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Regional Assemblies

Ann Winterton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) whether staff from county and district councils in the regions of the north west, north east and Yorkshire and the Humber would be entitled to redundancy if regional assemblies were established and they were offered (a) no new employment, (b) a job in the new unitary authorities and (c) a job in the regional assembly; [163706]

Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently considering with the Local Government Association, local government employers, trade unions and other key stakeholders potential arrangements for local government reorganisation. In the light of this work the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will decide what arrangements to adopt for any reorganisation following the referendum this autumn.

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Ann Winterton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what revenue raising powers the proposed regional assemblies for (a) the North West, (b) the North East and (c) Yorkshire and the Humber would have. [163709]

Mr. Raynsford: The revenue raising powers of elected regional assemblies were set out in Chapter 5 of the White Paper "Your Region, Your Choice: Revitalising the English Regions", published in May 2002 (Cm 5511).

In summary, the White Paper states that assemblies will receive a general grant to meet most of their direct running costs. But the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister believe that an assembly should be able to raise some extra money within the region if believes that this is desirable. Thus assemblies will be able to raise additional funds through a precept on the council tax. The money will be collected on behalf of the assembly by local authorities in the region as part of their existing arrangements for collecting council tax. As is the case for London, an assembly will not be able to vary non-domestic rates or affect business taxes.

The contribution of council tax-payers to the running costs of the assembly would be equivalent to around 5p per week (£2.60 a year) for a Band D council tax-payer in any region.

An elected assembly would be allowed to set a higher charge to fund additional spending if it considered this desirable. Assemblies will be accountable to their tax-payers for the precept levels that they set, however, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will have a reserve power to limit this amount through arrangements comparable to the existing local authority capping regime.

Shell Haven Port

Bob Spink: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will make it his policy to impose a condition of approval for the Shell Haven Port application of a heritage fund to enable the local fishing industry to restart at a future date if the development goes ahead; [162193]

Mr. Jamieson: I have been asked to reply.

The applications for a new container port at London Gateway (formerly Shell Haven) are subject to the statutory planning approvals process. The inspector's report of the Public Inquiry held into the London Gateway proposals is now before Ministers for consideration. I cannot therefore make any further comment.


Coroners' Inquiries

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 10 March 2004, Official Report, columns 1571–72W, on coroners' inquiries, what the average length of time in bringing

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cases before the coroners' courts in (a) North Yorkshire, (b) East Yorkshire, (c) West Yorkshire and (d) South Yorkshire was in (i) 1997 and (ii) 2003. [161972]

Paul Goggins: In 2002, the latest year for which figures are available, the average time taken to process an inquest in the four areas mentioned, from the time the death was reported to the coroner until the time the inquest was concluded, is calculated to be just under four and a half months. On the same basis, the average time taken in those four areas for the coroner to issue a certificate permitting a body to be released for burial or other disposal, in cases where an inquest was subsequently held, amounted to six days.

In 1997, in the same areas, the average time taken to process an inquest was just over three months, and to issue a certificate, five and a quarter days.


Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the cost to date is of (a) setting up, (b) publicising and (c) running the Talk to FRANK service. [160066]

Caroline Flint: The FRANK marketing and advertising budget is £3 million per annum over three years (April 2002-March 2005) and is jointly funded by Home Office and Department of Health. The budget covers costs for: media, production of advertising and support literature, research and evaluation of the campaign, website development, PR and partnership marketing. For 2003–04 an additional £1.14 million was added to the publicity budget. The service also attracts running costs covered under a wider Department of Health contract for four helplines. An estimate of the proportion of total contract costs (£1.8 million) attributable to FRANK is not currently available.

Escort Contractors

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 15 March 2004, Official Report, column 130W, on escort contractors, what the equivalent figure was for each of the last 10 years. [163327]

Paul Goggins: The eight court escort contracts and the national contract for the movement of prisoners between prisons were introduced on a phased basis between April 1993 and April 1999; therefore complete national records are available only from April 1999.

These records show that Prison Service and contractors' vehicles covered the following approximate distances:


(66) Approximate

In addition, around 3,750,000 miles were covered between January and February 2004.

