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18 Jul 1996 : Column WA69

Written Answers

Thursday, 18th July 1996.

The Tote

Lord Selsdon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make a further announcement on the future of the Tote.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): We announced last year that we intend to carry out a review of the options for the future of the Tote in a way which preserves the extent to which racing benefits from the Tote's activities.

Since that time our officials have been carrying out preparatory work, including informal consultations with a number of interested parties. The conclusion which we have drawn from this preliminary work is that those options which involve changing the existing statutory framework might put at risk the contribution which the Tote makes to racing.

We have concluded that, pending further work on these issues, we should end the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Tote by retaining the present statutory framework for the present. In reaching this conclusion we have had regard to the wish of the British Horseracing Board (BHB) to take on responsibility for the Tote. However, while it is the representative body of racing, transfer of a public asset to a private body such as the BHB raises complex issues which are unlikely to be settled in the short term.

We are laying in the Library a brief explanatory note about the Tote and the issues which have led to this conclusion.

We intend to begin very shortly the search for a new chairman to take on responsibility for the organisation and to work with racing when Lord Wyatt retires in April 1997. The post will be advertised. In view of the importance of the Tote to racing, we intend to consult the BHB and other interested parties about the appointment and the responsibilities of the post so far as is consistent with the statute and the code of practice on public appointments.

The new chairman will be tasked both with supporting racing and with conducting a wide-ranging review of the Tote's operations. We would expect them to pursue further the improvements in efficiency the Tote has made in recent years. The Government will wish to return to the issue of the Tote's status in the future.

The Government wish to enhance further their working relationship with the horseracing industry. We have therefore accepted a proposal from the Chairman of the British Horseracing Board that he should personally select a small horseracing advisory group who will meet with my honourable friend the Minister of State, Mr. Kirkhope, from time to time to discuss the general state of and key issues affecting the horseracing industry. The group will complement, not replace the

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established arrangements for regular communication between government and the industry.

My noble friend Lord Wakeham has agreed to select the group, to which appointments will be personal, not formally representative of any particular interest, by the autumn and we look forward to a first meeting later in the year.

Drugs Prevention Initiative: Progress

The Earl of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish a report on the progress of the Home Office's Drugs Prevention Initiative.

Baroness Blatch: We are publishing today the Drugs Prevention Initiative's sixth annual progress report which covers the period from 1st April 1995 to 31st March 1996. The report describes the varied and extensive programme of community-based drugs prevention work which the initiative has developed during the first year of its expanded operation in 12 areas in England. The programme will run until 1998-99, and aims to show by then what people can do to respond to local drugs problems. We have placed a copy of the report in the Library.

Conventions on the Rights of Migrant Workers and of Women

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) are in force in the United Kingdom; and, if not, when they expect that these conventions will be ratified.

Baroness Blatch: The Government have no plans to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. They ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on 7th April 1986. Declarations have no binding legal effect and are not open to ratification by stages.

Deportation: Matters Considered before Enforcement

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

    Why references to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights applying Article 8 in deportation cases, which previously appeared in instructions (DP/2/93) issued to the enforcement staff of the Immigration and Nationality

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    Directorate, have been removed from the new version of these instructions.

    Whether, following the issue of new instructions (DP/3-5/96) to the enforcement staff of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, in considering whether the deportation or removal of an illegal immigrant is the appropriate course of action on the merits of the case, these staff are still required to consider whether any consequent interference with his or her family life in the United Kingdom is necessary in a democratic society for one of the reasons stated in Article 8(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Baroness Blatch: The policy in DP/3-5/96 is based on the Immigration Rules (HC 395), which themselves aim to be consistent with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Staff have regard, in considering whether enforcement action is appropriate, to this article and to decisions of the European Court of Human Rights on its effect.

Westminster Foundation for Democracy

Viscount Ullswater asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the annual report of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy will be available.

