§ Mr. Chris Smith
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what arrangements are made for individuals applying for a subsistence and travel allowance in order to visit a member of their family in prison in Northern Ireland to have access to information held about them on which their entitlements are assessed; what guidance he has issued on this matter; whether he proposes to allow greater access to such information whether held in automated and non-automated records; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
The scheme for assisted visits to prisons is administered by the Department of Health and Social Services on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office and the basic rules are outlined in the supplementary benefits handbook. Staff are encouraged to respond positively to requests from applicants for information about the relevant conditions and the basis on which entitlement has been assessed. There are no proposals for changing the existing arrangements.
§ Mr. Chris Smith
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what arrangements are made for individuals in Northern Ireland to check the accuracy of factual information about themselves relating to convictions, unsucccessful prosecutions and arrests held by the Criminal Records Office; what guidance he has issued on this matter; whether he proposes to take any steps to allow individuals to have greater access to such information held on automated and non-automated records; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Scott
The disclosure of information from records maintained by the Royal Ulster Costabulary is a matter for the Chief Constable and my right hon. Friend has issued no guidance. However, the Chief Constable adheres to the same general policy as chief officers of police in England and Wales, namely that no information is disclosed to anyone £ however responsible — save where weighty considerations of public interest dictate a departure from the general rule of confidentiality.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary's Criminal Records Office, which is in the process of computerisation, does not maintain records of individuals arrested, nor retain records of individuals involved in unsucessful prosecutions. The Data Protection Bill currently before Parliament offers a right of access by people to details of their own convictions when held on computer.