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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 13 July 1995

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Paper Week Exhibition (Upper Waiting Hall)

Sir Roger Moate: To ask the Chairman of the Administration Committee if he has considered an application for an exhibition relating to paper week to be displayed in the Upper Waiting Hall.

Mr. Michael J. Martin: I understand that, under procedures agreed by the Administration Committee, arrangements have been made for the exhibition to be held in the Upper Waiting Hall from Monday 30 October to Friday 3 November 1995.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Rainbow Warrior (French Attack)

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the French Government about the attack on the Rainbow Warrior; and if he will make a statement on his Department's policy in respect of this incident.     [34156]

Mr. David Davis: No representations have been made to the French Government about the Rainbow Warrior action. We have however reminded the French authorities of their obligations in respect of any UK nationals who might be detained.

Common Agricultural Policy

Ms Quin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects the intergovernmental conference reflections group to discuss the reform of the common agricultural policy.     [33609]

Mr. David Davis: The IGC study group has not yet discussed the common agricultural policy, and may not do so in any details. The 1992 MacSharry reforms demonstrated that the problems of the CAP stem less from the provisions of the treaty than from the policy which has been developed on the basis of those provisions. We shall continue to work for reform of the CAP in the appropriate fora.

Embassies (Vehicles)

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 6 July, Official Report , column 326 , if he will provide a breakdown of the figures for vehicles bought for posts abroad, specifying where possible the post and type of vehicle.     [34290]

Mr. Hanley: I shall arrange for the information requested to be placed in the Library of the House shortly.


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Consulates and Embassies (South Pacific)

Dr. Marek: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the United Kingdom consulates and embassies in the south Pacific region, indicating the number of diplomatic staff employed at each location (a) currently and (b) 10 years ago.     [34186]

Mr. Hanley: The number of UK-based staff slots at each post in the south Pacific region is as follows:


Post         |1995|1985     

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

Canberra     |28  |48       

Sydney       |4   |4        

Perth        |2   |2        

Brisbane     |2   |2        

Melbourne    |2   |2        

Wellington   |14  |15       

Auckland     |2   |4        

Port Moresby |4   |4        

Suva         |4   |6        

Nuku'Alofa   |2   |2        

Vila         |2   |2        

Honiara      |2   |2        

Tarawa       |0   |1        

Mrs. Quereshi Bibi

Mr. Madden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to the answer of the Secretary of State for the Home Department of 29 June, Official Report, column 765, when a decision is to be taken by the post in Islamabad, in the case of Mrs. Quereshi Bibi--ref. BV100/25109; and if he will make a statement.     [34319]

Mr. Hanley: I have asked the high commission at Islamabad for details and will arrange for the hon. Member to receive a substantive reply from the migration and visa correspondence unit as soon as possible.

Consultants

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which firms have won computer consultancy contracts from his Department and its agencies over the last five years; and what is the number of contracts per firm.     [33893]

Mr. Hanley [holding answer 12 July 1995]: The FCO is involved in a number of strategic projects to develop and enhance its communications and information handling facilities. As such, it has dealt with many different software suppliers and consultants. The information is not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department and its agencies have spent on computer consultancy in each of the last five years; and what is the expected expenditure over the next five years.     [33862]


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Mr. Hanley [holding answer 12 July 1995]: The FCO spend on computer consultancy over the last five years was:

1990 91: £3,985,000

1991 92: £4,074,000

1992 93: £4,527,000

1993 94: £5,076,000

1994 95: £4,984,000

1995 96: £6,300,000

1996 97: £6,100,000

1997 98: £5,700,000

1998 99: £5,700,000

1999 2000: £6,000,000

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Land Registry

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what was the outcome of the triennial review of Her Majesty's Land Registry.     [34822]

Mr. John M. Taylor: Her Majesty's Land Registry, a separate department of Government since 1862, was established as an executive agency in July 1990 and a Government trading fund in April 1993. Under its statutory powers it guarantees and grants legal title to property rights in England and Wales and provides the statutory machinery for the creation and transfer of these secured rights. The department, wholly financed from fees paid by those using its services, makes no call on public funds.

