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21 Dec 2004 : Column 1553W—continued

Security Alerts

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with (a) US security officials and (b) UK security officials regarding security alerts at (i) Newark airport, (ii) JFK airport and (iii) Dulles-Washington airport in (A) 2002, (B) 2003 and (C) 2004; what public information was available regarding any such security alerts; and what discussions he has had with non-government employees regarding such security alerts. [203250]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and I have had frequent discussions with US authorities about aviation security over the period in question. Aviation security has been a high priority for both countries since September 11 and has featured regularly in my own discussions with the US Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge. We have considered the intelligence on terrorist threats to aviation and the range of preventative measures we have put in place. Additionally, my right hon. Friend has had frequent discussions with representatives of the aviation industry, through the medium of the National Aviation Security Committee and in other contacts.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many occasions between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004 departmental special advisers travelled (a) domestically and (b) abroad in an official capacity; what places were visited; and how much each visit cost. [202256]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004, departmental special advisers travelled abroad in an official capacity on nine occasions at an average total cost of £3,938. The countries visited were USA (twice),France (twice), Spain, Switzerland, India/Pakistan, Portugal and Germany.

Information on domestic trips taken by special advisers is not held centrally. This information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

All travel by special advisers is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and Civil Service Management Code:

Special Constables

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many special constables have been appointed in each year since 1997; and how many are currently employed. [200287]

Ms Blears: Special constables are volunteers and are not employees. The total number of special constables in England and Wales in each year since 1997 is as follows:
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31 MarchNumber of special constables

There are no separate statistics published for the number of special constables appointed each year. Research suggests that the main reason for the fall in numbers is external commitments, with ineffective management and deployment also contributing. Some specials leave to join as regular officers.

The Government have been working on a wide variety of measures with the Association of Chief Police Officers, the special constabulary and other stakeholders to arrest the decline in numbers. These include the national specials weekend, a national advertising campaign and capacity building funding, enabling forces to target resources to help improve recruitment, retention and management.

Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many special constables are serving in the Metropolitan Police Force. [206201]

Ms Blears: Figures on special constabulary strength are contained in Home Office Statistical Bulletin 13/04. On 31 March 2004 there were 742 special constables serving in the Metropolitan police, an increase of 50 compared with 31 March 2003.

Tolleshunt D'Arcy Case

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will instruct the Essex Constabulary to give to Mr. Jeremy Bamber's solicitors all audio tapes in its possession relating to events at White House Farm, Tolleshunt D'Arcy, 7 August 1985. [204678]

Ms Blears: The disclosure of information held by Essex Constabulary is a matter for the Chief Officer of the force, unless otherwise instructed to do so by a court. If the information requested is available under the access provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Freedom of Information Act 2000 then Mr. Bamber may have his own rights to gain access to such information under this legislation.

Travel Costs

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the total travel costs to his Department have been for (a) Ministers, (b) special advisers and (c) officials for each year since 1997. [203787]

Fiona Mactaggart [holding answer 9 December 2004]: Since 1999, the Government publishes, on an annual basis, the total costs of all ministerial overseas travel and a list of all visits by Cabinet Ministers costing in excess of £500. Travel costs for special advisers who accompany their Ministers overseas is included in the annual list on Overseas Travel by Cabinet Ministers.
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Details on the costs of Ministers' domestic travel and further details on the costs of special advisers travel for this period are not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

All travel is undertaken in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Ministerial Code and the Civil Service Management Code.

Young Offenders

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 6 December 2004, Official Report, column 396W,on young offenders, what plans he has to implement basic skills tests at regular periods throughout a young offender's sentence. [206000]

Mr. Ivan Lewis [holding answer 20 December 2004]: I have been asked to reply.

There is a statutory requirement to assess basic skills levels of all prisoners entering custody. Juvenile offenders are currently assessed upon entry to prison, upon release from prison and at the end of their sentence in the community. Assessment of juvenile basic skills level is carried out using the PLUS assessment tool.

Currently, convicted young adult offenders are assessed for crimeogenic factors using Offender Assessment System (known as OASys) a toolkit developed by the National Probation Service which can highlight an offenders educational need as part of the need to reduce re-offending. The assessment contributes to a plan for life and is linked to a national computer system containing reference to their skills and training.

In future the National Offender Management Service in conjunction with the Offenders Learning and Skills Unit (OLSU) and its partners will include basic skills achievement monitoring as part of the individual learner record. The record will include information on the learner's basic skills level allowing practitioners in the education field to track the progress of the learner. The first rollout of the record will take place as part of the OLSU future service delivery in three development regions next August followed by a national rollout in 2006.


Arup Economics and Planning

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what preliminary reports he has received from Arup Economics and Planning concerning their research project LGR65/12/110, Evaluation of the Role and Impact of Regional Chambers; and if he will place a copy in the Library. [206074]

Keith Hill: The technical Report following the feasibility study has been completed and a copy has been made available in the Library of the House. The interim
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report is currently being finalised by ARUP and will be submitted to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister in January 2005. A copy will be placed in the Library of the House when available.

Building Regulations

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to revise Part J of the Building Regulations to enhance the integrity of domestic oil tanks. [206690]

Phil Hope: The Part J requirements, including those for protection against oil pollution, came into effect on 1 April 2002 following extensive consultation. A comprehensive survey of the impact of this is planned for next year, and it would be premature to revise the requirements before the results of this survey are available. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is aware, however, that the Environment Agency and industry are becoming more concerned about domestic oil pollution, and officials are considering with them what further advice might be issued.

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