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Armed Forces: Strategic Sea-Lift Capability

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I will write to my noble friend and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Pension Credit

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The costs of the Pension Credit will depend on decisions about the detailed design following the consultation exercise--such as the nature of the interactions with other benefits such as Housing Benefit and the detail of the legislation when it has

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completed its passage through Parliament. The Government will bring forward estimates of the Pension Credit once they have considered responses to the consultation exercise.

Winter Fuel Payments

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further consideration they have given to extending to severely disabled people under the age of 60 the winter fuel payment currently paid to all pensioner households irrespective of income; and what action they are taking.[HL4751]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: We have no plans to extend the scheme further.

Fire Safety Legislation

Lord Howie of Troon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to implement Section 10 of the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987, which amended Section 18 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971, so placing a duty upon fire authorities to carry out fire safety inspection of premises to which that Act applies; and whether they intend to provide guidance to fire authorities in pursuance of that duty until such time as a new Fire Safety Bill is introduced.[HL4830]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Government have no plans to implement Section 10 of the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987. The Fire Safety Advisory Board is developing proposals for the reform of fire safety legislation. It is our intention to pursue this by means of an order under the regulatory reform Bill which we hope to introduce as soon as parliamentary time allows. One of the issues under consideration is whether there should be a statutory duty on fire authorities to inspect premises and, if so, how far that duty should extend.

Fire Safety Inspections

Lord Howie of Troon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many fire safety inspections have been carried out by fire authorities of premises falling within Section 9A of the Fire Precautions Act 1971; and how many improvement notices under Section 9D of the Act were served by fire authorities on such premises bewteen 1 April 1989 and 31 December 1997.[HL4831]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The fugures for inspections carried out by fire authorities of premises falling within Section 9A of the Fire Precautions Act

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1971 are set out in the table below. No central record is kept of the number of improvement notices served under Section 9D.

Fire safety inspections of premises subject to Section 9A of the Fire Precautions Act 1971. Inspections by fire safety officers in England and Wales

YearTotal number of inspections
1/1/1989 to 31/12/1989Data no longer available
1/1/1990 to 31/12/1990122,966
1/1/1991 to 31/12/1991103,203
1/1/1992 to 31/12/199283,647
1/1/1993 to 31/3/1994(1)85,161
1/4/1994 to 31/3/199595,949
1/4/1995 to 31/3/199684,609
1/4/1996 to 31/3/199778,943
1/4/1997 to 31/3/1998(2)78,022
1/4/1998 to 31/3/199981,290
1/4/1999 to 31/3/200077,500

(1) Period covers 15 months due to change in reporting year.

(2) Figures from 1/12/1997 include inspections under the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997, which replaced Section 9A from that date.

Burglary: Repeat Offences

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 27 November (WA 119) is correct in stating that in the period from December 1999 to June 2000 inclusive there have been no minimum sentences of three years' imprisonment imposed for repeat offences of burglary under Section 4 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997, new Section 111 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. [HL4833]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Records indicate that no minimum sentences under Section 111 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 were imposed for the period from December 1999 (when the relevant provision was implemented) to June 2000 inclusive. Section 111 applies where an offender, after 30 November 1999, is convicted of an offence of domestic burglary, having previously been convicted on two separate occasions of offences of domestic burglary also committed after 30 November 1999. It is entirely possible that there have been no occasions in the seven months at issue when an offender has gone through the sequence of committing an offence, being apprehended and convicted on three separate occasions (where he must also have been sentenced and served any period of imprisonment imposed in relation to the first two occasions.)

Tamil Asylum Seekers: Medical Foundation Report

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the criticisms of the Home Office made in the Medical Foundation's

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    report on the treatment of 49 Tamil asylum seekers who survived torture in Sri Lanka, published in June. [HL4804]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave on 6 July, Official Report, col. WA 150-151. A fact finding mission to Sri Lanka which is planned for the New Year to investigate a number of issues will cover points raised by the Medical Foundation.

Interception Warrants

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 13th November (WA 8-9), what are the factual inaccuracies and misconceptions that are contained in the YouGov article dated 26th October.[HL4809]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: the YouGov article incorrectly asserts that under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), "lesser public authorities such as local councils, the benefits office have the power to intercept anyone's emails". The only agencies which are empowered to seek interception warrants (which do not include those bodies quoted by YouGov) are set out in Section 6(2) of the Act.

RIPA does not, as the YouGov article suggests, place the burden on the person served with a disclosure notice to prove that an encryption code has been lost innocently. Sections 53(2) and (3) of the Act refer. This offence was amended following discussion in Committee on 28 June. The changes were welcomed by spokesmen for the Opposition parties (cols. 1011-1012).

It is not true that the regulations, made under Section 4(2) of the Act, give employers "carte blanche" to monitor their employees' communications. They establish rules, for the first time, governing this activity with a civil liability for those who breach the regulations (Section 1(3)).

The suggestion that the Act would be in force from 5 November is also wrong. The Government do not envisage commencing parts of the Act--the provisions in Part I, Chapter II and Part III--until early and late 2001 respectively. This is to allow sufficient time for detailed discussions with interested parties on the implementation of these crucial provisions.

Asylum Seekers: Appeal Procedure

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 13th November (WA 8), whether unrepresented asylum seekers or would-be immigrants seeking to argue their case on human rights grounds, when referred to the case of Parpeedan, will be given the decision in an accessible form or will have the implications explained to them.[HL4799]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: It would be unusual for an asylum seeker or would-be immigrant to remain unrepresented before the appellate authorities. If this occurred and the determination of the Tribunal in Pardeepan was relevant to their circumstances, the Home Office Presenting Officer or the appellate authority will ensure that arrangements are made for the implications of the determination to be brought to the attention of the asylum seeker or would-be immigrant.

Council of Europe Member Countries: Prisoners' Voting Rights

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which Council of Europe member countries allow sentenced prisoners to vote.[HL4743]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The information requested is not readily available and will take some time to collate. I will write to the noble Lord shortly and place a copy of the letter in the Libraries of the House.

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