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Disabled Voters: Access to Polling Stations

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blatch: The Home Office has issued guidance after consultation with SCOPE which sets out the considerations to be taken into account in carrying out audits of polling station accessibility. Acting returning officers are aware that grants are available towards the costs of purchasing temporary ramps where access to a polling station would otherwise only be available by steps. However, any disabled voter who is unable to attend in person at a polling station and who cannot vote unaided may, if he or she wishes, vote from home using a postal vote or by appointing a proxy. A Home Office leaflet, "Don't Lose Your Vote", explains the absent voting system and is available to electoral registration officers for distribution to the public at no cost.

Asylum Applications: Decision Times

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blatch: Information on the current mean, standard deviation, and median times taken for an initial decision to be made on applications submitted prior to, and following, the implementation of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993, is given in the table.

Due to the very small number of asylum applications submitted by nationals of Bahrain, equivalent information on decision times for such cases is not available.

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Information on waiting times for those asylum applications decided between May and October 1996

Pre 1993 Act applications (Months)Post 1993 Act applications (Months)
Mean Time46.212.0
Standard deviation6.59.5
Median Time45.79.4

Identity Cards: Security Arrangements

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

    What security controls they intend to incorporate into the new United Kingdom identity cards to prevent their misuse.

Baroness Blatch: United Kingdom identity cards will be subject to checks on issue at least as secure as those which apply to British passports. In order to prevent forgery, the cards themselves will contain a photograph and the signature of the holder together with several levels of security features, ranging from those which are visible to the naked eye and easily recognisable to those which may require specialist examination.

Onley Secure Training Sector: Contractor

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the name of the contractor for the secure training centre at Onley in Northamptonshire will be announced; and what is their estimate of the likely opening date.

Baroness Blatch: The name of the successful contractor for the provision of a secure training centre at Onley in Northamptonshire will be announced when the contract is signed. It is then up to the contractor to obtain detailed planning permission to construct the buildings within an agreed time scale and propose the opening date.

Prisoner Transfers

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners located in England have applied since 1st April 1994 for transfer to Northern Ireland and with what results.

Baroness Blatch: Since 1st April 1994, 150 prisoners in England and Wales have requested transfers to Northern Ireland on either a permanent or a temporary basis; of these, 53 requests were granted; 57 refused; 20 were not proceeded with; and 20 are still under consideration.

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Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners located in England have applied, since Ireland ratified the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, for transfer to the Republic of Ireland and with what results.

Baroness Blatch: Following the bringing into effect of the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons by the Irish Republic on 1st November 1995, a total of 94 prisoners in England and Wales have so far requested repatriation to the Republic. To date, 45 requests have been referred to the Irish authorities for their consideration; two prisoners have been repatriated to the Republic; and four further requests have been approved and the prisoners are currently awaiting transfer to the Republic. Ten prisoners have withdrawn their requests. One request has been refused.

Gulf War: Organophosphate Pesticides

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide a comprehensive list of all the products containing organophosphates (a) taken from the United Kingdom to the Gulf, and (b) purchased locally, by trade name and constituents and used by or on members of HM Armed Forces, their clothing, tents or equipment during Operation Granby, and upon whose authority they were purchased and used.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The types of organophosphate pesticides supplied to British troops in the gulf from military stores, or purchased locally, are being investigated by the Organophosphate Pesticide Investigation Team. We will report the outcome of their investigations as soon as we have the necessary information to hand.

Gulf War: Anglo-French Research

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have had any consultations, or whether there are any joint research programmes, concerning the Gulf War Illness Syndrome with the French Government, and whether they are prepared to support joint research initiatives between groups in the United Kingdom and France to determine the reason for the reported absence of illness among members of the French Armed Forces who served in the Gulf War.

Earl Howe: My department is in close touch with the French authorities in order to establish whether there are any lessons to be learned from the French experience in the Gulf War for our research programme. We have not,

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at present, received any proposals for joint research, but will consider any such proposals favourably if they were to be made.

Non-departmental Public Body Recruitment Costs

Lord Wyatt of Weeford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the cost to date of advertising for members of boards designated as Non-Departmental Public Bodies; and what is the anticipated cost for 1995-96, including the hours worked by civil servants and other officials.

Earl Howe: The information requested is not held centrally. The Commissioner for Public Appointment's Guidance on Appointments to Executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies and NHS bodies, which came into effect on 1st July 1996, states that "Departments should record their overall expenditure on, separately, the use of Executive Search consultants and on advertising posts covered by this guidance. The information will be collected by the Commissioner in order to help to monitor and evaluate the cost effectiveness of these procedures, in particular the new emphasis on advertising." An analysis of this information will be included in the Commissioner's second report, which will cover the period 1st July 1996 to 31st March 1997.

Ballistic Missile Defence

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish edited versions of the Neville Brown and BAE reports on Ballistic Missile Defence which Earl Howe has said in a Written Answer of 31st October "contain classified information and cannot be published in their present form".

Earl Howe: These reports were commissioned in support of internal evaluations on UK Ballistic Missile Defence. Her Majesty's Government have no plans to publish either of the reports in their current or edited form.

Childcare Provision for House of Lords Staff

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What is the current value of the vouchers which may be claimed by staff of the House for childcare purposes.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The current value of the vouchers which may be claimed by staff who are eligible is £6.00 per family per day. This amount is taxable.

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Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether he is satisfied that the current childcare allowance for House of Lords staff sufficiently meets the cost of providing adequate childminding facilities in central London; and, if not, whether the Administration and Works Sub-Committee will reconsider its decision not to provide creche facilities within the Palace of Westminster.

The Chairman of Committees: The issue of childcare vouchers to House of Lords staff is not intended to cover the whole cost of childcare but is a contribution to that cost, in order to assist staff with small children to continue working. As the vouchers can be used anywhere, their value does not have to reflect the value of childminding facilities in central London. The value of the vouchers will be reviewed from time to time. Childcare provision for House of Lords staff using the voucher scheme is very popular in its existing form.

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