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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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