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Postal Codes in Telephone Directories

Viscount Tenby asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): The regulation of directory enquiries is a matter for Oftel. I am advised by Oftel that there is no legal requirement on BT under its licence to provide printed telephone directories. The only licence obligation that BT has is that where it publishes and makes available directories to its customers generally, it is obliged to make these directories available on written request to any person in the United Kingdom. It is therefore not possible for Oftel to instruct BT to provide post codes in its telephone directories. It is a commercial matter for BT to decide whether or not it includes post codes in its printed directories. I understand that the Post Office has its own telephone helpline for customers who have queries about postal codes. The Government have no plans to encourage BT to include postal codes in its telephone directories.

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Lifetime Homes

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hayman on 21 May (WA 7), whether they have completed their consideration of the responses to the consultation on extending Part M of the building regulations, covering access and facilities for disabled people to dwellings, and when they propose to publish their decision.[HL512]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We have concluded our consideration of the responses to the consultation. I expect that a statement will be made shortly.

Diabetic Drivers

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to introduce further restrictions on insulin-dependent diabetics who drive cars and motorcycles.[HL563]

Baroness Hayman: No.

Financial Fraud: Jury Trial

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to review alternative methods of traditional jury trial in serious fraud cases.[HL633]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government are determined that there should be effective measures in place for tackling financial fraud.

The Government recognise that there are concerns that the present system for handling some major complex fraud trials is not working satisfactorily. Therefore, we have today issued a consultation document which has been placed in the Library. This invites views on the principle of whether the system is likely to operate better and with a greater degree of public confidence if, in a small number of complex fraud trials, a traditional jury were to be replaced by another method of determining the facts. Views are also sought on four possible alternative methods of trial. The Government have not reached a conclusion on whether the ending of jury trial in serious fraud cases is desirable in principle nor formed an opinion on any particular option for change and will not do so until the consultation process is complete. The purpose of the consultation is to provide a full opportunity for the principle of change to be considered in the context of the problems presented by these cases and possible alternative trial methods.

Comments on the document are invited by 30 April 1998 and we shall consider them all carefully before

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reaching any conclusions as to whether any changes should be made.

Passport Fees

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for passport fees.[HL632]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Privy Council has approved an Order in Council, the Consular Fees Order 1998, which gives authority for an increase in passport fees on 26 March. The fee for a standard 32-page passport will increase from £18 to £21 and for a 48-page passport from £27 to £31. The fee for amending an existing passport will increase from £5 to £11, to reflect the economic cost. The cost of a separate passport for children will be £11 for a passport valid for five years. An additional charge of £10 will be introduced for those making applications in person in the United Kingdom and for applications made abroad to reflect the greater cost of providing these services. The fee for a collective passport, for organised trips for schools and youth groups, will remain unchanged at £40.

This is the first general increase in passport fees since November 1992 and for the over 80 per cent. of applicants who apply by post is in line with the level of inflation for the period. In relation to the cost of travel abroad, a fee of £21 for a standard 10-year passport still represents very good value for money.

Prison Service Resources

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the resources available to the Prison Service.[HL631]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Following the Audit of Prison Service Resources last summer, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary made available to the Prison Service additional funding of £43 million over two years to increase capacity and regime activity. In the event, the service has done well in containing costs and has not had to call on the extra provision for 1997-98.

My right honourable friend is now making available £112 million in 1998-99 on top of the existing budget of £1,704 million.

This will be used to fund continued use of Her Majesty's Prison Weare, to build six more houseblocks, to fund conversion of accommodation to cell usage to hold extra prisoners in new prisons and to carry out repairs on the prison estate. It provides additional staffing and funding for regime activities, to keep prisoners constructively occupied.

With this money, this Government have provided for 1,540 new places in prisons and have supported the placing of an additional 2,280 prisoners in existing accommodation.

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Family Court Child Welfare Services

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to improve the family court welfare work of the Probation Service and other related services.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As part of the comprehensive spending review, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, my right honourable and noble friend the Lord Chancellor, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales are considering the range of services currently provided to the courts on child welfare matters within family law by the Probation Service, Guardian ad Litem and Reporting Officer Service and the Official Solicitor's Department. We believe that a new integrated service subsuming the work of each of the above could provide an improved service to the courts, better safeguard the interests of children, reduce wasteful overlaps and so increase efficiency.

The Home Secretary has therefore agreed with his right honourable friends that further detailed work involving practitioners and other users of the services should be undertaken to form the basis for public consultation.

The detailed terms of reference for the work are as follows:

    To identify the range of welfare services currently provided by the Probation Service, Guardian ad Litem and Reporting Officer Service and the children's work of the Official Solicitor's Department and other agencies in family proceedings, and to consider the scope for improvements to the effectiveness of their work through the creation of a new unified service.

    To make proposals on the structure of a new service; to provide preliminary analysis of the estimated costs and benefits as a basis for public consultation; and to consider the implications for any new structure of the Government's plans to establish a Welsh Assembly.

Asylum Seekers: Unaccompanied Minors

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many unaccompanied minors are currently detained in Campsfield House and other centres of detention for asylum seekers, of what ages, and from which countries.[HL514]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: It is our policy not to detain unaccompanied minors save only in very exceptional circumstances.

There are no persons currently detained under Immigration Act powers whom the Immigration Service accept are unaccompanied minors. However, as I stated in my Written Answer of 27 November 1997 (WA 137), cases do inevitably arise where the exact age of an

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individual is in dispute. I regret that no comprehensive central record is held of age dispute cases.

I would like to take this opportunity to improve upon my previous Answer which, on reflection, was not as clear as it might have been. The third paragraph of that answer may have given the impression that the Immigration Service is involved directly in referring age dispute cases to a paediatrician. That is not, in fact, the case. While the Immigration Service liaises closely with the Refugee Council's Panel of Advisers for Unaccompanied Refugee Children, it is the panel which may advise legal representatives to involve a paediatrician. I am sorry if the previous answer caused any confusion.

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