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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 8 February 1995

DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Oxygenated Petrol

Mr. Dowd: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what research his Department has carried out into oxygenated petrol; what plans he has for research into the environmental suitability of oxygenated petrol; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: This is a development issue which is being pursued by the fuel industry, but the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is considering launching a programme into fundamental combustion research aimed at raising the efficiency and reducing the harmful emissions of the combustive process.

Ian Greer

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many items he has received from Ian Greer in each week of the last month.

Mr. David Hunt: None.

Special Advisers

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will list the severance payments made to special advisers in each of the last five years indicating (a) the amount and (b) the date.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary on 6 February 1995, Official Report , column 69 .

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Ian Greer

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many items he has received from Ian Greer in each week of the last month.

Mr. John M. Taylor: I received one item from Ian Greer last week. It was an invitation to a reception which my constituency secretary declined on my behalf.

Child Witnesses

Mrs. Llin Golding: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list all fast-tracking initiatives being made to reduce delays faced by child witnesses; and if these initiatives are to be evaluated for broader application.


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Mr. John M. Taylor: Fast-tracking schemes are currently in place at the following Crown court centres: Leeds, Lincoln, Newcastle, covering cases from Durham; Peterborough; Plymouth, pilot scheme; Preston and Winchester, pilot scheme. Area criminal justice liaison committees are still considering whether similar schemes can be set up in other Crown court centres. However, a number of informal schemes are also in existence, in response to the duty on the courts to ensure that waiting times in cases involving child witnesses are kept to a minimum.

The Criminal Justice Consultative Council is due to review the introduction of fast tracking schemes in the Crown court at its next meeting in April, when a decision will be taken as to further action.

TREASURY

VAT

Mr. Mandelson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a table comparable to table 3 of appendix 7 of HC 289 of Session 1990 91 giving estimates of the increase in VAT payments between 1991 92 and 1995 96 by decile group.

Mr. Nelson: Latest estimates of VAT paid by decile of income are given in the Central Statistical Office article "Effects of taxes and benefits upon household income 1993" on the December 1994 edition of "Economic Trends". VAT payments in 1995 96 will depend on what happens to earnings and prices, and on household composition and spending patterns.

Lending Package (Mexico)

Mr. Denzil Davies: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of the short-term lending package for Mexico authorised by central banks through the bank of international settlement has been promised by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Nelson: No formal lending proposal has yet been received from the BIS.

Capital Gains Tax

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were the costs of collecting capital gains tax for each of the previous five years.

Sir George Young: The figures for the five tax years to 1993 94--the latest figure available--are:


          |£ million          

------------------------------

1989-90   |34.3               

1990-91   |39.0               

1991-92   |43.3               

1992-93   |38.4               

1993-94   |41.9               

The figures quoted exclude tax on gains made by companies included in corporation tax. Some of the costs associated with companies, however, cannot be separately identified and are therefore included in the costs figures for CGT rather than corporation tax.


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Retail Prices Index

Mr. William Powell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the monthly changes in the retail prices index since January 1989, with January 1989 being taken as 100.

Mr. Nelson: Monthly percentage changes in the retail prices index are available from the Central Statistical


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Office database--series CZEQ--which can be accessed by the House of Commons Library.

Rebasing the index by using January 1989 as 100 rather than the official January 1987 = 100 base has little effect on monthly changes. There are, however, slight differences due to the retail prices index methodology of calculating percentage changes from index numbers rounded to 1 decimal place. The figures requested are listed below.


