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13 Oct 1998 : Column WA93

Written Answers

Tuesday, 13th October 1998.

NATO: Disputes between Members

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will promote the development of mediation mechanisms for use between member states of NATO.[HL3317]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The choice of mediation mechanisms in any dispute between members of NATO would be a matter for the countries concerned.

UK History on the Internet

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will inform the CIA that the United Kingdom did not "obtain its independence" in the early nineteenth century as the CIA states in its "Homepage-for-Kids" on the Internet.[HL3118]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As my noble friend is aware, Her Majesty's Government are not responsible for the accuracy of information carried on the Internet. However, in this case, we have pointed out to the US Embassy in London that a less misleading reference to the Act of Union would be helpful.

Foreign Office: Procedural Changes

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the 60 measures determined to improve Foreign Office procedures and the performance of staff.[HL3147]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The 60 change measures are listed below. FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH OFFICE 60 Change Measures 1. Improve the handling of defence export licence applications. 2. Reinforce services to Export Forum and other priority markets. 3. Improve export training and the number of secondments to and from the private sector. 4. 10 per cent. increase in fees for chargeable trade and investment services, which FCO retains. 5. Explore extension of existing EU co-operation over consular fees. 6. Reduce demand for consular services.

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7. Charge a separate, higher fee for passports issued overseas. 8. Introduce a net running cost regime for consular services. 9. Introduce a net running cost regime for entry clearance operations. 10. Break down barriers between functions at posts. 11. Bring reporting by posts into line with demand and resources available. 12. Make better use of locally-engaged staff. 13. Establish clear guidelines for high-level overseas visits. 14. Lighten bureaucratic burdens at posts. 15. Better projection overseas. 16. Greater use of global policy teams. 17. Greater openness. 18. Promotion of economic skills. 19. Integration of economic advisers. 20. Establishment of an FCO intranet. 21. Transfer DFID Grant-in-Aid to the British Council to the FCO. 22. Introduce indicative budgeting for British Council activity. 23. Bring FCO subscription to BBC Monitoring into line with usage and transfer sponsorship to the Cabinet Office. 24. Rationalise commands and small management units. 25. Regular review of job weights. 26. Enhanced strategic planning. 27. A unified programme budget. 28. Development of workload indices for consular and entry clearance work. 29. Development of tools to prioritise activity. 30. A new Management Information System. 31. End-year flexibility. 32. A single FCO vote. 33. A smaller central administration. 34. Creation of an internal market for support services. 35. Creation of a service organisation. 36. Programme to rationalise the overseas estate. 37. Roll back security barriers within posts. 38. Phase out overseas security officers; management sections to take on security management duties, reinforced as necessary. 39. Possible business unit for language training. 40. Possible business unit for technical security. 41. Possible business unit for management consultancy. 42. Possible business unit for accountancy services. 43. Possible business unit for security vetting. 44. Charge OGDs for support services. 45. Consolidation of FCO handling of conferences, visits and hospitality. 46. More language training.

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47. Enhanced training in global issues and media handling. 48. Recruitment of specialists. 49. Better resource management training. 50. More outward secondments. 51. New entrant induction and training. 52. Increase in overall staff numbers. 53. Implementation of Hornby Review of Allowances. 54. Introduction of assessment centres. 55. Promotion to be dependent on structural requirement. 56. Alterations to selection boards. 57. Improved exit strategy. 58. Improved personnel management information. 59. Improved strategic human resource planning and allocation. 60. Provision to be made for contingent liabilities of locally-engaged staff.

Political Parties: Funding

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to receive the Fifth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.[HL3413]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The report is published today as Cm 4057.

The Government strongly welcome the committee's report. We are committed to reforming and regulating the way political parties are funded. Public confidence in the political system demands that it is open, honest and transparent.

In our manifesto we promised three things:

    to require disclosure of donations above a minimum figure;

    to ban foreign funding; and

    to ask the Committee on Standards in Public Life to consider how the funding of political parties should be regulated and reformed.

The committee's work contains a wide range of proposals which enables us to deliver our commitments in full.

We will therefore legislate on the main findings of the report. To this end, we will publish a draft Bill before next year's summer Recess to allow political parties and other interested bodies to comment on what will be detailed and complex legislation.

As a result, robust and rigorous rules governing the funding of political parties will be in place before the next general election.

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Integrated Casework Directorate

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the Private Finance Initiative contract awarded in April 1996 to Siemens Business Services for IT services for the new Integrated Casework Directorate.[HL3339]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Immigration and Nationality Directorate and Siemens Business Services are working on a plan to implement the new Integrated Casework Directorate (ICD), including a range of IT services, beginning on 26 October. It is envisaged that by the end of January 1999 all immigration after entry and asylum casework will have transferred to the ICD.

Completion of the delivery of IT services to the ICD will be achieved during the summer of 1999.

Immigration Appeals: Bail Arrangements

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what grounds an application for bail will be determined under the arrangements proposed in paragraph 12.8 of the White Paper Fairer, Faster and Firmer--A Modern Approach to Immigration and Asylum (Cm 4018); whether there will be any appeal against refusal of bail; whether magistrates or the Immigration Appeals Adjudicator as the case may be will have the power to demand sureties at the initial hearing; and whether in doing so they will be required to limit the sureties to an amount the applicant could reasonably be expected to pay.[HL 3341]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Applications for bail under the arrangements proposed in paragraph 12.8 of the White Paper will be considered under the same criteria as are used to consider bail applications from immigration detainees at present. The overriding consideration is whether the person is likely to comply voluntarily with any restriction imposed upon him, including any arrangements for removal.

The major difference in the proposed new arrangements is that bail hearings will be arranged automatically at approximately seven days from the initial detention and again 28 days later. There will be no right of appeal against refusal of bail. But, in addition to these automatic reviews, the existing rights of someone who is detained to apply for bail will remain substantially unaltered. The magistrate or adjudicator hearing the application will have the power to set the conditions of bail and decide whether and at what level any recognizance or security should be, having regard to all the circumstances.

Immigration Service Detention Estate

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reached a decision on the need for an increase in the detention estate, as suggested in paragraph 12.14 of the White Paper Fairer, Faster

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    and Firmer--a Modern Approach to Immigration and Asylum (Cm 4018); and, if so, how many additional centres, of what capacity, they consider will be needed.[HL3342]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The size of the future detention estate has not been determined and is likely to remain under review for some time. That is because the effectiveness of the White Paper proposals for improvement in pre-entry, on-entry and after-entry control and the asylum decision-making process all have a bearing on the use of detention. Our aim is that more people will be detained for shorter periods, leading to increased removals of illegal entrants and failed asylum claimants.

The Government have also taken seriously the concerns of Sir David Ramsbotham, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, and others about the inappropriateness of the use of prison for those detained under sole Immigration Act powers. To respond to these concerns requires more discrete Immigration Service detention centres. Over the next five years, the Government intend to reduce the use of prisons for this purpose, replace the centre at Harmondsworth, which has reached the end of its useful life, and, as resources allow, provide between 300-400 additional places. This programme will also provide an opportunity to ensure appropriate accommodation for men, women, families and those presenting control problems. Project planning for this programme is under way. We should be able to give more detailed information on proposals by the end of the year.

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