20 Jul 1998 : Column: 361

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 20 July 1998

CABINET OFFICE

Correspondence

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Minister without Portfolio what plans his Department has to correspond electronically with (a) hon. Members and (b) members of the public. [49830]

Mr. Mandelson [holding answer 13 July 1998]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 17 July 1998, Official Report, column 315.

DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Action Zones

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will list the initiatives undertaken by his Department since 1 May 1997 which have involved the establishment of (a) action zones and (b) pilot schemes limited to particular geographical areas, indicating the name of the programme and the action zone or pilot scheme areas covered in each instance. [47051]

Mr. Kilfoyle: No initiatives have been undertaken by my Department since 1 May 1997 which have resulted in the establishment of action zones. Regarding the establishment of pilot schemes, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) on 30 June 1998, Official Report, columns 135-36.

Prior Options Reviews

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) on 8 April 1998, Official Report, column 310, if the same options are applied to public sector research establishments included within the scope of the review. [49974]

Dr. David Clark: Yes. The prior options reviews of public sector research establishments must thoroughly examine the same options that are applied during reviews of Next Steps agencies and agency candidates generally: abolition; privatisation; contracting out; market testing; rationalisation or merger with other areas of government; and agency or NDPB status. In looking at whether the function is required, prior option reviews of public sector research establishments will consider the underlying question of the country's scientific needs in that area. As with all prior options reviews, there is no presupposition that any outcome is more favoured than another. The decision on future status is made with the aim of

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achieving the most appropriate and cost effective way of carrying out the functions so as to deliver best value for money and best service.

Small Businesses

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what measures he has put in place to ensure that small businesses can complete all their licensing requirements and inform themselves about relevant regulation in one office. [50015]

Dr. David Clark: The Access Business Group, chaired by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service, aims to make the regulatory system more transparent, accessible and helpful. The Group is also looking at the provision of integrated information, advice and guidance to ease the burden on business. The use of Information Technology to help businesses fulfil their obligation is part of this work.

In December, I launched the "intelligent" form which enables people to register as self-employed at a bank. This model has now been extended with the launch of the Post Office-led "Open for Business" pilot which enables people to register as self-employed in a post office, library, a community based "telecottage" or local government office. The "intelligent" form is just the start. The system proves the technology and we should eventually have electronic forms for people to apply for licences.

Lobbyists

Mr. Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, pursuant to his answer of 13 July 1998, Official Report, column 1, what was the nature of the representations received from (a) the Minister without Portfolio and (b) the Secretary of State for the Home Department. [51159]

Dr. David Clark: Internal discussions between Ministers on policy issues are confidential under the terms of Exemption 2 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

People's Panel

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, pursuant to his answer of 6 July 1998, Official Report, column 337, on the People's Panel, how many waves of research the Government plan to commission. [51302]

Dr. David Clark: The Cabinet Office plans to commission a second wave of research later in the year. Plans for subsequent waves of research are being discussed with other government departments.

Millennium Compliance

Mr. Cann: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when the Government response to the second report of the Science and Technology Committee "The Year 2000--Computer Compliance" [HC342] will be published. [51804]

Dr. David Clark: My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I have today laid before Parliament the Government Response as Command Paper 3944.

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Correspondence

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many letters per day his office receives; how many staff are employed to answer these; what targets are set in respect of such letters; and what is the current performance against targets. [50686]

Mr. Kilfoyle: The Cabinet Office is currently collating information on the performance of the main government departments and agencies in responding to letters from MPs and the general public. This includes information on the volume of correspondence received, the target for responding to such letters, and performance against the target. It will be made available to House.

Information will not be included on the number of staff employed to answer letters as very few are employed solely in handling correspondence: in most cases correspondence is handled by staff across Whitehall as part of their normal duties.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Correspondence

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is her Department's average response time to correspondence from members of the public; and how such response times are monitored. [48663]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service on 14 July 1998, Official Report, column 159.

Orange Parades

Mr. Colvin: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many Orange parades have been re-routed in Portadown since 1985. [49520]

Marjorie Mowlam: The following table shows the number of Orange parades re-routed in Portadown since 1990. The information prior to that year is not readily available.

YearTotalIllegalRe-routedConditions imposedDisorder occurred
199085--63--
199161--4----
199269--4----
199358--3----
199455--6----
199580--5--1
19966811--1
199772--5----

Railways

Mr. Moss: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the (a) forecast cost and (b) planned completion date of improvements to the section of the railway line between Lisburn and Belfast. [50136]

Mr. Paul Murphy: Work on Phase 1 of the Belfast-Lisburn rail upgrade, ie, the line between Great Victoria Street junction and Lisburn, which commenced

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in March, will be completed by 31 December 1998. Work on Phase 2 between Belfast Central Station and Belfast City junction will commence in spring 1999 and is likely to be completed mid year. The total cost of the project is estimated at £16.1m.

Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if land will be included in the list of goods, facilities and services in the Government's proposals to amend the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989. [51306]

Mr. Ingram: The White paper "Partnership for Equality" indicated that Fair Employment legislation would be extended to cover goods, facilities and services and the disposal or management of premises. Premises includes land. Views were sought on possible exceptions within areas such as housing and land and comments received are still being considered.

Equality Commission

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many of those organisations replying to the White Paper, "Partnership for Equality" (a) explicitly supported the establishment of a single Equality Commission and (b) did not mention it in their submission. [51308]

Mr. Worthington: In total there were 123 responses to the White Paper "Partnership for Equality" and of those 29 or 23 per cent. supported the establishment of a single Equality Commission and 24 or 20 per cent. did not mention it.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what are the current annual costs and manpower of those bodies which it is intended to absorb into the Equality Commission. [51309]

Mr. Ingram: The current annual cost of the Fair Employment Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland and the Commission for Racial Equality for Northern Ireland is £4.8m. The staffing complement of these bodies is 117 full-time equivalents. The Northern Ireland Disability Council has an annual cost of £100,000 and no staff.


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