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Monthly percentage changes in the Retail Prices Index (January 1989 = 100)                                                                  

          |January  |February |March    |April    |May      |June     |July     |August   |September|October  |November |December           

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Year                                                                                                                                        

1989      |-        |0.7      |0.5      |1.8      |0.6      |0.4      |0.1      |0.2      |0.7      |0.9      |0.8      |0.2                

1990      |0.7      |0.6      |1.0      |3.0      |0.9      |0.4      |0.1      |1.1      |1.0      |0.8      |-0.3     |-0.1               

1991      |0.3      |0.5      |0.4      |1.3      |0.3      |0.4      |-0.2     |0.2      |0.4      |0.3      |0.4      |0.1                

1992      |-0.1     |0.5      |0.3      |1.5      |0.4      |0.0      |-0.4     |0.1      |0.4      |0.3      |-0.1     |-0.4               

1993      |-1.0     |0.6      |0.4      |1.0      |0.3      |-0.1     |-0.2     |0.4      |0.4      |0.1      |-0.1     |0.2                

1994      |-0.4     |0.5      |0.3      |1.2      |0.4      |0.0      |-0.5     |0.5      |0.2      |0.2      |0.1      |0.5                

Beer Excise Duty

Mr. Battle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to reconsider the Government's position on beer excise duty; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The Government's position with respect to the excise duty on beer and other alcoholic drinks was made clear in my right hon. and learned Friend's Budget statement and in his further statement to the House. The increase in duty which took effect from 1 January 1995 resulted from the decision to leave the rate of VAT on domestic fuel and power at 8 per cent.

Mr. Battle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received from Yorkshire brewers regarding the excise duty on beer.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Representations have been received from the Yorkshire Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association.

Mr. Battle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what research his Department has carried out into the effects of maintaining a higher level of duty on beer in the United Kingdom than in other European Union member states.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: HM Customs and Excise has considered the effects of the differing level of beer duty among EU member states, the impact these have had on UK production and revenue receipts, the findings of consultants engaged by the European Commission and the various representations made by trade and other bodies.

Exchange Rates

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the extent to which the exchange rate would have fallen against the deutschmark and the United States dollar since the end of June 1994 if interest rates had not been raised since then.

Mr. Nelson: Interest rates are set to deliver the Government's inflation objective. Movements in exchange rates depend on many factors beside interest rates, and it is not possible to estimate the effect of any one factor with any degree of confidence.

Customs and Excise Office, Ellesmere Port

Mr. Miller: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimates he has made on the effectiveness of


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anti-drug smuggling activities in relation to the proposed closure of Ellesmere Port Customs and Excise office.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The estimation of the effectiveness of anti- smuggling activity in a particular area is a matter for the head of the local Customs and Excise executive unit.

Customs has examined the effect of moving its operational anti-smuggling base from Ellesmere Port to Liverpool and has concluded that there will be no adverse effect on anti-smuggling control.

Ian Greer

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many items he has received from Ian Greer in each week of the last month.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: None.

LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

Ian Greer

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Lord President of the Council how many items he has received from Ian Greer in each week of the last month.

Mr. Newton: None.

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund

Mr. David Shaw: To ask the Lord President of the Council when he expects the accounts of the parliamentary contributory pension fund for 1993 94 to be presented to Parliament.

Mr. Newton: The accounts of the parliamentary contributory pension fund for 1993 94 were laid in the House on 11 January 1995--HOC paper 129.


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Badge Messengers

Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the right hon. Member for

Berwick-upon-Tweed, as representing the House of Commons Commission what was the longest period of continuous duty worked by a badge messenger in the weeks commencing (a) 23 January and (b) 30 January and for what hours he or she worked; what was the longest week worked by any badge messenger; what plans the Commission has to review the working hours of badge messengers; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Beith: There are no current plans for the Commission to review the working hours of badge messengers, but they will be included in any examination of alteration of patterns of work caused by revised sittings arrangements of the House. I have asked the Serjeant at Arms to write to the right hon. Member with the operational details that he requests.

Official Paid Post Cards

Mr. Steen: To ask the Chairman of the Administration Committee how many official paid post cards to acknowledge with thanks the receipt of a communication have been printed with an air mail marking; what was the cost; for what reasons it was necessary to produce them; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael J. Martin [holding answer 7 February 1995]: In 1991, the House of Commons Services Committee gave approval in principle for the free provision of telephone calls and postal services to the main institutions of the European Community and the offices of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of the Western Europe Union. These proposals were approved subsequently by the Commission, and a range of stationery for use by Members in correspondence to approved official destinations in Europe was subsequently made available. I have asked the Serjeant at Arms to write to the hon. Member about the cost of the postcards.

