§ Mr. Bermingham
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many prisoners were informed of their parole decision after their eligibility date(a) in 1988, and (b) the latest available figure for 1989; what was the average delay period for each year; and if he will make a statement;
(2) what percentage of prisoners who received their parole decision after their parole eligibility date were refused parole (a) in 1988, and (b) for the latest date available; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
Statistics are not readily available in the form requested. However, at present there are unacceptable delays in the parole scheme which are an unnecessary source of anxiety to inmates and their families, and present problems to prison service staff. These delays result from increases in the longer sentenced prison population and a growing workload for the parole unit. Cases needing to be referred to the Parole Board, requiring the most detailed consideration and thus taking longest to complete, are delayed on average by two or three months. About a third of cases not seen by the Parole Board are also subject to delays, averaging about a month.
A number of steps have been taken to combat the delays. Overtime working and a significant increase in parole unit staffing have been authorised. Our target is for significant reductions in the delays by the end of the year. The Parole Board has helped by increasing the number of panels held and the cases considered at each one; and its membership has also been increased. Parole unit procedures are being streamlined and further consideration is being given to other measures to tackle the problem.