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Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986

Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what factors are taken into consideration when making the cost benefit analysis under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986; and to what extent these include (a) healthcare costs, (b) corporate profitability and (c) status of the individuals carrying out the procedures; [132576]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: To meet section 5(4) of the 1986 Act, any application to use protected animals in research must be subjected to a detailed cost/benefit assessment by Home Office Inspectors. The likely adverse effects on the animal concerned must be weighed against the benefits likely to accrue as a result of the proposed programme of work. In making this assessment, the general categories of potential benefits that are currently considered are: human, animal and ecological benefits: improved health or welfare, plant protection, food hygiene, safeguarding of the environment; scientific benefits: resolution of controversies, increasing scientific knowledge; educational benefits: meeting educational objectives which cannot be satisfied using non-animal methods; and other benefits: including forensic inquiries.

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Cheaper health care for everyone can be considered a benefit, but not the profitability of a company which sets out to provide cheaper health care nor the implications for employment arising from the programme of work in the project licence application. The technical expertise of the project licence holder and the personal licence holders may affect the outcome of the cost/benefit assessment. This can be relevant either to the cost (in terms of the standard to which work can be done) or the benefit, when the likelihood of success may be affected. But the involvement of individuals is regulated by the controls applying to personal licences.

Following its review of the operation of the 1986 Act, the Animal Procedures Committee concluded that the cost/benefit assessment provided a workable and flexible framework in which to decide whether the use of animals is justified (Chapter 2 of Appendix F of the Committee's Annual Report for 1997). However, the Committee felt that there were some areas where further discussion and consideration were needed and it has set up a working group to take this forward. The group plans to issue a public consultation paper later this year and to produce an authoritative statement on how the present cost/benefit system can be improved. The Government will consider what changes are necessary to the operation of the arrangements in the light of the Committee's report.

Magistrates Courts (Staffordshire)

Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement regarding the rate of successful convictions obtained in magistrates courts in Staffordshire in the last 12 months. [130597]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The number of defendants convicted in magistrates courts in Staffordshire was 31,891 in 1998 and 22,372 in 1999 (provisional figure for January-September only). In both periods, convictions represented 76 per cent. of the total number of defendants prosecuted for all offences.

European Convention on Human Rights

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on measures to bring existing statute law into compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. [130604]

Mr. Straw: I refer to the reply I gave to the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) on 19 July 2000, Official Report, column 180W.

Personal Privacy

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the safeguards his Department plans to introduce to protect personal privacy following the enactment of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill. [132525]

Mr. Straw: Privacy and personal information is now well protected by the provision of the Data Protection Act 1998; more generally, the right to a private life is a convention right contained within the Human Rights Act 1998. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill contains within it all the protections necessary in the event of the use of these vital powers.

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Truck Searches

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what additional funds have been made available to his Department in the past month to develop systems for the detection of people and animals in freight vehicles; and if he will make a statement. [131778]

Mrs. Roche [holding answer 24 July 2000]: No funds have been received, or set aside by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, for research and development of systems for purposes mentioned by the hon. Member in this financial year. However, one Chief Immigration Officer is tasked with the evaluation of such technology, including conducting trials of equipment which is commercially available.

PFI Contracts

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the estimated rate of return on capital is to the contractors under the PFI contracts in his Department. [131349]

Mr. Straw: I am unable to give precise detail of rates of return on capital due to the commercial sensitivity of the information required. However, I can tell the hon. Member that for the following contracts the rate of return varies between 12 per cent. and 20 per cent.

Police National Computer

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what powers are available to him to allow the police on-line access, via the Police National Computer, to databases held by private sector insurance companies; and what plans he has to introduce legislation on this issue. [129139]

Mr. Hill: I have been asked to reply.

Provisions in Regulations made under the Road Traffic Act 1988 require insurers to keep records of their policyholders and the policies they have issued. Information from those records must be provided without charge on request to the police. Legal advice is that these

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powers are sufficient to allow the information to be collected on a database and to allow the police access, subject to safeguards, on a case-by-case basis. The insurance industry are setting up an electronic database in order to help the police enforcement effort.

I have accepted, however, the Data Protection Commissioner's advice that Parliament should have the opportunity to consider the matter and we will be laying an Order later this year to allow the keeping of information electronically and to provide access to the insurance information for the police on a case-by case-basis. Safeguards to prevent misuse of the information, agreed with the Data Protection Commissioner, will be included.

Bus Lanes

Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (a) how many bus lane cameras were established in the last year and (b) how many there are in total in (i) the Metropolitan police area and (ii) in England and Wales; and how many (A) successful and (B) unsuccessful prosecutions there were in (1) the last 12 months and (2) since the introduction of bus lanes. [132285]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 24 July 2000]: I have been asked to reply.

The London Bus Lane Enforcement Camera Project (introduced by the Traffic Director for London and now transferred to Transport for London in partnership with the Metropolitan police) uses video cameras, mounted either on buses or at the roadside, to enforce bus lane regulations in the Metropolitan police area. The project has reached the halfway stage with some 300 bus lanes being enforced by camera. 90 bus mounted and 19 fixed cameras had been installed by 1999, rising to 151 and 29 respectively by 31 March 2000. There are no bus lane enforcement cameras outside the Metropolitan police area.

Six thousand one hundred and seventy-five notices of intended prosecution were issued in the year to 30 June 2000, and 9,543 have been issued since this project started in December 1998. To date only one prosecution has been successfully challenged in a Magistrates court.

In addition, five London boroughs have been piloting a scheme using CCTV cameras, to enforce bus lane contraventions. In the financial year 1999-2000, the authorities issued approximately 57,000 penalty charge notices and warning letters. Of these, there were 314 appeals for adjudication, all of which were upheld.

Figures are not available for the number of prosecutions or fixed penalty notice offences issued by the police for bus lane offences outside London, nor for the 30 years that bus lanes have been operating.

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