Disabled People Access

Mr. Cox: To ask the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee what measures (a) have recently been taken and (b) will be taken to assist people with disabilities to gain better access to the Palace of Westminster.

Mr. Ray Powell: The Committee has given detailed and careful consideration to the consultant's report on access by disabled people commissioned by the Parliamentary Works Directorate and submitted to the Committee on 30 June 1993. The report is a very comprehensive study dealing with the Palace and 1, The Abbey garden. The cost of implementing all the recommendations proposed by the consultant was estimated by the Director of Works to be £1,272,700.

In addition to receiving written evidence, the Committee also took oral evidence on four occasions including sessions with the all-party disablement group, English Heritage, the consultant and Officers of the House. Oral and written evidence received by the Committee during the inquiry will be published in due course: the consultants report will be deposited in the Library and in the Record Office, House of Lords. The relevant minutes of proceedings of the Committee are being published today.


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Many of the consultant's proposals were considered uncontroversial by the Committee and have already been implemented by the Parliamentary Works Directorate. Other schemes needing greater expenditure have been endorsed and will be included in the programme of works. A full list of the items undertaken or planned has been placed in the Library. The consultant's report also recommended several projects which, in the committee's view, would be highly controversial, if implemented. The committee has therefore considered these proposals in greater detail. As with other recommendations, it has been necessary, in seeking to make possible dignified access to the various parts of the building for people with disabilities, to take into account the need to preserve the historic fabric of the Palace, which is a grade 1 listed building of national and international importance. The committee was concerned that the provision of access to certain areas should not subject disabled people, particularly those in wheelchairs, to increased risk if an emergency evacuation of the premises became necessary, and has asked the Serjeant at Arms and the Director of Parliamentary Works to conduct a further study into this aspect.

One of the areas where access for disabled people is most difficult is the Grand Committee Room and Jubilee Room. The consultant's proposal was for a lift from Westminster Hall to the Grand Committee Room level, involving a cavity being opened up in the 12th century walls of Westminster Hall, at a total cost of £230,000. The Committee was aware, in considering this proposal, that the adjacent Westminster Hall cafeteria is due to be converted to a visitor centre following approval by the House on 12 July 1994 of a report by the Catering Committee on Refreshment Provision for Line of Route visitors, HC, 1993 94, 307. The Committee therefore considered that the design work for the conversion should contain a requirement for the architect to consider how a lift could be incorporated in this area. This would have less impact on Westminster Hall and the Grand Committee Room. As the conversion to a visitor centre cannot take place until a suitable alternative for the present lunchtime users of the cafeteria is provided, the Committee also proposes that a replacement for the current chairlift which would allow disabled people to remain in their wheelchairs should be sought as a matter of urgency. The Committee also agreed to support the provision of a disabled person's toilet outside the Grand Committee Room. Another area which presents considerable difficulty for anyone using a wheelchair is the Crypt Chapel. Public access is via entrances in Old Palace Yard and Westminster Hall. The Committee has asked the Serjeant at Arms to examine whether alternative access arrangements via the Cloisters are practicable. The Committee does not, however, favour the solution proposed by the consultant, of a chair lift.

Access by disabled people to the Ground, Principal, Committee and Upper Committee floors by disabled people is also vital. The Committee supports the proposal of the Parliamentary Works Directorate to upgrade lift No.15 to ensure that these floors are easily accessible.

The consultant proposed that a central handrail should be provided on the stairs leading to St. Stephens Hall. As there are already handrails at the side of this staircase, the entrance is narrow, and as a separate route is available for people in wheelchairs, the Committee did not support this


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proposal. Other proposals supported by the Committee included the provision of a tactile model of the building and consideration of a sound guide on the line-of-routeto assist visually impaired visitors; and further improvements to the existing induction loop provision to include all Committee Rooms.

As part of the review, and in the light of the anticipated beneficial effects of the provision of the New Parliamentary Building (Phase 2), the design for which includes improved facilities for people with disabilities, the Committee has invited the Serjeant at Arms to give further consideration to what organisational or administrative changes might be made to assist disabled people. I understand that similar arrangements are being made in another place to implement the consultant's proposals.

