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Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many days of sick leave were taken by employees in his Department in the last year for which records are available; what proportion of those were due to work-related illness or injury; and what the cost to the Department was. 
Angela Eagle: Information on sickness absence can be found in the annual report "Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service" published by the Cabinet Office. The most recently published figures are for the calendar year 2000 and reports that the average number of lost working days per person in the Home Office was 11.2 days.
The Department has introduced new guidelines, policies and procedures with a view to meeting its target to reducing sickness absence, published in its service delivery agreements for April 2001 to March 2004.
Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many claims for work-related injury or illness were settled on behalf of the (a) police force, (b) fire service and (c) prison service in the last year for which figures are available; and what the total cost in compensation was. 
Beverley Hughes: Information in respect of the police service and fire service is not collected centrally. For the prison service, 255 staff compensation claims for work-related injury or illness were resolved in 200001 at a total cost of £2,257,666.
20 May 2002 : Column 85W
Department have not been reviewed under the Better Quality Services initiative; and when they will be reviewed. 
Angela Eagle: The Better Quality Services (BQS) programme was launched in 1998 and adopted by the Cabinet Office in the Modernising Government White Paper of 1999 as a means of delivering continuous improvements in the quality and effectiveness of Government activities and services. It required all Government Departments to review every activity and service over a five-year period starting in October 1999.
The scheme covered all activities in Departments, agencies and executive non-departmental public bodies, and is similar in remit to the Best Value programme in local government. Reviews of the departmental activities and services under the scheme started in April 2000 and have covered the following areas: Information Technology Systems, National Probation Service Estates, and the Prison Service (Security Group, Prison Shops, Prison Industry and Farms Group, Sentencing Management Group and six prisons).
Within the Department's service delivery agreement, we have a target to review 60 per cent. of its business by March 2003 and to review 100 per cent. by March 2004. We will use BQs and other management tools to conduct the reviews.
Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action is being taken to address discontent within the Prison Service in (a) Boston and Skegness and (b) the rest of England and Wales. 
Beverley Hughes: I have not been informed of discontent among the Prison Service in Boston and Skegness. If the hon. Member can be more specific about any complaint, I will be pleased to answer him as fully as possible.
Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what conclusions the Government have reached with regard to the report from the Firearms Consultative Committee which it received earlier this year with particular reference to airguns. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Government welcome the Firearms Consultative Committee's advice on how the misuse of air weapons might be dealt with, and in particular their proposals for a programme of education on the safe and responsible handling of these weapons. We will be considering their recommendations in conjunction with any other approaches which may be helpful in tackling this problem, including possible use of antisocial behaviour orders to prevent use of airguns by unsuitable persons.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to the answer of 8 May 2002, Official Report, column 239W, when the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight was notified of proposals for additional places of prison accommodation at HMP Albany. 
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Beverley Hughes: The Director General of the Prison Service wrote to the hon. Member about these proposals on 14 May 2002. (His letter explains the need for additional places at Albany and gives details of the accommodation to be provided.)
Wendy Towers has served as a member of the PCA since 2000, with responsibility for both supervision and misconduct aspects of the PCA's work. She was previously a full-time member of the Parole Board for six years, and prior to that worked in the private sector as a human resources consultant and personnel director.
Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average time taken was between (a) approval of visa applications and (b) the subsequent issue of a decision and the return of passports to applicants by the ICD in (i) April 2001 and (ii) April 2002; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Eagle: Once an application has been granted, it is normally despatched by first class recorded delivery. Depending on Post Office delivery it should normally take one to two days after despatch to be received. The other requested information is not centrally recorded.
20 May 2002 : Column 87W
amount of money spent by Ministers in his Department on food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for official entertainment purposes; 
Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much gold has been sold by the Bank of England since he directed the bank to sell gold; on what dates it was sold; and what price was secured for each transaction. 
Ruth Kelly: The Government has sold 395 tonnes of gold as part of the restructuring of the United Kingdom's foreign currency reserves announced in May 1999. The gold sales programme was completed following the last auction in March 2002.
|Date||Amount sold (Ounces)||Allotment price ($/Ounce)|
|6 July 1999||804,000||261.20|
|21 September 1999||804,000||255.75|
|29 November 1999||804,000||293.50|
|25 January 2000||804,400||289.50|
|21 March 2000||804,400||285.25|
|23 May 2000||803,600||275.25|
|12 July 2000||804,000||279.75|
|19 September 2000||803,600||270.60|
|7 November 2000||803,600||264.30|
|23 January 2001||803,600||268.00|
|14 March 2001||803,600||266.00|
|15 May 2001||644,400||268.00|
|11 July 2001||643,600||267.25|
|12 September 2001||644,400||280.00|
|27 November 2001||644,400||273.50|
|16 January 2002||643,600||283.50|
|5 March 2002||644,400||296.50|
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