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Mr. Denham [holding answer 17 July 2002]: The first members of the Police Standards Unit started in post on 9 July 2001. The staffing compliment of the Unit is 29. To date £709,000 has been spent on the Unit.
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The Standards Unit exists to deliver the Government's commitment to raise standards and improve operational performance in the police and in crime reduction generally in order to maintain and enhance public satisfaction with policing in their area.
Its core objective will be to identify and disseminate best practice in the prevention, detection and apprehension of crime in all forces in order to reduce crime and disorder as well as the fear of crime.
Identify BCUs or forces performing below their best based on Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) reports, statistical information, or particular cases of concern;
Engage directly with the BCU or force to establish the nature of the problems, the extent to which best practice may be lacking, and the remedial action required;
Engage similarly with other local agencies where it is apparent that they are contributing significantly to the causes of poor performance;
Identify where, in exceptional circumstances, combined cross-cutting measures engaging other agencies are required to focus on and achieve early change within a specific geographic area or BCU boundary;
Draw validated best practice from HMIC, National Police Training, the Crime Reduction College and other agencies, spread its use through local engagement, and identify for professional evaluation any new examples or techniques it comes across;
Have a capacity to provide short-term funding to support the remedial action it has identified and which could not otherwise be undertaken;
Identify cases in which the Home Secretary should consider the use of powers under the Police Act (1996), the Local Government Act (1999), or other relevant legislation;
Identify issues which raise policy, technical or legal questions for the Home Office to address.
Mr. Denham [holding answer 13 June 2002]: Dr. Kevin Bond took up post on 7 January 2002. Under his leadership, the Police Standards Unit (PSU) is now developing a number of projects related to police performance management and the identification and dissemination of good practice in key areas.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many staff were involved in each of the last three years in preparing draft answers to written parliamentary questions; 
Beverley Hughes: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him by my right hon. Friend, Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Cook) on 17 April 2002, Official Report, column 929W. The Home Office answered 4,067 written questions in 2001, at an approximate cost of £516,195.
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Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many documented cases his Department have received from the Professional Contractors Group relating to employers in the technology sector importing labour from abroad in an effort to reduce employment costs; and what steps are being taken by his Department to ensure that the work permit system is not abused in this way. 
Beverley Hughes: In March 2002, the Professional Contractors Group (PCG) provided Work Permits UK (WPUK) Allegations team a dossier of 85 cases (relating to 61 separate employers) specifically relating to the replacement of United Kingdom Information Technology contractors with lower paid employees from overseas.
Most of the cases are complaints about employment policies of employers, rather than specific allegations of abuse of the work permit arrangements, and as such it does not warrant any further action by Work Permits (UK). 12 cases contained specific information about abuse of the work permit arrangements, and these are being pursued by WPUK. A list has been returned to PCG setting out whether cases continue to be investigated.
The overall aim of the work permit arrangements is to strike the right balance between enabling employers to recruit or transfer skilled people from abroad while safeguarding the interests of the resident work force. However, the arrangements cover only those vacancies which are to be filled by an employee working on a PAYE basis, and as such, there are safeguards to ensure that resident workers willing to work on such a basis are not disadvantaged.
In the cases provided by the PCG, it is apparent that the majority refer to a 'contractor' being replaced by an incoming 'employee' (under PAYE). It is a commercial decision by the employer whether they offer employment terms on a self-employment, contractual or direct PAYE basis.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many work permit applications have been (a) granted and (b) refused by Work Permits UK on the grounds of shortage occupations criteria in each month since June 2001; 
Beverley Hughes: Work Permits UK currently operates shortage occupation lists in respect of the Information Technology (IT), health care and engineering sectors and a fourth list in respect of other miscellaneous shortage occupations, which currently includes actuaries, Civil Aviation Authority licensed aircraft engineers, teachers and veterinary surgeons.
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The following table sets out the number of work permits approved and refused in each month in the period between I June 2001 and 30 June 2002 under shortage occupations criteria and those approved specifically under shortage occupations criteria in the IT sector in the same period:
|Work permit applications under shortage occupation criteria (all)||Work permit applications under shortage occupation criteria (IT sector)|
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 10 June 2002, Official Report, column 619W, on the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, if he will list (a) the members of the civil contingencies committee and (b) what reports it has made in the last five years; and if he will place the reports in the Library. 
Mr. Blunkett: The only standing member of the Civil Contingencies Committee is the Chairman, the (Home Secretary). Others, including Her Majesty's Treasury and the devolved Administrations, are invited to attend, depending on the contingency.
Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to reply to the letter to him dated 30 April from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton to Mrs. Vida Obiri. 
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