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The Army: Apprentice Training

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): A review of apprentice training arrangements in the Army has recommended, subject to consultation, that they should be restructured along the lines of the government flagship initiative on modern apprenticeship training which is intended to raise the competence and competitiveness of the UK workforce as a whole.

The Army's scheme (which will encompass the Royal Engineers, Royal Signals, Royal Logistics Corps and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) would be open to young people aged 16½-18½, and would commence with a common 28 week foundation course at Rowcroft Barracks, Arborfield, followed by technical training at the appropriate army or service's trade training school and a period of on the job training leading to the award of an NVQ level three within three to four years.

The proposals would necessitate some revision to our previous plans to transfer all R SIGNALS apprentice training to Blandford. Under the new arrangements future R SIGNALS apprentices would still complete their trade training at Blandford but only after completing their 28 week foundation course at Arborfield.

'Sea Empress' Grounding: Inquiry

Lord Harlech asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has assured my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport that the investigation is progressing satisfactorily. The inspectors have interviewed many of the people from whom they need to take evidence and this process is continuing. All parties are co-operating with the inspectors. There has been a good response to the public notices placed in the press inviting people to make representations to the inspectors which would assist them both in determining the circumstances and causes of the grounding and in relation to the subsequent salvage operations. The chief inspector has received

35 detailed representations and a further 63 letters from people, some of whom wish to give evidence to the inspectors.

The chief inspector's target for investigations of this kind is to submit his final report to my right honourable friend within 12 months of the date of an accident. Within this time, he has to carry out a consultation

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process on the draft, a statutory requirement which normally takes two months or more. If at any stage of the inquiry the chief inspector feels that he can usefully and properly publish interim recommendations, he will do so. In order to carry out the investigation both speedily and thoroughly, the chief inspector has told my right honourable friend that he has appointed five of his nine inspectors to the investigation.

My right honourable friend hopes to publish the chief inspector's final report as soon as possible after receiving it.

Colchester Young Offender Institution

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether progress has been made with their plans for a second demanding new regime for young offenders.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My honourable friend announced today that we have decided to establish a new young offender institution on a site at the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) at Colchester.

Colchester Young Offender Institution will begin taking its first prisoners this autumn, building to a maximum population of 32 young men aged between 18 and 21. The purpose of this initiative is to test the effectiveness of a regime similar to that followed by military detainees in improving the attitude and behaviour of young offenders and in reducing the level of their re-offending after release. Young offenders will be sent to Colchester having been assessed as suitable for the regime and condition there. They will not be volunteers. Their day will be long and active, beginning with reveille at 6 a.m. and ending with lights out at

10 p.m. They will experience a combination of discipline, education and training reflecting the military ethos of the MCTC.

Colchester Young Offender Institution will operate under the Young Offender Institution Rules and Prison Service policy. It will be run by staff from the Prison Service and by military staff appointed as prison officers. The military commandant of the MCTC will be appointed as the governor and he will have as his deputy an experienced Prison Service governor grade. Military staff appointed to the young offender institution will be thoroughly trained. Young offenders' progress will be monitored while at Colchester and afterwards. The results will be compared with those from a group of similar young offenders from a normal young offender institution.

This is the second of two tough, disciplined and demanding new regimes for young offenders. The first is the High Intensity training programme at Thorn Cross Young Offender Institution which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced last year and which will take its first inmates in the summer.

Together these initiatives represent a serious and determined attempt by Her Majesty's Government to

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find a way to break the cycle of re-offending among persistent young offenders.

Housing Benefit

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in introducing the housing benefit regulations, they consulted the Department of the Environment regarding the increase in costs arising from the subsequent increase in youth homelessness; and,

    Whether any money has been transferred from the Department of Social Security to the Department of the Environment to cover the increase in costs as a result of the proposals to cut housing benefit to young people.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): There is no evidence to support the contention that the October 1996 housing benefit changes for single people under 25 will result in increased homelessness. No transfer of funds has therefore been made to the Department of the Environment.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider exempting former victims of rape and sexual assault from the restriction on housing benefit for under 25s to the level appropriate to shared accommodation.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Although certain groups are exempt from the October 1996 housing benefit rules for single young people under 25, the thrust of the rules is to move away from a prescriptive approach. That is why we have given local authorities discretion to pay additional housing benefit to prevent exceptional hardship.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider exempting people with disabilities from the new restriction of housing benefit for under 25s to the level appropriate to shared accommodation.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The Government believe that many young people with disabilities, who are unable to live in shared accommodation, will be living in accommodation which is exempt from the changes. In other cases local authorities can consider making discretionary payments to avoid exceptional hardship.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether crisis loans from the Social Fund will be available to meet debts to landlords created by the payment of housing benefit in arrears.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Social Fund crisis loans are not available for housing costs, including rent and analogous charges for accommodation. However, Social Fund officers may consider a crisis loan to help with charges for board and lodging accommodation and

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residential charges for hostels, other than for deposits. Crisis loans may also be awarded to assist with rent in advance where the landlord is not a local authority.

Paymaster Agency: Review

Lord Bancroft asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to announce the results of the prior options review of the Office of HM Paymaster General; and whether that announcement will take the form of a document subject to parliamentary debate before the reaching of a final decision.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The prior options review of the Paymaster Agency, announced by the Paymaster General on 4th December 1995 (House of Commons Official Report, cols. 15-16), is still in progress. As the announcement made clear, the Paymaster General will be reporting back to Parliament in due course on its outcome. No decision has yet been made on the form of any announcement following the review.

Capital Gains Tax

Lord Brightman asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) What was the yield of capital gains tax for the last available financial year; and (b) what would be the estimated loss of revenue if assets acquired more than (i) five years and (ii) two years before disposal were removed from the charge to tax.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The provisional estimate of capital gains tax receipts in 1995-96 is £800 million. The costs, expressed in terms of the reduction to capital gains tax liabilities for a full tax year, of removing from charge to capital gains tax the disposal of assets acquired more than (i) five years and (ii) two years before disposal are as follows:

Charge removed from assets held Full year cost (for 1996-97)Full year cost (medium term)
more than£ billion£ billion
(i) 5 years1.11.8
(ii) 2 years1.32.0

These estimates take into account the likely effect on capital gains tax yield of changes to the timing and volume of disposals in the year brought about by changes in taxpayers' behaviour, but not the consequential effects on other taxes.

Capital gains made by companies, including those gains of insurance companies which are attributable to policyholders, are chargeable to corporation tax and, as such, are excluded from the figures above.

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