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Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will answer the letter from the hon. Member for Torbay of 9 January concerning Hazir Ymeri. [54241]

Angela Eagle: My right hon. and noble Friend Lord Rooker wrote to the hon. Member on 8 May 2002. I apologise for the delay.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons sought to obtain agreement from the Director General of MI5 to allow them to begin paid employment outside the service in each year from 1 May 1997. [54670]

Mr. Blunkett [holding answer 8 May 2002]: Since 1 May 1997 three people of Director grade or above sought the Director General's agreement before accepting employment, or establishing or engaging in consultancies, within two years of retirement or resignation. In each case the applications were approved unconditionally.

Any member of staff, irrespective of grade is required to seek approval from the Director of Establishments for the Service before taking up employment with a business or organisation with which they have had direct or indirect dealings within the last two years of service. No central record is kept of such requests or authorisations.

Illegal Meat Imports

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with other Government Departments on the (a) level of illegal meat imports to the UK and (b) effectiveness of port controls and enforcement measures to tackle illegal meat imports in respect of his responsibilities for border control and immigration. [19545]

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Angela Eagle: I am extremely sorry for the delay in replying to the hon. Member. This was due to an administrative error.

Home Office Ministers regularly have discussions with ministerial colleagues and officials in many parts of Government. In line with the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information details of such confidential discussions are not normally disclosed.

Department officials have met colleagues in other Government Departments to assist in co-ordinating action across Government to ensure that rules on imports of all products are enforced effectively. The Immigration Service has instructed its officers at ports of arrival to be vigilant and where appropriate, to refuse entry to the United Kingdom to those offenders identified as being engaged in the illegal importation of meat and meat products.

Building Projects

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the building projects under construction; and what coolant will be used for the building services water chilling system for such projects. [52047]

Angela Eagle: A list covering the projects in construction for the Home Office, including Prison Service, but excluding maintenance works and non- departmental public bodies has been placed in the Library. Most of the projects listed, do not involve the use of cooling systems. Records are not held centrally of the type of cooling systems or the coolants used and to provide this information would be at disproportionate cost. Where coolants are to be used on non-prison projects, these are currently planned to be either R407(a), R407(c) or R134(a) although these could be subject to change in the course of the works.


Departmental Functions

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the functions of his Department that have been (a) market tested and (b) outsourced in each of the last five years, specifying the (i) money saving and (ii) percentage saving in each case. [42994]

Mr. Wills: The Lord Chancellor's Department has not market-tested any functions over the last five years. It has outsourced the following functions during this period:

The answer does not provide money saving and percentage saving because the combination of the two would allow contractual payments to contractors to be

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identified. This information is commercially confidential and is withheld under exemption 13 of the Code of Practice On Access to Government Information.


PCS Union Strike

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if it is his policy that participation of staff in the PCS Union strike action be taken into account in future decisions on promotion. [30431]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: No.

Departmental Publications

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the publications issued by his Department in each of the last four years; and what the (a) circulation, (b) cost and (c) purpose of each was. [34189]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To keep people aware of their rights, responsibilities and eligibility for benefit the Department issues many hundreds of publications each year. To list each title, its circulation, cost and purpose would be at disproportionate cost.

Housing Payment Scheme

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the budget for the discretionary housing payment scheme is broken down by local authority; [41487]

Malcolm Wicks: From 2 July 2001 we replaced the exceptional hardship and exceptional circumstances schemes with improved arrangements that are broader in scope than the old regulatory provisions. Subject to certain conditions, local authorities are now able to give additional payments to any person whose housing benefit or council tax benefit is restricted where they are satisfied the person is in need of further financial assistance with housing costs or council tax liability. Unlike the old scheme there are no prescribed definitions of either "exceptional hardship" or "exceptional circumstances". The new measures give local authorities and incentive to direct funds to helping those people most in need.

The introduction of the discretionary housing payments scheme was announced in the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) on 13 July 2000, Official Report, column 638W. Implementation of the scheme was deferred until July 2001 in response to representations from local authorities.

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The discretionary housing payments scheme budget for 2002–03 by local authority is in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Circular A/2002, a copy of which is available in the Library.

The available details of the budget by local authority for the exceptional hardship scheme since 1997 (and for the discretionary housing payments scheme between July 2001 and March 2002) in both cash and real terms have been placed in the Library.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the percentage of business transactions that are capable of being carried out electronically by his Department. [43360]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 14 March 2002]: Currently our customers can easily access electronic information on all our benefits and services via the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website or through the life episodes on UKonline. People looking for work can access the worktrain website and Job Bank to interactively search for job opportunities—this is one of the most used Government sites.

In addition, almost 70 of our benefits have claim forms available on the internet which customers can access, fill out, print out and submit back to us. Electronic payments can also be made directly into customers' bank accounts.

But, in line with the cross-Government target of electronically e-enabling all services by 2005, and also rising trends in our customer base to use interactive media, we are undertaking a programme of radical change to our IT systems which will allow full e-enablement.

Criminal Damage

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the cost has been of criminal damage to his Department's buildings in each of the last four years. [44848]

Malcolm Wicks: Under the terms of the Prime contract, responsibility for meeting the costs of repairing damage to former DSS buildings falls to Trillium. Accordingly, no central records are kept and this information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

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