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11 Mar 2003 : Column 194W—continued

Royal Victoria Hospital

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the Royal Victoria Hospital Mortuary Log Book came into existence. [102013]

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Mr. Browne: The Royal Victoria Hospital mortuary register started with effect from 4 February 1961.

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) coroners there were and (b) hospital post mortems took place at the Royal Victoria Hospital in each of the last three decades. [102017]

Mr. Browne: Information in the form requested is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Teachers' Salaries

Mr. Trimble: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) primary schools and (b) secondary schools he estimates will receive (i) more and (ii) less funding under the new common funding formula. [100975]

Jane Kennedy: The intention is to introduce the common formula in the calculation of school budgets for 2004–05.

It is not possible at this stage to assess the impact of the common formula with any degree of precision as the size of the Aggregated School Budget (ASB) for 2004–05 has not yet been determined and final decisions about the make-up of the formula have still to be made.

Mr. Trimble: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with representatives of (a) primary and (b) secondary schools with regard to changes to the common funding formula, with particular reference to threshold funds. [100976]

Jane Kennedy: The main forum for discussion about the Common Funding Formula is the LMS Steering Group. The membership of the Group includes representatives of the managers of all grant-aided schools in Northern Ireland. The last meeting was held in September 2002, when the Department's proposals for the handling of threshold payments were discussed.

In addition to discussion at this formal forum, the Department also engages with representatives of schools and teachers through meetings such as Standing Conferences, and by responding positively to requests for meetings with representative associations such as the Secondary Heads Association and the Primary Principals Association.

Tissue Act

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what changes are proposed to the Tissue Act 1961; and whether the Act is planned to be repealed. [102019]

Mr. Browne: The Department of Health, in conjunction with the Welsh Assembly Government, is currently working on a draft Human Organs and Tissue Bill to replace the Human Tissue Act 1961 in England and Wales. We are following developments closely to determine the best legislative solution for replacing the Human Tissue Act (NI) 1962.

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Laptop Computers

Dr. Cable: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many laptop computers were used by (a) Ministers and special advisers and (b) officials in his Department in each year since 1995; how many were (i) lost and (ii) stolen; what their cost was; and if he will make a statement. [97506]

Mr. Alexander: The number of laptops provided centrally on behalf of the Department in 2000, 2001 and 2002 are 222, 540 and 629 respectively. However, some laptops have been procured by business units, and no information on the total numbers in use was collected centrally.

The Cabinet Office Ministerial Group currently have a pool of three laptops for the use of Ministers, special advisers and officials within the group.

There were two laptops reported stolen in 1998 and another one in 2001.


Criminal Records Checks

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when he expects the Criminal Records Bureau to clear the backlog of criminal record checks for residential and nursing home care staff; and if he will make a statement; [100944]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 5 March 2003]: I am unable to provide data to the hon. Member on specific waiting times for job types because there are no IT procedures at present to extract this data from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) database.

This functionality is expected to be available during subsequent system releases. There are no figures available on the actual number of prospective employees in residential and nursing homes who are yet to apply for Disclosure.

However, I can confirm that the backlog of all applications is falling steadily and now equates to less than two weeks' output. Backlog, defined as the number of applications outstanding across all sectors, over three weeks old, (the published CRB service standard), is 51,857. This compares with 115,483 in October 2002, and 62,687 in the last week in January 2003. I cannot state precisely when the backlog will be entirely eradicated. I can confirm that the average turnaround time for correctly completed applications is currently five weeks across all sectors. Applications are dealt with in date order and no professions are prioritised above others.

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Family Visit Appeals

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will publish the report of the interdepartmental review of family visit appeals. [101404]

Beverley Hughes: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 29 January 2003, Official Report, column 915W.

We intend to publish the report as soon as possible.

Pre-sentence Reports

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what steps he intends to take to speed up the provision of pre-sentence reports by the probation service; [101175]

Hilary Benn: Chief Officers of Probation are responsible for the provision of probation services in their area, including the provision of pre-sentence reports to the courts. To assist performance in this area, the National Probation Directorate (NPD) has issued guidance to areas on effectively prioritising workloads and developing local protocols with courts. The NPD has also formulated a revised agreement with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Police for the provision of necessary advance information to the Probation Service to help with the timely production of pre-sentence reports for the courts. The NPD will continue to monitor performance of probation areas on the provision of pre-sentence reports and to consider ways to improve performance.

Information is not available centrally on average times for probation officers to submit reports to individual magistrates' courts. National Standards for the Supervision of Offenders in the Community 2000 (revised 2002), which apply to the National Probation Service for England and Wales, require pre-sentence reports to be prepared within 15 working days of request by the court. The National Probation Service currently has a target to produce 90 per cent. of pre-sentence reports within 15 days. The latest figures, which relate to magistrates' courts, show that for all probation areas in 2001–02, 79 per cent. of reports were provided within the 15-day target.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to issue guidelines on consistency relating to speeding penalties. [101169]

Hilary Benn: The Magistrates' Association already produces sentencing guidelines for their members, which cover many of the main offences dealt with by magistrates, including speeding. The Criminal Justice Bill contains provision for the establishment of a Sentencing Guidelines Council. The Council will be responsible for setting guidelines for the full range of criminal offences and will be established as soon as possible after the enabling legislation is enacted. It is too

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early to say at this point how soon the Council will turn its attention to the offence of speeding, and road traffic offences generally.

Work Permits

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people in the last year have been covered by applications for work permits under the Intra-Company Transfer Scheme; how many ICT applications have been granted; how many were examined in detail and checked; and how many were rejected and why. [101503]

Beverley Hughes: In 2002 Work Permits (UK) made decisions on 26,373 applications for work permits under the arrangements for intra-company transferees (ICTs). Of these 26,005 were approved and 368 were refused. 110 applications were refused on grounds of insufficient skills and experience, 21 on the grounds that no genuine vacancy existed, 78 on grounds of inadequate salary and 159 for other reasons.

All applications for work permits for ICTs are checked against the criteria of the work permit arrangements, which require that the company making the application is a UK-based employer with a direct link by common ownership with the overseas company; that both the post and the worker meet the skills, qualifications and experience requirements of the work permit arrangements; that the worker is an established employee with essential company knowledge and at least six months experience of working for the company; and that the pay and conditions of employment are equal to those that would be offered to a resident worker doing similar work.

Work Permits (UK) may, if it has doubts about an application, request further evidence that these requirements are met.

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many non-EU nationals are working in the UK under the Intra-Company Transfer Scheme; and how many of them are working in information technology. [101504]

Beverley Hughes: Since 1 January 1999, 88,820 work permits, including extensions to previously issued permits, have been approved under the Intra Company Transfer (ICT) category of the work permit arrangements, of which 33,951 have been issued in respect of workers in the IT industry. However, it is not possible to provide data as to the length of time for which these permits have been issued or the proportion of permit holders that have subsequently left the United Kingdom.

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