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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 11 May 2000


Business Co-ordination Unit

Maria Eagle: To ask the President of the Council what plans she has to set up a unit to co-ordinate contacts between the business sector and Government Departments. [122225]

Mrs. Beckett: Following discussions with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, I have set up a new Business Co-ordination unit within my Department. It will work with the DTI and Treasury to co-ordinate contacts across other Government Departments with the business community.

The Government have always been committed to maintaining good channels of communication between themselves and the business community, and this unit will make further contributions to that work.

I have been asked to take on this role by the Prime Minister because of my role as cross-Government spokesperson and my experience of leading initiatives which cut across the whole of Whitehall. I will be working closely with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


Civil Service (Sickness Rates)

Barbara Follett: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what was the overall level of sickness absence in the Civil Service in 1998. [122148]

Marjorie Mowlam: The report 'Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service 1998' prepared for my Department by BMI Health Services Ltd. shows that when the same methodology as in previous years was applied the average level of sickness absence was 9.8 days per staff year. This compares with a figure of 10.1 days for 1997. Calculated on the basis of absence per person, the figure for the Civil Service was 8.4 days. The report contains a comprehensive analysis of the 1998 figures.

In tandem with the preparation of that report, Departments and agencies have separately been undertaking audits of their monitoring systems as recommended in the July 1998 report 'Managing Attendance in the Public Sector'. In some cases these audits have revealed an element of under recording. The BMI report also contains figures reworked to reflect the audit findings, and these show that the average figure

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for sickness absence in 1998 was 10.3 days per staff year. These revised figures came too late and in insufficient detail for them to be taken into account in the report's data analysis.

My Department is continuing to work with other Departments and agencies as they take forward their plans to reduce sickness absence. Overall the Civil Service has been targeted to reduce sickness absence by 20 per cent. for 2001 and 30 per cent. for 2003 against the 1998 baseline.

I have placed copies of the BMI report in the Libraries of the House.


Asylum Seekers

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for additional capital expenditure in relation to the handling of asylum claimants in the vicinity of Gatwick Airport. [121509]

Mrs. Roche: The Immigration Service at Gatwick is at present looking at accommodation in the Horley/Crawley area in order to improve its capability in handling asylum and other casework. Dealing with asylum claims is one of the Immigration Service's top priorities. A central unit in the Gatwick area is being considered, but as yet no firm decisions have been made.

Animal Experiments

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many of the (a) transgenic pigs and (b) monkeys killed in the last four years died at Huntingdon Life Sciences; and if he will make a statement. [121506]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 prevents me from disclosing detailed information of this nature about an individual establishment licensed under the Act. We are examining Section 24 in the context of Freedom of Information changes.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many animals broken down by species were allowed into the United Kingdom for use in experiments for each year from 1990 to date; and if he will make a statement. [121507]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Home Office does not record centrally the number of animals used in scientific procedures broken down according to their source.

Since 1995, Table 2 of the Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, published annually in separate volumes for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, has reported the number of scientific procedures carried out using species listed in Schedule 2 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 analysed according to the source of the animals used. Similar statistics were not collected and published before 1995.

The numbers of scientific procedures carried out in Great Britain and Northern Ireland using Schedule 2 species acquired direct from sources outside the United Kingdom in each year from 1995 to 1998 were as follows.

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Species of animal1995199619971998
Guinea Pig1600793
Quail (Cotumix cotumix)0000

Statistics for 1999 are currently being collected and are due to be published in July 2000.

Police and Fire Authority Pensions

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the impact of pension payments on police and fire authorities' budgets in each of the next three years; and if he will make a statement. [121479]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Under the Central Local Partnership, the Home Office has been working closely with representatives of fire and police authorities to assess resource demands for the next three years. Projections by the services concerned were made by the Local Government Association's Fire Service Expenditure Forecasting Group and the Association of Police Authorities/Association of Chief Police Officers in its report "Policing the Future - Report of the Police Service Expenditure Forecasting Group". Pensions pressures are being taken into account in consideration of Spending Review 2000.

Police Manpower

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of the police in post on an average day in 1999 were available for duty on that day. [121675]

Mr. Charles Clarke: This information is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Community Service Orders

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people were given a community service orders in each of the last five years; how many of such orders were breached in each year; and how many people who breached those orders were benefit claimants. [121525]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Information for the years 1988 to 1998 on the number of persons given a community service order and the number who breach such orders is published in Table 7.26 of the command paper "Criminal statistics, England and Wales, 1998". A copy of this publication is available in the Library.

Data on the number of persons breaching an order who are benefit claimants are not collected centrally.

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Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) (No. 2) Bill

Sir Nicholas Lyell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his oral statement of 7 March 2000, Official Report, column 886, on the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) (No. 2) Bill, on what basis he calculated that the removal of the right to elect trial by jury in either-way cases will produce savings of more than £120 million per year. [121294]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I refer the right hon. and learned Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) on 2 March 2000, Official Report, column 377W.

Lowdham Grange Prison

Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will publish the report of the Chief Inspector of Prisons following the inspection of HMP Lowdham Grange. [121489]

Mr. Boateng: The Chief Inspector published his report on 27 April.

Murder and Rape Trials

Sir Nicholas Lyell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the average waiting period in the last 12 months for which figures are available between charge and commencement of trial in cases of (a) murder and (b) rape; and what were the equivalent figures at 1 May (i) 1997, (ii) 1998 and (iii) 1999. [121290]

Jane Kennedy: I have been asked to reply.

Overall average waiting times from charge to start of trail for offences dealt with at the Crown Court are not available. Average waiting times are available separately for the period from charge to committal from magistrates courts, and for the period from committal to the Crown Court to start of trial. However the available data for both the magistrates courts and the Crown Court cannot identify murder and rape cases separately from broader offence groupings.

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