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Earl Howe: Where Ministers of the Crown, in their personal capacity, receive payments from public funds on the same basis as other members of the public, information regarding their claims and payments is normally held under the same conditions of confidence as apply generally.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): There is a centralised computer register of all persons detained in Her Majesty's penal institutions in England and Wales. This register has been operational since March 1991, and is updated electronically every day by each prison's local computer system. The central database does not include computer details of persons held in Scotland or Northern Ireland which are outside the jurisdiction of HM Prison Service in England and Wales.
On-line access to police forces may well be included in future initiatives of the Committee for Co-ordination of Computerisation of the Criminal Justice System, relating to the transfer of information between the criminal justice organisations. A pilot exercise, involving the local forces, probation service, prisons and courts, to establish the benefits of transferring information by use of E-Mail, is under way in Suffolk and Hampshire.
The Scottish Prison Service installed a networked Prisoner Records database in all Scottish prisons during 1995. This contains information on all prisoners in Scottish prisons and is accessible from all establishments and Scottish Prison Service headquarters. Some work has been carried out on the scope for developing an integrated communications network to enable Scottish criminal justice agencies, including prisons, police forces and the courts, to share information of common interest. No decision has been taken regarding an implementation date. Meanwhile, however, there is close co-operation between the Scottish Prison Service and Scottish police forces in matters of criminal intelligence.
The Northern Ireland position is that at present a centralised computer register of all persons detained in HM penal establishments in Northern Ireland does not exist. However, we are currently considering options for the development of existing computer systems to provide a central register. Options for information sharing between agencies within the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland are also being examined.
The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Many young working people rent shared houses and bedsits and the frequency with which these groups change address does not indicate a shortage of this type of accommodation. The Government's proposals would limit housing benefit to the general level of rents payable in any given locality for the sort of non self-contained accommodation that young working people tend to occupy. The Government do not believe that this would prevent those intending to claim housing benefit from finding suitably priced accommodation.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: We are satisfied that the provisions of the Social Security (Persons From Abroad) Miscellaneous Amendment Regulations 1996 are consistent with the UK's continuing obligations under the convention.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Railways Act 1993 imposes a duty on the Franchising Director to require, through franchise agreements, participation in a discount fare scheme for elderly people. All franchise operators running privatised rail services will be required to sell and honour the relevant card.
Viscount Goschen: Services between London and Bordeaux, and between Bordeaux and Gibraltar are not matters for the Spanish authorities. Rights to operate these services are available under the EC Third Aviation Package and the UK/France bilateral air service arrangements respectively. It is up to airlines to decide whether they wish to operate a combined London-Bordeaux-Gibraltar service. If a UK airline were to have difficulty operating services we would be prepared to take the matter up with the Spanish authorities.
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