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Gender Pay Gap

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the extent of the gender pay gap among staff in his Department. [40992]

Jane Kennedy: In response to the Equal Opportunities Commission Task Force "Just Pay" report, the Government have committed Departments and agencies to review their pay systems by April 2003 and prepare action plans to close any equal pay gaps.

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The Northern Ireland Office has begun an equal pay review which will be completed within the time frame stipulated.

Relocation Expenses

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what his policy is on the payment of relocation expenses to staff in his Department. [41016]

Jane Kennedy: The Northern Ireland Office comply with the Northern Ireland civil service policy on the payment of relocation expenses to staff laid down in the Northern Ireland Civil Service Staff Handbook, Travel and Subsistence section, Chapters 3 and 4.

Reasonable expenses are reimbursed to Home civil service staff who permanently transfer in accordance with the terms of the Civil Service Management Code and the Northern Ireland Office Terms and Conditions.

Public Service Agreements

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland which public service agreement targets scheduled to be met in 2002 will not be achieved by the due date. [44816]

Dr. John Reid: PSA target 6 states "Continued protection for the community by ensuring that no high risk prisoner escapes and that the number of prison escapes does not exceed three per 1,000 prisoners".

Targets set in the NI prison service's corporate and business plan 2001–04 are:


The second target will not be met in the 2001–02 financial year since there have been three escapes in the medium and low risk prisoner category, which equates to 99.6 per cent. security.

PSA target 6 will therefore not be met in the 2001–02 financial year.

Sickness Absence

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the target is for reducing sickness absence by police officers and civilians in 2001–02; and if he estimates it will be met. [45985]

Dr. John Reid: The targets for the financial year 2001–02 for police and civilian staff are 16 days and 12 days respectively. It is unlikely that those targets will be met as the average sickness absences for the year to date are 22.27 days and 14.78 days respectively.

Ministerial Travel

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many times Ministers in his Department have travelled abroad at taxpayers' expense since March 2001; what countries they visited; and what the total cost of each visit was. [47113]

Jane Kennedy: Since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all overseas visits undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. On an annual basis, the Government have

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also published the cost of all Ministers' visits overseas. Details of travel undertaken during the period during 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002 will be published in a similar form to previous years as soon as possible after the end of the current financial year. Copies of the lists will be placed in the Libraries of the House. The 1999 list contained information on all such visits undertaken from 2 May 1997 to 31 March 1999.

All travel is undertaken fully in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.

Press Office

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the total cost of running the Department's press office was in (a) 1996–97 and (b) the latest year for which figures are available. [46808]

Dr. John Reid: The following totals show the cost of running the core Department's press office. (Outside the core it includes only the Northern Ireland Prison Service):

£

Total cost
1996–972,091,547
2001–02(2)1,884,108

(2) To date. Full year estimate £1,970,599.


New Deal (Young People)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people employed by the non- departmental public bodies for which he is responsible under the New Deal for Young People in each of the last four years have subsequently (a) found unsubsidised employment for more than 13 weeks and (b) returned to jobseekers' allowance or other benefits. [49603]

Dr. John Reid: No New Deal for Young People staff have been employed by non-departmental public bodies in the last four years.

Part-time Employees

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many and what proportion of the staff of his Department are part-time employees. [47195]

Jane Kennedy: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office on 10 April 2002, Offical Report, column 49W.

Forensic Science

Mr. Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has made a decision on the future of forensic science in Northern Ireland. [55340]

Dr. John Reid: I have agreed that the executive agency status of the Compensation Agency should be continued until 31 March 2004. My decision follows the completion of Stage 1 of a quinquennial review which examined the past performance of the agency and other organisational

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arrangements available for the administration of compensation schemes. Stage 2 of the review will look at ways of improving the delivery of services.

Empty Properties

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to his answer of 4 March 2002, Official Report, column 57W, regarding the cost of empty properties, if his Department has owned properties in the last four years that have been empty. [50548]

Dr. John Reid: In the last four years the NIO has owned no properties that have been empty.

Staff Pay

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 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. [50405]

Dr. John Reid: The information is as follows:

Civil Servants

In 2001–02 the NIO pay group had a remit with a headline settlement of 2.9 per cent., and earnings growth of 4.8 per cent., at a cost of £1,040,770.

The cost of the pay increase in 2002–03 is still being negotiated but it is envisaged that it will be of similar value to 2001–02.

Prison Officers

The prison service has been negotiating a two-year award for 2001–03 for prison grades and this has not yet been agreed.

Petrol Smuggling

Mr. Quentin Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what meetings he and his officials have held with their Irish counterparts since July 2001 to discuss the smuggling of petroleum products into Northern Ireland. [50025]

Jane Kennedy: We have not had a meeting with our Irish counterparts but my officials have held three meetings to discuss a range of security issues including organised crime. At one of these meetings fuel smuggling was an agenda item followed by on-going bilateral contacts between officials. Customs officials have also met with their counterparts.

Private Finance Initiative

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the (a) private finance initiative and (b) public private partnership projects which have been delayed. [44879]

Jane Kennedy: There have been no delays in (a) private finance initiative and (b) public private partnership projects.

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SCOTLAND

Departmental Staff

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many staff left the service of her Department and its agencies in the year ended 31 March 2001; how many left before attaining the formal retirement age of 60 years; and in respect of how many her Department and its agencies assumed responsibilities for making payments until retirement age. [37545]

Mrs. Liddell: During the year ended 31 March 2001, 21 staff who had not attained the formal retirement age of 60 left the service of my Department. Those staff either returned to their parent Departments following their loan period or chose to resign. No staff left on early retirement or early severance.


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