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Immigration Offenders: Tracing and Removal

Lord Elton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: No. Immigration officers have been provided with new powers of arrest, search and seizure under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. We are currently piloting a scheme under which specially trained immigration officers are tracing and effecting the arrest of immigration offenders without the assistance of the police. This will deliver improved effectiveness and, while the Immigration Service will always need the co-operation of the police, will reduce our dependency on them. We intend to extend the scheme on completion of the pilot. Involving a third agency would nullify any such gains.

Asylum Seekers: Voucher Scheme

Lord Elton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: No. We are giving each asylum seeker a voucher exchangeable for £10 cash and the goods vouchers given will be in small denominations. We would expect this to allow voucher payments to be rounded up to the amount required, rather than vouchers being proffered in excess of the value of the goods purchased.

We shall, in any event, keep the progress of the voucher scheme under close scrutiny, and will remain ready to make any adjustments that experience show to be necessary.

Asylum Seekers: Statement of Legal Rights

Lord Elton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: We are currently studying the report by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux in which this recommendation features, and will make known our response in due course.

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New Millennium Experience Company: Advertising and Design Contract Awards

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many contracts were awarded by the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) to (a) advertisers and (b) designers; and what is the total cost to the NMEC of those contracts to date. [HL1022]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): M & C Saatchi were appointed by the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) in August 1997 to develop an integrated communications campaign, including creative development, media planning and sales promotion in support of the Millennium Experience and its associated national programme. Their appointment followed a competitive process, through OJEC. As stated in the OJEC advertisement, the estimated total value of the contract is up to £16 million. NMEC has contracted no other advertisers.

Design contracts for exhibit zones, entered into by NMEC, were also subject to OJEC procedures in August 1997. The total value of these contracts is about £17.1 million (excluding VAT), subject to normal resolution procedures.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many contracts were awarded by the New Millennium Experience Company to (a) advertisers and (b) designers were granted after a process of competitive tendering; and how many of those contracts were still in place on 31 January 2000. [HL1023]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: All contracts awarded by the New Millennium Experience Company to advertisers and designers were granted after a process of competitive tendering. The advertising contract with M & C Saatchi is still in place. The designers have completed their services under the agreements. The contracts are still in place in the sense that NMEC either owns the products of their services or is licensed to use them.

Child Support Reduced Benefit Directions

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many child support cases of reduced benefit direction went to appeal in 1999; and how many appeals were won; and[HL1287]

    Whether they believe that there would be a reduction in levels of child poverty if all child support reduced benefit directions were not implemented until confirmed by an appeal tribunal.[HL1289]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The number of cases with reduced benefit

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directions that went to appeal in the period April 1999 to February this year was 373. Of these, 99 were successful. The underlying purpose of a reduced benefit direction is to encourage parents with care to apply for child support, unless they have good cause for failing to do so. Delaying the imposition of this penalty until the case had been heard by an appeal tribunal would reduce this incentive effect. It is likely that the result would be substantially more parents with care seeking to avoid child support action, with a consequent increase in levels of child poverty.

More than 80 per cent of parents with care who applied for income support in the last year were happy to co-operate with the Child Support Agency. This means that there are now far fewer reduced benefit directions imposed and that the Child Support Agency is able to pursue regular maintenance for more children.

Over 1 million more children stand to gain from our proposed child support reforms, including 600,000 in the poorest families on income support who will see the benefit of maintenance for the first time through the introduction of a child maintenance premium.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they undertake ethnic monitoring of families subject to child support reduced benefit directions; and, if so, what is the ethnic composition of those families.[HL1288]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Monitoring of child support reduced benefit directions by ethnic origin is not carried out. The information requested is therefore not available. However, should any parents with care have difficulty in understanding the good cause procedures because English is not their first language, interpreters can be made available.

Sheep and BSE

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether sheep under four years of age could be contaminated with BSE by consuming meat and bone meal; and, if not (a) what purpose is served by the introduction of a compulsory identification scheme and its attendant costs; and (b) whether they will raise the age at which specified sheep offal has to be removed from 12 months to 24 months.[HL1242]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): Sheep under four years of age will not have consumed meat and bonemeal, as this has been banned from ruminant feed since July 1988, and all animal feed since March 1996. Sheep identification is a requirement of EU law, in particular that sheep are eartagged or tattooed before leaving the holding of birth with a mark which identifies the animal's holding of birth. The Government are currently considering proposals to implement this requirement. The costs of any such move must be balanced against the value of lost

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exports of live sheep and sheepmeat if animals are not correctly identified in accordance with EU law.

The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) regularly reviews SRM controls and has not recommended any relaxation in respect of sheep.

Pakistani Basmati Rice

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are planning to re-grade Pakistani Basmati rice; and whether they would define it as pure, traditional or hybrid.[HL1398]

Baroness Hayman: There is at present no legal definition of Indian or Pakistani Basmati rice in the UK, although there is an industry code of practice, which lays down a general specification. However, in the light of technical developments which provide new ways of distinguishing one variety of long grain rice from another, the code may need to be updated. We will continue to work with the industry to ensure that all parties responsible for the trade in Basmati rice are involved and that consumers are not misled.

Arable Area Payments: Field Margins

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, under the new European guidance on the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) of the Common Agricultural Policy, in cases where field boundaries do not exceed two metres the Ordnance Survey areas will continue to be allowed for the Arable Area Payments Scheme; and whether in cases where field boundaries do exceed two metres, it is the excess over two metres or the whole width of the boundary which has to be excluded from the claimed area; and, if the latter, why fields with wider boundaries are not to be allowed the new standard of two metres under customary agricultural practice.[HL1077]

Baroness Hayman: According to the IACS Regulations, farmers can claim arable area payments on fields which are fully utilised according to customary agricultural practice. Guidance from the European Commission, endorsed by the European Court of Auditors, indicates that payments can be claimed on the full Ordnance Survey of area of a field as long as the field margins do not exceed two metres in width. The regulations also provide that, where a field is not fully utilised, only the cropped area can be claimed. This means that, where part or all of a field margin exceeds two metres, the full width of that part of the margin has to be deducted from the area claimed.

In view of the concerns that have been expressed about the implications for the environment of reducing the width of field margins, my officials are in discussion with the European Commission on what can be considered as traditional agricultural practice.

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