HC Deb 29 April 2002 vol 384 cc604-6W
Mr. Letwin

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what activities are covered by(a) constitutional and community, (b) criminal policing and programmes, (c) central services, (d) firearms compensation and (e) police and crime reduction as referred to in Table 11 on page 112 of the Home Office annual report 2000–01. [48858]

Mr. Denham

(a) In 2000–01, constitutional and community work included the following issues, responsibility for which transferred to other Government Departments in the machinery of Government changes which took place on 8 June 2001: human rights, freedom of information, data protection, constitutional issues, elections, byelaws, gambling, liquor licensing, animal welfare, hunting, and planting and planning for the Golden Jubilee.

Issues which remain the responsibility of the Home Department, and which currently fall under this heading, are: (1) Race equality issues, including implementation of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act and publication of race equality performance indicators across public services; (2) Leading cross-Government work to promote civil renewal, and to promote and support active citizenship, including a flourishing voluntary and community sector; (3) Developing the Government's community cohesion agenda; (4) Supporting the continuing development of strong and stable families; (5) Regulation of burial and cremation services and arrangements for the investigation of deaths; (6) Regulation of the use of animals for experimental and other scientific purposes; (7) Consultation concerning the introduction of an entitlement card scheme.

(b) Criminal policy and programmes are led primarily in the Criminal Policy Group although clearly there are links with the work of the Policing and Crime Reduction Group (see (e). The Criminal Policy Group is responsible for Home Office Aims 3 and 4. Aim 3 is "to ensure the effective delivery of justice, avoiding unnecessary delay, through efficient investigation, detection, prosecution and court procedures. To minimise the threat to and intimidation of witnesses and to engage with and support victims". Aim 4 is "to deliver effective custodial and community sentences to reduce re-offending and protect the public, through the prison and probation services, in partnership with the Youth Justice Board". Current activities include: (1) Drafting a Criminal Justice White Paper which will introduce fundamental reforms that will enable faster, more efficient delivery of justice, with effective punishment of offenders, and fully joined up services that can rehabilitate offenders and resettle them into the community when they finish their sentence. The White Paper will include reforms following the recommendations of both the Auld report on criminal court reform and the Halliday report on sentencing, and improved consideration of the needs of the victims of crime, including restorative justice. The formulation of policy across the criminal justice system involves close working within the Home Office group and with other Government Departments and interested bodies; (2) Ensuring the effectiveness of work to reduce levels of re-conviction. This includes the development of improved ways of working, drawing on the work the Social Exclusion Unit has undertaken on reducing the level of re-offending among ex-prisoners, such as case management of offenders through the system and greater involvement of other agencies; (3) Providing a strategic framework within which the Prison Service, probation service and Youth Justice Board operate. This will be achieved in part through a Correctional Services Board which will be chaired by my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Angela Eagle) and supported by the development of a Standards Unit to make sure best practice is shared effectively; (4) The Criminal Policy Group has an ongoing role in overseeing both the general effectiveness of the criminal law as it applies to both adult and juvenile offenders, and work across the criminal justice system to monitor and improve performance. This includes work to increase the number of offenders brought to justice through the development of operational guidelines and support, in particular in relation to tackling persistent offending; (5) Ongoing case management of serious mentally disordered offenders and the introduction and appraisal of pilot schemes for more effective treatment of dangerous people with severe personality disorders.

(c) Central services are those areas of the Home Office which support delivery of the Home Office's aims. The activities of these central services areas are as follows: financial planning and management, accounting and audit, personnel, accommodation planning and provision, internal and external communication, information technology planning and provision, security (physical, staff and information technology), research and development (including statistical studies and Home Office publications), pay and pensions, records management, health and safety, health and welfare, Ministers' and officials' private offices, and the legal advisers' branch.

(d) The Home Office introduced a compensation scheme for surrender of small firearms (handguns) following events in Dunblane in March 1996. The Firearms (Amendment) Acts 1997 prohibited possession of handguns; compensation was paid for their surrender together with surrender of ammunition and related ancillary equipment (holsters etc.). Although the majority of weapons were surrendered during 1997–98, some residual cases continue to be administered by the Department.

(e) The activities of the Policing and Crime Reduction Group centre around the provision of an efficient, effective police service and reduction in crime. Policing policy activity covers legislation and implementation of the police reform programme; personnel and resource measures to support the police, including recruitment and pay arrangements and work on police leadership, powers and procedures. The crime reduction focus of the group is achieved through developing and implementing strategies to address particular types of crime and disorder, by encouraging and providing a framework for partnership working and by developing and administering area-based initiatives such as the Crime Reduction Programme, Communities Against Drugs and Safer Communities.

A significant part of the group's work lies in ensuring that there is scientific and technological support for the police and crime reduction. The group sponsors a number of agencies and non-departmental public bodies in this and other areas. Through the Police Standards Unit and support for the independent inspectorate (Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary), the group has a major commitment to the achievement of high standards and performance in the police service.