The measures and recommendations outlined above are the result of careful and sympathetic consideration by the Accommodation and Works Committee and, when complete, will enable people with disabilities to reach all but the most difficult parts of this historic building in a


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dignified manner. The Committee will continue to consider the needs of people with disabilities as new works projects are proposed.

WALES

Training Courses

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list each training and tuition course with a total cost exceeding £5, 000 paid for by (a) his Department and (b) his agencies during the last 12 months, showing the title and objectives of each course, the name of the organisations engaged, the total cost of each course, a summary of the responsibilities of staff members taking part and the process for course evaluation by the Department or agency.

Mr. Redwood: During 1 January 1994 to 31 December 1994 the Welsh Office purchased five training courses costing more than £5,000 each. Details are as follows:


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                                                                                                                                             |Total cost                                    |Responsibility of                                                                            

                                                                                                                                             |(exclusive                                    |participants                                                                                 

Course title                                   |Course objective                              |Organisation                                  |of VAT)                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                             |£                                                                                                                                           

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Developing a Strategic Approach                |To enable senior managers to develop and      |Nexus consulting                              |7,050                                         |Senior Managers                                                                              

                                               |  encourage their staff to take a more        |12 Whitworth Close                                                                                                                                                                         

                                               |  strategic view of their work.               |Wellesbourne                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                              |Warwickshire                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Management Skills for Senior Managers          |To show senior managers how they can help     |Weavers Down                                  |8,947                                         |Senior Managers                                                                              

                                               |  staff develop and how to gain the           |Seymour Hall                                                                                                                                                                               

                                               |  co-operation of their staff by              |Bratton Seymour                                                                                                                                                                            

                                               |  demonstrating leadership.                   |Somerset                                                                                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Effective Presentation Skills for              |To help senior staff to develop effective oral|Weavers Down                                  |5,070                                         |Senior Managers                                                                              

  Senior Managers                              |communicating techniques in the context                                                                                                                                                                                                   

                                               |  of advice and presentations to Ministers                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                               |  and presentations to senior officials in                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Developing Personal Effectiveness              |To encourage staff to consider their personal |Nexus Consulting                              |8,225                                         |Junior and Middle                                                                            

                                               |  effectiveness, future potential and                                                                                                       |  Managers                                                                                   

                                               |  development needs and to show them                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                               |  how to make practical action plans to                                                                                                                                                                                                   

                                               |  take their development forward.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Development Training for HEO/SEO               |To develop the following important skills for |Weavers Down                                  |6,267                                                                                                                                       

  staff                                        |  middle managers: policy and planning;                                                                                                     |Managers                                                                                     

                                               |  setting objectives; managing staff;                                                                                                                                                                                                     

                                               |  teamwork; written and oral                                                                                                                                                                                                              

                                               |  communication; managing meetings;                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                                               |  making decisions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Note:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

1. The courses were evaluated by scrutinising the participants' course reaction questionnaires and tutors' reports.                                                                                                                                                                       

Speech Therapists

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) what initiatives he is taking to obtain more speech therapists in Wales; and if he will make a statement;

(2) when he will set up a north Wales training scheme for speech therapists; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Richards: The recruitment and retention of speech therapists is a matter for employers. They will need to liaise with the education sector over the number of students entering the appropriate training.


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Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many speech therapy vacancies have been vacant for six months or more; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Richards: This information is not held centrally.

Language Units

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) if he will visit language units in Clwyd; and if he will make a statement.


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(2) what is his policy concerning language units in maintained schools in Wales;

(3) which language units he has visited in (a) Clwyd and (b) Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Richards: Neither my right hon. Friend nor I has yet paid a specific visit to a language unit but I will bear it in mind for my future programme. It is the responsibility of local education authorities and schools to make appropriate provision for pupils, including those children with special educational needs who may need support from a speech and language unit.

Opencast Coal Sites

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the opencast coal sites in Wales.

