Mr. John M. Taylor: The Lord Chancellor has welcomed the growth of private alternative dispute resolution services where the parties do not need the compulsion, finality and certainty that only the courts can provide. My officials have carefully studied reports of ADR experience in this country and abroad. However, before committing public money to ADR the Lord Chancellor is concerned to have much greater certainty that such methods would produce the benefits to the Department which its supporters claim.
Mr. John M. Taylor: There are three top secret and 124 secret files out of a total of 105,535 files in the Lord Chancellor's Department. These figures refer to individual file parts. The proportion of top secret and secret files is 0.002 per cent. and 0.117 per cent respectively.
Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much public money will be spent on entertaining, Christmas decorations and other festive activities this Christmas season by his Department and Government agencies answerable to his Department; and of this sum how much will be spent in Ministers' private offices, his official residence in London and official residences.
Column 696England and Wales. The classification of crimes is determined by precise statutory definitions. A comprehensive set of counting rules is used by police forces in order to maintain the consistency of recording multiple, continuous and repeated offences. Whilst these detailed rules are issued centrally, many decisions still have to be taken locally about the recording and counting of criminal incidents. When carrying out force inspections, Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary looks carefully at how forces record crime. If it seems that crimes are being wrongly recorded, HMIC will advise forces to adjust their practice.
Mr. Maclean: About 2,000 letters have been received from members of Parliament, most of them covering representations from constituents about the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill or Act or aspects of them. In addition, around 2,500 letters have been received direct from members of the public, together with representations from groups with a particular interest in the criminal justice system.
Mr. Maclean: Information on numbers of people charged is not collected centrally. Information on the number of people cautioned and the number of court proceedings for offences committed under the Criminal Justice Act 1994 will become available from the autumn of 1995.
Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from the Police Federation about police officers incurring debt due to the Child Support Act and their disciplinary code; what response he has given to the suggestion to change the disciplinary code; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Maclean: None. On 28 June, the president of ACPO wrote to chief constables expressing confidence that the service would be compassionate to officers who experienced financial difficulties as a result of Child Support Agency commitments.
The Government have already announced that new police disciplinary procedures will be implemented under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994. These will give police managers greater discretion when dealing with officers in debt, however the debt was incurred.
Mr. Chidgey : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of fire appliances arrived at emergencies in the London area within (a) three minutes, (b) four minutes, (c) five minutes, (d) six
Column 697minutes, (e) seven minutes, (f) eight minutes, (g) nine minutes, (h) 10 minutes, (i) 11 minutes and, (j) 12 minutes, in 1992, 1993 and in the current year to date.
Response times<1> to fires in London, 1992 and 1993 1992 1993 Response times |Number of |Cumulative|Number of |Cumulative (minutes) |fires |percentage|fires |percentage ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Within 3 |5,650 |27.3 |5,142 |25.7 4 |6,319 |57.9 |5,769 |54.5 5 |5,269 |83.3 |5,015 |79.5 6 |1,639 |91.3 |1,941 |89.2 7 |776 |95.0 |1,048 |94.5 8 |476 |97.3 |529 |97.1 9 |209 |98.3 |244 |98.3 10 |129 |99.0 |139 |99.0 11 |59 |99.2 |57 |99.3 12 |29 |99.4 |36 |99.5 Over 12 minutes or unknown |129 |100.0 |105 |100.0 <1> The interval between the time of the first call taken by the brigade and the time the first appliance arrived at the fireground. Source: Home Office fire statistics
Response times to fires in Hampshire, 1992 and 1993 1992 1993 |Cumulative |Cumulative Response time |Number of fires|Percentage |Number of fires|Percentage -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Within 5 minutes |1,970 |51.8 |1,890 |54.8 6-10 minutes |1,439 |89.7 |1,263 |91.5 11-15 minutes |279 |97.0 |211 |97.6 16-20 minutes |49 |98.3 |31 |98.5 Over 20 minutes |27 |99.0 |8 |98.7 Unknown |38 |100.0 |44 |100.0 Note: 1) The interval between the time of the first call taken by the brigade and the time the first appliance arrived at the fireground. Source: Home Office fire statistics.
Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now place in the Library the internal prison report into the death of Mr. Omasese Lumumba; and if he will make a statement.
Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Harry Cohen, dated 30 November 1994:
The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the death of Mr. Omasese Lumumba.
Subject to considerations of security and to the Coroner's consent, before an inquest, the Prison Service is generally prepared to disclose copies of documents provided to the Coroner to anyone who is a "properly interested person"under the Coroner's rules.
Reports of follow-up internal investigations, including statements taken by the investigating governor, are not disclosed as the Prison Service needs to be able to conduct its own review of the case in confidence.
A similar policy applies to the deaths of persons in the custody of the Prison Service detained under the Immigration Act.
Column 698waited for (a) six months, (b) one year, (c) two years and (d) over two years.
Mr. Nicholas Baker: The estimated average length of time between the receipt of an asylum application and the decision, for cases decided in the period 1 August 1994 to 31 October 1994, on applications received since the introduction of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 on 26 July 1993 was 6.8 months. In the period 1 August 1994 to 31 October 1994, there were 6,105 decisions made on applications for asylum. Of these, 1,600 took under six months to decide; 1,525 took between six months and a year; 1,385 took between one and two years; and 1,595 took longer than two years for an initial decision on their application for asylum.
Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the length of time each detained asylum seeker has been held in custody; what review he undertook of their cases; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholas Baker: On 18 November 1994, 654 people who had claimed asylum at some stage were detained under powers contained in the Immigration Act 1991. Of this total, 167 had been detained for less than 1 month; 125 between one and two months; 233 between two and six months; and 129 had been in detention for more than six months.
The initial decision to detain is reviewed within 24 hours by an immigration service inspector. Thereafter, all detention is reviewed locally at least every seven days.
Column 699After one month the case is reviewed at immigration service headquarters. These reviews continue monthly and at an increasingly senior level. In addition, I receive a monthly report on all cases where detention has been maintained for more than 12 months.
Mr. William O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the provisions of training and health and safety practices for people working in the private security service.
Mr. Maclean: The Government believe that training is essentially a matter for the private security industry and its customers. We welcome the industry's efforts to develop and raise standards in this area. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 applies to those employed by private security companies as it does to other employees in the workplace.
Mr. William O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he intends to introduce regulations to ensure a minimum standard of conduct for private security operators; and if he will make a statement.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how much money has been spent on hospitality by the Commission for Racial Equality in each of the last five years; if he will indicate (a) the nature and cost and (b) the purpose of each event; how many (i) guests and (ii) commission personnel enjoyed the hospitality at each event; and if he will make a statement; (2) under what authority the Commission for Racial Equality may extend hospitality in public houses to the staff of right hon. and hon. Members; what was the purpose of the reception for research assistants planned by the commission for Thursday 24 November in the Red Lion pub, Whitehall; why that reception was subsequently cancelled; if he will ensure that public funds are not used by the commission for such purposes in the future; and if he will make a statement.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy to suspend all payments to the Commission for Racial Equality until such time as the House has the opportunity to consider proposed legislation for its abolition.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what funds have been made available to the Commission for Racial Equality in each of the last five years for which figures are available; for what purpose those funds are intended; and if he will make a statement;
(2) if he will give a breakdown by (a) ethnic background and (b) salary of the numbers of people currently employed by the Commission for Racial Equality.
Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will ensure that police authorities fully compensate police officers for any losses incurred as a result of changes in pay day arrangements.
Mr. Maclean: It is for a police authority, within the terms of regulation 46 of the Police Regulations, to fix the pay day for members of the police force. I am confident that if a police authority decided to change existing arrangements it would manage the process so as to ensure that police officers were not disadvantaged.
Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state (a) the number of payments made, (b) the total sum, (c) the highest individual award and (d) the average time taken to make the payment in respect of persons injured in the Brighton bombing at the Conservative party conference.
Mr. Nicholas Baker: The total average cost per person per month for approved probation/bail hostel accommodation in 1993 94 was £1, 451, reflecting occupancy in the system as a whole of only 68 per cent. With improved occupancy, the projected figure for 1994 95 is £1,232.
