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12 Feb 2004 : Column WA169

Written Answers

Thursday, 12 February 2004.

North/South Implementation Bodies

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the accounts for the year 2000 for the cross-border Language Implementation Body have been finalised and signed by the appropriate authorities; if not, when will they will be finalised and signed; and who will be the appropriate signatories.[HL780]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): The accounts for the year 2000 for the North/South Language Implementation Body have been signed by the chairman and chief executive of Foras na Gaeilge. They have not as yet been signed by both the chairman and chief executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency. The accounts cannot be finalised until they are signed by both agencies of the Language Body.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 19 January (WA 119) concerning the proportionality of funding for cross-border bodies, whether proportionality has been considered for the Language Body's budget for 2004; if so, when the information for such consideration was obtained; and, if not, why not.[HL919]

Baroness Amos: I have nothing further to add to my Answer given on 19 January 2004 (WA 119).

Northern Ireland Assembly: Costs

Lord Smith of Clifton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total cost of the salaries of Members of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly, and that of their support staff, from 14 October 2002 to 31 January 2004.[HL1121]

Baroness Amos: For the period 14 October 2002 to 31 January 2004, Members' salaries were £4,670,000 and Members' support staff salaries were £3,184,000. These figures are based on actual expenditure for the period October 2002 to December 2003. Expenditure included in respect of January 2004 is estimated as actual figures are not yet available.

Jamaica: Prisons

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions have taken place between the Department for International Development and the Government of Jamaica on possible United Kingdom financial assistance towards the building of prisons to hold Jamaican nationals convicted of criminal offences in the United Kingdom.[HL1128]

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Baroness Amos: There has been no official communication between the Government of Jamaica and the Department for International Development on the possibility of financial assistance to build any new prison in Jamaica.

In November 2002, the Minister for National Security spoke with international development partners concerning security issues and referred to the need for a new prison facility, but accepted that bilateral assistance from any donor was unlikely.

Questions for Written Answer: Reply Times

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked the Leader of the House:

    On how many occasions during the past 12 months they have failed to meet the target of answering Written Questions within two weeks; and which departments have been responsible for such failures.[HL951]

Baroness Amos: Since 22 January 2003 to 22 January 2004, 4,980 Questions for Written Answer have been tabled. Of these, 2,767 (56 per cent) were answered within the two-week deadline.

The remaining 44 per cent fall to all departments apart from the Scotland Office and the Wales Office, who were tabled two and three Questions respectively during this period.

I continue to review all the outstanding Questions with my ministerial colleagues on a weekly basis and remind them of the importance of prompt and accurate Answers.

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many officials are employed in the Cabinet Office to answer Questions for Written Answer; and whether there are plans to employ extra staff in view of the failure to answer Lord Christopher's Question [HL441] after almost eight weeks, when the target time is two weeks.[HL1181]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am sorry for the delay in replying to Lord Christopher's question. Much of the detailed information requested by Lord Christopher was not held centrally within the Cabinet Office and officials had to consult the Ministry of Defence. The Christmas recess also intervened. The process therefore took much longer than is desirable and for this I apologise. Cabinet Office staff draft Answers to Parliamentary Questions as part of their normal day-to-day duties. There are no Cabinet Office staff solely employed on drafting Answers to Parliamentary Questions.

Faith Communities Unit

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the remit of the Home Office Faith Communities Unit.[HL972]

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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The remit of the Faith Communities Unit is to:


    provide Ministers with advice on religious issues;


    take forward the manifesto commitment to review the way in which government interfaces with faith communities, and produce advice for government departments on how to consult faith communities effectively;


    develop the Government's links with faith communities, so as to help mutual understanding of the impact of government policies on these communities;


    engage with faith communities, so as to encourage their participation at all levels in civil society;


    promote dialogue between faith communities, in particular among young people, in order to encourage strong inter-faith relationships;


    examine issues surrounding religiously aggravated crime and incitement to religious hatred;


    deliver Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January each year); and raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance to all of society.