An evaluation report, the results of which were made known to the House on 14 July 1994, concluded that the Land Registry had benefited considerably from its move to agency status. It had been a major enabling factor in promoting sound public sector management. By the achievement of progressively improving performance targets and a successful computerisation programme, the Land Registry has made a major contribution to the simplification of conveyancing in England and Wales, particularly through the development of faster and easier access to the public land register. It reduced fees by 10.6 per cent. in October 1994.

In order to supplement this evaluation, consultants were appointed to carry out a "prior options" review to consider a range of options for involving the private sector in delivering the services provided by the Land Registry. They confirmed that the present status arrangements would ensure the continuing credibility of the Land Registry consistent with a cost effective, high-quality service likely to result in lower land registration fees to the public. The consultants identified scope for private sector partnerships in a number of important Land Registry initiatives. This includes further development of electronic access to the public land register, taking forward the national land information system promoted by the citizen's charter, and the potential conversion of the title plans of England and Wales to computer format. Consultants also saw scope for the Land Registry, in partnership, providing specialist advice to those overseas Governments seeking to establish stable private property


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rights, secured lending and inexpensive systems of property transfer.

The Lord Chancellor has concluded that it is right for Her Majesty's Land Registry to continue as an executive agency and trading fund. The Land Registry will concentrate on its existing plans to further simplify and reduce the cost of conveyancing in England and Wales by meeting the financial, productivity and developmental targets set for the next five years and by continuing its full market testing programme, all set out in its corporate and efficiency plans. The registry will also actively pursue private sector partnerships for the important initiatives identified. It will continue to capitalise on the scope for contracting out where this contributes to its strategic aims and objectives. A new framework document is being drawn up to cover the next five years and on completion will be placed in the Library of the House.

Legal Aid

Mr. Boateng: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how much he estimates it will cost to extend legal aid to qualifying persons bringing personal injury claims up to the value of £10,000 on the proposed civil litigation fasttrack.     [34245]

Mr. John M. Taylor: Until there has been an opportunity for the Lord Chancellor to consider the proposals in greater detail, it will not be possible to make an assessment of the potential cost or savings to the legal aid fund.

Mr. Boateng: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how much he expects the Legal Aid Board to save if children are no longer able to be parties to legal actions brought on their behalf against the decisions of local education

authorities.     [34242]

Mr. Taylor: No estimate has been made.

Mr. Boateng: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what factors led to the delay in the Legal Aid Board sanctioning of funds for the appeal to the High Court in the case of Emma Van de Velde v. Special Needs Tribunal.     [34246]

Mr. Taylor: The administration of civil legal aid is the responsibility of the Legal Aid Board. However, I understand that both of Miss Van de Velde's applications were dealt with promptly by the board; the first within 12 working days, and the second, for an emergency certificate, within 24 hours.

Mr. Boateng: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to (a) estimate and (b) publish the potential cost savings to the legal aid fund to be made from raising the upper limit on small claims from £1,000 to £3,000.     [34243]

Mr. Taylor: The Lord Chancellor has announced his intention to implement Lord Woolf's recommendations that the small claims limit should be raised to £3,000 for all claims except those for personal injury. Lord Woolf's recommendations is based on the desirability of making the less formal and more affordable small claims procedure available to more litigants. There are likely to be some small savings to the legal aid fund from increasing the limit. The level of such savings is still being assessed. I will write to the hon. Member when this work is completed.


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Civil Justice Reform

Mr. Boateng: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what estimate he has made of the cost of implementing Lord Woolf's proposals for civil justice reform, with particular reference to (a) those relating to the greater use of information technology by judges and the Court Service, (b) a greater case management role for judges, (c) the appointment of a head of civil justice and (d) enhanced judicial training.     [34244]

Mr. John M. Taylor: Until there has been an opportunity for the Lord Chancellor to consider the proposals in greater detail, it will not be possible to provide any cost estimates.

Courts Agency

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what was the average time his Department took to respond to a letter from an hon. Member before the establishment of the Courts Agency; and what is the average time taken by the agency to respond to a letter from an hon. Member in the first three months of its operation.     [33166]

Mr. John M. Taylor: The information requested in the first part of the question could not be provided without disproportionate cost. However I refer the hon. Member to the Official Report for 18 April 1995, column 22 in which the Under-Secretary of State at the Office of Public Service and Science, replying to a question from the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Dover) said that in 1994, my Department replied to 83 per cent. of correspondence from right hon. and hon. Members within its 20 working day target. The second part of the question, concerning the average time taken by the Court Service to respond to a letter from an hon. Member, concerns a specific operational question upon which the chief executive of the court service is best placed to reply. I have accordingly asked him to do so.

