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Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the (a) date, (b) location and (c) purpose was of the meetings that he had while in the United States in February 2008; and who attended each meeting. (188842)

I visited Washington, Virginia and New York in the United States on 12 to 16 February. My visit was primarily to examine the work of a sentencing commission following Lord Carter’s review of penal policy in December 2007, which proposed the setting up of a UK sentencing commission.

In Richmond I met members of the Virginia sentencing commission to assess how it has worked in terms of better balancing supply of prison places within the demands for sentencing.

I visited the Coffeewood Correctional Centre to examine its work programme. This teaches prisoners skills such as carpentry, welding and optometry to help their chances of finding work when their sentences end.

In New York I met the Federal District Attorney for the Southern District of New York and his colleagues to discuss mutual legal administration and other shared interests. I visited the Red Hook Community Justice Centre in New York to build on the lessons learned from community justice projects in the US. The centre was the US’s first multi-jurisdictional community court and focuses on neighbourhood problems like drugs, crime and domestic violence.

While in Washington, I met Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court and members of the Judiciary, and Harley Lappin, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I had meetings with Senator Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senator Specter, Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I delivered a speech “Modernising the Magna Carta: lessons from America, towards a British Bill of Rights” at George Washington University Law School on the UK Government’s plans to bring forward a green paper on a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

I paid a call on His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. I had other private meetings.