Mr. Michael Forsyth: We have today issued a consultation document which gives details of the proposed changes to the law controlling betting on greyhound racing. These will give consumers a wider range of betting opportunities and remove the outdated restrictions governing betting on the sport. At the same time we shall ensure that sufficient safeguards are maintained to protect consumers. One of the key benefits is the proposed introduction of a new system of inter-track tote betting. Customers will have the freedom to bet into large linked pools on races at other licensed tracks. There will be provision for local authorities to oversee the operation of inter-track betting.
The other deregulatory measures, such as removal of the requirement for an accountant to be present whenever totes are operated, represent sensible improvements in the current controls. Such changes will not, in the view of those representatives of local authorities previously consulted, interfere with the proper supervision of tote betting at greyhound tracks.
Subject to the outcome of the consultation process, we propose to bring forward these changes by means of a draft order under the Deregulation and Contracting Out
Column 701Act 1984. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries.
Mr. Howard: As at 31 December 1993, the Home Office held 707 top secret and 86,049 secret files, representing 0.015 per cent. and 1.8 per cent. respectively of the approximate total--4.8 million--of the Department's files at that time.
Dr. Marek: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how much money has been raised by (a) capital receipts arising from the reductions in the numbers of Crown post offices in the last 15 years and (b) for savings in revenue expenditure consequent on the reductions.
Mr. Charles Wardle: The reduction in Crown post offices since April 1989, largely due to the conversion programme of Crown post offices to agency status, had by March 1994 yielded £5.0 million in capital receipts and £20.7 million in annually recurring revenue savings.
Mr. Gapes: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the progress towards the entry into force of the chemical weapons convention; and if it remains his policy that the United Kingdom should become an original signatory of the convention.
Mr. Heseltine: It remains the Government's policy to ratify the chemical weapons convention as soon as possible. The necessary implementing legislation will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time and other Government legislative priorities permit.
Column 702bring against the directors of life assurance companies which have been found to be in serious breach of regulations governing the financial service industry.
Mr. Jonathan Evans: Under the Insurance Companies Act 1982 the Secretary of State's powers are exercisable in relation to insurance companies rather than in relation to individual directors. However, under that Act the Secretary of State shall not authorise a company to carry on insurance business, and may withdraw an existing authorisation, if it appears to him that any director, controller, manager or main agent of the company is not a fit and proper person to hold the position held by him. The powers of intervention set out in sections 38 and 41 to 45 of the Insurance Companies Act 1982 are also exercisable on these grounds.
Mr. Gallie: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps are being taken to bring stability to the United Kingdom waste paper and packaging collection market; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Charles Wardle: Stability in the market cannot be guaranteed, since waste paper is an internationally traded commodity, and as such is subject to fluctuating demand and price. I believe, however, that two developments will help bring about greater stability than that experienced in recent months as a result of packaging waste management regulations in other countries.
The first is the adoption of the proposed EC Directive harmonising member states' regulations in this area, which the Government has supported. I am hopeful that such adoption will occur before the end of 1994. The second is the introduction of industry measures in response to our producer responsibility initiative for packaging. These should lead to co-ordinated recycling activity which is related to demand, and does not trigger the distorting effects of over-collection which have been apparent elsewhere.
Mr. Ian Taylor: No central record is kept by my Department of files marked "top secret" and "secret". Offices throughout the Department may possess in their registries any number of files bearing protective markings. The information requested is therefore not readily available and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Charles Wardle: The Government's intention to privatise what is now AEA Technology was announced last February by my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy, 17 February 1994, Official Report, columns 922-24 . The announcement outlined the criteria on which decisions on the form of privatisation will be taken. As announced in the Queen's Speech, a Bill to provide for privatisation will be introduced this Session.
Dr. Godman: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what recent representations he has received concerning the continuity of the Scottish hallmark, the lion rampant and Edinburgh castle marks in relation to proposals emanating from the European Commission on hall-marking and assay offices; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ian Taylor: I have received no specific representations concerning the Scottish marks. The Government are aware of the depth of feeling in the industry at large, in the assay offices, and amongst consumer organisations, that traditional marks, including town marks, should continue to be allowed under the terms of the proposed directive. The Government will continue to argue for their use.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the implications for unit-linked life assurance policies of the High Court judgement in the case of Fuji v . Aetna
Mr. Jonathan Evans: In July this year the Vice Chancellor the right hon. Sir Donald Nicholls gave judgment in the Chancery Division of the High Court on a preliminary point arising in a dispute between a life insurance company and one of its policyholders--Fuji Finance Inc. v . Aetna Life Insurance Ltd. and Another. The Vice Chancellor decided that a particular contract which purported to be a contract of life insurance was not, as a matter of law, a contract of insurance at all. The feature of the contract which led to this conclusion was that there was no difference, once the contract had run for five years, between the amount payable on the death of the life assured at a given time and the amount that could be obtained by surrendering the policy at the same time.
