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The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

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    certificate holders; what method was used to apportion the funds provided between:

    (a) constabularies in England and Wales; and

    (b) constabularies in Scotland;

    and how much was allocated to each force; and [HL1138]

    What are the costs to each constabulary in (a) England and Wales and (b) Scotland to date of the destruction or disposal of firearms, ammunition and accessories:

    (a) where the work has been undertaken directly by each constabulary; and

    (b) where the work has been the subject of a sub-contract, giving the value of the sub-contract in each case.[HL 1139]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In 1997-98, police forces in England and Wales received a total of £2,905,500 in grant towards their costs of implementing the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. The Scottish forces received £535,500 in total. Forces received an average of £67,000 each. In the case of the English and Welsh forces a proportion of the grant was allocated on the basis of the number of estimated handguns in each force area; in Scotland the grants were divided equally between the forces. The methods of allocation were agreed with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in the case of the allocations to police forces in England and Wales, and with ACPO (Scotland) and the Scottish Office in respect of the Scottish forces.

No reliable record of the actual costs incurred by police forces is currently available.


Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the necessary qualifications, including training undertakings, required for

    (a) a full-time fireman and

    (b) a part-time fireman.[HL 1092]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The qualifications for appointment to the rank of wholetime firefighter are set out in the Fire Services (Appointments and Promotions) Regulations 1978, as amended. These require that: the applicant is of good character; is 18 years of age or over; meets a range of specified fitness standards which would enable him or her to undertake firefighting duties; and has passed such examinations in educational subjects as the fire authority may require. All except the last qualification for appointment are applicable to part-time (retained) firefighters. The responsibility for ensuring the efficient training of members of the fire brigade rests with the local fire authority under Section 1(1)(b) of the Fire Services Act 1947.

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Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to replace full-time firefighters with part-time firefighters.[HL 1093]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Under Section 1 of the Fire Services Act 1947, the duty of making provision for firefighting purposes and for securing the services for their area of a fire brigade rests not with the Government but with the local fire authority. It is for the authority to determine the numbers of wholetime and part-time firefighters it employs. A fire authority cannot, though, reduce the number of its wholetime or part-time firefighting posts without the prior approval of the Secretary of State.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current average response time for call-out by firefighters; and what information they have of any change caused by the replacement of full-time by part-time firefighters.[HL 1117]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: For primary fires (those involving damage to property, casualties or rescues or attended by five or more appliances), the average time in 1996 in England and Wales between receipt of the first call to the fire brigade and arrival of the first appliance was just under six minutes. Information is not available centrally for other types of fire, special service incidents or false alarms, nor as to whether the primary fires were attended by full-time or part-time firefighters.

Fire Station Closures

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which fire stations are currently earmarked for closure or are subject to plans to reduce the number of fire appliances; and [HL1115]

    What discussions they have had with the fire brigade unions concerning the closure of fire stations or the reduction of fire appliances.[HL1116]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Statutory responsibility for the provision of an efficient fire service rests locally with the individual fire authorities. However, any fire authority wishing to reduce the number of its fire stations, fire appliances of firefighter posts must, under section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947, seek the approval of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. Approval is only given if my right honourable friend is satisfied that the national recommended standards of fire cover will be maintained. Home Office guidance makes it clear that, in addition to any representations which may be made to the fire authority, interested parties also have the opportunity to make representations direct to the Home Secretary. My right honourable friend and my honourable friend

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the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for fire service issues have met union representatives in respect of particular Section 19 applications.

Current Section 19 applications under consideration which involve the closure of a fire station or the removal of a fire appliance are:

Fire authorityFire stationProposal
South WalesBargoedremoval of pumping appliance
Surrey Chobham Gomshall Staines Sunbury closure closure closure* closure*

* To be replaced by a new fire station serving both Staines and Sunbury.

Once a Section 19 application is approved, the implementation of the changes is a matter for the fire authority.

Prison Service: Quantum Project

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they selected two firms to participate in the Quantum Project to assess the feasibility and value for money options in the delivery of information technology to the Prison Service; how they will ensure that the supply of these services is open and competitive and that specifications are written in a manner that does not restrict competition; why they did not divide the contract into modules, each of which could have been the subject of separate competitive tenders.[HL1072]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prison Service is undertaking a procurement under the European Communities Services Directive using the negotiated procedure. In doing so, it has evaluated suppliers' proposals and has selected two suppliers as suitable to participate in the Quantum Project. Adopting the negotiated procedure enables the suppliers' solution and service offerings to be fully negotiated before they are finalised in a contract. Having two suppliers in the process ensures there is a competitive element to all aspects of the contract.

The decision not to divide the contract into modules was taken after a review had taken place as to its feasibility. There were strong arguments in favour of not splitting up the services across different suppliers. One was that an integrated service approach will enable the Prison Service to receive a common infrastructure through which all information will flow; and, second, the main services of prisoner administration, finance and personnel are interwoven and not readily separable. These views were shared by a range of advisors to the project, as well as Prison Service personnel and suppliers.

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Asylum Applications Lodged before 1 April 1993

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many applications for asylum which have not yet had a first response were lodged before 1 April 1993.[HL1075]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As at 28 February 1998, there were 50,960 applications for asylum in the United Kingdom, excluding dependants, awaiting an initial decision. Of these, it is estimated that 10,000 were lodged prior to the introduction of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993, which came into force on 26 July of that year. I regret that reliable information regarding the number lodged before 1 April 1993 is not available.

Mr. Mohammed Riaz and Mr. Quayyum Raja

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Home Secretary is conducting a further review of the tariffs set in the cases of Mr. Mohammed Riaz and Mr. Quayyum Raja; and when they expect to give the two prisoners the result of this review.[HL1149]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has agreed to review the tariffs set for these two mandatory life sentence prisoners. We are awaiting Mr. Raja's response to an invitation to make any further representations. The review will be conducted as quickly as practicable after his response is received.

Prisons: Taxation of Visiting Ministers' Fees

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why some prisons are now deducting tax from visiting ministers' fees allowances which are paid to charities in the cases where the ministers are not allowed to accept money for religious reasons.[HL1150]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: A recent audit of the Prison Service by the Inland Revenue has confirmed that visiting ministers who receive payments for fees and expenses are to be treated as office holders within the Prison Service and must be subjected to Income Tax and Class I National Insurance contributions. If the noble Lord is aware of any particular case where there is doubt over the applicability of this action, he should arrange for details to be sent to the Director General of the Prison Service, who will have the matter investigated.

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