Letter from Michael Huebner to Mr. Chris Mullin, dated 13 July 1995:

RESPONSES TO MP'S CORRESPONDENCE

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, has asked me to reply to the above Question concerning the time taken to reply to correspondence from Members of Parliament.

From the latest information available I am able to let you know that the average time taken to reply to a letter from a Member of Parliament was 22 days. I understand that a separate response is being provided by the Parliamentary Secretary about correspondence dealt with by his office.

LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

Staff Shareholdings

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Lord President of the Council how many staff in his Department or its agencies have (a) declared any company shareholdings they hold or (b) been advised to dispose of shareholdings in the last five years, indicating the companies concerned.

Mr. Newton: The answer in both cases is none.


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Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Winnick: To ask the Lord President of the Council what will be the involvement of the Deputy Prime Minister in the work of his office.

Mr. Newton: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) on 11 July, Official Report, column 496 97.

Ministerial Visits

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Lord President of the Council if he will list (a) details of all overseas trips made by him, or ministerial colleagues in his Department, paid for wholly or partly from public funds and (b) the purpose, destination and duration of such overseas trips, which officials accompanied him and the total cost in each case, including that of officials, to public funds for each year since 1992.

Mr. Newton: I visited Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong from 5 to 24 September 1992. The principal purpose of the visits to Australia and New Zealand was to meet my counterparts and to exchange experience in the field of procedural reforms, preparation and scrutiny of legislation etc. The principal purpose of the visit to Hong Kong was to study measures against drug misuse, in the context of my chairmanship of the Ministerial Committee on Drug Misuse; this visit was however curtailed by the recall of Parliament that year. The only official accompanying me was a private secretary. The cost to public funds was £20,904.

My right hon. and noble Friend Lord Wakeham, when Lord Privy Seal, visited Dubai from 24 to 26 April 1994 to open the "Britain in the Gulf" exhibition. The only official accompanying him was a private secretary. The cost to public funds was £2,619.

My right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal accompanied His Royal Highness the Duke of York to the French Government's 50th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of southern France from 13 to 15 August 1994. The only official accompanying him was a private secretary. Travel was in an aircraft of the queen's flight. There was no further cost to public funds.

OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION

Commodity Exchanges

Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance has been given by (a) his Department and (b) EU aid to establish or develop commodity exchanges for cocoa, coffee or sugar in developing countries; and if he will list the date, location and value of any aid projects of this type approved by his Department or the EU in the past five years.     [34301]

Mr. Hanley: We have supported a number of commodity-based projects in developing countries, bilaterally, through the EC and through the common fund for commodities. The objectives have included assistance with production, diversification and marketing, but the development of commodity exchanges in developing countries has not, to date, been one of our principal aims.


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A list of bilateral projects and those supported through the command fund for commodities in the field is being placed in the Library of the House. We are investigating whether a similar list exists for EC-funded projects.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Sex Shops and Cinemas

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list all legislation under which unauthorised sex shops and sex cinemas can be prosecuted; and how many prosecutions under each provision there have been in the last five years.     [32966]

Mr. Maclean: The legislation under which unauthorised sex shops and sex cinemas can be prosecuted is the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. The relevant provisions are as follows:

Schedule 3, paragraph 20(a), (b), (c) and (d)--offences relating to operating a sex establishment without or in contravention of the terms of a licence.

Schedule 3, paragraph 21--making a false statement in a connection with the application, renewal or transfer of a licence.

Under Schedule 3, paragraph 22(1), a person guilty of an offence under paragraphs 20 or 21 shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20,000.

Under schedule 3, paragraph 22(2) a person who fails to comply with paragraph 14(1) (display of copy of licence and standard conditions) shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale. Schedule 3, paragraph 23--offences relating to the admission or employment of persons under 18. A person guilty of an offence under this paragraph shall be 1iable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20,000.

