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16 Jul 1996 : Column WA51

Written Answers

Tuesday, 16th July 1996.

Chief Inspector of Prisons:Terms and Conditions of Service

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer given by Baroness Blatch on 2nd July (WA 100), why the terms and conditions of service there referred to differ from the conditions of service set out in the recruitment information brief issued on 31st July 1995 for candidates for the post of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The recruitment information brief contained a brief summary of the conditions of service applying to the appointment of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. Detailed conditions of service were set out in a schedule sent to General Sir David Ramsbotham at the time he was offered the appointment. My reply of 2nd July quoted from this schedule.

Chief Inspector of Prisons:Public Discussion of Prison Policy

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer given by Baroness Blatch on 2nd July (WA 100), whether there has been any change made in the restrictions imposed on the freedom of the Chief Inspector of Prisons to discuss prison policy in public compared with the position when Judge Sir Stephen Tumim was Chief Inspector of Prisons; and, if so, whether they will indicate the nature of the changes and the justification for them.

Baroness Blatch: There has been no change. It has always been recognised that HM Chief Inspector of Prisons needs to play an active part in public discussions of prisons and related matters.

Chief Inspector of Prisons: Annual Report

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to impose any restrictions on the form or content of the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons; and, if so, what the nature and scope of such restrictions will be.

Baroness Blatch: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons is required by statute to submit to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in each year a report in such form as my right honourable friend may direct, and my right honourable friend is required to lay a copy of that report before Parliament. My right honourable friend has no plans to change these arrangements.

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Identity Cards within the EU

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the harmonisation of passports within the European Union, whether they will agree to the harmonisation of identity cards, whether voluntary or mandatory.

Baroness Blatch: The United Kingdom has entered into a voluntary agreement with other European Union states on a common passport format. While we would consider any practical proposals for improving the standard of identity cards issued by member states and which are valid for travel within the European Union, we see no need for the harmonisation of national identity cards.

Identity Cards: Government Decision

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are still considering the introduction of a mandatory identity card scheme.

Baroness Blatch: The possibility of introducing a compulsory identity card was one of the options set out in the Government's Green Paper on identity cards (Cm 2879). All the options canvassed in the Green Paper remain open to us and we expect to announce shortly our final decision on identity cards.

Israel: Weapons Export Control Regimes

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the provisions of the Wassenaar (COCOM Successor) system, of the Missile Technology Control Regime, of the Nuclear "Suppliers" Group, and of the Australia (Chemical and Biological Weapons materials) Group are being applied to Israel, in view of that country's record in not complying with UN Security Council resolutions, of its attacks on its neighbours and occupation of their territory, and its failure to accede to the non proliferation treaty.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The provisions of the various export control regimes continue to apply to Israel.

Bosnia: Foreign Islamic Personnel

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the estimate of the numbers of the foreign Islamic military personnel still in Bosnia, under whose orders they are operating, and what is their role in Bosnian government military arrangements.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: It is impossible to assess the number of foreign Islamic personnel remaining in Bosnia and Herzegovina: some are members of Islamic non-governmental organisations while others have been largely assimilated into Bosnian life and have been granted Bosnian citizenship. However, we have no evidence of any organised foreign Islamic military force in Bosnia.

Scott Report: Appendices

Lord Campbell of Alloway asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the appendices to Sir Richard Scott's report to be published.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): They are to be published on 18th July as a two-disk CD-ROM set.

Arbitration: Model Law

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention to sign the 1966 European convention providing a uniform law on arbitration, and, if not, why not.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: This convention, which has been signed or ratified by only two member states, has been overtaken in importance by the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration adopted by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law in 1985. The Arbitration Act 1966, which covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland, embodies the spirit of the Model Law. Scotland adopted the Model Law in 1990.

Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre Executive Agency

Baroness Berners asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What performance targets they have set the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre Executive Agency for 1996-97.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): The agency's principal target for 1996-97 is to achieve a net operating surplus, excluding rent, of £493,000, after trading costs, and non-cash and notional costs, or of £1.03 million gross operating surplus.

The agency's other main targets are:

(a) to achieve total revenue of £6.297 million;

(b) to increase the proportion of events with more than 200 delegates to 26 per cent.;

(c) to increase the proportion of target revenue achieved six months in advance to 50 per cent.;

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(d) to achieve at least four out of the following five quality of service targets:

an overall score for quality of service in client questionnaires of at least 77 per cent.; 99 per cent. of clients completing the client questionnaire to report that they would use the centre again;

the number of complaints received to be fewer than five per hundred events;

to achieve an average response time in dealing with complaints of less than 10 working days;

and to achieve at least one major industry award.

These targets reflect the agency's successful bid in the recent market test of the management of the conference centre, whose outcome was announced in another place on Thursday 13th February 1996 [Official Report, Volume 271, Column 483].

Ordnance Survey Strategic Plan 1996-2001

Baroness Berners asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish the Ordnance Survey Strategic Plan for 1996-2001.

Earl Ferrers: I have approved the Ordnance Survey Strategic Plan for 1996-2001 and have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Child Support: Draft Regulations

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, given that the Draft Child Support (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1996 would alter levels of income support, the regulations have not been referred to the Social Security Advisory Committee.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The enabling power for the draft regulations is contained in the Child Support Act 1991. That Act is not a "relevant enactment" for the purposes of Sections 170 and 172 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 which define the Social Security Advisory Committee's remit.

National Insurance Numbers: Fraud

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to tighten the procedures for the issue of national insurance numbers to ensure that there is a reduction in the total of persons who for fraudulent purposes hold more than one number.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: A Departmental National Insurance Number (NINO) Security Project has been set up, jointly managed by Contributions Agency (CA) and (BA), to work on tightening the

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security of the NINO system with a view to reducing the opportunity for identity fraud and misuse of NINOs.

A range of techniques has been introduced, and these are being further developed, including:

the introduction of stricter procedures for the allocations of NINOs and the registration of national insurance accounts;

improvements in prevention and detection techniques such as data matching, exchange of information and use of information technology to record stolen birth certificates;

the use of specialist investigation teams nationwide, including a greater emphasis on the investigation of employers;

specialised training for staff involved in NINO allocation and investigation of identity fraud;

improvements in the integrity of information held on the agencies' computer systems.


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