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"Sea Empress" Incident

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Government minimise the risk of marine accidents through a wide range of policies and measures, including a rigorous regime of port state control inspections to ensure high safety standards for vessels entering all UK ports. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch are investigating the circumstances and cause of the grounding of the "Sea Empress", with the aim of improving the safety of life at sea and the avoidance of accidents at sea. If, during the course of the investigation, the inspector considers that he should make interim recommendations, he will do so.

Northern Ireland: Resettlement and Rehabilitation Organisations

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Viscount Long: Government officials are in regular contact with the Probation Board, Extern and NIACRO on a range of issues, including resettlement and rehabilitation, relating to all offenders and those at risk of offending.

Housing Benefit: Arrangements

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the continuous linking period of 26 weeks for extended payments of housing benefit will result in a claimant being disqualified from benefit for

    (a) one day's sickness; (b) one week's sickness;

    (c) two weeks' sickness.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Where a person's qualifying benefit comes to an end because of incapacity for work the 26 week qualifying period will be broken. However, from October payment of Jobseeker's Allowance will normally continue for up to two weeks where jobseekers are unable to be available for or actively seek work because they are sick. Consequently, from that date, anyone who satisfies the qualifying conditions for an extended payment of housing and council tax benefit will not be affected by short periods of sickness unless he chooses to claim an incapacity benefit.

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When a review of the extended housing benefits scheme is to be carried out; and whether the scheme will be expanded to include people who were previously entitled to (a) a disability premium (except on grounds of incapacity) and (b) incapacity benefit.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Extended payments of housing benefit and council tax benefit, which start on 1st April, are expected to help some 350,000

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unemployed people a year to make the move back into work. We shall be monitoring the arrangements carefully before giving any thought to widening the qualifying criteria.

Lone Parents Ceasing to Receive Benefit

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Written Answer of 31st January (H.L. Deb., WA 111) why they are unable to give figures for the numbers of single parents coming off income support before the year 1993-94.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Prior to 1993, income support statistics were based on an annual sampling exercise which did not identify numbers of benefit terminations over the relevant year.

Diplomatic Service: Ethnic Minorities

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answer given by Baroness Chalker of Wallasey on 5th March 1996 (H.L. Deb., WA15), whether they will introduce measures to encourage the recruitment and promotion of ethnic minorities in the senior grades of the Diplomatic Service, and, if not, why not.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): We have a comprehensive programme for action for ethnic minority staff. This aims to ensure equal access to recruitment, promotion, career development and training for ethnic minority officers, especially in grades where they are under represented. Our personnel procedures are monitored to ensure equal opportunities policies are implemented.

We are targeting our recruitment of ethnic minority graduates (our future senior grade potential) with an active recruitment programme. Ethnic minority officers speak at recruitment fairs, we advertise in publications aimed at ethnic minority readers and work closely with the Windsor Fellowship, holding two open days a year.

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