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Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Citizens of the Republic of Ireland who claim income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit and income based jobseeker's allowance are subject to the habitual residence test in the same way as other claimants, including British citizens and nationals of other countries in the European Economic Area.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The Government are currently reviewing the operation of the habitual residence test. The principal aims of the review are to examine the test as it operates now and to consider the need and possible scope for reform. As part of this work, we are examining current monitoring of the test and the way it affects people with family ties abroad.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The information is not available in the format requested.

Latest figures for the period April 1996 to March 1997 show that 12 per cent. of United Kingdom nationals taking the habitual residence test were unsuccessful.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The information is not available in the format requested.

Latest figures for the period April 1996 to March 1997 show that 81 per cent. of those income support and jobseeker's allowance (income-based) claimants taking the test were successful.

Legal Aid Board

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What board meetings the Legal Aid Board has held since 1 January 1997, and in respect of each meeting:
    (a) what was the date of the meeting;
    (b) which members of the board attended;
    (c) when the minutes were approved by the board and sent to the Lord Chancellor's Department; and
    (d) what financial or other interests (including disclosure of any interest pursuant to paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 to the Legal Aid Act 1988) disclosed by the chairman and chief executive respectively were minuted.[HL72]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Legal Aid Board usually meets ten times each year. The information requested is as follows:
(a) Since 1 January 1997 the board met on the following dates: January 28, February 25, March 25, April 28 and 29, May 20, June 24, July 29, September 30, October 28 and December 8 and 9.
(b) A table of board members attending at each meeting is below.
(c) The minutes of each board meeting were approved at the following meeting. The draft minutes of each previous meeting were sent to the Lord Chancellor's Department with the agenda papers for the following meeting, at least five working days in advance on each occasion. Any amendments to the minutes would be recorded in the minutes of the following meeting.
(d) There have been no occasions where either the chairman or chief executive has had any direct or indirect interest in any contract which has been considered by the board and therefore no such declarations have been minuted in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 7 Schedule 1 to the Legal Aid Act 1988. The financial and other interests declared by both are recorded in the Register of Financial and Other Interests which is published in the Legal Aid Board's Annual Report and is open for public inspection upon request to the board's secretariat department.

Dates of legal aid board meetings and board member attendees 1997

Board members28 January25 February25 March28-29 April20 May24 June29 July30 September23 October8-9 December
Sir Tim ChessellsYYYYYYYYYY
Diane Charnock (appointed 1 April 1997)------YYYYYYY
John Crosby (appointment expired 4 April 1997YYY--------------
Penny Pearce (appointment expired 30 June 1997)YYYYYY--------
George Pulman (appointment expired 28 February 1997NN----------------
Jim Shearer (appointed 1 April 1997)------YYYNYYY

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Public Record Office Services

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

    Whether complaints from bodies representing user interests as well as from individual readers continue to be made to the Government or the Advisory Council on Public Records about the hours during which the Public Record Office is open to readers and the level of charges made for photocopying and other reprographic processes since the publication of the Report of the Committee on Modern Public Records (Cmnd 8204, March 1991).[HL81]

The Lord Chancellor: Cmnd 8204 was published in March 1981. Since 1991 the opening hours of the Public Record Office have been as follows:

    Until July 1992: 9.30 to 5.00 pm, Mondays to Fridays.

    From July 1992: Census Rooms, Chancery Lane opened additionally on Saturday from 9.30 to 5.00 pm.

    February 1997: the new Family Records Centre, Clerkenwell, opened from 9.00 on Mondays, and Wednesdays to Fridays and from 10.00 on Tuesdays; and stayed open until 7.00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    April 1997: similar weekday opening hours were introduced at Kew.

    July 1997: Saturday opening from 9.30 to 5.00 pm was introduced at Kew.

    The Public Record Office has maintained statistics about letters of complaint (including the on-site comment forms) since April 1996; to supply precise figures from before that date would involve disproportionate expense. In 1996-97, one complaint was received about opening hours and eighteen about the costs of copying; in the first three quarters of 1997-98 there have been no complaints on opening hours and fifteen on costs of copying.

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The Advisory Council on Public Records, whose remit includes advising the Lord Chancellor on the services and charges of the Public Record Office, includes among its members several regular users of the public records. Although the secretary occasionally receives external correspondence relating to services and charges it is more usually concerned with the availability of particular public records.

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

    Whether it remains the case, as reported by the Committee on Modern Public Records (Cmnd 8204, March 1991, paragraph 512), that photocopying charges are significantly higher at the Public Record Office than at comparable United Kingdom bodies or high by international standards.[HL82]

The Lord Chancellor: Since 1991 two surveys of the Public Record Office's reprographic prices have been undertaken. The first, carried out by Shreeveport Management Consultancy in 1995, as part of the Competing for Quality programme, concluded that the charges were not consistently high or low but varied by process; those for A3 size electrostatic copying were low by comparison with the other organisations benchmarked. The second, a June 1997 study by Public Record Office staff, found that, while there was some variation, the Public Record Office compared favourably with other analogous institutions in the United Kingdom on like for like processes. By comparison with similar bodies overseas, the prices were again broadly comparable where full cost recovery regimes operated, but those institutions which subsidised their reprographic services offered lower prices. The Public Record Office's charges are set on a full cost recovery basis.

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

    Whether it remains the case since the publication of the Report of the Committee on Modern Public

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    Records (Cmnd 9204, March 1991, paragraph 512) that the pricing structure for the photocopying of records at the Public Record Office owes more to predetermined financial conventions than to public records policy; and if not, what is the current public records policy.[HL83]

The Lord Chancellor: The Public Record Office is required to make a full cost recovery from the reprographic products that it sells. In parallel it has been continuing, and will continue to film, as resources permit, its high-use records for preservation reasons and to improve ease of access: an example is the large project, currently under way, and part-funded by the Genealogical Society of Utah and the Heritage Lottery Fund, to microfilm the severely damaged service records of soldiers who served in the First World War (WO 363). The Public Record Office also retains archival master copies of film produced for customers. This in turn has enabled it to increase the amount of film available on open access for copying, thus reducing costs for many readers (the prices for prints from film are considerably lower than those for electrostatic copies). Work is currently in hand to introduce new copying techniques using scanning

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technology which are expected to reduce costs and to improve access further.

Civil Legal Aid

Lord Ackner asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to implement their proposals for "taking control of the cost of civil legal aid" (H.L. Deb., 9 December 1997, col. 41) by legislation; if so what legislation, and if not, then by what means.[HL71]

The Lord Chancellor: I am proposing to implement my plans for changes to the scope of civil legal aid by regulations under Section 14 of the Legal Aid Act 1988; the introduction of exclusive contracting for advice and assistance under the provisions of Section 4 and regulations under Section 8 of the Legal Aid Act 1988; and the extension of conditional fees by an order under Section 58 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. The exercise of the powers to make the regulations and order are subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. The other reforms I plan--for example, the introduction of block contracting for civil legal aid--will require primary legislation, which I will bring before Parliament in due course.

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