§ Miss Widdecombe
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his oral statements of 29 November 1999,Official Report, columns 26-27 and 28 March 2000, Official Report, column 234, and to his answer to the right hon. Member for Maidstone and the Weald of 29 March 2000, Official Report, column 145W, what types of offender serving sentences of four or more years he estimates will be released earlier than at present as the result of the availability of electronic monitoring as a condition of release on licence, under the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill, with particular reference to offenders convicted of (a) homicide, (b) drugs offences, (c) robbery, (d) assaults, (e) firearms offences, (f) burglary and (g) terrorist offences; if he will define the term serious offenders, used in his oral statement of 29 November; if it is his policy that the timing of the release of (i) serious, (ii) high-risk 376W and (iii) sex offenders should not be influenced by the electronic monitoring provisions of the Bill; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Straw
[holding answer 7 April 2000]: The electronic monitoring measures in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill will not change the timing of any prisoner's eligibility for release. The basis of any discretionary release decision will continue to be careful risk assessment. The use of the new licence conditions will be subject to piloting before full implementation. Evaluation of the pilots will include consideration of the impact of the new licence conditions on discretionary release decisions taken by the Parole Board and by the Prison Service, on behalf of the Secretary of State.
In the vast majority of cases, we anticipate that the availability of electronic monitoring as a licence condition will have no impact on release decisions.
Prison Service Orders will make clear there are no circumstances in which the availability of the new electronic monitoring provisions in the Bill should influence decisions on release made by the Prison Service, on behalf of the Secretary of State.
In addition, using the powers available to him under section 32(6) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, the Home Secretary will direct the Parole Board that in considering certain types of case, decisions on release should not be influenced by the availability of the new powers of electronic monitoring in the Bill. The Home Secretary's Directions to the Parole Board will cover any sex offender required to register under the Sex Offenders Act 1997, and any sexual or violent offender who is serving an "extended sentence" as provided for in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The Directions will also apply to all prisoners serving a licence sentence, to other prisoners serving a determinate sentence for homicide or attempted homicide, terrorism, arson, robbery or assault and to any other prisoner whose offending or other behaviour suggests that he poses a clear risk of violence to the public. This definition could include prisoners convicted of drugs offences, firearms offences or burglary, depending on the circumstances of the cases.
The types of case where the use of electronic monitoring may provide sufficient extra reassurance to influence a decision in favour of release are expected to be those where the Parole Board is considering prisoners who are at the lower end of the offending scale (within the category of prisoners eligible for parole), and who pose no obvious risk of violence to the public.
It is, therefore clear that the Home Secretary's policy is that the timing of the release of serious, high risk and sex offenders, as defined above, should not be influenced by the electronic monitoring provisions of the Bill.
The term "serious offenders" has different legal definitions in different contexts. In the context of my oral statement of 29 November, the term "serious offenders" was a reference to those prisoners serving sentences of four years or more who will be covered by the planned Directions to the Parole Board.