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The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): On 8 June 2003 I made an order under Section 2(6) of the Taxes Management Act 1970 amalgamating a number of divisions in Lancashire, Bedfordshire, Clwyd and Essex.
That order also gives effect from 1 June 2003 to the merger of the Mold and Wrexham Maelor Divisions into the Mold and Wrexham Maelor Division and the Divisions of Dunmow and Ongar; Epping and Harlow to be merged into a new division to be called West Essex.
All the amalgamations were made at the request of the General Commissioners in all the divisions with the aim of improving the organisational efficiency of the divisions concerned. I have placed a copy of the order amalgamating the divisions in the Library.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Government's proposals for a single piece of enforcement agent law aim to eliminate the differences between the rules for different types of judgment debts. Few enforcement agents currently have the power to undertake forcible entry to residential premises. Existing case law relating to bailiffs is complex. However, we are looking to simplify the law.
Prior judicial authority will be required for forcible entry to be permitted in domestic properties. It is my intention that forcible entry to residential property should rarely be used and then only in very specific circumstances. The court will need to be satisfied that certain criteria have been met before granting such authority. All enforcement agents will be licensed and subject to strict regulation.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Opposite-sex couples already have the opportunity of obtaining legal status for their relationship by entering into a marriage, whether religious or civil. Some couples choose not to marry, and that is entirely a decision for them.
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Written Answer to the noble Lord on 12 May (WA 1) did not indicate that the Irish Government set the North/South Language Body's budget on 12 November 2002; rather it indicated that officials in the Department of Culture, Arts, and Leisure were informed of the Southern contribution to the budget of the Body.
Under the agreement made by the exchange of notes between the British and Irish Governments dated 19 November 2002, the two governments approved the recommendation for the total budget for the North/South Language Body on 26 February 2003.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Waterways Ireland employees based in the Republic of Ireland received a 4 per cent pay award for the period 1 October 2002 to 30 June 2003 in line with the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness which applies to all public service workers in the Republic. Employees based in Northern Ireland were paid a pro rata award of 2.67 per cent for the period from 1 October 2002 to the end of March 2003. From 1 April 2003 pay awards for employees based in Northern Ireland will be linked to pay awards for the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
The chief executive's salary from 1 April 2002 is £70,725 within the range £70,725 to £83,025 within the Senior Civil Service pay bands of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. The salary from 1 April 2003 is awaiting the agreement of the 2003 pay settlement. The assessment of grading and salary level was made using the job evaluation system for senior posts in the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: While various academics have alluded to information, derived from census results, on differences in the unemployment rates between Protestant denominations, no research findings are available to explain the differences that have been observed.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Translink has advised that as from 1 April 2003 it has withdrawn travel passes from all retired employees over 65. Such retired employees are eligible for Department for Regional Development Senior Smartpasses which are available to all Northern Ireland residents aged 65 and over and provide free bus and rail travel throughout Northern Ireland.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The South-Eastern Education and Library Board is currently undertaking a statutory assessment of Owen Waide's special educational needs and in this connection the board's Special Education Sub-Committee met on 15 May 2003 to review the level of specialist provision afforded to Owen. It was then agreed that the board would provide an enhanced level of specialist provision, both at home and at school.