Mr. Redwood: There are currently 17 operational licensed opencast sites in Wales. These are as follows:


Site                  |County                       

----------------------------------------------------

East Pit Extension    |Dyfed                        

Ffos Las              |Dyfed                        

Gilfach Iago          |Dyfed                        

Lane End              |Clwyd                        

Springhill Quarry     |Clwyd                        

The Smelt             |Clwyd                        

Kays and Kears        |Gwent                        

Great White Tip       |Mid Glamorgan                

Helid Colliery        |Mid Glamorgan                

Llanilid West Revised |Mid Glamorgan                

Henllan Uchaf         |Powys                        

Blaenpergwm South     |West Glamorgan               

Brawds Level          |West Glamorgan               

Derlwyn 2             |West Glamorgan               

Lletty'r Crudd        |West Glamorgan               

Nant Helen            |West Glamorgan               

Tyn y Craig           |West Glamorgan               

School Playing Fields

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his policy on school playing fields.

Mr. Richards: The Government's policy on school playing fields is laid down in the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1981, which set minimum area standards. In addition, policy planning guidance note 17 states that, with the needs of the wider community in mind, playing fields should normally be preserved.

Art Collection

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will take steps to ensure that the Welsh Arts Council's art collection will be available for viewing by the general public.

Mr. Richards: The Secretary of State has no powers of direction in this matter; it is an issue for the Arts Council of Wales.

Pre-school Playgroups

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many pre-school playgroups there are in each of the counties of Wales.


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Mr. Richards: The latest available figures provided by Wales PPA are for 1993 94. They are taken from "Statistics from Wales PPA Facts and Figures 1993 94" and are as follows:


           |Number       

-------------------------

Clwyd      |79           

Dyfed      |45           

Mid Glam   |80           

South Glam |89           

West Glam  |17           

Gwent      |68           

Gwynedd    |32           

Powys      |34           

Wales      |444          

These do not include combined parent and toddler groups/playgroups.

Ian Greer

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many items he has received from Ian Greer in each week of the last month.

Mr. Redwood: No items have been received from Ian Greer.

Special Advisers

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the severance payments made to special advisers in each of the last five years indicating (a) the amount and (b) the date.

Mr. Redwood [holding answer 1 February 1995]: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 6 February, Official Report, column 69, by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Prisoners

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the current ratio of staff to prisoners at (a) Doncaster, (b) the Wolds, (c) Lindholme, (d) Wakefield, (e) New Hall and (f) Wakefield prisons; and what was the figure (i) six months and (ii) 12 months ago.

Mr. Michael Forsyth: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Martin Redmond, dated 8 February 1995:

The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the ratio of staff to prisoners at Doncaster and Wolds, both of which are local prisons, at Lindholme, a category C prison, New Hall which is a closed women's prison and Wakefield, a dispersal prison. The number of prisoners per member of staff at each prison is as follows.


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          |December|June    |December         

Prison    |1993    |1994    |1994             

----------------------------------------------

Doncaster |not open|0.49    |1.75             

Wolds     |1.45    |1.17    |1.47             

Lindholme |1.44    |1.49    |1.45             

Wakefield |1.00    |1.07    |1.10             

New Hall  |0.85    |0.80    |0.89             

Mr. Straw: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has to alter the arrangements for incentives and privileges for prisoners.

Mr. Michael Forsyth: The Prison Service is developing a national framework for incentives and earned privileges. The emphasis will be on prisoners earning privileges by good behaviour and participation in work or other constructive activity. I will be making an announcement later.

Poisons

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the total number of (a) category A, (b) category B and (c) category C places available in each of the Prison Service regions; and if he will list the changes that have taken place during the last 12 months between those categories.

Mr. Michael Forsyth: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. George Howarth, dated 8 February 1995:

The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the total number of Category A, B and C places available in each Prison Service region.

Prisons are defined by operational function and an establishment will have, according to its particular function, accommodation designed for holding prisoners up to a particular security category. Information on the security standard of accommodation available in each of the Prison Service areas at closed training prisons and local prisons is given in the attached tables. Copies of these tables have been placed in the Library of the House.


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