Middle East: Reconstruction of Palestinian Property and Infrastructure
The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:
Under the terms of the road map, what share of the cost of reconstruction of Palestinian property and infrastructure demolished by Israel defence forces will be borne by the government of Israel.[HL3951]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The road map does not require the Israeli Government to contribute to the cost of rebuilding Palestinian property and infrastructure. Nevertheless, the 4th Geneva Convention prohibits the destruction of property except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. We continue to press Israel to end the disproportionate use of force, demolitions and destruction of infrastructure.
Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they intend to increase passport fees.[HL4231]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Privy Council late yesterday made an order, the Consular Fees Order 2003, which will increase passport fees with effect from 2 October 2003. Full details are set out in the order, which will be made on 29 July.
The fee for a passport applied for by post or through the UK Passport Service's high street partners will increase from £33 to £42 for a standard 32-page passport, and from £19 to £25 for a passport for a child.
The fee for a passport applied for through the guaranteed one-week fast-track service will increase from £63 to £70 for a standard 32-page passport, and from £49 to £60 for a passport for a child.
The fee for a passport applied for through the guaranteed same-day premium service (available only for passport renewals) will increase from £78 to £89 for a standard 32-page passport, and from £64 to £71 for a passport for a child.
A new fast-track collect service will be made available for those using the fast-track service to opt to collect their passport from a passport office instead of having it posted. This involves the higher costs of production at a passport office instead of the central printing press where the majority of passports are produced, which will be reflected in higher fees.
The order will also increase fees for applications made overseas to British consular posts. The fee for a standard 32-page passport will increase from £54.50 to £56.50 and the fee for a child passport will increase from £34.70 to £36.50.
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In the UK there will no longer be a separate fee for amending passports. Where a person wishes to amend the personal details shown, a new 10-year passport will be issued. British consular posts overseas will continue to offer an amendment service if requested.
From early 2004, at the majority of British consular posts overseas, a new temporary passport costing £45.60 and valid for up to 12 months and for multiple journeys will be available to travellers who have lost their passports or had them stolen, and need to continue their journey quickly. The target turn round time for issue of a standard passport is five days.
Fees for 48-page passports will also be increased, but collective passport fees for organised school trips will not change.
The average increase in UK passport fees is £8.71. This is a substantial increase made necessary by several factors. Most importantly, it allows investment in the security and integrity of British passports, and improvement in customer service, to continue. Susbtantial work is in hand in the following key areas:
Introduction of biometrics in passportsthis is necessary to improve security, meet new International Civil Aviation Organisation standards and allow continued UK participation in the US visa waiver programme.
Addressing problems associated with passports lost, stolen and lost in the postinitiatives include a new database to allow better control and sharing of information on missing passports, tighter procedures for replacing missing passports, developing arrangments to send all new passports by secure delivery methods.
Identity confirmationinitiatives include creating a single database for British passports issued in the UK and at all British consular posts overseas and trials of identity checking through a range of public and private sector databases.
Fraud detection and preventionnew fraud investigation units have been established in passport offices, staff training is being enhanced, analysis of management information is being improved and an exhaustive check on past applications to detect trends is being undertaken.
Customer servicesubstantial improvements in the electronic application route are being developed, call handling arrangements are being improved, and the Liverpool passport office is moving to new premises with better public facilities.
The increase is also needed to meet an obligation to repay previously accrued deficits to HM Treasury by October 2004, currently amounting to £26m. The Passport Service has found savings of £10m from its current budget in order to deliver efficiency savings and constrain the level of fee increases while pursuing the UKPS fraud prevention programme.
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Human Rights Instruments: Interdepartmental Review
Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they intend to publish the results of the interdepartmental review of human rights instruments before the autumn.[HL3571]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): We will report the outcome of the review as soon as reasonably possible.
Lord Palmer asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is the annual revenue from speed cameras in the United Kingdom; and who receives this revenue.[HL3781]
Lord Filkin: The available information relates to England and Wales and only to those cameras covered by the special scheme introduced in April 2002, to facilitate investment in safety cameras. In 200203, revenue from these cameras was £73 million.
Revenues are initially collected by the magistrates' courts. Part is transferred to the Department for Transport to cover the assessed costs of operating the scheme. Of the £73 million, approximately £66 million was transferred to the Department for Transport for distribution to various partnerships of the scheme in England and Wales and approximately £7 million was paid to the Consolidated Fund.
Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967: Issue of Certificate
Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:
As regards the investigation by the ombudsman into complaint A33/02 (under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information) concerning the denial of information about the development of policy leading up to the Human Rights Act 1998, what were the reasons for the issue of a certificate by the Cabinet Secretary under the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 preventing the ombudsman having access to the information in suitably redacted form relating references to the views of particular Ministers or of Ministers collectively, so as to enable the ombudsman to complete her investigation into the complaint.[HL3936]
Lord Filkin: The certificate was issued to protect the confidentiality of the Cabinet process. Section 8(4) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 explicitly recognises this.
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Iraq: Prisoners Captured by British Forces
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 30 June (WA 63), whether they will list the countries and the number of nationals from countries other than Iraq.[HL3801]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): A total of 28 prisoners of war from countries other than Iraq were captured by United Kingdom forces in Iraq as follows:
Defence Medical Services: Golden Hello
Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:
What further response there has been to the initiative for the recruitment of consultants of a £50,000 "golden hello" into the Defence Medical Services, introduced on 19 November 2002, since preliminary figures were disclosed on 12 February.[HL3974]
Lord Bach: As at 14 July 2003, three vocationally trained general medical practitioners (GMPs) and two consultants had joined the Defence Medical Services (DMS) under the "golden hello" scheme. In addition, 14 vocationally trained GMPs and four consultants have been accepted into the DMS, but have not yet joined their service, and 10 GMPs and three consultants are awaiting selection interviews.
Procurement Compliance: Equality Outcomes
Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they monitor the equality outcomes of any procurement compliance policies and practices of approved contractors and suppliers; and, if so, what benefits they can point to.[HL3893]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): Reference to the contractor's obligations under the Race Relations Act is included in model government contract conditions. Equality issues can also be taken into account in specifications and in selecting contractors where relevant to the subject matter of the contract and consistent with EC procurement rules. Responsibility for approving contractors and for monitoring performance, including any obligations relating to equality, rests with the relevant departmental accounting officer or officers. The Government are committed to equality in all their activities and the Office
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of Government Commerce and the DTI's Small Business Service have recently launched two procurement pilots. One is based in the West Midlands region and one in Haringey, north London. The aim of the pilots is to ensure that SMEs have easier access to government contracts and to bring the benefits of greater competition to ethnic minority-owned businesses.