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David Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the hon. Member for Walsall, North will receive a reply to his letter of 19 March concerning correspondence from an engineering firm in Walsall. [51803]

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Mr. Wilson: I have answered today.


Public Appointments

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 11 March 2002, Official Report, column 717W, on public appointments, what information he receives on possible appointees to non-departmental public bodies prior to their appointment; and what method his Department uses to notify people of their appointment to a non-departmental public body. [44104]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 18 March 2002]: The procedures for making appointments to non-departmental public bodies are governed by the rules set out in the Code of Practice published by the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA). This includes a requirement for each applicant to complete an application form. As well as information relevant to the specific appointment, application forms request information on ethnicity, gender and disability for monitoring purposes. The OCPA Code also requires Departments to ask all applicants to supply information on any political activity in which they have engaged in the five years prior to application.

Successful applicants receive a letter of appointment. Details of appointments to public bodies are published in press releases at the time of appointment and in the annual report of the non-departmental public body. Details of all appointments to Home Office non-departmental public bodies are published in the Home Office annual report, copies of which are placed in the Library.

Departmental Contracts

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the 30 largest contracts awarded by his Department from (a) May 1997 to April 1998, (b) May 1998 to April 1999, (c) May 1999 to April 2000, (d) May 2000 to April 2001 and (e) May 2001 to the latest date for which figures are available, stating in each case the values of the contracts and the companies with which the contracts were placed. [43681]

Angela Eagle: The Home Department is unable to provide the level of detailed information sought on contracts and contract costs. Records are not held centrally and to collate and maintain a central register of contracts awarded across the Home Office and its agencies would incur disproportionate costs.

Private Medical Insurance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many employees in (a) his Department and (b) his Department's agencies and non-departmental public bodies have had private medical insurance provided for them in each year since 1997–98; what the total cost is; and if he will make a statement. [32316]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 6 February 2002]: The Civil Service Management Code prohibits Departments and agencies from providing staff with private medical insurance. Remuneration for the employees of non- departmental public bodies (NDPBs) is a matter for the

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non-departmental public body (NDPB) concerned and its sponsoring Department, subject to any statutory provision, but information about these arrangements in Home Office sponsored NDPBs is not collated centrally.

Asylum Seekers

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how often in the last three years, and for what purpose, his Department has applied the special urgency provisions in paragraph 22 of circular 18/84 (Development by Government Departments). [48948]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 15 April 2002]: I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) on 11 April 2002, Official Report, column 567W.

Non-departmental Public Bodies

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the cost in 2001–02 was of the pay increase to staff in his Department, agencies and the non-departmental public bodies for which he is responsible; and what the cost of the forthcoming increase will be in 2002–03. [50413]

Angela Eagle: Costs for 2002–03 are not known as the pay increase for 2002–03 has not yet been agreed. The estimated cost of the pay increase for 2001–02 at the time of the settlement was as follows:


Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) independent custody visitors' groups and (b) lay observers' panels published annual reports in the last year; and if he will make a statement. [49980]

Beverley Hughes: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 7 March 2002, Official Report, column 514W.

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are being taken to improve links between prisons and voluntary sector organisations. [49979]

Beverley Hughes: The Prison Service is committed to developing and strengthening its relationship with voluntary and community organisations at all levels. For this reason a national Voluntary Sector Co-ordinator

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(Jo Gordon) was appointed in January 2001. She organised a series of regional consultation events, bringing together staff and volunteers from voluntary and community groups with Prison Service staff. A strategy "Working with the Voluntary and Community Sector" based on ideas and information from the consultation process was published in December 2001. This sets out recommendations for the development and better management of relationships with voluntary and community groups. A Prison Service Order based on the strategy will be issued to establishments in May 2002.

Further work in hand includes:

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the key performance target is for the improvement of prisoners' basic literacy and numeracy skills in the financial year 2001–02. [49990]

Beverley Hughes: The target for 2001–02 is for prisoners to achieve 18,000 awards at level 2 for basic skills.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many BP employees are on secondment to his Department; for what purposes; on what terms; and how many BP employees have been on secondment to his Department since January 2000. [45885]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 25 March 2002]: For the periods in question no staff were seconded from BP to the Home Department.

Public Consultation

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new steps his Department took in 2001–02 to consult the users of its services about their wishes and expectations; and if he will publish the findings. [47413]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 10 April 2002]: The Home Department greatly values input from all our users especially with regard to the services we provide. Feedback is used to inform and influence proposals for change, develop services further, improve initiatives and identify best practice.

Regular checks are made to ensure that services the Home Office provides meet the expectations of their users and we are always looking at ways to improve customer care. The Criminal Records Bureau, for example, used a range of research techniques in 2001–02 such as seminars

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and customer fora to get a clear picture of customer attitudes and requirements so that they can cater more precisely to those needs.

The United Kingdom Passport Service regularly issues questionnaires to its customers as a means of tracking customer satisfaction and ran both personal caller and customer awareness surveys last year. The Forensic Science Service has introduced a new approach to monitoring customer satisfaction and will continue to publish the outcome of their biennial customer satisfaction survey in their annual report due to be published in July 2002. The Immigration and Statistics Service, in conjunction with the National Asylum Support Service, consulted asylum seekers about their experiences of the voucher scheme. A report of the findings was published in 2001 and the fieldwork findings will be available on the Home Office website from 8 April 2002.

Increasing use is made of Home Office websites to request comments or feedback and 'Contact Us' facilities and feedback forms have been introduced.

Formal consultation exercises are another important way in which the Home Office seeks the views of its customers. Consultation documents are now made available in a variety of formats in order to make it easy for users to respond. Details of all Home Office consultations published in 2001–02 can be found on our website on papers.htm.

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