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1 Jul 1998 : Column WA79

Written Answers

Wednesday, 1st July 1998.

Prison Enterprise and Supply Group Internet Services Contract

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the name of the company which won the Prison Enterprise and Supply Group contract for the provision of Internet services; whether any reference was made in the Invitation to Tender to any requirement to link in with the proposed Home Office Quantum Project; what was the amount of the successful tender; and if another bidder for this contract offered the service at a lower figure, why their bid was not successful.[HL2376]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Five offers were received and were evaluated for meeting specification, delivery and price. After careful consideration, Prison Enterprise Services concluded that the offer from Home Office Information Services Group (Information and Library Services) would give the best value for money. The Invitation to Tender did not refer to any requirement to link in with the Prison Service QUANTUM Project. Contents of bids are treated confidentially and are not disclosed to other bidders, but I can say that the range of tenders was from £4,950 to £40,918 excluding VAT.

Surrendered Firearms: Serial Numbers

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures have been taken by constabularies to record the serial numbers of all firearms handed in as a result of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997; where such lists are retained; and in what format.[HL2451]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The way in which the details of firearms surrendered to the police under the terms of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 were recorded is a matter for individual chief officers. Serial numbers for such firearms should have been given on the compensation claim forms submitted to the police at the time of surrender, and should have been checked by the police against the serial numbers appearing on the firearms themselves and in the relevant firearms certificates or dealers' registers of transaction.

Home Office Operational Police Policy Unit

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give the locations and dates when officials of the Home Office Operational Police Policy Unit, giving their names in all cases, attended meetings outside the Home Office for which travelling and other expenses were claimed in each of the last two years.[HL2452]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: This information could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. Even if the information were readily available, I do not see what purpose would be served by its disclosure.

ACPO Firearms Licensing Sub-committee

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Williams of Mostyn of 16 June (WA 128), whether they will list the officials of the Home Office who have attended meetings of the Association of Chief Police Officers' Sub-group on the Administration of Firearms Licensing Review Group; and the dates of each meeting held in 1995 and 1996.[HL 2396]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I understand from the Association of Chief Police Officers that prior to 1997 this group had no formal status and no systematic records were kept of the ad hoc meetings which were held. Home Office officials did not attend these early meetings, so far as can be ascertained.

Criminal Prosecutions: Ethnic Monitoring

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will monitor on ethnic grounds information held centrally on the Home Office Court Proceedings database on prosecutions brought under Section 154 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.[HL2410]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: There are no plans to monitor prosecutions brought under Section 154 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 separately for the ethnicity of the suspected offenders. However, monitoring of all prosecutions will be included as part of the new system of ethnic monitoring being developed for the criminal courts. A description of this system was included in the Home Office publication Race and the Criminal Justice System, published in December 1997.

Contaminated Human Growth Hormone: Compensation Payments

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they will be taking to apply the High Court's ruling of 20 June on the Department of Health's liability for claims from people treated with contaminated human growth hormone as children and who now fear that they will develop Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; how many such people whose cases were not considered by the High Court are affected by the ruling; when payments can be expected by those affected and what estimate they have made of the total cost of discharging the liability.[HL2406]

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The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): We accept in full the judgment of the Court in respect of compensation and damages and will arrange to make payments as soon as possible. The total cost of damages so far in this case amount to £579,000. There were 37 cases not considered by the court. We shall seek to settle these cases using the criteria established by the judge for determining the calculation of compensation. Because of the varying personal circumstances of those claiming compensation it is not possible to estimate the final cost at this time.

GPs' Computer Systems

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the total amounts spent on reimbursing general practitioners for their computer systems from General Medical Services funds in each year since 1995.[HL2457]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The total amounts directly reimbursed to general practitioners from General Medical Services funds in each year since 1995 are as follows:

Year£ million


The annual financial returns of the family health services authorities and health authorities in England.

The figures for 1994-95 and 1995-96 include reimbursements made for GP fundholding computer systems. From 1 April 1996 these systems were separately reimbursed from the Practice Fund Management Allowance.

Hospital Closures

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which are the two hospitals due to close, in addition to the four in Cornwall, referred to by the Secretary of State for Health on the Today programme on 16 June; and whether these hospitals require a decision by the Secretary of State prior to closure.[HL2378]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health was referring to the consultation on the reshaping of community services in Oxfordshire. This consultation will continue until 4 July. Two options are being consulted upon: in both cases the closure of Burford Hospital is proposed together with either the closure of Watlington Hospital or the closure of wards and the day hospital at Wallingford Hospital. Only if the final proposal is contested will the matter be referred to Ministers for a decision.

