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Mr. David Shaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the plans of his Department to make information available on the Internet and the documents which he intends to be made available on the Internet over the next year which will be accessible via the world wide web server "open.gov.uk" or any specific departmental server.
Sir John Wheeler: In line with the open government code of practice published in April 1994, the Northern Ireland civil service has plans in the next year, in liaison with the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, the Government centre for information systems, to examine the potential of using Internet as an effective medium to make information available to the public domain. When this exercise is completed, the NICS will address the issue of what information it would be appropriate to make available. The NICS has already registered Internet addresses with the relevant authority in order to facilitate future use.
Mr. Matthew Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has yet received the report of Mr. J. J. Rowe's fundamental review of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee for what reasons building works were carried out in 3 Dean's yard outside the recess; and what representations he has received from hon. Members and their staff about illnesses caused by these works.
Mr. Ray Powell: There was an obligation under the terms of the lease on 3 Dean's yard, to carry out repairs this year, and the opportunity was taken to make some improvements. The internal work to Members' and secretaries' offices was completed during the recess and the remainder of the project to upgrade the roof and
Column 327external areas is on schedule to finish by Christmas. It was not possible to complete both internal and external works during the recess period. No representations other than those made by the hon. Member have been received on this matter from hon. Members or their staff.
Mr. Bell: To ask the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee what plans there are to modernise the lighting behind the four faces of the Great Clock; how long the work will take; and what resulting change he expects in the annual cost.
Mr. Ray Powell: It is planned to replace the existing lighting behind the four faces of the Great Clock with energy-saving lamps. The lighting on one face of the clock at a time will be shut down and converted. The work will be completed by the beginning of February. The energy savings resulting from this work will amount to some £1, 000 per annum. All four faces of the clock will be illuminated on New Year's eve.
Mr. Campbell Savours: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what occasions since 1979 civil servants in his Department have been asked to draft speeches of a constituency nature for use in a Minister's own constituency.
Mr. Nelson: None. Civil servants may provide briefing of a factual nature for Ministers on matters relating to their own Departments. In addition, Ministers in preparing for a constituency speech can draw on material produced by their Department during the normal course of business.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the additional contributions that the United Kingdom will have to make to the EC as a result of the imposition of VAT on domestic fuel and power; and how much the United Kingdom contributions will increase due to the imposition of VAT on domestic fuel and power under (a) the third resource and (b) the fourth resource.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The introduction of VAT on fuel and power has no effect on the VAT base which is used to calculate our third resource contributions since this is harmonised across member states. There may be a small effect on gross national product at market prices, but that depends on what alternative policies would have been followed instead.
In any case, there would be no overall effect on the size of our contribution to the EC budget since, after abatement, our gross contribution is the same as it would have been under the pre-1988 Community financing system--before the introduction of the GNP resource. Changes in our GNP base, which are not mirrored in our harmonised VAT base, do not affect the size of our contribution after abatement.
Mr. Wicks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the savings from taxing child benefit as part of the women's income if taxed at the rates of 20 per cent., 25 per cent., 30 per cent., 35 per cent., 40 per cent. and 60 per cent.
Sir George Young: This would depend on how such a tax was to be calculated, and, in particular, on the relationship between the current marginal tax rate on the women's income and the rates specified by the hon. Member.
Mr. Wicks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a table showing the cost of the main personal and non-personal tax allowances and the revenue saved from restricting them to the rates of (a) 25 per cent., (b) 20 per cent. and (c) 15 per cent.
Sir George Young: Estimates for 1995 96 based on information about individuals on Inland Revenue records in 1992 93 projected in line with the forecast published in the "Financial Statement and Budget Report" 1995 96 are given. These costs exclude the value of personal allowances to some individuals whose income is below the tax threshold. No estimates for restricting the married couple's and related allowances are shown since these are given at 15 per cent. in 1995 96.
£ billion |Married couple's |Personal |and related ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Total revenue cost |27.7 |3.1<3> Yield from restricting allowances a) to the basic rate |1.6 |not applicable b) to 20 per cent. |5.9 |not applicable c) to 15 per cent. |10.9 |not applicable <1> Including the age-related personal allowance <2> Including the age-related married couple's allowance, the additional personal allowance and the widow's bereavement allowance <3> The costs assume that the personal allowance remains in place. If the personal allowance were abolished, the cost of the married couple's and related allowance would be substantially greater.
