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Taxis: Prosecutions for Failing to Wear Rear Seatbelts

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: It is not possible, in the statistics held centrally either in England and Wales or in Scotland, to distinguish between drivers and passengers convicted of failing to wear seatbelts, nor is it known what type of vehicle is involved.

Asylum-Seekers: Support Arrangements

Viscount Brentford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the combined cost of administering £30 worth of vouchers and providing accommodation for one individual asylum-seeker would be £165, whereas the cost for that individual under a system of income support and housing benefit would be only £110.[HL4077]

Lord Bassam of Brighton : Support arrangements will vary between applicants depending on their needs and the circumstances pertaining when their claim is considered. The cost of providing support within the Asylum Support Scheme from April 2000 will therefore vary for different applicants and it is not possible to make direct comparisons. Provision of support in kind could be more expensive to administer than cash payments, but it is likely to be less attractive to those who are seeking to exploit. Take-up of provision in kind is expected to be lower than would be the case in a cash based support system. Provision in kind will help minimise the incentive and opportunities for abuse.

We have not yet made a detailed assessment of the cost of administering the voucher scheme. We are contracting out this element of the scheme and subjecting it to competitive tender in Autumn 1999, to ensure that costs are kept as low as possible, consistent with the need for effective delivery of the service. Similarly we will be contracting out the provision of accommodation and detailed costs are not yet available.

Wales: Discrimination Against non-Welsh Speakers

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will introduce legislation to prevent employers in Wales from discriminating against British subjects who cannot speak Welsh.[HL4027]

Lord Bassam of Brighton : The ability to speak Welsh is a skill and qualification which an employer may justifiably require for positions in Wales. The existing legislative framework offers protection to non-Welsh speakers against unfair dismissal on language grounds. The Government see no need to introduce anti-discrimination legislation relating specifically to the Welsh language, and have no plans to do so.

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Murders by People with Severe Personality Disorder

The Earl of Listowel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the estimated number of people in recent years who have been murdered or seriously injured by those with severe personality disorder.[HL4064]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Information in the form requested is not held centrally.

The recent report Safer Services published by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by people with Mental Illness shows that in England and Wales in the 18 month period from April 1996, 718 persons were convicted of homicide. In 500 of these cases a psychiatric report was available: 220 of the 500 persons had been diagnosed as suffering from a mental disorder during their lifetimes, of which 47 were diagnosed as having a personality disorder.

Similar information in relation to Scotland is not available and for Northern Ireland is not readily available, nor is information in relation to those convicted of causing serious injury.

Countryside Alliance: Meetings with Ministers

Lord Mancroft asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Ministers have met with official representatives of the Countryside Alliance; and, if so, when, and with which Ministers present.[HL4053]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: No systematic record is kept of such information. However, from a trawl of relevant departments (Prime Minister's Office, Home Office, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions), no Ministers have formally met representatives of the Countryside Alliance.

Life Peerages: Eligibility

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they think that men or women who are not eligible to register to vote in the United Kingdom should be eligible to become life Peers; and[HL3960]

    Whether they think that men and women who are not ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom should be eligible to become life Peers.[HL3961]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): Citizens of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland are eligible to be members of either House of Parliament, wherever they live. We see no need to change the law in this matter.

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Scotland: Scottish Issues Raised in UK Parliament

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked the Leader of the House:

    Following the guidance issued by the Speaker of the House of Commons, what issues relating to Scotland may or may not be raised in the House of Lords.[HL3696]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government would hope that both Houses of Parliament would come to a consensus about the matters which may or may not be raised. We believe that the devolution settlement will be best served by self-restraint within the UK Parliament in relation to matters that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Government do not believe it would be appropriate to reply on matters which are not within the resonsibility of a UK Minister. Matters reserved to the UK Parliament are set out in Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998.

Value for Money: Government's Definition

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What meaning they currently attach in their policies to the phrase “value for money".[HL3993]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Seeking continuous improvements in the value for money of its services and activities is a key part of the modernising government agenda, and the main reason for departments producing public service agreements. Better value for money means better quality services for the customer at optimal cost to the taxpayer.

Ministerial Task Forces: Publication of Reports

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to make available to Parliament copies of the reports made from time to time to Ministers and government departments by the task forces set up by them from time to time.[HL4085]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The arrangements for publishing any reports produced by the task forces they have established are a matter for the Ministers concerned.

Check List to Ensure Good Quality European Legislation

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they propose to take to ensure that the Check List to ensure Good Quality European Legislation issued by the Regulatory Impact Unit of

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    the Cabinet Office on 21 July is applied at all departmental levels.[HL4086]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Check List to ensure Good Quality European Legislation was issued as part of the Guide to Better European Regulation which my right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office, published on 21 July after wide consultation both within and without government.

The Government believe that the guide will help to ensure that Ministers and officials adhere to the principles of good regulation when developing EC legislation. The Guide sets out the steps UK officials must follow to complete the regulatory impact assessment for legislative proposals. It also offers lots of practical advice, including the check list, on how to go about producing good quality legislation at the European level. Use of the check list is not compulsory, but it is one means by which officials and Ministers may ensure that the correct procedures have been followed.

Copies of the guide, including the check list, have been sent to all UK departments. Officials in the Cabinet Office Regulatory Impact Unit are working with departments to ensure that the advice given in the guide is widely promulgated, but this is ultimately a decision for the departmental Ministers concerned. Officials are also working with the Centre for Management and Policy Studies on how the messages in the guide are fed into its training programme.

Hereditary Peers: Life Peerages

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Jay of Paddington on 29 July [HL3884], why it would not be appropriate for them to comment on whether they have indicated to any hereditary Peers, apart from those of first creation, that they will or may recommend them to the Queen for a life peerage in connection with the passing of the House of Lords Bill.[HL4091]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The hereditary Peers of first creation are a clearly defined class of Peer, whose position under the House of Lords Bill is unique. It was therefore considered appropriate to indicate what treatment they were being offered as a class. With respect to all other hereditary Peers, comments on whether or not any had been recommended for life peerages would risk identifying individuals within a class on a discriminatory basis. It would not be appropriate to change the convention that the Government do not make any such comment in advance of any formal announcement.

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