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6 Feb 2006 : Column 939W—continued

Enrolment Centres

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the commitment given by the noble Lord Bassam of Brighton in the House of Lords on 23 January 2006, Official Report, column 979, that the Government envisage that a person will have to travel no more than one hour to get to an enrolment centre, how the Government plans (a) to implement and (b) to monitor this commitment; and if he will make a statement. [47858]

Andy Burnham: While no final decisions have been taken with regard to the eventual locations of enrolment centres for the Identity Card Scheme, current analysis envisages that no person will have to travel more than an hour to get to an enrolment centre. Provision for mobile enrolment facilities is planned for those who would have to travel more than an hour from the location of a fixed enrolment centre.

With regard to the implementation of the enrolment centre network, this analysis has been built on existing and new research, operational experience and consultations with representatives of sparsely populated communities. In particular, the analysis will draw on extensive work carried out for the implementation of the expansion of the UK Passport Service's office network. Modelling is continuing using census, travel time and socio-economic data.

Planning for the provision of enrolment facilities for sparsely populated communities has been informed by the experience of other organisations such as the Driving Standards Agency, the Department of Work and Pensions, the Scottish Executive Environmental and Rural Affairs Department as well as services provided by the banking industry. Consultations are continuing with DEFRA through their Rural Services Divisions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern
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Ireland. Additionally, the results from consultations conducted for the UK Passport Service have also been integrated into this work. These included discussions with local authorities in Cornwall, Devon, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland as well as the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, Scottish Borders Enterprise, Dumfries & Galloway Enterprise and Highlands & Island Enterprise. It is anticipated that once more detailed plans for enrolment in remote communities are ready, further consultation with relevant local bodies will take place.

With regard to continual monitoring of travel times, final plans on how this will be monitored on an ongoing basis are yet to be decided. However, it is anticipated that this will be monitored through customer feedback, consultations with local communities and further modelling in response to population changes.

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the commitment given by the noble Lord Bassam of Brighton in the House of Lords on 23 January 2006, Official Report, column 979, that the Government envisage that a person will have to travel no more than one hour to get to an enrolment centre, what the boundaries are of the area which the Passport Service's proposed Oban office will service for this purpose. [47859]

Andy Burnham: The network of offices that the UK Passport Service is currently in the process of establishing are for interviews of adult first time passport applicants. It is not possible at this stage to announce the locations of these offices because procurement negotiations are still in progress and the availability of premises is not confirmed.

The undertaking given by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, related to identity card enrolment centres. The UK Passport Service will be working to similar standards and will make alternative arrangements for areas more than one hour's travel from the nearest office. The possibilities being considered are mobile offices, or premises staffed on an occasional basis by peripatetic staff, or interviews over a secure webcam link, facilitated by a local administrator.

EU Home Affairs Agenda

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he (a) is taking and (b) plans to take to advance the home affairs agenda in the EU. [45443]

Andy Burnham: During the UK's presidency of the EU we made substantial progress on delivery of practically focussed measures which will make a real difference to the lives of citizens in the UK and the rest of the EU. We agreed the directive on retention of telecommunications data, measures to increase the EU's effectiveness against organised crime, an external relations strategy in the justice and home affairs (JHA) field and initialled agreements with Russia on readmission and visa facilitation as well as adopting council conclusions on pilot regional protection programmes. We also delivered against existing commitments in the Hague programme and the counter-terrorism and drugs action plans.
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We will be seeking to build upon the successes we achieved and take forward UK priorities in the JHA field, through continued close contact with succeeding presidencies; bilateral work with other member states; engagement through the G5 and G8 groups of countries; and by maintaining the close working relationship we have built with the Commission and the European Parliament.

During 2006, we will push for continued momentum on the action plan on trafficking in human beings, agreed during our presidency; we will continue to encourage close working with African partners on migration; will support the Austrian presidency in building on the progress we made in our presidency to get final agreement on the European evidence warrant; and we want to see progress made on the transfer of information from criminal records, in particular to improve cross-EU protection from sex offenders for children.

Fire Alarms

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 24 January 2006, Official Report, columns 2013–14W, on audible fire alarms, what plans he has to extend audible fire alarms coverage to all his Department's buildings where there is no operational reason for not having one. [47045]

Mr. Charles Clarke: All buildings occupied by the Home Office are subject to a fire risk assessment in line with the requirements of current legislation and the draft Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. Part of this risk assessment is to ensure that the occupants are provided with sufficient means of early warning in the event of fire. Any requirement to extend audible fire alarm coverage will therefore be addressed on a building by building basis.

FRANK Campaign

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many hits on the FRANK website were recorded in 2005. [47704]

Paul Goggins: From January 2005 to the end of December there were a total of 5,241,355 visits to

Global Peace and Unity Conference

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria the Metropolitan Police used in deciding to sponsor the Global Peace and Unity Conference at London's Excel Centre on 4 December; and if he will make a statement. [41614]

Hazel Blears: The Commissioner for the police of the Metropolis informs me the criteria used in deciding to sponsor an event, organisation or activity is based on a business case approach to determine that the outcomes can provide clear benefits to the MPS and the communities it serves.

Following the bombings and attempted bombings in London in July the MPS has been conducting consultation with faith groups to learn about their concerns, particularly about the impact that the July events had on their communities. This conference was
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an opportunity to engage the Muslim community and in particular young people. 17 Police Officers and Police Staff attended and spoke to 2,000 people. They were also able to promote the MPS and provide recruitment advice to individuals interested in joining the MPS, to engage the Muslim community and provide reassurance, and to encourage individuals to sign up to the Police Message Broadcasting System and to receive the MRS community bulletin.

Identity Cards

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the public sector databases that the new Identity Card Agency will have access to as part of the implementation and administration of the identity card scheme. [43545]

Andy Burnham: The use of information on public sector databases for the implementation and administration of the Identity Cards Scheme will be primarily for the electronic verification of identity information provided by an applicant. This is known as the biographical footprint check.

This check relates to identity verification only and does not provide the Scheme with access to those databases. Instead, the Scheme will seek to verify identity information by either receiving confirmation of the information provided by the holder of the database or by that holder releasing the relevant information from those databases to the Scheme. Under Clause 11 of the Identity Cards Bill, such arrangements must be first laid out in secondary legislation and approved by Parliament by the affirmative procedure before they can occur.

At present, the final decision about which databases will be used in the biographical footprint check has not been made and is subject to ongoing planning and assessment. In particular, the check will build on the work conducted by the UK Passport Service to verify electronically some information provided on passport applications.

Anne Snelgrove: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to ensure the reliability of information held on a national database in connection with an identity card scheme. [47016]

Andy Burnham: There will be a number of steps taken to ensure the reliability of information to be held on the National Identity Register. During the enrolment stage, these steps will include:

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There will be continuing actions to ensure that the information on the register remains reliable. Biometric verification or secure remote authentication technology will be used to link an individual to the correct record if he should wish to update it. The information provided may also be verified through electronic record checks. There will also be an online facility where, subject to secure remote authentication, an individual will be able to review their record and thus, ensure that it is accurate. In addition, a person will be entitled to request a full subject data access request under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. To encourage individuals to keep their information up to date, the Identity Cards Bill provides for a civil penalty regime. Its operation will be subject to a Code of Practice under Clause 36 of the Identity Cards Bill and this code will ensure that sufficient prior notification of this requirement will be made.

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