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18 Jun 2002 : Column 281W
|Home Office||Prison Service|
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many press releases have been issued by his Department (a) in each month between May and December 1997 and (b) in each year from 1998 to 2001 inclusive. 
In addition, the Prison Service issued 47 press releases during this period but a monthly breakdown is not available.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the (a) cost and (b) accuracy of the methods used for testing for drug abuse; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 23 May 2002]: Information on the costs and accuracy of the various methods used for testing drug abuse is not held centrally. To answer this question would incur disproportionate costs.
The Pilot Programme for testing for drug misuse under the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 introduced the use of oral fluid (saliva) on-site screening tests, following an evaluation study by the Forensic Science Service. This found that oral fluid provided an effective and accurate alternative to urine for screening for heroine and cocaine.
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appointed as sponsors to his Department; and what assistance is given by officials in his Department to them in carrying out these duties; 
Mr. Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when his Department (a) received the letter of 15 October 2001 from the hon. Member for Manchester Central, regarding Dr ECC reference PO18117/01, (b) granted a residence permit to Dr ECC and leave to remain to Ms LOR and daughter and (c) replied to the hon. Member for Manchester Central; and if he will give the reasons for the delay in resolving this case. 
Beverley Hughes [holding answer 13 June 2002]: The letter of 15 October 2001 was received by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate on 18 October 2001. Dr ECC was granted a residence permit and leave to remain was granted to Ms LOR and her daughter on 29 December 2001.
Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he received the report of the Expert Group on Efficient Regulation concerning the licensing of animal research in the UK; when he formally responded to the report; and what steps the Government have taken to improve the efficiency of the licensing process. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: We received a copy of the report of the Expert Group on Efficient Regulation on 8 October 2001 and a formal response was sent to the Chairman of the Expert Group on 5 November 2001. This noted that the report did not suggest any changes in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and advised that we would look carefully at its recommendations regarding the
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administration of the 1986 Act. A further response will be sent when we have completed consideration of those recommendations.
Separately to our consideration of the Expert Group report, we have taken a number of recent steps to improve the efficiency of the licensing of scientific procedures under the 1986 Act, mainly arising from discussions conducted in 20002001 under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness Task Force. A review of the ethical review process was completed in November 2001 and best practice for more efficient working of the process is now being widely disseminated around establishments. New guidance has also been issued on completing project licence application forms, and industry has been given information on errors commonly found in licence application forms, which should help to reduce the number of applications submitted with such errors in future, and therefore reduce delays.
Most importantly, extra resources are starting to be devoted to the assessment and processing of licence applications. These include development of a new computer system, which is expected to enable electronic processing of all licence applications, in due course. There will also, as announced in March 2001, be a significant increase in the size of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate from 21 inspectors to 33 by March 2004. We have also improved the relevant section of the Home Office website to provide easier access for applicants and licence holders to reference documents and best practice material. The new website will go live shortly.
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department has taken to speed up the process of granting work permits to supply agencies and supply teachers. 
Beverley Hughes: The current work permit policy excludes issuing work permits to recruitment agencies, employment agencies and other similar businesses. However, as part of a review of this specific issue, Work Permits UK (WP(UK)) who administer the work permit arrangements, are currently undertaking a formal consultation, which began on 18 March 2002, with customers and stakeholders as to whether the scope of the work permit arrangements should be extended to agencies. The consultation ended on 14 June 2002.
In conjunction with the consultation, WP (UK) are currently piloting a scheme which allows agencies within the education sector, subject to certain criteria, to apply for work permits for teachers. The cases are processed within one day of being received. The results of this pilot will be fed into the formal agency review.
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maximum retirement age of most staff; and whether it has a policy of not considering applications for employment by persons over a particular age, and those ages. 
Beverley Hughes [holding answer 10 June 2002]: The normal retirement age for non-industrial staff Home Office staff is 60 and for industrial staff 65. The Department has recently reviewed its age retirement policy and from 1 April 2002 all non-industrial staff up to Grade 6 throughout the Home Office (including the agencies but excluding the Prison Service) have the option to retire at any point between the ages of 60 and 65.
The Home Office has also revised its recruitment policy from 1 April 2002 to allow for the recruitment of staff up to the age of 64, subject to their meeting normal standards of health. Provided that there is an expectation of a reasonable period of employment and a return on recruitment and training, the primary criterion for selection will be the ability of a candidate to carry out the duties of the vacant post.
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