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Mr. Scott : There have been no formal discussions about occupational rhinitis between the Department and the council. Members of the Department attend council meetings on a regular basis as observers and provide information on request. The council last discussed occupational rhinitis at its meeting on 18 November 1993.
Mr. Renton : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the average time that it takes the Child Support Agency to answer letters from hon. Members ; and if he will issue instructions that this time should be at least halved.
Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. Tim Renton, dated 10 February 1994 :
I have been asked to reply to your Question to the Secretary of State about the time it takes the Agency to respond to letters from honourable Members.
All letters from Members of Parliament addressed to me are acknowledged and I aim to respond within an average of 20 working days. Press interest has stimulated a great deal of correspondence from constituents and although that target is not being met at the moment, the necessary steps are being taken to ensure that correspondence from Members will be answered as promptly as possible.
I hope you will find this reply helpful.
Sir Dudley Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington may expect a reply from the Child Support Agency to his detailed written representations on behalf of Mrs. Fiona Dennehy of Leamington Spa, made on 25 September 1993, 26 October 1993, 24 November 1993 and 5 January 1994.
Mr. Bradley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which benefit or benefits claimants of incapacity benefit will receive while their claims after 197 days are being assessed and in the 1994-95 financial year, what level of funding this will represent (a) for each individual per week and (b) in the full financial year per individual ; what is the total spend nationally on such benefits in the financial year 1994-95 ; and what is his planned spend on incapacity benefit for the financial years 1995-96, 1996-97 and 1997-98.
Mr. Scott : After 28 weeks of incapacity, incapacity benefit recipients will receive the higher rate short-term benefit. They will receive this rate of benefit while they are being assessed under the new objective medical incapacity test. As the new benefit will not be implemented until April 1995, there are no financial implications for the financial year 1994-95. The estimated total cost of incapacity benefit for the years 1995-96 and 1996-97 is £8,100 million and £7, 550 million respectively. A figure for 1997-98 is not yet available.
Mr. Byers : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list, by county area, those magistrates courts which have been closed since April 1992 and those magistrates courts which he expects to be closed by April 1995.
Column 397committee for the area concerned in conjunction with the local paying authority ; there is no requirement of notification to the Lord Chancellor. The Department has no central record of the number of magistrates' courthouses that have been closed or are scheduled to be closed. A local authority that is aggrieved by a decision of a magistrates court committee to close a courthouse has the right of appeal to the Lord Chancellor. In 1993 the Lord Chancellor dealt with six appeals. There are no appeals currently outstanding.
Mr. Sims : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what representations he has received from representatives of outer London magistrates courts concerning the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill [Lords].
Mr. John M. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor has received 118 responses from representatives of the outer London magistrates courts service to the consultation documents issued by his Department. In addition to this he has received in the region of 80 letters from hon. Members for constituencies in the outer London area concerning the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill. There have been approximately 300 letters from members of the magistrates courts service overall and other interested bodies ; it is not possible, however, to give an accurate figure of those from representatives of the outer London service since this information is not recorded. The Lord Chancellor and I have also met representatives of the outer London action group, and the Lord Chancellor will continue to correspond with them.
Mr. Bayley : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what surveys to obtain the views of those using the courts system were carried out between 1 July 1992 to 30 June 1993 ; and what were the results of these surveys.
Mr. John M. Taylor : Between 1 July 1992 and 30 June 1993, local surveys of court users were conducted by 15 courts and a national survey of court users was conducted by the National Consumer Council. Generally, the surveys showed that the improved standard of customer service in the courts was well received, although areas for improvement were also highlighted.
Mr. Marland : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, on how many occasions cases have had to be postponed because juveniles in the care of a local authority have failed to attend in the latest convenient period for which figures are available ; and what is the average cost of each such case.
Mr. John M. Taylor : New versions of the jury summons and the explanatory leaflet for jurors were issued in April 1993. These were brought into immediate use except in London where, for technical reasons, introduction was deferred until November 1993.
