Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

9 Jan 2002 : Column WA109

Written Answers

Wednesday, 9th January 2002.

House of Lords Appointments Commission

Lord Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the House of Lords Appointments Commission.[HL2231]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Appointments Commission brought new standards of transparency, professionalism and rigour into the selection of independent Peers. The commission has, as required, published criteria for appointing Peers on the basis that individuals should have a record of outstanding achievement, political independence, integrity and the ability to contribute to the House.

The 15 new independent Peers were appointed because they have skills and qualities that will benefit the legislative scrutiny and revising work of the second Chamber. They included a world authority on palliative care, an expert on youth and social exclusion, a top British businessman and a leading educationalist. Their expertise is already contributing to debates in the House.

The White Paper on Lords Reform published last year proposes a statutory Appointments Commission to appoint independent Members and to continue an open and transparent process of appointing independent Members to the House of Lords. In the mean time the Appointments Commission will continue its role.

Police Service of Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 3 December (WA 80) about the Police Service of Northern Ireland, what has happened to the candidates who are appealing decisions of the medical examiner; whether these candidates have proceeded without a physical competence assessment; and what proportions of these candidates are being treated as Roman Catholics and as non-Roman Catholics.[HL1971]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As at 19 December, there are two medical appeals that remain to be dealt with. Those candidates who have been unsuccessful in appealing the decisions of the medical examiner have not proceeded further in the competition.

Also at 19 December, there are 28 candidates who have successfully appealed the decision of the medical examiner and are awaiting their physical competence assessment. Of those, four have declared themselves to be Roman Catholic and 24 have declared

9 Jan 2002 : Column WA110

themselves to be Protestants or are non-determined. No candidate who successfully appealed the decision of the medical examiner has proceeded without a physical competence assessment.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 11 December (WA 202) indicating that there was no tendering process for the design of badges for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, why the details are confidential; why no tendering process was undertaken; who was the accounting officer; and how much was spent and from which budget.[HL2036]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The identity of the designers commissioned to produce draft designs is confidential, in accordance with a commitment given to them at the outset.

There were a number of reasons why no competitive tendering process was undertaken, including the comparative costs involved and the nature of the work. The Permanent Under-Secretary for the Northern Ireland Office is the departmental accounting officer. On the issue of costs, these details were set out in the answer I gave to Lord Kilclooney (WA 177) on 10 December. These costs were met from the NIO budget for the implementation of the recommendations of the Patten report on policing.

Northern Ireland: Decommissioning

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they expect further IRA decommissioning to take place before the end of February 2002; and how they will respond if further decommissioning does not take place.[HL2190]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am sure we all would have hoped that the IRA and loyalist groups would have decommissioned by February. It is now extremely unlikely that this will be accomplished.

The Government have every confidence in General de Chastelain and his colleagues and we should all respect their wishes on how best to proceed to fulfil their mandate. To this end the process must continue, and the Government will continue to support the commission in its work, including providing the legislative framework for decommissioning.

Parliament: "Webcasting" of Proceedings

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked the Chairman of Committees:

    How the pilot project to "webcast" parliamentary proceedings on the Internet may be viewed within the parliamentary estate.[HL2230]

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The House of Commons and House of Lords are starting to "webcast"

9 Jan 2002 : Column WA111

coverage of some debates on the Internet. This is a pilot project, to be assessed at the end of 2002, aimed at making the work of Parliament more accessible to people unable to visit Westminster. The webcasts largely duplicate the coverage already available on the internal Annunciator system and in this test environment, during the pilot project, they will not be accessible via the Parliamentary Data and Video Network (PDVN). However, from next week viewing facilities will be available in the Queen's Room in the Library and, I understand, in the e-library of the House of Commons.

Special Advisers

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to introduce a Bill to set out and clarify the role and functions of governmental special advisers.[HL1966]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): In their response to the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Government committed themselves to introducing legislation on the Civil Service when parliamentary time allowed. The Code of Conduct for Special Advisers and a limit on the number of special advisers will be included in the legislation.

Ministerial Travel: Hire of Aeroplanes

Lord Rotherwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Macdonald of Tradeston on 26 November (WA 19), why they will not provide the information requested when it is due to be published early next year; and[HL1760]

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Macdonald of Tradeston on 26 November (WA 19), whether the Guardian press report on 9 November is correct in stating that the Prime Minister's chartering of Concorde cost £250,000.[HL1761]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: A detailed list of Cabinet Ministers' visits overseas, and information on expenditure by all Ministers on travel overseas for the period 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002, will be published as soon as possible after the end of the current financial year. It is reasonable that, in response to a Parliamentary Question seeking information similar to that which will be published, the noble Lord was informed that he would have to wait for the published list. I will, of course, send the noble Lord a copy of the list when it is published. The Government do not comment on media speculation about the costs of Ministers' travel.

9 Jan 2002 : Column WA112

Asylum Seekers: Deaths

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they keep records of the number and causes of deaths of asylum seekers (a) while held in detention centres and prisons; (b) while in National Asylum Support Service accommodation; and (c) otherwise; if so, what are the figures for the past 12 months; and, if not, what are the reasons for not collecting such information.[HL1631]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): Records are kept of the number of causes of death of asylum seekers while held in detention centres and prisons. No deaths have been recorded in the 12 months up to 30 September 2001.

The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) does not keep records of the number and causes of death of asylum seekers it is supporting. It is not considered necessary to collect this information since the cause of death is unlikely to be directly linked to the provision of support. NASS would be informed if the person died as a result of an accident in the home, which was believed to be as a result of a failure on the part of the contractor.

Prison Service Standards

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What person/organisation is responsible for auditing prison standards; who they will consult in ascertaining whether the standards are observed; and what action the Prison Service has the power to take against a prison or the governor when the audit shows that a standard or standards have not been complied with.[HL2047]

Lord Rooker: All Prison Service Standards contain audit baselines against which compliance can be checked, through observation, documentation and interview. These audits are conducted within the management line in each prison and headquarters group. Non-compliance must be addressed and failure to do so reported to the relevant area manager (i.e. operational manager) or director. The process was developed by the Standards Audit Unit and provides for local audit itself to be audited by the unit independently.

Additionally, the Standards Audit Unit programmes a visit to each establishment and group at least once in a two-year cycle to audit the most critical standards identified by the Prison Service Management Board. The resulting report forms the basis of a remedial plan, delivery of which is overseen by the area manager or director. The results of any audit are taken alongside other indicators of performance to measure the success of any establishment/group and its management team.

9 Jan 2002 : Column WA113

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page