HL Deb 20 July 1981 vol 423 c130WA
Lord Hylton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What criteria they use in selecting persons to become members of boards of prison visitors; and whether there are any significant differences in the criteria used in respect of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and if so, why.

Lord Belstead

Members of boards of visitors are appointed separately in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In considering appointments to boards of visitors in England and Wales my right honourable friend seeks to select members from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible; and to achieve a broad balance on each board between JP and lay members and of members' ages, sex, skills and experience and social background. I understand that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland uses similar criteria in selecting members for boards of visitors of prisons and visiting committees for young offender centres, except that he is required by statute to appoint at least two women members to the board of each women's prison and a minimum of six members to the committee for each young offender centre. In the case of all establishments he is careful to ensure that boards and committees draw their membership from all the geographical areas of Northern Ireland and that they are representative of the community in as many respects as possible.

The position in Scotland is a matter for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, but I understand from him that the number of members for each visiting committee is specified by statute. Members of visiting committees for adult prisons are selected by the regional and district councils and not by my right honourable friend, but he appoints additional women members if the councils fail to select the statutory number of women members specified for each committee. He also appoints all members of committees for establishments for offenders under the age of 21. In making these appointments he uses the same criteria as in England and Wales. The slight differences in the methods of appointment reflect historical development rather than policy decision.