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Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements he put in place to allow the pistol shooting events at the last Commonwealth Games to take place within the law. [163012]

Caroline Flint: The National Rifle Association, who hosted the shooting events at Bisley, provided details of every team taking part in the pistol shooting events and of every official who would have access to pistols. Specific authorities were then issued by the Home Office under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. The authorities were dated so as to come into force one week before the commencement of the Games and to expire 10 days after the close.

The pistols were brought into the country through Heathrow airport, where they were put into secure storage. They were then taken by section 5 authorised carrier to Bisley where they were placed in the secure armoury. The pistols were allowed out of the armoury only for the necessary practice and competition and returned to the armoury immediately after the shoot. No pistol was allowed to be taken off the site.

At the closing of the Games, all the pistols were taken out of the country in the same way they had arrived.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the safety record of shooting sports in England and Wales. [163110]

Caroline Flint: No information is collated centrally in relation to accidents or injuries resulting specifically from the use of firearms in connection with shooting sports.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what discussions he had with the police regarding the combining of section 1 and section 2 firearms on the same certificate; [162998]

Caroline Flint: There have been no formal discussions or representations on these issues. There will be an opportunity for all interested parties to comment on these and all other firearms-related issues in responding to the consultation paper we will be issuing shortly on the review of firearms legislation. No specific studies have been undertaken by the Home Office of practices in other countries relating to competency testing and hunting examinations.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his estimate is of the (a) efficiency and (b) practicality of the current arrangements for licensing section 2 firearms. [162999]

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Caroline Flint: We shall be seeking views on this as part of the review of firearms legislation. A consultation paper will be issued shortly.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what information he has collated on (a) the time taken by the police and (b) the cost incurred to process (i) a firearms certificate and (ii) a shotgun certificate; [163000]

Caroline Flint: Police forces are responsible under the Firearms Acts for issuing firearms and shotgun certificates. It is for individual chief officers to establish targets for dealing with applications and for ensuring that staff are properly selected and trained for the tasks they carry out.

The average times taken for each force to undertake these functions are not centrally recorded but we understand that most forces would aim to deal with most applications within four to eight weeks.

As with other respects of police administration, firearms licensing is subject to monitoring by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. Forces are required to carry out a five year rolling programme of best value reviews of all areas of business.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applicants denied section 1 and section 2 certificates have appealed to the courts against the decision of the chief officer of each constabulary in England and Wales in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; and how many appeals were successful. [163003]

Caroline Flint: Firearms licensing statistics for England and Wales are published annually in Home Office statistical bulletins, copies of which are placed in the Library of the House. Details are given of applications which are refused but no information is available on the outcome of any subsequent appeals.

Court statistics provide some information on the volume of appeals but I understand from the Department for Constitutional Affairs that these data are only complete back to 1998 and can only be provided on a court rather than police force basis. Area figures are as follows:

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Volume of appeals against revoked firearms licences

Area (by Crown court)199819992000200120022003
Avon and Somerset778793
Devon and Cornwall81182510
Dyfed Powys153216142215
Greater London12119596
Greater Manchester401223
Hampshire and Isle of Wight1681213714
North Wales145533
North Yorkshire633010
South Wales and Gwent211210292
South Yorkshire351235
Thames Valley737535
West Mercia242102
West Midlands1634324
West Yorkshire1475341
England and Wales272235224141146134

These figures relate only to those cases where the appeal is clearly against refusal to grant a firearm or shot gun certificate. Other cases listed only as 'refusal of certificate' have not been counted since these might refer to taxi or entertainment licences.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many .22 gallery rifles he estimates are in circulation in England and Wales; [163004]

Caroline Flint: The information requested is not available centrally. We will be seeking views on this aspect of shooting as part of the review of firearms legislation.

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Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Home Office approved target shooting clubs there are in the Lancashire constabulary area. [163009]

Caroline Flint: There are 20 target shooting clubs currently approved by the Secretary of State in the Lancashire constabulary area.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applicants have applied to join Home Office approved target shooting clubs in each year since 1998; and how many have been successful. [163010]

Caroline Flint: The information requested is not kept centrally.

Mr. Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is on liaison between the Firearms Consultative Committee and a parallel body established in Northern Ireland. [161765]

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Caroline Flint: As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Firearms Consultative Committee has ceased to exist. The extent to which it sought to liaise with Northern Ireland, which has its own separate legislation, would have been a matter for the Committee to determine.

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