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14 Dec 1995 : Column WA113

Written Answers

Thursday, 14th December 1995.

Prisoners: Requests for Transfer to Northern Ireland

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners in gaols in Britain have requested transfers to gaols in Northern Ireland during the last 12 months and how many such requests have been granted.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Since December 1994, 61 prisoners have requested either a permanent or temporary transfer to Northern Ireland; 20 of these requests have been granted; seven requests have been refused and

34 requests are under consideration.

Prisoners: Requests for Transfer to Irish Republic

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners in gaols in Britain have requested transfers to the Irish Republic and how many such requests have been granted.

Baroness Blatch: Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons by the Republic of Ireland came into force on 1 November. Forty-nine prisoners have since requested repatriation there. To date none has been determined.

Recruitment and Assessment Services: Privatisation

Lord Bancroft asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to change the status of the Recruitment and Assessment Services; and if so, for what reason and whether existing staff will be free to transfer elsewhere in the Civil Service before and after any such change.

Baroness Blatch: The Government's decision to transfer Recruitment and Assessment Services (RAS) to the private sector was announced on 23 November by the former Parliamentary Secretary in the other place, Mr. Horam. Freed from the constraints it faces operating within the pubic sector, RAS will be better able to improve services to existing customers and to pursue business opportunities in wider markets. Privatisation therefore offers the best way to secure the long-term interests of both staff and customers, as well as the taxpayer.

RAS staff will, in principle, be able to apply for other

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posts advertised within the Civil Service in the period before the sale subject, as now, to the agreement of line management that they can be released. Management will consider each case sympathetically on its merits but will be under an obligation to maintain the viability of RAS during this period. After privatisation, staff will be free to apply for Civil Service posts advertised externally.

Mobility Component: Restrictions on Entitlement

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to extend the restriction of entitlement to the mobility component to people in non-National Health Service residential care; and

    How much money will be saved by denying entitlement to the mobility component to people with learning disability: (a) in National Health Service hospitals, and (b) in National Health Service community homes; and

    Whether they will list the reasons identified for less than full use of the mobility component for the benefit of some hospital in-patients; and

    What research was undertaken before the change of policy on payments of the mobility allowance mobility component to people in National Health Service residential care.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The Government propose to align the arrangements for payment of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance to people in hospital more closely with those for similar benefits, where payment is suspended after a period of hospital in-patient treatment. There is no information held about the number of people with learning disabilities likely to be affected by this proposal but overall savings have been estimated at £40 million per year. There are no plans to extend this proposal to people in non-National Health Service (NHS) residential care.

In making this proposal, Ministers took account of information about the use to which hospital in-patients put their mobility component. This was obtained through discussions between officials and NHS staff held at a number of trusts throughout the country, responsible for a wide range of patient groups. This demonstrated that, whilst in hospital; most patient needs are met by the NHS; patients admitted for acute treatment have very limited mobility needs; patients in longer term care may have some scope for independent mobility (dependent on the severity and nature of their disability) but a large part of the benefit payment tends to be used to buy personal items, such as distinctive bedding, televisions and clothes, or left to accrue in bank accounts.

The Government have a responsibility to use public funds in the most effective way to focus help where it is most needed and on those in the best position to benefit from those funds.

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Bosnian Government Forces: Training

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as demanded by Senator Dole, Bosnian Government forces are to be armed and trained either by the NATO force, or by the US contingent in the NATO force, or by US forces in the area not under NATO command.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Neither NATO nor any contingent in the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) will arm and train Bosnian Government forces. President Clinton has confirmed in writing to Congress that, in order to assure the impartiality of IFOR, providing arms and training to the Federation forces will not be done by either IFOR or US forces.

Former Yugoslavia: Lifting of Arms Embargo

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the UN Security Council has agreed to the suspension, and lifting, of the weapons embargo on the ex-Yugoslav countries, and if so on what conditions.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The UN Security Council adopted SCR 1021 on 22 November. This provides for a phased lifting of the arms embargo on the whole of the former Yugoslavia as follows:

    (i) all provisions of the embargo will remain in place for 90 days after the signature of the peace agreement;

    (ii) after 90 days, the embargo will be lifted except that the delivery of heavy weapons as defined in the peace agreement, ammunition therefor, mines, military aircraft and helicopters shall continue to be prohibited;

    (iii) 90 days later, the arms embargo will be completely lifted providing that the regional arms control arrangements built into the overall peace agreement have taken effect.

Natural Resources Institute

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made in deciding the future ownership of the Natural Resources Institute.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have carefully considered indicative offers for the ownership of the Natural Resources Institute received by the closing date of 16 October. The Government's objective is a transfer of ownership which will continue to provide a centre of multidisciplinary expertise on the sustainable management of renewable natural resources for ODA and other customers, gives staff a fair future, and represents value for money for the taxpayer. I have

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decided to invite final offers by the end of January 1996 from:

    Cranfield University;

    A consortium of the University of Edinburgh, University of Greenwich, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and Wye College, University of London.

    Serco International Limited in association with University of Wales.


Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their position on the future of Gibraltar.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My right honourable friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) made clear the Government's position in another place on

6 December 1990. It has not changed.

First, and most important, Britain stands by its commitment to the people of Gibraltar, enshrined in the 1969 constitution. The Government will not enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.

Secondly, we continue to recognise the validity of the Treaty of Utrecht, which established British title to Gibraltar. Article X of the treaty gave Spain the right of "first refusal" if Gibraltar ceased to be British. Any constitutional change would have to be compatible with the Treaty of Utrecht and sustainable in practice. Independence would only be an option for Gibraltar if Spain agreed.

Thirdly, Spain is Gibraltar's immediate neighbour. The Government recognise the importance of negotiations with Spain, including through the Brussels Process, to overcome the existing differences over Gibraltar. Our ultimate goal is to achieve a lasting solution which is acceptable to all parties and mutually beneficial.

Entry Clearance Decisions: Independent Monitor's Report

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to lay before the House the 1994 Report by the Independent Monitor of refusal of entry clearance where there is no right of appeal.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Copies of Dame Elizabeth Anson's 1994 report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. We welcome the report, which confirms Dame Elizabeth's satisfaction with the decisions taken by the Entry Clearance Officers in the overwhelming majority of the cases she monitored. We will consider carefully Dame Elizabeth's recommendations, some of which are already being implemented.

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