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Airport Immigration Controls: Channelling Arrangements

Lord Northfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blatch: Current channelling arrangements at the immigration controls at ports of entry are designed to clear a great variety of passengers with the minimum of delay and inconvenience. The arrangements are kept under regular review.

Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) generally require no more than a brief document check, and therefore move through the immigration control very quickly. Non-EEA nationals, including those who are returning residents, take longer because of the need to ask a few questions. Therefore if non-EEA nationals were to use the EEA channel significant delays could build up.

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Oxford Prison: Category of Prisoners

Baroness Faithfull asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What category of prisoner is now held in Oxford Prison and what plans they have for its future.

Baroness Blatch: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Baroness Faithfull from the Director General of the Prison Service, Mr. Derek Lewis, dated 20th July 1995.

Lady Blatch has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the category of prisoners held at Oxford prison and what plans there are for the future of the site.

Only selected category C and D prisoners are held at Oxford. Category C prisoners are those who are not to be trusted in open conditions, but who lack the resources to make a determined attempt to escape. Category D prisoners are judged to be suitable for open conditions. All prisoners at Oxford are in the last two years of their sentence.

Population predictions for 1994 meant it was necessary to re-open Oxford prison as a temporary measure. Its future use has recently been under review, taking into account the wider estate planning needs of the Prison Service. I hope that we shall be able to announce the outcome shortly.

M.77 and A.77 Road Improvements

The Earl of Lindsey and Abingdon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans on grounds of safety to extend the M.77 south of Glasgow to connect with the A.77 at the Kilmarnock bypass.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): Yes. Not only for safety reasons, but also to improve accessibility to Ayrshire. Draft orders have been published for the improvement of the A.77 road between Malletsheugh and Kilmarnock Bypass to motorway standard. Two separate schemes are involved: Malletsheugh to Floak and Floak to Fenwick. The latter section is planned to start within the next three years subject to the completion of statutory procedures and the availability of finance. The construction of the section of the M.77 between Dumbreck and Malletsheugh, known as the Ayr Road Route, is proceeding to schedule and is expected to be open for traffic in December 1996.

Highlands and Islands Veterinary Services

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on reviewing the Highlands and Islands Veterinary Services Scheme.

The Earl of Lindsay: A review of this scheme has been completed and revised arrangements, which have been agreed with the British Veterinary Association,

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will be introduced which will ensure the availability of an adequate veterinary service of reasonable cost to crofters and persons of like economic status in the former crofting counties in respect of animals kept for agricultural purposes. Grants paid to participating veterinary practices will include mileage grant, supplementary travel grant and, in certain of the western islands, difficult area practice grant. The standard visit fee to be paid by the crofters will also be increased to £12.50.

I am very glad that we have been able to introduce this revised scheme of assistance towards the provision of veterinary services to crofters. It will protect animal health and welfare and contribute to improving the productivity of livestock which is of such importance to the economy of the crofting areas. The scheme targets resources at the areas where there is greatest need and makes provision for additional veterinary practices to join the scheme.

The revised scheme will be introduced with effect from 1 April 1995. Further details have been placed in the Library of the House.

Shetland Oil Spill: Response to Report

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration they have given to the report of the Ecological Steering Group on the Shetland Oil Spill.

The Earl of Lindsay: I have today placed in the Library a detailed response to the group's main recommendations. It accepts the case for improved co-ordination, both generally and specifically, in relation to public health and wildlife response arrangements, and notes the group's views on early survey and sampling requirements and on further research priorities.

Arising directly from the group's recommendation that the Government should review the position on access to land where scientific work is required to assess the environmental impact of a major pollution incident, the Environment Bill which completed its Parliamentary stages this month, provides for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (and the Environment Agency in England and Wales) to authorise access in emergency circumstances.

Prospective Adopters of Babies from China: Procedure

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to assist with a thorough and quick adoption process in the United Kingdom for those wishing to adopt an abandoned baby in China;

    Whether there is an authorised adoption centre and service in the United Kingdom specifically for Chinese babies, and if not whether they will take steps to establish such a centre;

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    What is the average period for arranging the adoption of a child from China and what steps they are taking to reduce the length of the period from initiation to receiving the child; and

    What steps they are taking to reduce the home study period for those persons adopting children from China.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): Prospective adopters wishing to adopt children from overseas, including the People's Republic of China, are required to apply to their local authority for preparation and assessment. This is necessarily a thorough process, involving the completion of a home study report. Since no two cases are alike, time taken to complete the process varies in each case. The department's guidance on timescales for completion of reports by local authorities for overseas adoption applications, issued as a letter in June 1991–CI(91)14, copies of which are available in the Library, was that a total maximum period of six months should be the aim and expectation.

There are no plans to reduce the home study period for people adopting from China. Standards which apply in domestic adoption should be no less for children to be adopted from abroad. This principle is underpinned by the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Adoption which the United Kingdom signed in January 1994 and intends to ratify as soon as Parliamentary time permits.

There is as yet no approved intercountry adoption agency in the United Kingdom set up to deal with overseas adoptions although it is hoped that two or three organisations will come forward and apply for approval in the next year or two.

Adoption of children from China by United Kingdom citizens have been taking place since April 1993; to date more than 30 children have been adopted—one of the highest figures by a country in western Europe. Prospective adopters are usually able to complete the adoption process in China within three months of their application being received in Beijing.

Homeless Mentally Ill: Rehabilitation

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will promote consultations between the Department of the Environment, the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Treasury to consider the respective roles of special rehabilitation hostels, hospitals and permanent accommodation in housing the homeless mentally-ill, and to ensure prisons are not used to house people with mental health problems for whom such accommodation would be unsuitable.

Baroness Cumberlege: The Government's aim is to ensure that there is no necessity for people to sleep rough. A ministerial group, involving all interested departments, has been set up to ensure that the Government play their full part in securing this aim. The

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Department of Health has already funded the London-based homeless mentally ill initiative, which has so far cost over £20 million and which in addition to providing multi-disciplinary psychiatric outreach teams has also provided specialist rehabilitation hostels as well as more permanent accommodation. We have organised jointly with the Department of the Environment a series of conferences for health and services purchasers and providers on the subject of housing and community care with a particular emphasis on the needs of the mentally ill. These conferences were all addressed by Ministers from one or other department.

It is well-established government policy that offenders, or alleged offenders, who have mental disorders requiring in-patient treatment should receive care from health and social services rather than in the criminal justice system. In 1990 just over 300 people were transferred to hospital from prison under the terms of the Mental Health Act 1983. In 1993 that number had increased to 776; provisional figures indicate that there were nearly 800 transfers in 1994.

Ministers and officials in the department work closely with their counterparts in the Home Department on the development of policy for mentally disordered offenders.

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