Previous Section Index Home Page

Discharged Prisoners

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what range of payments in cash and

29 Mar 2001 : Column: 728W

in kind is available to discharged prisoners by way of (a) grants, (b) loans and (c) specific access to social security payments. [155553]

Mr. Boateng: A discharge grant is payable to most prisoners in order to ensure that the prisoner has sufficient money to meet immediate needs on release. It is not a substitute for social security payments. The current rates are:


25 and older46.75

The higher rate is paid only if there is a need to seek, obtain and pay for accommodation. It is only paid to prisoners with no accommodation arranged in advance, if this arises through no fault of the prisoner. Except those being deported or removed under Immigration Act 1988 powers, discharged prisoners receive payment or a travel warrant for their journey home. If they have not received a discharge grant, they may be given an appropriate subsistence allowance for their journey. Prisoners who do not have their own clothing may receive appropriate clothing on release.

Discharged prisoners are generally treated in the same way as any other claimants for social security payments and must satisfy the eligibility criteria for each benefit claimed. The available benefits include Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), Income Support, Housing Benefit and crisis loans and community care grants from the Social Fund. Exceptionally, the JSA regulations contain specific provisions for those released from detention. They may be treated as available for work for a period of seven days commencing with the date of their release. They may also be treated as actively seeking employment for the first full week of their JSA claim if they have been treated as available for work for part of that week.

Fire Services

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from fire services that have installed virtual reality training systems in the last two years on the effectiveness of the training; and what evaluation his Department has made of its effectiveness. [155778]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I am told no such representations have been received. Fire brigades are encouraged by the Home Office to improve fire-fighting techniques by undertaking virtual reality training, the effectiveness of which is assessed by individual brigades and reviewed by Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate during brigade inspections.

Emergency Response

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what occupational standard of competence is required of senior members of the fire and police services in respect of directing response to major emergencies. [155781]

29 Mar 2001 : Column: 729W

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Fire Brigade command course sets out the requirements for brigade commanders, including planning and directing responses to major emergencies. Underpinning competences which are developed are the qualities of leadership, interpersonal skill, analytical processing and dynamism. The competences trained for include: decision making involving longer term contingency planning; decision making after call-out and before arrival at a major incident; decision making on arrival, taking over command and the handing over process; and post-incident longer term decisions.

Current Fire Service training on major emergencies is based on guidance prepared by the Government's Civil Emergencies Adviser and is comparable with that of the other emergency services. National occupational standards for operational command, which will include response to major emergencies, are in an advanced state of development.

Occupational standards for the police service will be set by the Police National Training Organisation (NTO) once that is established. The Police NTO received recognition from the Department for Education and Employment earlier this month and is due to be incorporated in May 2001. In the meantime work is being done on the development of competences for various roles, including the management of major incidents. Police National Training provide training in the management of disasters and civil emergencies which can be taken either separately or as part of the strategic command course, which must be undertaken by officers who wish to seek appointment to the rank of assistant chief constable or commander.

British Citizenship

Mr. Hope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to change the procedures for dealing with applications for British citizenship. [156549]

Mrs. Roche: During April 2001, the Integrated Casework Directorate (ICD) of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) will devote some of its resources to starting applications for British citizenship on receipt. All cases, at both ends of the queue for consideration, will be considered using new procedures and working practices. New applicants will be asked to supply supporting documentation at the time of application and to respond more quickly to requests for further information than has previously been the case. The aim of these changes is to eliminate the current backlog of nationality applications by attacking it from both ends. This approach has been successfully used elsewhere in IND, for example in the production of travel documents.

ICD will have achieved its target of 91,000 decisions by the end of March 2001, which is more than twice the total for 1997. By the end of February 2001, the average waiting time for all types of citizenship applications had fallen to exactly 12 months, as compared with nearly 20 months at the same time last year. These improvements flow from significantly increased investment in the system and the new service delivery culture now becoming established in the ICD.

29 Mar 2001 : Column: 730W

Because of these improvements ICD is now in a position to deal with the remaining backlog of work from both ends, cutting out unnecessary handling. This approach has proven very successful in other parts of IND's work. More resources will continue to be devoted to those applications that have been waiting longest, but the ICD's intention is to reduce the waiting time for all applications to an average of six months by April 2002 and to three months by April 2004.


Warship Support Agency

Mr. Beard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the formation of the Warship Support Agency; and what key targets have been set for 2001-02. [156486]

Mr. Spellar: On 2 April 2001 the Warship Support Agency (WSA) will be established as a Defence Agency through the merger of the Ships Support Agency (SSA) and the majority of the Naval Bases and Supply Agency (NBSA). The WSA will be responsible for providing responsive and cost-effective warship support to the Royal Navy and other customers. The WSA's first Chief Executive (CE) will be Mr. John Coles, currently CE SSA, who will initially be located at Foxhill, Bath together with the WSA Corporate Directors. The WSA Agency will employ some 9,000 civilian and 3,500 military staff at various other locations throughout the United Kingdom, including Bath and Bristol, HM Naval Bases Clyde, Devonport and Portsmouth, and HM Mooring and Marine Salvage Depot, Pembroke Dock.

The formation of the Agency will remove internal business boundaries between the SSA and the NBSA, creating a new organisation that will be more able to manage warship support coherently and be more responsive to customer requirements. The WSA corporate aim is to provide "World Class Support to a World Class Navy".

The Chief Executive has been sent the following Key Targets for the first year of operation:

I am placing a copy of the Agency's Framework Document in the Library of the House.

29 Mar 2001 : Column: 731W

Sonar Systems

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when his Department will select prime contractors to provide the new sonar systems for the Type 23 frigates and Hunt class mine counter-measures vessels. [156485]

Dr. Moonie: I am pleased to be able to announce that the competitions for these two important new sonar systems have now been completed and that Thomson Marconi Sonar Ltd. (TMSL) has been selected as prime contractor for both. We intend to be in a position to place contracts for the sonars in April.

Sonar 2087 will provide our Type 23 anti-submarine warfare frigates with the ability to detect, classify and track submarines beyond the submarine's ability to engage forces under protection. This advanced system will assure our detection advantage against modern nuclear and conventionally powered submarines. Following trials of the initial ship system, it will enter service in 2006.

Sonar 2193 has been designed to replace the existing Sonar 193M mine-hunting sonar in our Hunt class mine counter-measures vessels. This new system will maintain the effectiveness of our forces in this increasingly important area. The first equipment will be installed in a trials vessel next year and the system will enter service in early 2004.

At the same time, we are taking the opportunity to replace the Command System in the Hunt Class. The new system will be developed from the NAUTIS system which is already fitted in our Sandown class ships.

These orders will safeguard jobs at Thomson Marconi's sites at Cheadle Heath in Cheshire and at Templecombe in Somerset, as well as at a number of sub-contractor sites around the UK. The work will maintain UK industry's capabilities in this important technological area and, for the mine-hunting sonar, could lead to considerable export opportunities.

Next Section Index Home Page