Schedule 3, paragraph 24(6)--refusal to permit a constable or authorised local authority officer to exercise powers provided under paragraph 24. For every such refusal a person shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

In 1989, there was one prosecution under schedule 3 paragraph 20(a) of the Act. However it should be noted that statistics of court proceedings are based on returns made by the police to the Home Office and although these include offences where there has been no police involvement, such as those prosecutions instigated by Government Departments, local authorities, as in this case, and private organisations and individuals, the reporting of these types of offences is known to be incomplete.

Information collected from 1990 onwards does not identify individual offences committed under this specific Act from other summary offences.

Money Laundering

Mrs. Barbara Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many officers in each police service are devoted to investigating reports from banks of possible money

laundering.     [33119]

(2) how many reports the National Criminal Intelligence Service received from banks about possible money laundering in each of the last three years;     [33120]


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(3) what has been the average length of time taken over the last year (a) for NCIS to respond to reports of banks' suspicions of money laundering and pass the information on to individual police forces and (b) for individual police forces to investigate such reports;     [33121]

(4) how many staff at NCIS are currently employed in responding to banks' suspicions of money laundering;      [33122]

(5) what resources NCIS has invested in investigating money laundering in each of the last three years.     [33123]

Mr. Maclean: Investigation of possible cases of money laundering is a matter primarily for the police and HM Customs and Excise. The role of the financial intelligence and money laundering section of the National Criminal Intelligence Service is to research and develop disclosures made to it and to enhance their intelligence value before dissemination to the appropriate law enforcement agency. The cost of the section is estimated as:

1993 94: £450,000

1994 95: £460,000

1995 96: £530,000 (estimated)

As at 1 July 1995, there were 13 staff employed in the section. The number of disclosures received by NCIS from banks and other financial institutions in each of the last three years is as follows:

1992: 11,542

1993: 12,736

1994: 15,007

It is estimated that the average time taken by the NCIS to process financial disclosures during 1994 was 12 weeks. This has now been reduced to 20 working days.

Information with regard to the average time taken by police forces to process such reports is not collected.

I understand that there are about 360 trained financial investigation officers in police forces in England and Wales. Other officers will be involved in financial investigations at different times.

Transport of Prisoners (Securicor)

Mrs. Barbara Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what has been the total time by which court proceedings have been delayed because of late delivery of prisoners by Securicor to courts in London;     [32536]

(2) what has been the cost to public funds of delays to court proceedings caused by late delivery of prisoners by Securicor to courts in London;     [32538]

(3) what sanctions he has in respect of Securicor's failure to deliver prisoners to the Court of Appeal on time; and what action he plans to take;     [32540]

(4) how many prisoners Securicor has escorted to court since the service was contracted out; and how many of these have been delivered to court late, or within so little time to spare that court proceedings have been delayed.     [32542]


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Miss Widdecombe [holding answer 6 July 1995]: Responsibility for these matters 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 Mrs. Barbara Roche, dated 13 July 1995:

The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Questions about the delivery of prisoners to courts in London by Securicor Custodial Services Ltd.

Between the start of the contract on 27 June 1994 and 31 May 1995 Securicor escorted 52,422 prisoners to court. Of this total 1, 520 prisoners (2.9%) were delivered late for reasons within Securicor's control. Prisoners may also be delivered late to court for reasons that are outside Securicor's control. Under the terms of the contract, a late delivery occurs if a prisoner arrives at a court less than 30 minutes before the court starts sitting.

Securicor is meeting the performance target set out in the contract for delivering prisoners to court. If they fail to do so, default notices may be issued and financial remedies applied if performance does not improve. Ultimately, as with all contracts, the contract may be terminated. Since 20 June the latest time prisoners arrived at the Court of Appeal was 9.07 am. The contractual requirement is that they arrive by 9.30 am.

It is not possible to say by how much court proceedings have been delayed as a result of prisoners arriving late at court or how much any such delays may have cost. Not all cases at court involving prisoners begin at the same time and not all courts hear custody cases first.

You may be interested to know that in a recent survey, 86% of customers (the courts, the police and the prisons in London) were either satisfied or very satisfied with Securicor's punctuality and flexibility. In addition, 97% of court staff felt that Securicor were providing an equal (28%) or better (69%) service than they received before.


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