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many members of staff there are in the Faith Communities Unit.[HL973]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The number of staff in the Faith Communities Unit currently stands at 13.6 full-time equivalent posts.

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the staff in the Home Office Faith Communities Unit are deployed.[HL974]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The main areas of work on which staff in the Faith Communities Unit are currently deployed are: the review of the Government's interface with faith communities; Holocaust Memorial Day; engaging with faith communities; and crime motivated by racial and religious hatred. Within these workstreams staff are deployed to meet government priorities.

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the main faith communities are represented in the Faith Communities Unit staff team.[HL975]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The recruitment of staff to the Faith Communities Unit, as to other units, is on the basis of competency and ability to satisfy the requirements of the post. The adherence (or not) to, or belief and practice in, a religion is a personal matter for each individual and data on this are not collected.

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National Offender Management Service: Unconvicted Prisoners

Baroness Stern asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the Home Secretary's announcement of the establishment of a National Offender Management Service, what arrangements are to be made for the management of unconvicted prisoners.[HL984]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The structure of the National Offender Management Service is yet to be finalised. As part of the implementation of the "Reducing Crime—Changing Lives" reforms, the implementation team will consider the arrangements for the management of unconvicted prisoners.

Criminal Records Bureau

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is still the case that the data from a Criminal Records Bureau application form which are input in India are name, date of birth and addresses for the past five years; and[HL1069]

    Whether any information from any source other than the application form is input in India on behalf of the Criminal Records Bureau; what information other than name, date of birth or address is input in India; whether any other information is accessed from India; whether any other overseas location is involved in data access or data input for the Criminal Records Bureau system; and whether the Government or the bureau have plans to increase the extent of work done overseas; and[HL1070]

    Whether any personal information other than name, date of birth and address is input overseas into the Criminal Records Bureau system; and whether overseas personnel have access to any other personal information such as bank details; and[HL1072]

    Whether the application form for a Criminal Records Bureau check now carries an instruction that the section on bank details must be left blank; and[HL1073]

    How many unprocessed Criminal Records Bureau applications are on forms which asked for bank details to be completed; and how forms already processed which contain bank details are being stored.[HL1074]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Work—consisting solely of manually inputting all personal information contained on Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosure application forms (including the mandatory details such as the applicant's name, date of birth, current and previous addresses during the past five years, position applied for, the organisation concerned and details of the documents used as evidence of an applicant's identification, such as passport, driving licence and birth certificate)—is undertaken at a site in India.

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The data transferred are those contained on the disclosure application form. The form is scanned, encrypted and then transferred via a secure link to a site in India. On receipt of the scanned image, the data are entered onto a system compatible with those used by the CRB to process disclosure applications. On completion the data are again encrypted and transferred back to the UK via the secure link. The data are retained in India only for the duration of time taken to input. Thereafter, the data are destroyed. The overseas personnel involved in the data input are fully trained in data security and privacy and abide by a strict code of conduct.

The form is set out in Schedule 2 to the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations 2002. No other overseas location is involved in data access or data input for the CRB. There are no plans to increase or extend the work carried out overseas.

Although pending redesign and reprinting, the current disclosure application form includes a section in which applicants were originally invited to show certain other personal information, including their bank details, for the purpose of assisting in verifying the applicant's identity. It was decided in December 2002 that this section should no longer be used and customers were informed in January 2003. The section was formally revoked by the Police Act (Criminal Records) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2003 with effect from February 2003.

It is the responsibility of a registered body to verify the applicant's identity using guidelines issued by the CRB. All registered bodies have been informed that applicants no longer need to supply bank details. They have been made aware via both the disclosure website and the customer newsletter. Applicants themselves are made aware via the application guidance notes, which clearly state that there is no longer a requirement to supply bank details.

As at 24 January 2004, the number of fully completed applications within the CRB system that are available for processing was 107,145. This represents less than three weeks' work. jenny


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