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Hungary: Co-operation to Fight Crime

Lord Taylor of Gryfe asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today signed with the Minister of the Interior of Hungary, Dr Sandor Pinter, a Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Combating Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organised Crime, International Terrorism and Illegal Immigration. The agreement provides a framework within which law enforcement agencies and prosecuting authorities in our two countries can develop their close working relations in preventing, detecting and investigating all forms of serious and organised national and international crime. It is an important step forward in combating the common threat from criminal activity both within and beyond Europe.

Police Strengths

Lord Lea of Crondall asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The information is set out in the tables. At the end of September 1999 the total number of police officers in England and Wales was 125,464. The number of officers in the 43 forces (excluding officers seconded to the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and central service) was 123,050. At the end of September 1999 there were 53,254 civilian support staff in the police service.

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My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has also accepted the recommendations of a working group chaired by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary and including representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities on the re-classification of police service personnel. The working group recommended that greater recognition should be given to the important contribution that civilian support staff make to operational policing. Civilian staff now account for 30 per cent of total police service personnel.

From March 2000 police service staff will be categorised within three bands as (a) operational, (b) operational support or (c) organisational support. The new information, to be collected annually by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, will provide a more accurate reflection of the deployment of all police service personnel.

We shall continue to publish information on police officer numbers in the usual way.

Total Police Service Personnel--1990 to 1999

YearTotal police officersTotal civilian support staff
31 March 1990126,77744,525
31 March 1991127,49546,373
31 March 1992127,62747,320
31 March 1993128,29049,503
31 March 1994127,89750,229
31 March 1995127,22251,096
31 March 1996126,90152,933
31 March 1997127,15853,011
31 March 1998126,81452,974
31 March 1999126,09653,031
30 September 1999125,46453,254

Police Numbers--Change Between March 1999 and September 1999

ForceStrength as at 30 September 1999Change since 31 March 1999
Avon & Somerset2,988.7-11
City of London744.6-33
Devon & Cornwall2,861.1-26
Greater Manchester6,810.3No change
Metropolitan Police25,884.5-188
Norfolk1,381.5No change
North Wales1,399+8
North Yorkshire1,293.7-43
South Wales2,983+2
South Yorkshire3,165-3
Thames Valley3,749.5+1
West Mercia1,979.4-45
West Midlands7,296.4-24
West Yorkshire4,873-109
Force total strength123,050-791
Seconded police officers(1)2,414+159
Total police service strength125,464-632

1 Includes officers seconded to NCS, NCIS and central service such as National Police Training.

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Balkans: Army Communications

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What developments there have been concerning Army communications in the Balkans.[HL980]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): As part of the department's ongoing efforts to reduce overstretch in the Army, we are pleased to announce that a contract has been let to provide for less manpower intensive and more modern communications equipment in the Balkans. The contract, with BAe Systems, will provide for wide area communications in support of the UK's contribution to the NATO Multi National Divisions in Bosnia and Kosovo. While maintaining the UK's responsibility to NATO's peacekeeping forces, it will enable us to bring home some 150 Royal Signals personnel by the end of the year. It is also an excellent example of the SMART procurement initiative by

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demonstrating the advantages of working closely together with industry to deliver the equipment our front line troops need. The contract is specific to the Balkans theatre of operations and does not affect the Army's wider communications requirements. The cost of this equipment will be met from the Contingency Reserve.

GPs: Single-handed Practices

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any special measures are in existence to audit the clinical performance and drug prescription record of single-handed practitioners in general practice; and[HL873]

    What is their policy towards single-handed general medical practice.[HL874]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Health authorities currently routinely monitor all general practitioners in the same way.

There are about 3,000 single-handed GPs in this country and most provide a valuable service to tens of thousands of patients, often in inner-city or isolated rural areas. The Government's policy is that those patients have no less right to expect precisely the same standards of care from a single-handed GP as they might get from a large, multi-partner practice.

Work is being undertaken to examine and, where necessary, tighten up regulations around specific areas in the light of the Dr Shipman case. These measures will build upon existing quality initiatives and moves by the medical profession towards revalidation.

Any further measures will be informed by the work of the inquiry.

Dr Harold Shipman

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps, if any, were taken between 1976 and 1999 to terminate or to impose conditions or sanctions on contracts between Dr Harold Shipman and the National Health Service.[HL875]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: None before August 1998.

In August 1998, West Pennine Health Authority asked the NHS Tribunal to make an order suspending Dr Shipman from medical lists on the grounds that this was necessary to protect patients. The NHS Tribunal made the order suspending Dr Shipman as a result of the health authority's representations.

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Debt among Benefit Recipients

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will commission research into the level of debt among those on social security benefits; and, if not, why not.[HL868]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Data on debt are already collected as part of our research focused on specific groups of social security benefit recipients. For example, the Programme of Research into Low Income Families (PRILIF) provides information on debt for families with dependent children receiving benefits. The PRILIF studies have included questions about family welfare, involving debt in terms of borrowing, use of credit and financial difficulties families were facing in the form of problem debts. Questions have also been asked about mortgage and rent arrears, difficulties in paying household bills, problems in the repayment of consumer credit, the use of financial services/loans and any consequent problem debts. Income support recipients have been asked about their use of Social Fund grants and/or loans.

In addition, surveys conducted as part of the evaluation of the earnings top-up pilot collected this data for unemployed people and low-paid workers without children. We also review external research reports covering all aspects of social security including levels of debt among benefit recipients. We have no plans to commission further research specifically focused on debt among those in receipt of benefits.

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