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Citizenship Initiatives: Support

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

    Whether they will reconsider the decision made by the previous government to withdraw core funding for the Council for Education in World Citizenship.[HL2463]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Core funding for the Council for Education in World Citizenship (CEWC) ceased at the end of March 1998. The department continues to provide funding to CEWC for individual projects. We are considering ways of further supporting citizenship initiatives.

Church School Closure Proposals: Adjudicator's Powers

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, under the proposals set out in the School Standards and Framework Bill, Church schools have a right of veto on the organisation committee which, in the event of a dissenting voice, would preclude a referral to the adjudicator, even when the dissenting voice represents the interests of the Churches.[HL2433]

Baroness Blackstone: No group on the school organisation committee will have a right of veto that would preclude referral to the adjudicator. All cases where a unanimous decision cannot be reached will be referred to the adjudicator.

Guidance will make clear that, where the relevant Church group on a school organisation committee has voted against the closure of a denominational school, the adjudicator shall not take a decision that reduces the proportion of denominational places within an authority.

Strategic Export Controls

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish their response to the recommendations on strategic export controls contained in Sir Richard Scott's report of the Inquiry into the Export of Defence Equipment and Dual-Use Goods to Iraq and Related Prosecutions.[HL2520]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): My right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade has today published a White Paper on Strategic Export Controls [Cm 3989]. This sets out the Government's response to the recommendations on strategic export controls contained in Sir Richard Scott's report.

Its main proposal is the introduction of new primary legislation to update the Government's strategic export control powers and to provide for parliamentary scrutiny of these powers. It also proposes improvements in export licensing procedures.

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It is important in a modern democracy for government to be accountable to Parliament for the way they use their strategic export control powers. We also need to ensure that we have up-to-date powers to enable us to deal with modern means of trading, such as transferring information via the Internet, and brokering deals involving the transfer of goods between overseas countries. Exporters need export licensing procedures that are both clear and consistent.

New primary legislation would:

    Provide for parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation on strategic export controls and for the purposes for which export controls can be imposed to be set out in secondary legislation. This will answer one of the main criticisms made in the Scott Report that the Government has "an unfettered power to impose whatever export controls it wishes and to use those controls for any purpose it thinks fit".

    Strengthen the Government's powers to take action against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in part by bringing controls on biological and nuclear weapons into line with those already covering chemical weapons.

    Introduce controls on the transfer of technology by intangible means.

    Introduce additional controls on trafficking in, or brokering of deals in, certain goods between overseas countries. At present the Government only have the power to control such activity where this is necessary to implement a binding UN decision. We believe the Government should be able to impose controls in relation to the involvement of UK persons or companies or other persons in the UK in supplying arms to any country on which we have imposed an arms embargo. We also propose to prohibit trafficking and brokering in equipment whose export we have already banned because of evidence that goods of the same type have been used for torture; and

    Provide powers to require exporters to report the information necessary to enable us to meet our reporting obligations to international bodies.

We also propose some important changes to procedures to make the export licensing process clearer, fairer and more efficient:

    The basic elements of the licensing process will be set out in primary legislation, with detailed

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    procedures included either in secondary legislation or in guidance material as at present.

    The system for appealing against licence refusals will be put on a more formal basis.

    The export licensing authority should remain within the DTI. Most licence applications are circulated to FCO, MoD and, where appropriate DfID, for their advice, and licensing decisions are, and will be, taken on the basis of the advice received from these departments.

We believe our proposals should provide the right framework for strategic export controls that are both effective and accountable. The White Paper is a consultative document and we would welcome comments from industry, NGOs and others by 30 September. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and are available from the Stationery Office and on the department's website.

Council Tax Benefit

Lord Bowness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to transfer payment of council tax benefit from the Department of Social Security to local authorities; and if they do, whether it will be on the basis that local authorities are indemnified as to the total cost of the payments and their administration.[HL2365]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Payment of council tax benefit is the responsibility of local authorities and is made under the Council Tax Benefit (General) Regulation 1992 (SI 1992/1814). The cost to local authorities of benefit payments and administration is funded through central government subsidy and the local government finance system.

Government Reviews

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What reviews are currently being undertaken by or on behalf of the Government the results of which have not yet been published; and what in each case will be the approximate date of publication.[HL2242]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Prime Minister placed an up-to-date list of government reviews in the Library on 30 June 1998. Publication of the results of reviews is a matter for the relevant Ministers.

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