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Passports

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): The United Kingdom Passport Service has been issuing machine-readable passports since 1988. As a result, almost all United Kingdom-issued passports are machine-readable. The only exceptions will be where a passport has been exceptionally extended due to an emergency. A small number of non-machine readable passports are issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at posts overseas. It is not possible to provide details of the numbers of passports this involves.

All arriving passengers subject to immigration control are checked against the computerised warning index (WI) which automatically reads personal details from machine readable passports. The WI already contains the details of large numbers of lost or stolen passports and identity cards.

While the Immigration Service does not currently retain the passport details of all arriving passengers, it is currently urgently exploring with other control agencies the use of technology to require airlines to retain the passport or identity card details of passengers before they board a flight to the United Kingdom.

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Rooker: The United Kingdom Passport Service records information on passports reported lost, stolen or unavailable. For the year ending 31 March 2001 there were 122,269 passports recorded under this category. The Passport Service does not routinely collect data on the number of passports lost or stolen which have been recovered.

Requests for the issue of a replacement passport are handled in the same way as first-time applications. The costs involved are broadly comparable and therefore no additional charges are made. The Passport Service operates on a net running cost regime and all costs are recovered through receipt of passport fees.

Ferrets and Gerbils in Breeding and Supply Establishments

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish guidance on the housing and care of ferrets and gerbils in breeding and supplying establishments designated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.[HL1219]

Lord Rooker: We have today laid before Parliament a draft Supplement to the Code of Practice for the Housing and Care of Animals in Designated Breeding and Supplying Establishments. The draft sets standards for the housing and care of ferrets and gerbils in designated breeding and supply establishments, and is a consequence of the species concerned being added to the list in Schedule 2 of the 1986 Act (animals which can only be obtained from designated sources). The draft has been produced and laid under Section 21 of the Act and is subject to the negative resolution procedure. Copies have been placed in the Library.

Asylum Applicants: Application Registration Card

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether those who have applied for asylum in the United Kingdom are entitled to travel abroad while their applications are being considered; and whether the proposed new smart cards to be issued to asylum seekers will be valid as travel documents for re-entry into the United Kingdom.[HL1049]

Lord Rooker: Asylum applicants who travel abroad while their claim is being considered are deemed to have withdrawn their application for asylum in the United Kingdom.

The application registration card (ARC) is not a travel document and will not confer the right of re-entry to the United Kingdom. The purpose of the ARC is to show that the holder has lodged an asylum application with the Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate. It will replace the standard acknowledgement letter (SAL) which is currently used and provide evidence of entitlement to the facilities or services available to asylum seekers.

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The ARC's format and security features, which includes the holder's fingerprints, will make positive identification more straightforward to establish and help prevent abuse.

Lay Magistrates

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the current allowances payable to lay magistrates who lose a day's pay in order to sit; and whether they have any proposals to change those allowances.[HL939]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Lay magistrates receive Financial Loss Allowance to compensate them for loss of earnings or social security benefits or additional expenditure incurred by them in performing their duties. The maximum amounts payable for sitting in excess of four hours are £83.56 for self-employed magistrates and £65.18 for employed magistrates. Lay magistrates are also entitled to claim travelling and subsistence allowance.

The rates at which allowances are paid are reviewed annually by my department. The allowances were reviewed earlier this year and the new rates became payable on 1 September 2001.

Newspaper Distribution

Lord Smith of Leigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the current system for the wholesale distribution of national newspapers serves the interests of the public and of the smaller retailers.[HL938]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Director General of Fair Trading monitors the newspaper distribution markets and does not believe there are currently grounds, under the Competition Act, for an investigation.

Waste Rubber Tyres

Lord Glentoran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what contingency plans they propose for the disposal of waste rubber tyres after 2003 when they will no longer be disposed of in landfill sites; and

    (b) whether they anticipate that they will be able to meet their recycling targets after 2003 as a result of this change.[HL996]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): (a) The Landfill Directive introduces a two-stage diversion of tyres away from landfill: whole tyres in 2003 and shredded tyres in 2006. Value is presently

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recovered from around 70 per cent of the 400,000 tonnes of tyres disposed of each year, with the balance landfilled, largely in shredded form.

The Government maintain regular dialogue with the tyre industry on this issue through the Used Tyre Working Group and we remain confident that sufficient tyre recovery capacity will be developed to enable the disposal of tyres to landfill to cease by the specified dates.

(b) Tyres form part of the industrial and commercial waste stream. Diverting them from landfill will contribute to the target of reducing the amount of that waste landfilled to 85 per cent of 1998 levels by 2005 but will not contribute to the Government's targets for the recycling of household waste.

Foot and Mouth: Rural Recovery

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have not fully accepted the recommendations of Lord Haskins' report on Rural Recovery after Foot-and-Mouth Disease; and whether this means that they have no confidence in Lord Haskins.[HL1009]

Lord Whitty: The Government made an immediate and positive response to the constructive and thoughtful report of my noble friend Lord Haskins. On the day the report was published, on 18 October, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs responded immediately to just one of his numerous recommendations—that extra resources should be provided for the Business Recovery Fund. That her announcement involved expenditure of £24 million through an extension of the Business Recovery Fund shows just how seriously we took his recommendations and those of the Rural Task Force, also published on 18 October. As well as giving this immediate and practical response, Ministers indicated that they would consider the other recommendations in the report and provide a full response shortly.

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy

Baroness Gale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will provide the information on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' TSE research programme promised in their statement on 22 October.[HL1179]

Lord Whitty: We have today placed a paper describing the programme in full in the Library of the House.

GLA Precept

Baroness Hanham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What increase in the Greater London Authority precept they would consider acceptable.[HL1034]

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The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The GLA sets its own precept, and should consult with the London electorate, to whom it is accountable. London voters will make informed choices about their own council tax and public services in their areas. Nevertheless, we have reserve powers to protect local people from excessive council tax increases.


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