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Medical Retirements

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many employees of his Department retired through work-related ill health in the last year for which records are available; and what the cost to the Department was. [56061]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 20 May 2002]: Records are not maintained by the Home Department which enable ill health retirements to be separately identified as work-related. Our records indicate that for the Home Department the number of staff with a medical retirement certificate issued by the Civil Service pension scheme medical adviser for the period 1 January 2001– 31 December 2001 was 505. Benefits provided on medical retirement are set out in the rules of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme and laid before Parliament, and provide for an immediate payment of enhanced pension and lump sum. Ill health retirement expenditure is met centrally from the Civil Superannuation Vote. For the year ending March 2002, provisional expenditure met from the vote was £310 million in respect of all Civil Service cases for which an ill health pension has been awarded. These cases number approximately 67,000 and include those who have formally been ill health retired but who have now reached and exceeded the normal retirement age.

Members of Parliament (Personal Data)

Mr. Forth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information is held by his Department on each hon. Member in relation to (a) personal relationships, both current and past, (b) financial status and dealings, (c) connections with companies and interest groups, (d) connections with Governments and (e) published works; and what was held in January 2002. [61822]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Ministers and officials in this Department have access to published reference sources, as well as to the information about hon. Members made publicly available by the House authorities, for the purpose of parliamentary business. Information may also be held by the Home Office in connection with the security clearance of any hon. Member who has worked for or on behalf of the Home Office, but not in connection with his or her work as an MP.

Internet (Security)

David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures are being taken by the Government to ensure that individuals using the internet to buy goods have their bank details and other personal information kept secure. [64799]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Government are taking forward a number of initiatives to ensure security of information when purchasing goods on the internet. Last year the Government, working closely with stakeholders, launched their Safe Internet Shopping Campaign to help explain how consumers can shop on-line with confidence. This included guidance on safe payment and data protection, together with directions to the Government's Consumer Gateway ( which provides links to sources of detailed information. In addition, existing consumer protection law applies on-line. This includes the Consumer Protection (Distance

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Selling) regulations 2000, which give consumers protection against payment card fraud and rights to information and cooling off periods.

The use of personal information on the internet is regulated by the Data Protection Act 1998, which sets rules for the handling of data about living, identifiable individuals throughout the United Kingdom. Among other things, these require personal data to be held securely. The Act is administered independently of the Government by the Information Commissioner, who has the power to take enforcement action if any of the Act's requirements is breached.

The Home Office has actively encouraged the finance and retail sectors to implement secure means of protecting cardholder information. These include the cardholder address and card security code checking system to make transactions over the internet more secure.

Work Permits

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what steps are being taken to ensure that work permits applied for under shortage occupations criteria are only granted in circumstances where the skill required is classified as a shortage occupation skill; [66013]

Beverley Hughes: Should an employer make a false declaration there are a number of safeguards built into the application process.

The work permit arrangements are designed to strike the right balance between enabling employers to recruit or transfer skilled people from abroad while safeguarding the interests of the resident labour force. The arrangements are labour market led.

Before a work permit can be issued the employer will normally be expected to demonstrate by advertising the post that there is no suitably qualified resident workers. However, this requirement is waived where the vacancy is in respect of an occupation included on Work Permits (UK) shortage occupation list. Such applications will nevertheless need to meet the other criteria of the work permit arrangements as to the skills, qualifications and experience of the employee and the terms and conditions of employment.

If Work Permits (UK) has any doubts about the validity of the information provided on the application form, they can request further evidence, such as a job description, copies of qualifications and references from previous employers to assess whether the overseas worker has the necessary qualifications and skills.

In order to maintain the accuracy of the shortage occupation list, Work Permits (UK) has established a number of industry sector panels. The panels, including one for the Information Technology, Communications and Electronics (ITCE) sector, meet on a quarterly basis to review changes in the labour market and make recommendations on the occupations that should form the shortage list. Members of the ITCE sector panels include other Government Departments, trade unions, relevant

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industrial bodies and independent representative organisations such as the Professional Contractors Group (PCG).

Work Permits (UK) is also developing arrangements to ensure that the work permit arrangements are not abused once the work permit has been granted. In addition to the existing Allegations Team, Work Permits (UK) is setting up a new Intelligence Team, which is expected to be operational by autumn. This team will facilitate links with the Immigration Service, the police and other interested bodies and allow a more thorough and coherent investigation of allegations. Additionally, a Post Issuing Checking (PIC) team, which will take a pro-active role in targeting sectors and visiting employers, overseas nationals or representatives who Work Permits (UK) suspect are not abiding by the scheme criteria.

Regulatory Impact Unit

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many members of his Department have been employed in its regulatory impact unit in the past five years; and if he will make a statement. [65971]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Home Office departmental responsibility for regulatory impacts is located in the Performance, Delivery and Strategy Unit.

A breakdown of the numbers of staff employed, in each financial year, on regulatory impact matters is as follows:

The Performance, Delivery and Strategy Unit regulatory impact co-ordinator works closely with the officials responsible for developing policies within the Home Office and with the Cabinet Office Regulatory Impact Unit.


Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many letters were received by each Minister in his Department in each month since June 1997. [59312]

Mr. Wills: The figures for the number of letters received by each Minister in each month since June 1997 have been placed in the Library.


Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what he estimates to be the value of the (a) domestic and (b) international trade in (i) cannabis, (ii) amphetamines, (iii) LSD, (iv) cocaine, (v) ecstasy, (vi) heroin and (vii) crack in the most recent year for which figures are available. [66663]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: There are no estimates of the value of the United Kingdom (UK) domestic and international trade in the drugs specified in the question. However, a study by National Economic Research Associates (NERA) produced the following estimates of the value of the market in 1998–99 for the following specific drugs: amphetamines £257.7 million; cannabis

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£1,577.9 million; cocaine £352.8 million; crack £1,817.4 million; ecstasy £294.6 million; and heroin £2,313.0 million. These figures should not be regarded as definitive since the purpose of the study "Sizing the UK market for illicit drugs" was to carry out research into different methodologies for assessing the size of illicit drug market. Her Majesty's Customs believe the cocaine (and probably ecstasy) figure from the NERA study is likely to significantly understate the true position by missing much recreational use. This work was in large part derived from the New English and Welsh Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (NEW-ADAM) and therefore reflects drug users who have come to the attention of the criminal justice system—which is more likely to be the case with heroin or crack users.

A United Nations study published in January 1998 reported that estimates of the turnover of the global illicit drug industry varied considerably from US$100 billion to US$1,000 billion a year, with the most frequently found figures in the literature in the range US$300 billion to US$500 billion a year.

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