HL Deb 02 May 2000 vol 612 cc154-5WA
Lord Avebury

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will draw the attention of governors of prisons in England and Wales to the practice, commended by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, of HM Prison Brockhill in making reception leaflets and tapes available to prisoners in 18 different languages; and whether they will also ensure that at any prison where Immigration Act detainees are held, or have been held, separate leaflets are available in appropriate languages for those who cannot speak English, asking them to state their religion on a multiple choice form; and whether they accept that this is necessary to ensure that visiting ministers can be given accurate information about the number of detainees belonging to their faiths. [HL2122]

Lord Bach

The Prison Service is committed to ensuring that all prisoners can practice their religion. A key part of this is ensuring that visiting ministers are given accurate information about prisoners from their faith. Prisons are required to record the declared religion of a prisoner on arrival and to make arrangements for the appropriate minister to be informed. The Prison Service recognises that foreign national prisoners, including Immigration Act detainees held in prison establishments, may need help with translating and interpreting.

Prison Service policy is for information to be provided in a form and language the prisoner can understand. All establishments, including those holding Immigration Act detainees, have access to Language Line, a 24-hour telephone interpreting service. The four books making up the Prisoners' Information Book, which contain information on all aspects of prison life, including on religious rights and registration, have been translated into 20 languages.

Other foreign language material, such as that mentioned by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons at Brockhill Prison, may have been produced locally by prison establishments. As part of a review of the management of foreign national prisoners which the Prison Service has recently begun, an audit of locally produced literature is under way to assess the possibility of disseminating such material more widely.

The need for additional arrangements to obtain a prisoner's religion at reception will be considered as part of the review of foreign national prisoners and in the review of reception procedures which the Prison Service is shortly to start.