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Asbestos Leaks

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many asbestos leaks occurred in buildings owned or leased by (a) the Department of Education in Northern Ireland and (b) South Eastern Education and Library Board since 1973; where these leaks occurred; and how many people were exposed in each case. [89457]

Jane Kennedy: (a) The Department of Education does not own or lease any buildings. Departmental staff occupy buildings at two locations, Rathgael House in Bangor and Waterside House in Londonderry. Both sites are owned or leased by the Department of Finance and Personnel, Office Accommodation Branch (OAB).

(b) I have been advised by the South Eastern Education and Library Board that it does not retain records on this issue dating back to 1973. Neither is it aware of any instances of asbestos leakage at any of its

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schools. In addition to the leak at the board headquarters in September 2002, the details of which you are aware from my recent replies to you, the SEELB has advised that there have been three occasions involving disturbances of asbestos during the carrying out of maintenance work. These were at:

On none of these occasions were any staff or members of the public affected by asbestos.

Department for Regional Development (Funding)

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland why #48 million allocated to the Department for Regional Development for the financial 2002–03 year had to be handed back to the Northern Ireland central administration in autumn 2002; and if he will make a statement. [89822]

Mr. Pearson: Clarification of the nature of stage payments to Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) to purchase new trains confirmed that they did not create an asset, and hence those payments were not a charge on the Department's departmental expenditure limit (DEL). Although the Department for Regional Development made substantial grant payments to NIR in 2001–02 and 2002–03 in respect of trains, none of this scores in the budget under the resource budgeting rules that apply for those two financial years. As soon as this technicality was clarified, in August 2002, #49 million was made available for re-allocation, under the normal rules that apply to all Departments. This funding, together with other funds identified by Departments, has been allocated to good effect across Departments and is profiled to be spent in the current financial year. The revised budget for 2003–04 to 2005–06 published on 11 December 2002 includes the required provision for the purchase of the new trains and delivery in 2004 is on schedule.

Departmental Underspend

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the five most significant individual projects which contributed to departmental underspends in Northern Ireland during the past five years; and what the value was of each project. [90021]

Mr. Pearson: The introduction of Devolution in 1999 involved the restructuring of NI Departments, and an increase in number from six to 11. This factor, combined with the introduction of resource accounting and budgeting in the 2001–02 financial year, means it is not possible to make meaningful comparisons between outturn information across the span of five years requested. However, the table shows the five most significant capital projects which contributed to departmental underspends in Northern Ireland in 2001–02, the latest year for which information is available.

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2001–02 most significant capital project underspends

DepartmentProject# million
DELResearch Institute for Electronics, Communications and IT Technologies3.0
DETITelecommunications Initiative7.2
DHSSPSTrusts Capital Programme9.2
Centralised IT Projects4.5
DRDNITHCo: Purchase of Rolling Stock(10)13.0

(10) This arose due to technical issues associated with the transition to RAB, rather than project management issues.

Model Primary School

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to ensure the completion of renovation work at the Model Primary School in Newtownards. [89450]

Jane Kennedy: A scheme for the extension and refurbishment of the Model Primary School in Newtownards is on my Department's school capital priority list.

In May 2002 a draft economic appraisal on the options for meeting the school's needs was submitted to the Department by the South-Eastern Education and Library Board. The board is currently revising the draft and the updated version is expected to be with the Department in the near future.

Subject to agreement on the conclusions and recommendations of the economic appraisal, and bearing in mind the constraints in relation to the listed building status of the school, planning of the scheme may then commence.

South Eastern Education Library Board

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will take steps to institute a public inquiry into (a) the asbestos leak at the Headquarters of the South Eastern Education Library Board in September 2002 and (b) steps taken to address the consequences. [89533]

Jane Kennedy: No. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland has carried out an investigation into this issue and I do not consider that there is need for a further investigation.


Retail Industry Crime

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on crime in the retail industry. [88647R]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 7 January 2003]: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I recognise the detrimental impact that crime has on the retail industry and other business sectors. That is why I launched a consultation process in December to seek the views of business organisations and other stakeholders on the best means of creating and maintaining effective partnerships to reduce the opportunities for crime against business and enhance the contribution that business can make to crime reduction.

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It is our intention to build on the good work already done by organisations like the British Retail Consortium in the development of retail crime reduction partnerships in main town and shopping centres. We will continue to support such partnerships.

The Home Secretary announced in April last year a new survey of crime affecting retail and manufacturing business. This will give a range of information about the types of crime which most impact on these business sectors and provide insights into the most effective interventions to address them. Results of the survey should be available in the summer.

The Government have allocated #15 million over the years 2001–02 to 2003–04 to improve the security of small retail businesses in deprived areas. Nearly 3,000 shops benefited from the first year's funding and a further 4,500 individual shops and businesses will benefit directly from the #6 million made available under the second year of the scheme. A further #6 million will be available in the third year to enable more shopkeepers to benefit from extra security.

Many of the Government's crime reduction initiatives, such as the closed circuit television initiative with nearly 700 schemes approved, also have a beneficial impact on retail crime.

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of crime in the retail industry in (a) Lancashire, (b) the north-west of England and (c) Wales; [88653R]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 7 January 2003]: The total cost of all commercial and public sector victimisation in England and Wales was estimated to be #9.1 billion in 1999–2000, of which around #3.1 billion was due to theft from shops. Figures are not available regionally nor by the size of establishment.

The 1994 Commercial Victimisation Survey gives average yearly costs of crime in 1993 across all small employers (1–10 employees) in the retail sector in England and Wales. These are shown in the table by product sold.

Average yearly costs (1993) of crime for all small employers in the retailing sector, whether victimised or not

Product soldAverage cost (#)
High value electrical/patented goods2,250
Jewellery/precious metal1,880
None of the above1,500

A new survey of crime affecting retail and manufacturing business is currently being carried out and the results should be available later in the year.

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Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what command and control measures will be introduced in the event of a major terrorist incident; and how long this would take to set up in the event of such an emergency. [88387]

Mr. Blunkett: The police have the primary role in responding to a terrorist incident and the force in whose area the incident takes place would take operational control and command of the incident at the scene. The Government response is co-ordinated at ministerial level through the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) in London. COBR is responsible for determining the overall political strategy in relation to the incident including responding to any political demands made by a terrorist group. COBR would also arrange for the provision of any necessary assistance requested by the police incident commander. In the event of a terrorist incident, the police and Government level response would be deployed as a matter of urgency.

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to introduce a central directive instructing each of the Government agencies in what to do in the event of a terrorist incident. [88487]

Mr. Blunkett: The Home Office takes lead responsibility for co-ordinating the response to a terrorist incident within the UK. A set of classified contingency plans exist for responding to a wide range of terrorist threats. The response to any terrorist incident relies upon a co-ordinated approach and the Government draws upon the resources of other Departments, the security and intelligence agencies, the police, the military, scientific and other specialist advice, local authorities and the emergency services.

Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had, and with which local authorities, on the protection of people living in Dudley from terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement. [87376]

Mr. Blunkett: At the local level, counter terrorism is the responsibility of the police. This work is carried out in close conjunction with the Home Office, which has lead responsibility for this issue. Police forces will issue advice as necessary, as well as taking the lead as and when a terrorist incident arises. Local authorities do not have a direct involvement in counter terrorism.

Local authorities have a general role in emergency planning, dealing with the consequences of all emergencies, including those arising from terrorist attack. My right hon. Friend the Lord Macdonald of Tradeston and Cabinet Office officials have regular contact with local authorities on this issue, through the provision of formal guidance, funding and co-ordination of local arrangements with national policy.

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