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The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Public Enquiry Office (PEO) at Lunar House has experienced an increase in callers over the past 12 months of over 20 per cent., which equates to a total of between 850 and over 1,000 callers each day.

The PEO has the accommodation and staffing resources to consider applications for between 650 and 700 callers each day. As a result, a large number of callers cannot get their cases completed on the day of their visit. This also makes it impractical to offer queuing priority to those whose cases cannot be completed on the day of their visit. However, every caller who visits the PEO receives advice on their application and the opportunity to leave their application to be dealt with by post. Alternative facilities are being developed for the quick handling of postal enquiries with the aim of freeing the service to those callers who need it urgently.

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Through the introduction of team working, additional staff resources from five other groups are now available to assist the processing of applications for further leave to remain by business people and investors. This has already resulted in the delays being reduced from eight months to a current maximum of four months. The position is expected to improve over the coming months. Where it is not possible to resolve an application before a business person needs to travel, a travel extension of three months may be granted if the application is valid and in-time. Work permit holders, whose permission to work has been extended, may have their passports stamped at ports on production of the relevant documentary evidence.

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: There has been no significant effect on the processing of applications arising from the closure of the limited facilities at Norwich and Harwich. The large increase in callers to the Lunar House Public Enquiry Office--far in excess of the small number of callers who used to use Norwich and Harwich--has necessitated changes aimed at preserving as far as possible the service given to personal callers. A representative may only present one application for a client and the number of representatives dealt with in any day has to be restricted depending on the number of personal callers. Alternative postal services involving "fast track" decision taking are being developed to compensate for restrictions on both representatives and personal callers.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate: New Caseworking System

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 9 July (WA 78), what stages of implementation are planned for the information technology programme to update the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and Immigration Service, and when they are expected to be fully deployed.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Under the terms of the Casework Programme contract, progress towards full implementation is in six phases. Work is currently proceeding on the fourth of these phases (design and development of the supporting infrastructure), which is planned to be completed by 31 October. Implementation begins in the fifth phase (system acceptance and pilot review) and is expected to have reached an intermediate stage in the Croydon offices by 30 April next year: this will mark the end of the fifth phase. The final phase, during which implementation in Croydon will be completed and the availability of the system will be extended to the Nationality Directorate in Liverpool and certain other Immigration and Nationality Directorate and Immigration Service locations, is planned to end on 31 October next year.

Conventional Arms Export Licensing Criteria

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which departments are involved and will be consulted in the review announced on 22 May of detailed criteria governing the export of conventional arms worldwide.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The following departments are involved in the review of the detailed criteria used in considering licence applications to export conventional arms:

    Foreign and Commonwealth Office

    Ministry of Defence

    Department of Trade and Industry

    Department for International Development

    HM Customs and Excise

    HM Treasury

    Export Credits Guarantee Department

    Cabinet Office

Heathrow Express Check-in Facilities: Security

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are content that prior check-in facilities intended as part of the Heathrow Express system at Paddington will not increase the risks of terrorist attacks and hoaxes at the station; what studies have been done to ascertain that the risk is not increased, by whom, and at whose expense; and whether the police are content with these arrangements.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The threat to transport operations change and are kept under constant review by government agencies. Security systems are being designed into the new facilities at Paddington to ensure, as far as possible, that any risks which are likely to arise can be adequately managed. My department, the operator, the British Transport Police and Railtrack are all involved in the development of the security system and it will be our objective to establish a system where all parties are content. As usual the cost of assessing threat and risk falls to government; the cost of installing and running the system will fall to the operator.

London Bus Services

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to reduce London Transport's costs in managing its bus franchises and encouraging better quality bus operations.

Baroness Hayman: The Government is committed to improving bus services in London and has recently set tough new quality of service targets for London Transport Buses. How they manage their operations in order to meet their financial and quality targets is a matter for them.

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Common Fisheries Policy: Consultation

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have consulted, or intend in the near future to consult, all the fishermen's organisations in Scotland about the future of the common fisheries policy.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): Fisheries Ministers met UK industry representatives on 15 July 1997 for high level talks on the future of the fishing industry. We shall consult fishermen's organisations more widely on reform of the common fisheries policy in due course.

Forestry Commission Land Sales

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many hectares of forestry land have been sold by Forest Enterprise since 1989 and how much was realised from these sales.

Lord Sewel: The Forestry Commission has sold 73,000 hectares of forest land since 1989, realising £83 million.

Woodland Acreages: Increase

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    By what percentage the area of the United Kingdom planted with (a) conifers and (b) broadleaves has increased since 1977.

Lord Sewel: The areas of coniferous woodland and broadleaved woodland have both increased by nearly 20 per cent. since 1977.

Woodland Planting Grants

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current annual expenditure on the Woodland Grant Scheme and the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme respectively.

Lord Sewel: Grants paid last year under the Woodland Grant Scheme amounted to £31.6 million while payments under the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme amounted to £5.8 million.

Woodland Grant Scheme: Planting Density

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is correct that under the Woodland Grant Scheme, full grant is only paid where trees are planted at a density of 2,250 trees per hectare.

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Lord Sewel: To receive the full rate of planting grant under the Woodland Grant Scheme, the Forestry Commission will usually expect applicants to plant at least 2,250 trees per hectare. For broadleaved trees, a density of 1,100 trees per hectare may be acceptable in certain circumstances.

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