Mr. John M. Taylor : Since last May, recipients of witness orders have also been given an explanatory letter from the clerk to the justices which sets out in clear, easily understood terms, what the witness can expect to happen in the Crown court. We will be putting forward proposals to remove the requirement to serve witness orders, when the next legislative opportunity arises. Witnesses will continue to receive the explanatory letter as this contains all the relevant information about their attendance at court.
Mrs. Wise : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what is the current waiting time for appeals to be heard against refusal of settlement visa applications from spouses and fiances or fiancees in India.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The immigration appellate authorities do not differentiate between countries of origin in allocating hearing dates. The current average time between the IAA receiving a certificate of readiness from a party to the date of a long, three-hour, hearing in London and at the provincial centres are as follows :
|Weeks ------------------------- Thanet House |14 Hatton Cross |12 Birmingham |10 Manchester |14 Leeds |8 Glasgow |11
Mrs. Wise : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what is the current waiting time for appeals to be heard against refusal of settlement visa applications from spouses and fiances or fiancees in Pakistan.
Column 399in allocating hearing dates. The current average time between the IAA receiving a certificate of readiness from a party to the date of a long, three-hour, hearing in London and at the provincial centres are as follows :
|Weeks ------------------------- Thanet House |14 Hatton Cross |12 Birmingham |10 Manchester |14 Leeds |8 Glasgow |11
Mr. Steen : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the hon. Member for South Hams may expect an answer to his letter of 24 January concerning the matter of Miss Hale's court case proceedings with the central London county court and the legal aid system.
Mr. John M. Taylor : I aim to reply to hon. Members' letters within 20 working days of receipt, although of course I always attempt to deal with urgent matters well within that time. I expect to reply to the substantive issues raised in the letter referred to within the normal target period, but there are a number of issues which may require further investigation.
Mr. John M. Taylor [holding answer 3 February 1994] : The current membership of the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee on legal education and conduct is set out below. The membership of sub-committees of the main committee is an internal matter for the main committee, which is independent of the Lord Chancellor's Department.
Membership of the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee on legal education and conduct--at 3 February 1994 Mrs. Liliana Archibald Professor Richard Card
His Honour Judge John Gower QC
Eric Hammond OBE
John Hosking CBE
The Reverend Dr. Colin Morris
Dr. Claire Palley
Ms Usha Prashar
Nicholas Purnell QC
Peter Scott QC
Graham Smith CBE
The Committee's current chairman is Lord Justice Steyn.
Column 400disproportionate cost. At 1 January 1994 there were 78 advisory committees with a total of 483 members. If the hon. Member wishes me to give the names of members of particular advisory committees I shall be pleased to do so.
Mr. Kilfoyle : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department who are the members currently appointed to each of the advisory committees on general commissioners of income tax for Northern Ireland.
Mr. John M. Taylor [holding answer 3 February 1994] : The names of the members currently appointed to the two advisory committees on general commissioners of income tax for Northern Ireland are as follows :
Eastern advisory committee
Colonel J. E. Wilson
W. J. Hall, Esq
M. W. S. MacLaran, Esq
Miss C. MacMahon
Mrs. J. Stewart
Sir Myles Humphries
J. J. Leslie, Esq, DL
Western advisory committee
J. T. Eaton, Esq
G. Broderick, Esq
D. F. Desmond, Esq
J. Grew, Esq
Mrs. M. I. G. Welsh
R. W. Wilson, Esq
C. A. J. Anderson, Esq
W. D. Smyth, Esq
Mr. John M. Taylor [holding answer 3 February 1994] : The Lord Chancellor is responsible for the appointment of members of advisory committees in England and Wales with the exception of the Duchy of Lancaster where it is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy. Within the Lord Chancellor's area of responsibility there are 94 advisory committees with a total membership of 940. There is no secrecy about the membership of advisory committees but to provide the names of every member could only be achieved at disproportionate cost. If the hon. Member wishes to know the names of the members of a particular advisory committee, the Minister responsible will be pleased to oblige.
Mr. Alan Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage, pursuant to his answer of 1 February, what is the total rent received from the accommodation of the occupied royal palaces listed in his answer ; what is the range of rentals ; and how many of the rented units have (a) four bedrooms and (b) five bedrooms.