An appeal has been launched against this judgment, and the outcome of that appeal may obviously affect the position. But on the basis of the judgment it appears possible that other linked policies which offer no greater return on death than on surrender may similarly not be regarded as contracts of insurance. However, the judgment did not express an opinion about policies which, during the majority of their term, carry on somewhat higher additional level of benefit on death, or include some other guarantee in relation to the benefits payable on death but not on surrender.
The Department of Trade and Industry does not monitor as a matter of course the terms of individual life insurance policies. However, prior to the Vice Chancellor's judgment, the level of additional benefit on death included in a linked policy was not considered by the Department to be critical in determining whether the policy was a contract of insurance. The Department would have taken into account other features of the contract; and it seems likely that, had the question been raised, policies
Column 704of the kind described in the judgment would have been treated by the Department as life assurance policies. I understand that the Financial Services Act regulators and the Inland Revenue have taken a similar view: as, presumably, have life assurance companies and their policyholders. It is understandable, therefore, that the judgment has created some concern in the insurance industry, particularly as it is not yet clear how far it affects contracts that are similar to, but not on all fours with, the particular policy that was considered in this case.
Companies which have not already done so will wish to take advice upon the legal implications of this judgment for linked policies issued by them. It may however be helpful to them to explain the Government's attitude to certain statutory provisions which appear relevant.
Section 16 of the Insurance Companies Act 1982 prohibits insurance companies from carrying on activities other than in connection with or for the purposes of their insurance business; and the Act confers upon the DTI certain powers of intervention if there is a failure to comply with that section. The Department has taken the view that the judgment has created sufficient uncertainty about the status of contracts carrying no additional benefit on death that it would wish to know if companies propose to continue to issue any such policies. As regards other policies, the Department does not propose to take any action while the judgment is under appeal. However, when the outcome of the appeal is known, it will clearly need to review the position with a view to ensuring that the terms of the section are met for the future.
Companies will also need to bear in mind that their authorisation to carry on investment business under Section 22 of the Financial Services Act 1986 relates only to insurance business and other business that can be conducted in accordance with section 16 of the Insurance Companies Act 1982.
In considering whether to use its enforcement powers in relation to investment business carried on in contravention of section 3 of the FSA, one of the factors which the Securities and Investments Board will take into account, in relation to business carried on prior to the judgment, is that contracts of the kinds likely to be affected have been consistently treated as contracts of insurance. Investors considering whether to take action under section 5 of the FSA will also need to take account of the same factor.
My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is making a separate statement about the tax implications of the judgment.
Mr. Ian Taylor: The Council adopted a resolution setting a date of 1 January 1998 for the liberalisation of the provision of telecommunications infrastructure, with a possibility of five years additional transition period for Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Greece and two years for Luxembourg. The United Kingdom, supported by five other countries, called upon the Commission to submit proposals for an earlier liberalisation of the use of alternative infrastructure for those services already liberalised at the Community level.
Column 705The Council also agreed a common position on a directive on standards for digital television. In addition, the Council agreed, in principle a common position on a decision on guidelines for the development for the integrated services digital networks as a trans- European network. The Council also reached agreement on all the outstanding issues on a decision on interchange of data between Administrations, except funding. The decision was referred back to the Committee of Permanent Representatives for further discussion of the budget. The text of a Council Resolution on access to the space segment and the reform of the international satellite organisations was agreed.
There was a short debate on the draft directives on mutual recognition of satellite and telecommunications licences. The Commission made presentations on the results of its consultations on the Green Paper on Mobile and Personal Communications and its communication on transport telematics. The Commission also stated that it expected to produce proposals on liberalisation of postal services during the first part of 1995.
No formal vote was taken at this Council.