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Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to ensure that the code of practice on the

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relationship between suppliers and supermarkets is made available to farmers and growers in Worcestershire; and if she will make a statement. [12676]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 6 November 2001]: The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry published the code of practice on 31 October 2001 and asked the Director General of Fair Trading to seek to obtain undertakings from four leading supermarket chains within four weeks.

The code can be found as an attachment to the relevant press release on the Department of Trade and Industry's website:


Private Finance Initiative (Employees' Rights)

Norman Baker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his policy is on protection of employees' rights and conditions of service where PFI projects are introduced to the public sector. [10717]

Mr. Leslie: The Government are committed to protecting the rights and existing terms and conditions of staff in transfers from the public sector to the private sector under public private partnership arrangements. To this end the Cabinet Office has published a statement of practice on staff transfers in the public sector. This is accessible on the Cabinet Office website:

Departmental Spending

Pete Wishart: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the total spending by his Department was in each nation and region of the UK in the last year for which figures are available; what proportion of his Department's total spending this constitutes; and if he will make a statement. [6785]

Mrs. Roche: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 15 October 2001, Official Report, columns 854–56W.

Council of the Isles

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the future programme of meetings of the Council of the Isles. [10862]

Mr. Prescott: The British-Irish Council, brings together the British and Irish Governments, the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the authorities in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

The British-Irish Council meets in different formats. Since the first summit meeting held in London in December 1999, a number of meetings have taken place in different sectoral areas at ministerial and official level.

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The most recent meeting of the Council took place in Dublin on 13 September 2001. Officials discussed the issue of misuse of drugs, the area of work for which Ireland is the lead administration within the Council.

The Irish Government will host the next British-Irish Council summit. The drugs issue will be the main item for discussion at the summit. Progress in the other areas of work of the Council will also be reviewed.

The Government look forward to further meetings taking place in the agreed areas of work.

Computer Crime

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many cases of computer (a) hacking, (b) fraud and (c) theft his Department recorded in (i) 2000 and (ii) 2001; and on how many occasions in those years computer systems have been illegally accessed by computer hackers (A) within and (B) outside his Department. [13130]

Mr. Leslie: Within my Department and its agencies over the last two years there have been no cases of computer hacking from (A) within or (B) outside and no instances of fraudulent use of computers although there have been 16 cases of theft in 1999–2000 and nine in 2000–01.

Consultation Documents

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many consultation documents were issued by his Department from (a) 15 October to 14 January, (b) 15 January to 14 April, (c) 15 April to 14 July and (d) 15 July to 14 October in each year from 1996. [12895]

Mr. Leslie: The number of consultation documents issued by the Cabinet Office was as follows:

(a) 15 October to 14 January2113
(b) 15 January to 14 April122
(c) 15 April to 14 July12
(d) 15 July to 14 October19

No formal consultation documents were issued in the other periods given in the question. The figures do not include nine technical documents published between 1999 and 2001. These documents went out for consultation but the Cabinet Office does not hold records of the precise dates of issue.

Since the beginning of 2001, formal Cabinet Office consultation documents (and those of other central Government Departments) have been available from the online central register of consultations at http//


Benefit Fraud

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people were prosecuted for committing benefit fraud in financial years (a) 1997–98, (b) 1998–99, (c) 1999–2000 and (d) 2000–01. [7579]

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Malcolm Wicks: The information is in the tables:

Benefits Agency fraud investigations

YearProsecutionsCautions and administrative penalties as an alternative to prosecution(6)Total

Local authority investigations(7)

YearNumber of successful prosecutions(8)Number of administrative penalties(6) administered as an alternative to prosecution(8)Total(8)

(6) Administrative Penalties, as an alternative to prosecution, were introduced by the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act (1997) with effect from December 1998.

(7) Figures are taken from local authority management information returns. It is possible that there could be some double counting with Benefits Agency data if there were cases which involved a joint prosecution.

(8) Data are not available for all 409 local authorities. The total for Great Britain includes estimates for local authorities that have not responded. These estimates are based on historical and regional data. This type of estimate is standard practice in reporting totals where there have been non-respondents. The figures have been rounded to two significant figures.

National Insurance Numbers

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many national insurance numbers have been issued; and what plans he has to review the procedures for issuing, cancelling and verifying NI numbers. [8341]

Malcolm Wicks: We regularly review data cleansing activities on the departmental central index (DCI) and are currently looking at issues relating to NINO security as a whole. This includes reviewing procedures and building on work already done to identify and further safeguard vulnerable accounts.

There are approximately 83 million national insurance numbers (NINOs) currently held on the DCI. Other than the 47 million NINOs used by UK residents over 16, this figure includes approximately 12.5 million child reference numbers for all children included on claims to child benefit, 13.5 million for people who are dead and whose numbers remain in order to allow surviving spouses to claim contributory benefit entitlement and 2 million for those in receipt of benefit abroad. The remaining estimated 8 million will include UK citizens who have migrated to other countries, short-term immigrants/ holiday workers and deceased persons where notification of death has not been received.

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Duplicate NINOs are 'cancelled' or removed from the DCI as and when they are identified. The cancellation of NINOs, other than those discovered to be duplicates or unused, is not carried out as it is considered that the removal of 'inactive' records opens a gateway to identity fraud. The retention of a deceased person's NINO is necessary to protect the inheritable rights of a surviving spouse to ensure they are awarded the correct rate of retirement pension.

The procedure for issuing NINOs has been tightened through the enhanced NINO allocation process which was introduced nationally from April 2001. This aligns the process for the allocation of both benefit inspired and employment inspired NINOs and ensures consistency of approach is maintained throughout the country, thereby securing the adult registration gateway. All adult applicants for a NINO are interviewed by dedicated staff who have received specific specialist training. Information given by the applicant in support of their application is corroborated by expert staff who also scrutinise documentation provided using specialist equipment. A more stringent internal checking regime ensures that a NINO application is valid and that the applicant does not already have a NINO.

We are currently examining new initiatives that address the issues around NINO security and propose to do more in the future to improve the procedures for managing NINOs.

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