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Written Answers

Volume 417: debated on Thursday 26 February 1981

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Written Answers

Magistrates' Courts:Sentencing Policy

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in view of the disparity between the percentages of adult male offenders sentenced to imprisonment by different magistrates' courts (e.g. Dorset 13·9 per cent., Lancashire 12 per cent., Northamptonshire 5.2 per cent. and Gwent 4.6 per cent.), they will ask courts with percentages above the national average (8.6 per cent.) to reconsider their practice.

Her Majesty's Government have made clear their support for the use of alternatives to custodial sentences in all suitable cases. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has welcomed the new initiative being undertaken by the Central Council of Probation and After-Care Committees and the Magistrates' Association in England and Wales, which aims to stimulate local discussion, by all those involved in the sentencing process, of ways of increasing the use of non-custodial penalties.He is sure that consideration of sentencing practice at local level can only be beneficial and, at the request of the Central Council of Probation and After-Care Committees and the Magistrates' Association, the Home Office Statistical Department is currently preparing statistical tables showing the use of various sentences in each commission area in England and Wales. Magistrates' courts in each area will then have the opportunity to examine their own practice in relation to that of other areas and the national picture.

Mr Grégoire Salmanowitz

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why the application of Mr. Grégoire Salmanowitz for a residence permit is being delayed, in view of the fact that he has long-standing commercial interests in the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord wrote on 3rd January in support of Mr. Salmanowitz's application but at that time no such application had been made and naturally could not be traced. Mr. Salmanowitz's solicitors made a formal application on 27th January, which has been granted.

Cheltenham And Charlton Kings: Speed Limits

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they can state which local authority is now responsible for the enforcement of the speed limit for motor vehicles on the boundary roads of the Cheltenham and Charlton Kings areas.

The Gloucestershire constabulary is responsible for the enforcement of speed limits in these areas.

The Imprisonment (Temporary Provisions) Act 1980

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is proposed to seek further to continue those provisions of the Imprisonment (Temporary Provisions) Act 1980 which will otherwise lapse on 28th February.

No. The national industrial action by the Prison Officers' Association was initially suspended on 19th January and this suspension was confirmed by a special delegate conference of the Prison Officers' Association on 11th February. The suspension has allowed the emergency use of Frankland prison and Rollestone camp to be ended. By the end of this week, it should no longer be necessary to use police cells instead of prison accommodation. Accordingly my right honourable friend does not at this stage think it necessary to seek the further renewal of those powers which would otherwise lapse on 28th February. The performance of the police and servicemen who have helped with the care and custody of prisoners has been outstanding and we should like to pay tribute to the vital part they have played in maintaining the criminal justice system. My right honourable friend is grateful too for the understanding shown by the courts in this difficult situation. Detailed negotiations with the Prison Officers' Association on the establishment of a new duty system are proceeding.

Citizens' Band Service

asked Her Majesty's Government:If they have now reached a decision on the introduction of a legal citizens' band service.

After careful consideration my right honourable friend has decided to permit a 27 MHz FM citizens' band service, provided that the equipment meets the standards we shall set. The 27 MHz AM equipment currently used in this country will remain illegal. Further evaluation of 930 MHz equipment has confirmed that this should provide a good service with minimum risk of interference, and accordingly he will also be making available a frequency band around 930 MHz. Users will be required to hold a licence which will permit the use of both types of equipment, and which will be renewable annually. Consultations are taking place with the Post Office with a view of their issuing licences on my right honourable friend's behalf.It will now be necessary to discuss draft equipment specifications with manufacturers, to seek the advice of the statutory advisory committee under Section 10 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 on the technical requirements to ensure the minimum of interference, and to reflect the outcome of this in regulations setting equipment standards to which manufacturers, importers and assemblers will have to conform. Arrangements will also have to be made for the setting up of the licensing system. The adoption of a frequency in the 27 MHz range may affect existing authorised users of this band, and the implications for them are being taken into account in the detailed planning. My right honourable friend hopes to be able to introduce this authorised service by early autumn.

Anglo-Soviet Trade

asked Her Majesty's Government:What prospects there are of increased trade between Britain and the Soviet Union following the visits to Moscow of the Under-Secretary for Trade and the British delegation of the British-Soviet Chamber of Commerce.

There appear to be good opportunities for British companies to pursue in the Soviet market, particularly in the light of the guidelines for the 1981–85 Five Year Plan published in December 1980.

The Initial Teaching Alphabet

asked Her Majesty's Government:In view of the statement of the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, on 28th January 1981 (Lords

Hansard, Column 797) that "The initial teaching alphabet has been successful in introducing many children to reading,"

  • 1. what proportion of the present school population was introduced to reading by the initial teaching alphabet; and
  • 2. what steps they are taking to further the use of the initial teaching alphabet in introducing children to reading.
  • 1. Figures are not available of the numbers of pupils who are, or have been, introduced to reading through the medium of the initial teaching alphabet, but a survey undertaken for the Bullock Committee in 1973 indicated that about 10 per cent. of the sampled schools containing infants made use of it.2. It is for schools and teachers themselves to make professional judgments on the effectiveness of different methods of teaching reading, and to decide which to use in their own classrooms.House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past seven o'clock.