must now decide how to make best use of these funds.The programme is now entering the phase of review and quality assurance. Final allocations for 2003–04, and allocations for 2004–05 will be announced in the autumn following the final reconciliation of Supporting People costs with the previous funding sources.Amongst the funded pipeline services are many innovative examples of new services to deliver high quality services to vulnerable people, and enable them to live more independently. This confirms the potential of the Supporting People programme to make a real difference in helping vulnerable people to live as part of their local community, and its key role in preventing the need for more crisis and institutional care.

Private Landlords Projects

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
(Yvette Cooper)

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is allocating £2 million to help tackle private rented sector problems in areas of low housing demand. Up to £180,000 per year for the next two years will be provided to each of five areas: Stoke-on-Trent, Hartlepool, Bolton, and groups of authorities in West Yorkshire and East Lancashire.The money will help them to test how they can make best use of the full range of existing powers in their areas of special social need, and to gather good practice to support other local authorities with similar problems, pending the Housing Bill's proposed introduction of selective landlord licensing. The authorities in Gateshead and Salford will be working alongside this initiative.The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is allocating funds from the £2 million for dissemination purposes, to ensure that lessons learned are spread to all authorities who wish to benefit.

Culture, Media And Sport

Prize Competitions

In May 2002 the Department issued a consultation letter concerning the law on prize competitions and lotteries. This followed the report of the independent Gambling Review, chaired by Sir Alan Budd, which the Department published in July 2001.The consultation document asked for replies by the end of August 2002. We received 70 responses, and have been considering them carefully.The Government are clear that lotteries will continue to be the preserve of good causes only. There should be no commercial, for-profit lotteries. The law should provide for a clear and enforceable distinction between lotteries and prize competitions, and the Government intend that the overall Bill on gambling which they propose should achieve that.The Bill will remove the restrictions on prize competitions in section 14 of the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976. Under the Bill, prize competitions will be distinguishable from lotteries in that they either require a degree of skill, or that they have a clear and open free entry route. Competitions based on forecasting will be regulated as betting.Subject to any requirements arising from the European Regulation on Sales Promotions which is currently under discussion, the Bill will also provide for promotional prize draws.The Bill will act against so-called chain gifting schemes such as Women Empowering Women.We have made available a full statement of the conclusions which the Government have reached about these issues. We have sent this it to all respondents to our consultation exercise and deposited copies in the

Libraries of both Houses. The statement is also available on the Department's website on

www.culture.gov.uk.

Transport

Cycling Projects Fund

I have today announced grants totalling £2.285m to 155 bidders to the second round of the Department's Cycling Projects Fund. The fund was launched in 2002 as a two-year funding programme to support the growth of local provision for cycling.The response from schools, NHS providers, cycling groups and both the voluntary and private sector has been excellent. I have therefore decided, as in Round One, to double the amount of grant originally available as part on the Government's ongoing commitment to encouraging cycling.The fund was open to organisations, other than local traffic authorities, promoting any project that could be expected to achieve an increase in cycling. Typical examples included cycle parking, cycle routes, cycle training and workplace facilities for cyclists.The winning schemes come from all over the country and my Department's funding will allow projects to the value of over £5m to progress. The schemes cover a wide variety of projects including cycle parking, safe routes to school, local and National Cycle Network routes, cycle training and promotional projects aimed at raising the profile of cycling. I am confident these projects will be as successful as those we funded in Round One and will help us achieve a significant increase in cycling at the local level.My Department is encouraging local highway authorities to make funds available for similar projects.I have placed in the Libraries of the House a copy of the Department's Press Notice published today providing a full list of the winning projects.

Cabinet Office

Draft Civil Contingencies Bill

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
(Mr. Douglas Alexander)

I am today publishing a draft Civil Contingencies Bill (Cmd 5843) which, with the accompanying non-legislative measures, will deliver a single framework for civil protection in the United Kingdom.The Bill will codify existing best practice at the local level, ensuring consistency and enhancing performance and communication; it will deliver a new regional civil protection tier to enhance existing regional resilience; and it will modernise the legislative tools available to Government to deal with the most serious emergencies, providing greater flexibility, proportionality, deployability and robustness.

A Parliamentary Joint Committee formed from members of both Houses will undertake pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposals.

Copies of the draft Civil Contingencies Bill, Explanatory Notes, the Regulatory Impact Assessment and the consultation document Draft Civil Contingencies Bill are available in the Libraries of both Houses and can also be viewed or the UK Resilience website (www.ukresilience.info). Interested parties are invited to submit their comments and views on the content of the draft Bill.

I am also publishing an interim revision of Dealing with Disaster, which contains core guidance to emergency planners and local responders. This latest version takes account of changes in structures, practice and legislation, pending a further, comprehensive revision once the Civil Contingencies Bill is brought into force. This is also available in the Libraries of both Houses and can be viewed at www.ukresilience.info.

Constitutional Affairs

Constitutional Reform

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs
(Mr. Christopher Leslie)

The Government announced on 12 June a substantial package of constitutional reforms. That package includes the creation of a new Supreme Court to replace the existing Appellate Committee of the House of Lords and the establishment of a new Judicial Appointments Commission, on a statutory basis, to recommend candidates for appointment as judges.These are issues of profound constitutional importance, and the Government will consult widely on how best to take each forward. We intend to publish on 14 July a consultation paper on a Judicial Appointments Commission and a new Supreme Court. The consultation period will run until November 2003, after which the Government will develop policy proposals, taking into account responses to consultation. At the conclusion of that process, legislation on these issues will be introduced at the earliest opportunity.Lord Irvine of Lairg announced to the Lord Chancellor's Department Select Committee his intention to consult on the future of the rank of Queen's Counsel. We therefore intend to publish a consultation paper on this issue, also on 14 July, with consultation closing in November. We will announce the Government's next steps early in 2004.A consultation paper on court working dress was published on 8 May, with responses sought by 14 August. The Government will be discussing the outcome of the consultation and how best to take the matter forward, with the senior judiciary.

Treasury

Financial System (Major Operational Disruption)

I am announcing today our reply to the responses to the consultation document "The financial system and major operational disruption" (Cm 5751). I have asked Sir Andrew Large, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England (Financial Stability) to establish a Task Force to research and make recommendations on the issues arising from the consultation responses. The Task Force is charged to make final recommendations by the end of February 2004, with an interim report to be produced by early November 2003.Copies of the summary of responses to the consultation exercise and the terms of reference of the Task Force have been placed in the Library of the House.