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12 Mar 2003 : Column 302W—continued

HOME DEPARTMENT

Criminal Records Bureau

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what soft information is given to (a) employers and (b) employees who have requested an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check. [100167]

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Hilary Benn [holding answer 10 March 2003]: Enhanced disclosures differ from standard disclosures in that in addition to information about convictions, which is obtained from the Police National Computer, they may also contain information provided by a local police force. Most often, this will be a police force in whose area an applicant has lived for the five years preceding the date of application. This information is commonly referred to as "local information".

The Police Act 1997, which established the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), sets out when such information should be released. Essentially, a local police force may release local information if it thinks it may be relevant to the position sought. The question of whether information is or may be relevant is solely a matter for the local police force, and over which the CRB has no control.

Local information can be released in two forms—approved information and additional information. Decisions about the form in which information is released are again solely a matter for the local police force and over which the CRB has no control. The local police force decisions are based upon the nature of the information and the circumstances of particular cases. Approved and additional information have previously been termed 'soft' or 'non-conviction' information respectively.

Approved information is local police force information released under section 115 (7) of the Police Act and is information that has been approved to be included on an enhanced disclosure. This is printed on both copies of the disclosure, (i.e. which go to the employer and the employee). The applicant will normally be aware of the information already, which might for example be information about an impending prosecution. At present only some three in every 1,000 enhanced disclosures contain approved information.

Additional information is released under section 115 (8) of the Police Act and is information that has been authorised to be released to the registered body only in the interests of the prevention or detection of crime. This is released in the form of a separate letter sent to the registered body and arrives in a different envelope from the disclosure. The information is not made available to the applicant and does not appear on the disclosure. The disclosure issued to the registered body contains a box on the top right-hand side referring to the letter sent under separate cover. This warns the registered body that they should wait for the letter before reaching a recruitment decision. The information released by the police in these circumstances is highly confidential. Although CRB will know when such letters are released, they do not see the contents and are not sent a copy. At present only some four in every 10,000 enhanced disclosure applications end with the release of additional information.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how long applications for Criminal Records Bureau checks will be sent to Madras for processing; what the cost is to his Department of sending those applications; what measures are in place to ensure that forms are securely transferred between the UK and India; and if he will make a statement. [100168]

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Hilary Benn [holding answer 10 March 2003]: All disclosure applications are processed at the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) sites at Liverpool and Darwen, Blackburn. The work being undertaken at, Chennai (Madras) involves manual inputting of personal information such as name, date of birth and addresses during the past five years, provided by individuals on their application forms. This work is undertaken at the beginning of the process, and no information drawn from police sources or other data sources is involved.

This arrangement was introduced as part of a package of measures to improve the performance of the CRB. It has proved highly effective in enabling large numbers of paper application forms to be processed, with timely, cost effective and accurate data capture, and eliminating backlogs from this critical stage of the CRB process.

Due to the fact that the CRB is still receiving around 78 per cent. of applications on paper and that the current data entry system works well the CRB will continue to capture the information from hand-written forms in Chennai. When the CRB introduces an electronic application channel this situation will be reviewed. There is no additional cost to this Department in the work being carried out in Chennai for data inputting. The costs are borne entirely by Capita as part of their contractual arrangements with the CRB.

To ensure the data processed by Hays in India would be secure, senior members of CRB staff have conducted two extensive site inspections. The inspections were carried out in accordance with the Information Commissioners (1C) guidance relating to overseas transfer. On inspection, the site satisfied both the IC's and the CRB stringent requirements for security, data protection and data integrity.

The data transferred is that contained on the disclosure application form. The form is scanned, encrypted and then transferred via a secure link to the site in Chennai. On receipt of the scanned image, the data are entered on to a system compatible with those used by the CRB to process disclosure applications. On completion the data is again encrypted and transferred back to the United Kingdom via the secure link. Hays only retain the data for the duration of time taken to input and transfer to the United Kingdom. Thereafter, the data are destroyed.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 9 January 2003, Official Report, columns 911–13W, on the Criminal Records Bureau (Checks), if he will set out for each study the (a) total cost and (b) cost to his Department of (i) the Coopers and Lybrand (1996) market research study; (ii) the Accent Market Research (March 2000) study; (iii) the Labour Force Survey carried out between September and November 1999; (iv) the telephone survey with existing checkers, that was carried out to validate the baseline information; (v) the Capita Account Managers research in December 2001; (vi) the on-going joint Capita CRB forecasting work; (vii) the Rosslyn Research in 2000, to establish employer's requirements in terms of service standards; and (viii) the consultation with registered employers from January to June 2001. [100241]

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Hilary Benn: The information is as follows:

(i) the total cost and cost to the Home Office of the Coopers and Lybrand (1996) market research study was £66,422.75, including VAT;

(ii) the total cost and cost to the Home Office of the Accent Market Research (March 2000) study was £16,293.26, including VAT;

