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Firearms Control: Evidence to Inquiry

Lord Teviot asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The Government submitted its evidence on firearms controls to Lord Cullen yesterday. With Lord Cullen's agreement, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland are today publishing the evidence. Copies have been placed in the Library. A copy of the evidence has been submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee for its use in the separate inquiry which it is undertaking into handguns. Copies of the evidence have also been made available to the press, the police in England and Wales and Scotland, the Firearms Consultative Committee, the British Shooting Sports Council, and other shooting organisations. The Hone and Scottish Offices will provide copies on request to other organisations.

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Painting of House of Lords in Session

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the fee of £50,000 being paid to Mr. Andrew Festing for the painting of those members of the House in session who are prepared to pay to be depicted is all inclusive and whether any further payments to the artist are envisaged.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The fee agreed with the artist is all inclusive. However, if the project should end with a surplus through the sale of prints, any surplus will be split equally between the artist and the House of Lords' Works of Art Collection Fund.

Refugees: Free School Meals

Lord Tope asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention that, as a result of the Asylum and Immigration Bill, refugees no longer able to claim benefits will be deprived of the right to free school meals for their children; whether they believe such deprivation might create a risk to health; and whether, in their current negotiations with the local authorities, they will take any steps to allow such free school meals to continue.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The Asylum and Immigration Bill does not affect the benefit entitlement of refugees. The exclusion of immigrants from child benefit does not affect their potential entitlement to free school meals.

Entitlement to free school meals depends upon receipt of income support. Asylum seekers with children who are excluded from income support may be helped by local authorities under the special grant arrangements announced by the Secretary of State for Social Security on 11th January. It is for local authorities to decide how to meet the needs they identify.

Income Support for Parent with Care

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer of 2nd April, which included a letter from Miss Ann Chant (WA 30), whether they will amend the income support rules, so that, in cases where the parent with care has been assessed to receive maintenance above the level of income support under the Child Support Act 1991 and the maintenance fails to arrive, the entitlement to income support can be reactivated without "costly extra administrative work" of making a new claim.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: We have no plans to make such amendments. Income support is an income related benefit. When a person's income increases to a

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level which extinguishes entitlement to income support, payment ceases. If that person's income subsequently drops to a level where income support may again be payable, a further claim will be necessary to take account of any changed circumstances in the meantime. There is no reason for these arrangements to be altered because the person's income derives from child support maintenance rather than from another source.

Defence Secondary Care Agency

Lord Eden of Winton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans for the creation of a Defence Secondary Care Agency.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The Defence Secondary Care Agency (DSCA) will form on 30th April 1996, when secondary medical care currently provided on a single-Service basis will be included within a joint Service agency under the control of a chief executive. Until a decision is taken on its final location, the headquarters of the DSCA will be based in London. The DSCA will include:

    (a) The Royal Hospital Haslar at Gosport;

    (b) The Duchess of Kent's Hospital at Catterick;

    (c) Three Ministry of Defence hospital units within the NHS Trust Hospitals at Derriford, Plymouth, Frimley Park, Camberley, and Peterborough;

    (d) The Princess Mary's Hospital at Akrotiri, Cyprus;

    (e) The Defence Services Medical Rehabilitation Unit at RAF Headley Court in Surrey.

    (f) In addition, DSCA personnel will be stationed in smaller facilities at other locations, both at home and overseas.

Each Service will continue to recruit to its own medical branch and will be responsible for issuing appointments and posting orders for personnel of the particular Service into, within and out of the agency after agreement with the Chief Executive and for an agreed duration. It is expected that uniformed secondary care personnel will spend the major part of their career working within the agency.

The aim of the agency is to make available to Commanders in Chief appropriate medically trained secondary care Service personnel when required for training, exercises and deployments. In support of this aim, the agency will deliver timely and effective treatments consistent with expected outcomes by providing the best possible medical care to all agency patients.

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The Chief Executive, Mr. R. G. Smith, will be afforded greater responsibility and flexibility to build upon the professional ability and reputation for excellence of secondary care personnel from all three Service medical branches. This will ensure that the MoD retains the capacity to deploy trained secondary care staff on military operations, to provide the best possible medical care to all agency patients, and at the same time to maximise value for money in the delivery of secondary care for Service personnel in order to maintain their operational readiness during peacetime.

The chief executive has been set the following key targets for the first year of the operation:

    1. From within available personnel resources, to meet the Services' requirements for secondary care skill mix in support of operations.

    2. To maintain the most appropriate clinical environment for all staff to ensure professional recognition and accreditation by statutory bodies in the light of their continually improving standards.

    3. To meet all milestones for Phase 1 of Project ICE Improving Clinical Excellence).

    4. To assess the Agency against Investors in People criteria within year one and produce an action plan for full accreditation.

    5. To develop average prices for Finished Consultant Episodes for each speciality, and at each site.

    6. To meet an efficiency target of 4 per cent. for financial year 1996/97.

Copies of the Agency's Framework Document have been placed in the Library of the House.

Mark 1 Rolling Stock, Safety

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the concern expressed by Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate over the crashworthiness of Mark 1 rail passenger coaches, including the expectations (i) after the 1989 Clapham accident that virtually all such coaches would be replaced by 1997 and (ii) after the Cowden accident that ll such coaches would be subject to a programme of improving their crashworthiness what action has been taken to implement the recommendations made after the Cowden accident, and whether they will confirm the statement made by the franchising director in awarding the seven-year franchise for Network South Central that the Railway Inspectorate is content that this rolling stock should remain in service until the end of the franchise.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): All rolling stock is maintained to operate safely and Mark 1

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stock is not inherently unsafe. Network South Central's stock of this type has been on lease since April 1994 and the majority of this stock is expected to remain on lease until the end of the franchise in 2003. It was in this context that the franchising director's remarks were intended.

In September 1995 the British Railways Board (BRB) submitted a report in response to a request from HSE for a position paper describing BRB's view of the future of Mark 1 stock. Following the Cowden report recommendation about further research on strengthening, HSE is considering the BRB report and the issues it raises, and has commissioned further research itself.

In the light of this work, HSE will review the future of Mark 1 rolling stock and any action that may be needed if it is to continue in use beyond 1999.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Lord Crook asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer of Viscount Goschen of 19th March 1996 (WA 96), how the Channel Tunnel Rail Link can be said to accommodate standard continental rolling stock when it quotes connection only to existing railways having two different non-Continental loading gauges--namely, standard BR clearance and Eurotunnel shuttle clearance; and whether, in the light of the above, they will introduce legislation to ensure that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will be built as is presently intended.

Viscount Goschen: Loading gauge refers to the space provided around and above railway tracks which define the largest size of vehicle which can use the railway. It is a condition of the Development Agreement with London and Continental Railways, who will construct and operate the CTRL, that the railway is designed to at Least UIC "C" gauge, the largest loading gauge in regular use on European main lines. The loading gauge of the Channel Tunnel is even larger, to accommodate the Shuttle trains, and does not therefore present a restriction.

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