Lord Chesham: Copies of the foundation's annual report for 1995-96 will be placed in the Library of the House during the week beginning 22nd July. The foundation received £2.5 million from the FCO for its activities in 1995-96. With this grant it has supported 426 projects, compared with 244 last year. Its priority areas for assistance have been central and eastern Europe, central Asia and anglophone Africa, but it has also funded projects elsewhere. The foundation continues to make a valuable contribution to the promotion of democracy overseas. Projects have included work with political parties, the independent media, trade unions, human rights groups, women's groups and other non-governmental organisations involved in political development.

Trade Unions in the Public Service: Strikes

Lord Orr-Ewing asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will arrange that when a trade union representing public services calls a strike the voting figures and the percentage voting are made public.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): The law on industrial action ballots does not distinguish between different types of union. All trade unions which hold such ballots are required to notify those who were entitled to vote, and their employers, of the number of: (a) votes cast in the ballot; (b) individuals answering "Yes" to the required question(s);

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(c) individual answering "No" to the required questions; and (d) spoiled voting papers.

In addition, the statutory Code of Practice on Industrial Action and Notice to Employers recommends that unions should include with the above the number of voting papers issued.

The law further requires that before giving the seven-day notice to employers of intended industrial action, unions must have taken the required steps to notify them of the ballot results details. The code of practice also recommends that unions publicise ballot results and check that relevant employers have received and understood them. The Government do not consider it necessary to extend these arrangements at present.

Government Departments: Payment of Bills

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of bills were paid on time by government departments and their agencies during financial year 1995-96.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Government departments and their agencies are required to monitor their payment performance and to publish the results in their departmental or annual reports. The following table lists, by department, the proportion of bills paid within 30 days, or other agreed credit period, of receipt of a valid invoice for financial year 1995-96.

The figures in the tables have been calculated using different monitoring methods and concerns have been expressed that these differences have made comparisons between departments difficult.

The Prime Minister therefore announced on 11th March this year that more consistent monitoring requirements were to be placed on departments and that they were to publish their performance against strict targets in an annual league table. This would allow more valid comparison between departments in addition to the year on year comparisons possible under the previous monitoring system.

The new monitoring requirements have been in place since 1st June 1996 and the first league table of performance based on these requirements will be published in the autumn. It is currently the intention to publish the information annually thereafter, following the end of each financial year. All departments should aim to pay 100 per cent. of invoices, including disputed invoices once the dispute has been settled, on time in these terms. No department should fall below 95 per cent. for undisputed bills.

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The results for 1995-96 based on the previous monitoring procedures are:

Departmental payment performance 1995-96

DepartmentPercentage of invoices paid on time
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food83
Registry of Friendly Societies96
Charity Commission88.8
HM Customs and Excise94
Cabinet Office84
Central Statistical Office88
Crown Prosecution Service94.3
Ministry of Defence99.9
Department for Education75.2
Employment Department97.1
Employment Service98.5
Office of Electricity Regulation99.66
Office for Standards in Education96.3
Department of the Environment (incl. Office of Water Services)92
--Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre90
--Ordnance Survey91
--PSA Services100
--Health and Safety Executive93.8
Office of Fair Trading96
Foreign and Commonwealth Office93.5
Forestry Commission86
Office of Gas Supply99.8
Department of Health95.2
Home Office91
Inland Revenue92.3
National Investment and Loans Office100
Office of the National Lottery89
Lord Chancellors Department/The Court Service93.9
Department of National Heritage91
Department for National Savings99.2
Northern Ireland Office96.6
Overseas Development Administration90
HM Paymaster General84.6
Office of Passenger Rail Franchising97.4
Office of the Rail Regulator98.7
Serious Fraud Office92
Office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools (Wales)98.5
The Scottish Office94
Department of Social Security96
Office of Telecommunications94
Department of Trade and Industry93
Department of Transport90.3
HM Treasury86
The Welsh Office95

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