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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): With some exceptions, the jurisdiction of courts throughout the United Kingdom is territorially based. There are long-standing arguments of principle and of practicality which support this approach.
It is right, however, that we should, from time-to-time, examine whether those arguments remain valid in the light of changing circumstances. With the agreement of his right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland, my right honourable friend has established an inter-departmental review to look at the implications for both policy and procedure of any change to the current position on jurisdiction over offences committed by UK nationals overseas throughout the United Kingdom.
The North American section of the panel of independent experts, which reviewed PPG testing on prisoners, discussed the Prison Service's use of PPG tests on prisoners. It broadly approved the system used but suggested some minor technical issues which it recommended should be explored to allow the test to be used more effectively.
Meetings between Prison Service staff and the panel of independent experts take place regularly and are summarised in notes which are agreed with the panel's chairman. Formal reports are not normally produced by the panel.
Further to Sir Michael Partridge's evidence to the Public Accounts Committee (Q51) when he said that "when they find that we are investigating their circumstances, quite a few absent parents and quite a few parents with care promptly disappear off Income Support", whether they possess any evidence to show whether it is a casual connection or a coincidence, and if it is a casual connection, any evidence to suggest what its nature might be; and
Further to Sir Michael Partridge's evidence to the Public Accounts Committee (Q108) that 60,000 people had withdrawn their Income Support claims as a "direct" result of the activities of the Child Support Agency, whether he had any evidence to support his use of the word "direct", or whether his answer should have read: "following the activities of the Child Support Agency".
The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Miss Ann Chant. She will write to the noble Lord.
In his evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on 19th June 1995, Sir Michael Partridge referred to the fact that in addition to collecting £87 million through the agency collection service since April 1993, the Child Support Agency has also assessed and arranged maintenance for clients who have chosen to pay the maintenance direct from absent parent to parent with care. The agency is not involved at all in collecting this maintenance, but its payment is due to the agency's activities.
I will now turn to the matter of people who cease to claim income support following the activities of the agency. The agency only claims a benefit saving in cases where the parent with care or absent parent withdraws their claim to Income Support within no more than four weeks of direct contact between themselves (or their representatives) and the Agency,
The agency does not state categorically that the withdrawal of all these claims to income support is solely as a direct result of CSA action. No reason is volunteered for the majority of such withdrawals of claims. It would therefore be more accurate to say that these claims are withdrawn directly following the activities of the Child Support Agency.
In claiming these savings in prescribed time restrictions, the agency applies an established departmental principle that a saving be claimed in all appropriate cases. Some might not be attributable to the involvement or action of the agency; but other savings which are attributable to the agency's actions but occurred outside of the four/eight week limit will not be claimed.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Under the existing Premium Bond prize structure there is one prize for every 15,000 eligible £1 bonds in the draw. This means that as the number of eligible bonds grows, so does the total number of prizes. National Savings have however recently announced a new prize structure to come into effect from the May draw. Under the new structure the total number of prizes will be fixed at 350,000 each month. But the value of the prizes will still grow as the number of eligible bonds increases. The new structure will mean more higher and medium value prizes with fewer £50 and £100 prizes.
Lord Chesham: I can confirm that the figures quoted by the noble Lord were correct as a total of Commission legislation over the three years 1992-94, excluding recommendations, acts of day to day management and purely informative documents. The noble Lord, however, referred in his question and his supplementary question to legislation agreed in the Council of Ministers. The figures for council legislation were given by my noble friend Earl Howe in answer to the noble Lord's Question on 17 January 1995 (Official Report, col. WA37) and by my noble friend Baroness Chalker of Wallasey in answer to a Question by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, on 16 October 1995 (Official Report, col. WA83).
The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): So far as government practice is concerned, departments have been reminded of the importance of statements made by Ministers during the passage of legislation providing a clear and unambiguous guide to the aim of the legislation. A number of other practical steps for the avoidance or correction of mistakes have been recommended in guidance. If it proves necessary to correct for the official record any inadvertent ambiguity or error in such a statement, that is done as promptly as possible at an appropriate point during the further consideration of the Bill. Changes in parliamentary practice and procedure are matters for each House.
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