Column 401£22,704 per annum. The rent is set at 6 per cent. of the occupant's after-tax salary, which is equivalent to a deduction of 8.5 per cent. of pre-tax salary. Of the 11 apartments in respect of which rent is paid, five have four bedrooms, one has five bedrooms and one has six bedrooms. A further £46,000 per annum is paid in respect of other residential properties not included in the 54 referred to above, making a total rent deduction of £69,000 per annum. In addition to this the benefit of housing taken into account in determining wage and salary levels in the household's new grading structure amounts to approximately £480,000 per annum.
Mr. Alan Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage (1) what records are kept of the official use of the official reception rooms at the accommodation for members of the royal family in the occupied royal palaces ;
(2) by what criteria residents are selected for the grace and favour accommodation at the occupied royal palaces.
Mr. Sproat [holding answer 7 February 1994] : My Department has overall responsibility for the maintenance of the properties within the occupied royal palaces estate. How these properties should best be used, either by members of the royal family or by employees and pensioners, in fulfilling the requirements and functions of the head of state is however a matter for Her Majesty the Queen.
Grace and favour accommodation is provided to members of the royal family in accordance with long-established practice. It is in keeping with the style and dignity of the monarchy and national prestige that the more immediate members of the royal family should be appropriately housed and a London residence is needed to entertain and undertake official duties on behalf of the Queen. How members of the royal family use the apartments allocated to them in fulfilling their duties in support of the Queen as head of state, including the use of official receptions rooms, are also matters for Her Majesty the Queen.
The criteria adopted when allocating residential accommodation to employees and pensioners are summarised below.
As regards employees, accommodation is provided to facilitate the better performance of the person's duties and recruitment and retention, in line with long-established practice. Apartments are allocated to employees by broad category of post and by location--for example, mews stable staff in London are housed in the flats above the London mews stables--or according to the post which they hold--for example, there are apartments in St. James's palace which have been occupied by successive masters of the household, marshals of the diplomatic corps and keepers of the privy purse- -or according to need and availability, with available accommodation being allocated to staff whom the household most requires to be housed. There are approximately 500 official employees in the royal households and accommodation is not therefore available to all staff.
Official staff may be provided with accommodation on retirement if they have been housed as employees for 20 years or more and if finding their own accommodation after such a long period would cause difficulties and be a poor reward for long and loyal service. It is accordingly generally only the more junior employees who are provided with pensioner accommodation.
Column 402There are in addition to the 23 pensioners who were previously official employees and who are provided with accommodation, four grace and favour pensioners, all of whom were provided with accommodation some time ago. There are unlikely to be grace and favour pensioners in the future. Grace and favour pension accommodation is provided at the Queen's discretion. The military knights are retired Army officers who have some ceremonial duties to perform at Windsor castle and are required to live there. Nominations are submitted by the Defence Secretary for approval by the Queen.
Mr. Alan Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage, pursuant to his answer of 3 February, Official Report, columns 846-47, to the right hon. Member for Swansea, West on the costs of refurbishment at occupied royal palaces, what information is available on refurbishment costs in 1989-90 and 1990-91.
|£ 000s ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kensington palace Apartment 1A (HRH The Princess Margaret) |25 Apartment 1 (TRH The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester) |8 Apartment 10 (TRH The Prince and Princess Michael of Kent) |11 St. James palace Clarence House Apartment in the occupation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother |35 |-- Total |79 In 1989-90, the expenditure was: Kensington palace Apartment 1A |19 Apartment 1 |13 Apartment 10 |23 |-- Total |55 St. James's palace No recorded expenditure
Mr. Enright : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage, pursuant to his answer of 1 February, Official Report, column 621, on remission of debts on grants, (1) what alternatives were considered before writing off the loss of Unicorn Heritage plc on what grounds none of them were considered feasible ; and what actions were taken to effect recovery of the sum loaned ;
(2) what appraisal was made of Unicorn Heritage plc before writing off its losses and the money loaned to it.