Mr. Harvey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the impact of including BNFL within the public sector borrowing requirement on BNFL's ability to raise capital and on the manner in which such capital is invested.
Mr. Aitken: No such estimate has been made. BNFL's external financing requirements will be subject to annual discussions between the company and the Government. BNFLs' inclusion on the PSBR statistics should not affect decisions on the allocation of funds to capital projects.
Mr. Harvey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy that, following BNFL's inclusion within the public sector borrowing requirement, its payments to the Treasury will not be increased to a higher level than its dividend payments of recent years.
Mr. Harvey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whom he consulted before the decision was made to include BNFL within the public service borrowing requirements; what advice they gave; and on what basis the decision was made.
Mr. Aitken: The decision to include BNFL within public sector statistics and hence score its borrowing against the PSBR was taken by the director of the Central Statistical Office, who is responsible, within the framework of international agreement and conventions, for the definitions and methodology of statistics covered by the CSO.
Mr. Tim Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the reasons for the accounting adjustments of £9.5 billion, £10.7 billion, £12.5 billion and £12.7 billion in public spending for 1994 95, 1995 96, 1996 97 and 1997 98 shown in table 1.5 the "Financial Statement and Budget Report" 1995 96.
Mr. Aitken: The accounting adjustments include various items within general Government expenditure but outside the control total--other than central Government debt interest and cyclical social security, which are shown separately. The larger items are non-trading capital consumption, refunds of VAT, teachers' and NHS pensions increase payments, the difference between civil service and armed forces pensions payments and accruing superannuation liability charges, the element of NHS trusts' charges to health authorities which goes to remunerate debt to the Exchequer, and the spending of the proceeds of the national lottery.
The net market and overseas borrowing of nationalised industries and other public corporations is, on the other hand, in the control total but outside GGE such that net repayments add to the magnitude of the accounting adjustments. Debt interest paid from local authorities to central Government reduces the accounting adjustments. This is removed to avoid double counting between local government debt interest payments--which are shown inside local authority expenditure--and central Government debt interest. Fuller details of the national accounting adjustments will appear in the statistical supplement to the "Financial Statement and Budget Report", along the lines of appendix B of last year's supplement--Cm 2519.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the advantages and disadvantages of a fall in the rate of foreign exchange; and what is his policy on whether the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.
Mr. Nelson: Movements in the exchange rate are considered as part of the general assessment of monetary conditions in setting monetary policy. The Government recognise the value of a stable exchange rate, but do not have a target rate for sterling.
Sir George Young: The Finance Bill will be published on Wednesday 4 January 1995. The notes on the Bill's clauses will be placed in the Vote Office and the Library of the House that day. In addition, the Treasury will be making the notes available to the public.
|Number -------------------------- Ramsgate |29 Dover |235 Southampton |88 Portsmouth |88 Newhaven |49 Poole |53 Plymouth |81
Mr. Denham: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the increase in the amount of VAT which will remain uncollected as a result of the proposed reduction in Customs and Excise staff in the area covered by the Southampton local VAT office.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The recently announced reductions in staff result from a package of measures designed to improve overall departmental efficiency and are not expected to increase the amount of uncollected VAT.
(2) what was the total amount of uncollected VAT debt owing from businesses covered by the Southampton local VAT office area that was written off from each year since 1983;
(3) what is his estimate of the total number of Customs and Excise officers engaged in VAT inspections in the area covered by the Southampton Customs and Excise office in each year since restructuring of local VAT office boundaries, and in each of the forthcoming two years;
(4) what is his estimate of the total number of VAT inspections carried out in the area covered by the Southampton Customs and Excise office in each six-months period since restructuring of local VAT office boundaries, and in each of the next four six-month periods; (5) what is his estimate of the amount of uncollected VAT outstanding at (a) the end of the current financial year and (b) the end of the financial year 1995 96 in the
Column 331area covered by the Southampton Customs and Excise office; (6) what was the total amount of uncollected VAT debt owing from businesses covered by the Southampton local VAT office area written off from each year since 1983;
(7) what is his estimate of the current amount of uncollected VAT arrears in the area covered by the Southampton Customs and Excise office;
(8) how many VAT inspections were carried out in the area covered by the Southampton Customs and Excise Office in each six-month period since restructuring of local VAT office boundaries, and in each of the next four six-month periods;
(9) what is his estimate of the total number of Customs and Excise officers engaged in VAT inspections in the area covered by the Southampton Customs and Excise office in each year since restructuring of local VAT office boundaries, and in each of the forthcoming two years;
(10) what is his estimate of the total amount of uncollected VAT debt owing from business covered by the Southampton local VAT office that will be written off for the financial years 1994 95 and 1995 96.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory [holding answer 7 December]: For the years to March 1993 and March 1994, Southampton local VAT office assigned 43 and 45 officers respectively to VAT visiting duties. For the year to March 1995, Southampton LVO plans to assign 46 officers to such duties. Planning figures are not available for the year to March 1996.
