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Lord Gilbert: As the result of the development of further integration arrangements between the MoD and the NHS, intensive care services are to be transferred from the Royal Hospital Haslar to the Queen Alexandra Hospital during August. However, Haslar will retain a High Dependency Unit that will be able to administer to all critically ill patients other than those requiring ventilated life support. The level of intensive care provision within the Portsmouth area will remain the same.
I am advised by the Southern Region of the NHS Executive that the Queen Alexandra Hospital has not advertised for relatives to take care of their own family members in hospital. Following an exceptionally high increase in admissions over the last Christmas holiday period, the trust was placed on Red Alert. Staff shortages caused by a combination of holiday rota and staff sickness compounded the situation. The trust appealed on local TV and radio for staff to cover absent colleagues. Notices were put in some wards explaining that, if family members wished to help their relatives with dressing, washing and getting drinks, the hospital staff would be grateful.
Lord Gilbert: The phrase "military-related" attracts no special definition but, in the context of the NATO-led air campaign, it should be interpreted in the light of the principles of international law.
Lord Gilbert: Regular contact with HM Treasury was maintained throughout the course of NATO's air campaign. However, our primary purpose was to enable the Kosovar Albanian people to return to their homes. Potential reconstruction costs were, therefore, not a factor in targeting decisions.
Lord Gilbert: There are long-standing procedures already in place, set out in Service Instructions, which cover the creation and return to MoD UK of appropriate records of operational deployments by British Forces.
The Ministry of Defence is looking for the lessons to be learned from the Kosovo conflict, and is contributing to similar work at NATO. A full assessment of the damage inflicted on targets by the air campaign is currently under way under the auspices of the NATO Munitions Effectiveness Assessment Team.
Lord Gilbert: The key principles underpinning the development of a new pay structure for the Armed Forces were set out in 1997 in MoD's formal response to Sir Michael Bett's Independent Review of the Armed Forces Manpower, Career and Remuneration Structure. Development work on the new pay structure, building on those principles, is now well advanced. Transition arrangements have been made for those in service to transfer to the new pay structure. Final details of the new system are dependent upon the results of current testing and evaluation. The new system will offer a simpler and more flexible approach than the present pay arrangements and the benefits will include an incremental system for Other Ranks which will replace the existing spot rates of pay at each rank. The move to a new pay structure is fully supported by the Armed
Lord Gilbert: Only the Army operates a re-enlistment bounty scheme and there are no plans to introduce such a scheme in the Royal Navy or Royal Air Force. The Army scheme is open to non-commissioned personnel only and is aimed at those who left the Service within the previous three years and who had completed between three and six years' service. The scheme was extended to include medical personnel in April 1997.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has approved new operational guidelines on the use of baton rounds which will be issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, replacing current Home Office guidance. These will come into force on 1 August 1999. With the agreement of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the guidance will apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The new guidelines will clarify that baton rounds may be used where other methods of policing to restore order have been tried and failed or are likely to fail; and there is a risk of loss of life or serious injury arising from serious public disorder; or a risk of serious and substantial damage to property which gives rise to a risk
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Home Office has issued travel documents to refugees, stateless persons and some other third country nationals for many years. This service has always been subject to the payment of a fee. These travel documents are issued under the Royal Prerogative, but there is no specific legal power for the taking of fees in connection with such documents. The Home Office first received legal advice raising questions about the legal basis for charges and advising that specific powers should be taken to charge for these documents on 9 February 1999. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has, therefore, decided that it would be right for applications outstanding on that date to be processed free of charge, as will applications received between that date and the date on which new fees regulations are made. These applicants need take no action. Refunds, where appropriate, will be offered automatically by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, although it is likely to be some months before all applicants receive their refunds.
Until 31 December 1993, refunds were made to all applicants whose applications for a travel document were refused. Since then the practice has been to charge for processing applications, whether or not a document is issued. It is not proposed to offer refunds to applicants whose cases were completed before 9 February 1999, who were charged in good faith and who received the document for which they applied. But there are an estimated 1,500 applicants who received neither a travel document, because their application was refused, nor a refund, because their application was determined after 31 December 1993. It is proposed to offer refunds to such applicants, provided they apply before 30 November 1999. It is, however, not possible to identify such applications from Home Office records and we are inviting those immigration advisers who are members of the Immigration and Nationality User Panel to help to trace those who may be eligible for a refund.
An information line has been established which gives more detail about eligibility for refunds, how to apply if necessary, and how refunds will be made. The number of the information line is 020 8681 5615. Information is also being placed on the Immigration and Nationality internet website--www.homeoffice.gov.uk./ind/hpg.htm.
In the light of the legal advice which has been received, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has decided that it would be right to put beyond doubt the power to levy fees in connection with Home Office travel documents. A new clause to this effect will accordingly be brought forward to the Immigration and Asylum Bill, which is currently before the House of Lords. The clause will be retrospective--it will have the effect of making charges imposed by the Home Office in the past in connection with travel documents lawful.
In the meantime, there is enabling power in the Finance Act 1973 to charge for services provided by the Government pursuant to any international treaty to which the United Kingdom is a party. This would cover documents issued to refugees and stateless persons in accordance with the relevant United Nations Conventions, although not other types of travel document. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has decided to exercise these powers pending the enactment of wider powers in the Immigration and Asylum Bill. When the Bill has received Royal Assent, regulations will be made covering fees for the full range of travel documents.
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