(iii) the Labour Force Survey is carried out annually by the Department for Work Pensions, and therefore, the Home Office incurred no additional costs;

(iv) the telephone survey with existing checkers, that was carried out to validate the baseline information, was undertaken by PRA's business planning unit as part of their normal day-to-day duties, and therefore, the Home Office incurred no additional costs;

(v) the Capita Account Managers research in December 2001 is part of the Account Manager's normal day-to-day duties. Therefore, the Home Office incurred no additional costs;

(vi) the on-going joint Capita/Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) forecasting work is part of the normal day-to-day duties of these staff, and therefore, the Home Office incurred no additional costs;

(vii) the total cost and cost to the Home Office of the Rosslyn Research in 2000 to establish employer's requirements in terms of service standards was £5,710.50, including VAT; and

(viii) the consultation with registered employers from January to June 2001 was a major part of the CRB's publicity campaign to raise awareness of the disclosure service and to encourage registration. The total cost and cost to the Home Office of this publicity campaign was £694,000.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his statement of 27 February 2003, Official Report, columns 32–36WS, on the Criminal Records Bureau, what additional resources he has given to Capita for each (a) standard disclosure and (b) enhanced disclosure following the indefinite postponement of basic disclosures. [101016]

Hilary Benn: In his statement, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said it would be inappropriate to launch basic disclosures until higher priority categories of applicant for higher level disclosures are seeing their needs fully accommodated. The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) is concentrating its resources on the standard and enhanced disclosures until the demand for higher level disclosures is fully met and that applicants for such disclosures receive a satisfactory service. Basic disclosures will not be introduced until these objectives have been achieved. In light of the operational difficulties that the CRB has experienced since the launch of the higher level disclosure service, the decision was taken to re-assess the anticipated demand for basic disclosures in conjunction with a review of the business process model. No additional resources have been directed towards Capita for standard and enhanced disclosures, following the decision to postpone the launch of basic disclosures.

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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 29 January 2003, Official Report, columns 911–13W, on Criminal Records Bureau (Checks), what assessment he has made of the research into the likely level of demand for Criminal Records Bureau checks undertaken by (a) the Home Office and (b) CRB. [101025]

Hilary Benn: The research undertaken enabled a baseline demand figure to be agreed and confirmed and assumptions validated from a number of different sources. An assessment of the research indicates that the baseline figure produced for the first year of operations is reasonably close to actual demand. However, it now seems less certain that much higher levels of forecast future demand will be achieved, although this has yet to be proven.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his statement of 27 February 2003, Official Report, columns 32–36WS, on the Criminal Records Bureau, how many representations his Department received in the consultation exercise with registered bodies and employers from January to June 2001 on the use of paper based application systems; and if he will place copies of these in the Library. [101031]

Hilary Benn: During the early part of 2001, as a major part of the Criminal Records Bureau's (CRB's) publicity campaign to raise awareness of the disclosure service and to encourage registration, the CRB held 22 seminars in nine venues throughout England and Wales. In all, over 8,000 organisations were invited to attend, including users of the existing police based arrangements. Around 4,687 delegates attended and the overall satisfaction rating was "very informative". The events proved very successful in raising awareness of the new service with over 3,557 organisations registered from the start. The total cost of this campaign was £694,000. It was during the registration seminars that many organisations with significant stature and strong relevance to the CRB voiced their concerns over the proposed telephone only application channel. The CRB did not carry out a formal paper consultation exercise on this matter.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) pursuant to his statement of 27 February, Official Report, columns 32–36WS, on the Criminal Records Bureau, what estimate he has made of (a) lost revenue and (b) profit to the CRB following indefinite postponement of basic disclosures; [101036]

Hilary Benn: Under Her Majesty's Treasury rules the fee level for basic disclosures would have been set at a level to ensure full cost recovery but no surplus. Consequently, this will have no financial effect on the Criminal Records Bureau. The estimate of cost and income for basic disclosures is as follows:




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Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what his estimate is of the charge made by Capita for Criminal Records Bureau checks calculated as the charge per disclosure processed when all 1,284,891 applications made so far have been processed, shown as (a) actual charge and (b) theoretical charge before penalty clause terms invoked; [101136]

Hilary Benn: Details of the charges made by Capita for Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks are commercially sensitive and as such I am unable to divulge this information.

Payments have been made in line with the terms of the contract with deduction of liquefied damages for delay and failure to meet service standards.

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will implement the recommendations of the Carter report into the Criminal Records Bureau in Liverpool. [101431]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 7 March 2003]: The Independent Review Team's recommendations will be implemented as soon as practicable. Some can be implemented faster than others. Work has already begun on a pilot to examine the costs and feasibility of placing flags on the Police National Computer and in developing an electronic application channel. We expect to establish the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) as a separate agency later this year.


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