Using those staff the number of visits carried out in each six month period were:
|Number ---------------------------------------- April 92-September 92 |1,940 October 92-March 93 |2,022 April 93-September 93 |1,691 October 93-March 94 |1,978 April 94-October 94 |1,876 October 94-March 95 |<1>2,127 <1> number of visits planned.
Planning figures are not available for periods beyond March 1995. The number of visits is not, of itself, an indicator of the efficacy of the visiting programme as businesses are selected in accordance with their risk profile which may vary from year to year. In October 1994, the outstanding local VAT debt of registered businesses, within the Southampton LVO area, was £7.3 million. For the year ending March 1995, Southampton LVO estimates the debt on hand will be some £6.5 million. Planning figures are not available for 1995 96.
Because of the restructuring of local VAT office boundaries and other operational changes, figures for VAT debt written off are not available for the whole period requested. For the years to March 1993 and March 1994, Southampton LVO wrote off £1.1 million and £2.1 million of debt respectively.
Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration he gave to accepting lower tenders received for the management of Buckley Hall prison than that he accepted; and what was the gap between the tender accepted and the lowest one made.
Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Martin Redmond, dated 8 December 1994:
The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the letting of the contract for Buckley Hall.
The Evaluation Panel considered a number of factors when assessing all bids. These included how well the tenderers met the requirements of the invitation to tender; the level of realism and innovation in the bid; the quality of the programmes offered; security; staffing levels; deliverability and implementation; the Panel's confidence in the management teams and the corporate approach; and value for money. The Prisons Board then considered and decided to accept the recommendation of the Evaluation Panel that the contract be awarded to Group 4.
Over the five years of the contract the lowest bid was approximately £5 million or 15% less than Group 4's bid. The Evaluation Panel considered that the proposals in the lowest bid lacked substance and was not satisfied that the bidder was capable of implementing its proposals.
In the opinion of the Evaluation Panel and the Prisons Board, Group 4's bid offered the best combination of quality and price, as well as confidence in delivery, thus providing the taxpayer with the best overall value for money.
Mr. Gunnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many (a) deaths and (b) serious injuries of prisoners held at Doncaster prison there have been since the present private management contract began;
(2) what inspections of Doncaster prison by Home Office staff have taken place since the contract with Premia Prison Services began; and when the contract will next be reconsidered;
(3) if he will hold an independent inquiry into the death of Lee Bowen, held in Doncaster prison;
(4) what were the numbers of (a) inmates and (b) staff at Doncaster prison on 1 November.
Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. John Gunnell, dated 8 December 1994:
The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Questions about Doncaster prison.
Since the prison opened on 20 June this year, two prisoners held there have died. Eleven prisoners have suffered injuries which required immediate transfer to hospital. These include acts of deliberate self harm and drug related incidents, as well as assaults by other prisoners.
An inquest into the death of Lee Bowen will be held shortly. It would be wrong for me to comment further until the inquest is
Column 333complete, but I will write to you again after the inquest's findings are known.
On 1 November there were 452 staff and 740 prisoners at the prison.
The prison is subject to continuous inspection by the on-site controller, a senior prison governor, who ensures that the contractual obligations set for Premier Prison Services are met. A Prison Service area manager recently also spent some time at the prison to monitor the operation of the prison. Visits to the prison have been carried out at regular intervals by other Prison Service personnel, including the area manager. As for all prisons, there is a Board of Visitors whose independent members visit prison regularly. The Prison will also be subject to inspection by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.
The contract for Doncaster is next due for review in June 1999.
