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Airport Vetting

Mr. Colman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when it became the practice for immigration officers to vet passengers as to the status of their visas and passports prior to leaving aeroplanes arriving in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [99848]

Mrs. Roche: While there are powers in Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 which allow an Immigration officer to board and search an aircraft and to require the production of a passenger's documents, Immigration officers do not routinely examine passengers' travel documents prior to their leaving an aircraft. However, Immigration officers regularly attend arriving flights and check travel documents shortly after disembarkation in order to identify inadequately documented passengers. This practice has grown since the late 1980s in order to deal with the increasing number of passengers who destroy or otherwise dispose of their travel documents and tickets after departure for the United Kingdom. The procedures have been developed to establish the proof of carriage so that charges under the carriers' liability legislation can be effectively pursued and also to minimise the difficulties and costs in removing persons where the identity of the carrier and the port of embarkation cannot be established.

Commission for Racial Equality

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the total amount of the settlements made with the five employees of the Commission for Racial Equality with regard to their claims of racial discrimination against the Commission. [100211]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Details of personal settlements are confidential between the parties involved.

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Post Office

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the principal activities of his Department and its agencies which provide business for (a) Crown post offices and (b) other post offices; if he will assess whether the level of business generated in each case is likely to increase or decrease over the next five years; and which new areas of business for post offices are likely to be developed by his Department and its agencies over the same period. [99556]

Mrs. Roche: The United Kingdom Passport Agency has a partnership arrangement with Post Office Counters Limited which was established in January 1996. Under this arrangement, passport applicants can lodge their application at any main Post Office.

The Agency is currently re-tendering its partnership arrangements, however both the Agency and Post Office Counters Ltd. have indicated a commitment to working together in the future.

Identity Cards

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment he has made of the advantages of the introduction of national identity cards which include identification for entitlement to social security payments. [99093]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: We are considering all the relevant issues involved in identity cards including their possible contribution to tackling welfare fraud, increasing individual convenience and simplifying Government. We have not yet reached any final conclusions.


Clay Pigeon Shooting

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what progress is being made towards a code of practice for clay pigeon shooting. [98827]

Kate Hoey: The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Clay Pigeon Shooting Association and British Shooting Sports Council jointly issued, for consultation, draft guidance on the management and control of noise for clay pigeon shooting in November 1997. The consultation period was completed in March 1998 and the guidance is still under preparation. I understand the authors are awaiting further input from various bodies, and will publish the guidance at the earliest opportunity.

TV Licence Fees

Mr. David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many people will benefit from the free licence fee for those persons aged over 75 years, announced by him; and if he will make a statement. [98535]

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Mr. Chris Smith [holding answer 22 November 1999]: Over 3 million households will benefit from the provision of television licences free of charge to people aged 75 or over, announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his pre-Budget statement.

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans he has to review TV licence concessions available for blind people and those in residential and sheltered accommodation below the age of 75 years. [99173]

Janet Anderson [holding answer 22 November 1999]: The Government accept that the introduction of free television licences for people aged 75 or over will not remove the need to consider the shortcomings of the existing concessionary arrangements. We shall consider the recommendations of the BBC funding review panel in the light of the responses to the public consultation which has just concluded. We intend to announce our conclusions in January.

Channel 5

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement in respect of his policy towards the percentage of home-produced material broadcast on Channel 5. [99133]

Mr. Chris Smith [holding answer 23 November 1999]: Under the terms of its licence from the Independent Television Commission, Channel 5 must comply with the terms of the European Commission's Directive 97/36/EC (which amended Directive 89/552/EC). Under the Directive, the majority of programmes broadcast by Channel 5 must be of European origin. Channel 5 met that licence condition in 1997 and 1998. For these years, the proportions of European-originated programming transmitted by Channel 5 (other than news, sports coverage, games, advertising and teletext services which are exempted from the Directive) were 60 per cent. and 52 per cent. respectively. A high proportion of Channel 5's European-originated programming is produced in the UK.

BBC Funding

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when he plans to respond to the report by the Independent Review Panel on the future funding of the BBC. [100045]

Janet Anderson: The period of public consultation on the panel's recommendations ended on 1 November. We are considering all the panel's recommendations in the light of responses received and hope to announce our final decisions in January.

Culture/Audiovisual Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what was the outcome of the Culture/Audiovisual Council held in Brussels on 23 November; and if he will make a statement. [99847]

Mr. Alan Howarth: I represented the United Kingdom at the Culture/Audiovisual Council held in Brussels on 23 November. The Presidency reported on the ongoing conciliation process for the Culture 2000 programme. The Council agreed a Resolution on the promotion of the free

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movement of persons working in the cultural sector. The Commission will carry out a study on the obstacles to free movement, and the results will be presented at the beginning of the French Presidency. The Council agreed conclusions on the cultural industries and employment in Europe. There was some discussion of the successor programme to MEDIA II and we now await the Commission's proposals for this, which are expected shortly. The Council adopted conclusions on the protection of minors in the context of development in digital audiovisual services. These encourage the parties concerned, (manufacturers, broadcasters and operators), to co-operate in considering ways of evaluating and rating audiovisual content in order to assist parents in the protection of minors. Several cultural initiatives carried out by member states in support of reconciliation in Kosovo were also announced.

National Lottery Commission

Ms Harman: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on the National Lottery Commission. [100809]

Mr. Chris Smith: I regret to report that Robin Squire has resigned his membership of the National Lottery Commission for business and other personal reasons. I will appoint a successor in due course.


Teddy Bear Ties

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Chairman of the Catering Committee on what authority, and for what reason, the decision was taken to sell teddy bear ties in the souvenir shop. [100435]

Mr. Dennis Turner: This is a matter for the Director of Catering Services. I have asked her to reply to my right hon. Friend.


Mr. Miller: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what estimate he has made of the cost to the House of (a) the conducting of each division of the House (i) before and (ii) after 10 pm and (b) each hour of the House's sitting after 10 pm, in each case including all costs relating to staff and the Parliamentary Estate. [100746]

Mr. Kirkwood: The cost to the House of conducting divisions is met from the day-to-day budgets of House departments. The figures are not separately identified.

For divisions after 10 pm, no additional staff or services are required when the House divides, so no separately identifiable costs are incurred for such divisions. Some additional costs are incurred when House staff have to stay after 11 pm. e.g. for providing late night transport for staff of the House and others (e.g. security staff).

The fixed costs of running the estate are incurred regardless of what time the House rises.

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