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28 Oct 1998 : Column WA215

Written Answers

Wednesday, 28th October 1998.

National Census: Religion

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to introduce into the next national census information about people's religion.[HL3583]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Office for National Statistics, along with the two other UK Census Offices (the General Register Office for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency), has conducted a lengthy programme of consultation with all main census users on their requirements for questions to be considered for inclusion in the 2001 census. Earlier this year the consultation process culminated in the users submitting business cases, setting out the uses and value of census information for each particular topic.

The case for a question on religion is amongst those which are still being considered by Ministers. The Government's proposals for the 2001 census, including the topics to be covered, will be published in a White Paper later this year or early in 1999.

Current legislation, the 1920 Census Act, does not permit a question on religion to be asked in Great Britain. If a question on religion were to be proposed for inclusion in the 2001 census, a change in legislation would be necessary.

Police Corruption

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being taken to deal with allegations of corruption by police officers.[HL3522]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Although the vast majority of police officers are honest and dedicated, the Government recognise that the corrupt activities of even a small number of officers can have a corrosive effect on the integrity of the service and how it is perceived by the public. That is why we fully support the proactive approach of Sir Paul Condon and those other chief officers who are seeking to identify officers whose integrity may be in doubt, and to root out those who are corrupt. We also welcome the establishment by the Association of Chief Police Officers of a working group on the prevention of corruption, and look forward to the outcome of continuing work by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary on the wider issue of integrity in the police service.

When standards of police behaviour fall below those which should be tolerated, either because of lapses in integrity or the way in which an officer carries out his or her duty, it is clearly essential that there are effective ways of dealing with that behaviour. That is why we are

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introducing new police discipline procedures from April 1999, which will work on the civil standard of proof rather than the criminal standard used at present. There will also be a fast track system of discipline to enable an officer to be removed from the force where there is overwhelming evidence of serious wrongdoing of a criminal nature and it is in the public interest to take action swiftly.

City Status Award

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the next award for city status will be made.[HL3525]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Her Majesty has expressed the intention of marking both the millennium and the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne by grants of city status. Towns which have expressed an interest in this honour will be contacted in due course and invited to submit formal applications.

Independent Commission on the Voting System

Baroness Lockwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the report of the Independent Commission on the Voting System will be published.[HL3622]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The report of the Independent Commission on the Voting System will be published tomorrow at 11 am. At that time copies will be available in the Printed Paper Office.

My right honourable friend the President of the Council hopes to find time for an early debate in the House of Commons.

Personal Medical Service Pilots

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evaluation of Personal Medical Service pilots will be conducted by the NHS; by whom will the pilots be carried out; when will any evaluation be completed and published; and what mechanisms will be adopted to ensure the early dissemination of successful pilot schemes.[HL3470]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): Following an open competitive tendering exercise, four individual research teams have been commissioned by the Department of Health to undertake a three-year evaluation of Personal Medical Services (PMS) pilots in England and Scotland. (PMS pilots, the first wave of which began on 1 April 1998, are currently being carried out by family doctors, nurses and community trusts). The different studies will focus on specific aspects of the pilots, thus comprising a wide-ranging programme

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of research. In order to minimise the demands on pilot sites, avoid duplication of research effort and promote synergistic learning across the studies, the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre (NPCRDC) at Manchester University has been commissioned to co-ordinate the research programme.

In addition, local evaluation of the PMS pilots is taking place, supported or conducted by the relevant health authority, in some cases involving external academic or consultancy support.

Within the National Health Service Executive regional office areas, the PMS pilots network with each other, both on a formal and an informal basis. The NPCRDC at Manchester University has established regular national networking meetings. Recently issued guidance on the second wave of PMS pilots, due to begin on 1 October 1999, suggested that "Health Authorities and potential pilot sites may also wish to discuss potential proposals with existing pilots and their Health Authorities".

Unauthorised Camping: Good Practice Guidance

Baroness Mallalieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish good practice advice for local authorities and the police on managing unauthorised camping.[HL3623]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Home

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Office have worked together to produce joint good practice guidance for local authorities and the police on managing unauthorised camping, based on research carried out by the University of Birmingham. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Mr. Nick Raynsford will be launching the guidance, and the associated research report on 29 October at a conference organised by the National Association of Gypsy and Traveller Officers in Coventry.

Copies of the good practice guidance and the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

River Ure: Water Quality Objectives

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will use their powers under Section 83 of the Water Resources Act 1991 to establish statutory water quality objectives for the River Ure in Yorkshire so as to protect both the quality and the quantity of water on which the biodiversity of the river depends.[HL3564]

Lord Whitty: In common with all rivers in the UK, the River Ure must comply with any statutory water quality objectives set to meet our European obligations. Water quality for the majority of the River Ure is high and, at present, there are no plans to establish domestic statutory water quality objectives under Section 83 of the Water Resources Act 1991. However, as part of the current periodic review of water company price limits for the period 2000-2005, the Environment Agency has identified candidate schemes which are to ensure that the existing non-statutory river quality objectives continue to be met. Decisions on company investment programmes will be taken by Ministers early next year.

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