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what appeals procedure exists for those individuals who believe they have been unfairly excluded from working in the Prison Service; (2) if he will make a statement of his policy on employing at prisons individuals with criminal records incurred as minors; (3) whether a higher level of screening is applied to permanent Prison Service staff rather than the staff of contractors and agencies working within prisons; and what are the reasons for this; (4) if he will list the convictions which disqualify individuals from working in prisons.
Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Peter Luff, dated 8 December 1994:
The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Questions about recruitment to the Prison Service.
The Prison Service is exempt from the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 for spent convictions. Candidates for employment in prisons must declare all offences. There is no definitive list of convictions which disqualify individuals. Where candidates have criminal records, including records as minors, each case is treated on its merits according to the nature of the record and the type of post for which a candidate is applying. For prison officers, establishments are advised that any applicant who has committed a serious crime or served a period of detention should be rejected.
Where they believe they have been unfairly excluded, candidates for employment in the Prison Service may appeal in writing. In line with Civil Service policy, specific reasons for rejection are not normally divulged, except where basic eligibility criteria have not been met.
Where the staff of contractors and agencies working within prisons are employed on a regular basis or for a long period they are subject to the same level of screening as permanent prison staff. Those employed for a short period are still subject to criminal record checks and are escorted within the prison.
Column 334(2) what inquiries are made about the criminal records of staff employed at Blakenhurst prison (a) on permanent contracts and (b) as temporary employees of subcontractors.
Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Peter Luff, dated 8 December 1994:
The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Questions about security checks on staff at Blakenhurst prison.
All people who work at contracted prisons and for the contracted court escort service are subject to routine enquiries about their suitability to work with prisoners. These enquiries are similar to those made in relation to applicants for Prison Service employment. Candidates who apply for employment, either in the public or the private sector of the Prison Service, in custodial duties are exempted from the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 by the Rehabilitation Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 and therefore convictions ordinarily regarded as "spent" are taken into account.
Security audits are carried out at regular intervals for all contracted prisons and court escort services to ensure all staff have undergone such clearance. The last audit at Blakenhurst did not reveal any employees with a criminal record.
Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Peter Luff, dated 8 December 1994:
The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about Mr. Tony Urosevic.
As you know from Michael Forsyth's letter to you of 2 September, the Prison Service reviewed Mr. Urosevic's case but decided that it was not possible to clear Mr. Urosevic for employment at Blakenhurst and that it was not, therefore, possible for him to be reinstated.
Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will itemise the refurbishment works undertaken on buildings housing departmental staff in the last three years, indicating the costs involved and the nature of the refurbishments.
Mr. Michael Howard: The following refurbishment projects, excluding routine maintenance and the replacement of plant and equipment, have been carried out in Home Office buildings in the last three financial years.
|1992-93 |1993-94 |1994-95 |£ |£ |£ --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- London Windows (Queen Anne's Gate) |139,134.00|- |53,187.00 Toilets (Queen Anne's Gate) |- |38,968.00 |83,331.00 Hot water points (Queen Anne's Gate) |- |- |18,989.00 Toilets (Abell House) |- |11,713.00 |- Hot water points (Abell House) |- |6,004.00 |- Hot water points (Horseferry House) |- |1,034.00 |- Toilets (UKPA, Clive House) |- |73,000.00 |- Installation of ceiling fans (UKPA, Clive House) |- |2,500.00 |- Office/toilet areas (UKPA, Hayes) |111,000.00|21,000.00 |- Provinces Office/workshop/laboratory (PSDB, Sandridge) |459,846.00|- |- Workshop (PSDB, Sandridge) |- |13,222.00 |- Laboratories (PSDB, Sandridge) |- |167,019.00|- Offices (UKPA, Liverpool) |12,000.00 |- |- Kitchen/restroom (UKPA, Liverpool) |16,500.00 |1,500.00 |- Ceiling fans (UKPA, Liverpool) |- |3,500.00 |- Toilets (UKPA, Newport) |- |78,000.00 |- Wall fans (UKPA, Newport) |3,000.00 |- |- Offices (Supply and Transport, Branston) |- |8,000.00 |- |-------- |-------- |-------- Total |741,480.00|425,460.00|155,507.00
Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Harry Cohen, dated 8 December 1994:
The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the review of the Prison Service's policy on HIV.
The review of HIV in prisons carried out by the Prison Service AIDS Advisory Committee has been completed and its recommendations are being considered.