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Written Answers

Thursday, 3rd February 2000.

Firearms National Register

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any progress has been made, since the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 2 November 1999 (WA 82), towards meeting the statutory requirement, which came into effect on 1 October 1997, to establish a central register database of persons who have applied for a firearm or shotgun certificate or to whom a firearm or shotgun certificate has been granted; and, if not, why not.[HL738]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): Development of the national firearms database currently features in the Police Information Technology Organisation's (PITO) business plan for 2000-2001. Development could not have begun earlier because the resources available were required for projects of even higher priority. The next step is for PITO to carry out a detailed impact assessment. This is due to begin in February and should be completed in April. It is not possible to give a firm implementation date at this stage but it is hoped that the system will be in place by the summer of 2001.

Immigration and Asylum Act Provisions: Consultations

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made on consultation with regard to the implementation of the provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 relating to (i) civil penalty, (ii) flexibility and passenger information, (iii) facilities to be provided by port operators, and (iv) charging for additional immigration services.[HL899]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Constructive and detailed discussions are proceeding with representative organisations. As part of that process, consultation papers relating to each of these provisions have been circulated to those representatives and others in the industry. Copies of the documents have been placed in the Library.

Police Numbers

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what base number of police officers will the 5,000 extra officers announced by the Home Secretary be additional.[HL694]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: Police strength as at 31 March 1999 was 126,096. Under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994, it is for chief constables to determine staffing levels in their forces within the resources available to them. Money from the Crime Fighting Fund will be used to recruit 5,000 police officers over and above the number forces had otherwise planned to recruit over the next three years, commencing in April 2000.

Criminal Justice System and Race

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 24 January (WA 174), whether they will publish the study of race and the Crown Prosecution Service, completed by Dr Mhlanga, before introducting any new legislation on mode of trial.[HL743]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Crown Prosecution Service published a report in October 1999 covering the main findings of the research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council undertaken by Dr Bonny Mhlanga. The Home Office are discussing with Dr Mhlanga what further data from his study could be published which might assist in the current debate on mode of trial.

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 24 January (WA 175), whether they consider that the evidence given by Ms Marion Fitzgerald of the Home Office to the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (Cm 2263, July 1993, Research Study No. 20) no longer accurately summarises the problems of institutional racism in relation to the administration of criminal justice in England and Wales.[HL745]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Her Majesty's Government considers that the submission by Dr Fitzgerald to the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (Cm 2263, July 1993, Research Study No. 20) did not consider the evidence for or against institutional racism in the administration of justice in England and Wales at that time. Dr Fitzgerald did not use that term in her submission, although she pointed out that there was scope for discrimination in the exercise of discretion by criminal justice agencies and in the legal and non-legal criteria which influence decisions during the criminal justice process.

As would be expected of any analysis produced over six years ago, Dr Fitzgerald's account needs to be considered in the light of subsequent research and events. Any update would need to take into account the new definition of institutional racism proposed in

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the Macpherson report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the work being done throughout the criminal justice system to respond to its recommendations.

One of the recommendations is the extension of the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament. It will make both direct and indirect racial discrimination unlawful in respect of public functions not previously covered by the Race Relations Act 1976, including law enforcement functions. It will also place a positive statutory duty on public authorities, not just local authorities as now, to promote race equality. How the duty will operate in practice and be enforced will be the subject of consultation. Amendments on indirect discrimination and the duty to promote race equality will be brought forward when the Bill reaches Committee stage in the House of Commons.

Probation Officer Numbers

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the 17,000 members of the staff of the Probation Service, referred to by Lord Bassam of Brighton in answer to a Question on 24 January (H.L. Deb., col. 1324), are qualified Probation Officers.[HL741]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: There were 7,182 qualified probation officers (full-time equivalents) in post on 30 June 1999, the most recent date for which figures are available.


Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will estimate the proportion of those who have received vaccination against influenza who have subsequently developed influenza, and the proportion of those who have developed influenza who had been vaccinated against it, in respect of this winter's influenza season to date.[HL736]

The Parliamentary Under-Secreatry of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath) ; This information is not routinely collected and would only be available through clinical trials. The content of the vaccine changes from year to year to reflect the strains of influenza virus that global surveillance predicts will be circulating. Its effectiveness therefore depends on how well the vaccine strains match those that cause disease each winter. This season there was a good match against the influenza viruses prevalent in the United Kingdom. The effectiveness of the vaccine also varies with age and with the strain of influenza. Overall, the vaccine is estimated to be around 70-80 per cent effective. Other respiratory viruses co-circulate with influenza, causing clinically similar illness and these are not prevented by influenza immunisation.

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Primary Care Groups: Midwife Representation

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will clarify their arrangements for midwives to be represented on primary care groups where there is no midwifery presence.[HL764]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We have made clear in guidance that we expect all community nurses and general practitioners to work together in partnership to ensure the success of primary care groups (PCGs). Community nurses is used as an inclusive term in guidance to encompass all nurses, health visitors and midwives who are mainly employed in the community. It is a matter for community nurses locally, working with their health authority, to decide how they will be represented on the boards of PCGs.

PCG boards contain nurses who have a range of broad-based skills and specialities, including midwifery. Additional nurses with specialist skills have also been co-opted onto the boards.

Cardiac Operations, Great Ormond Street Hospital

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 16th December (WA 59), how many cardiac operations were performed by Great Ormond Street Hospital National Health Service Trust during the quarters ended 31 March and 30 September 1999.[HL819]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The requested information is not yet available for the quarter ending 31 March 1999. For the quarter ending 30 September 1999, the number of finished consultant episodes for cardiac operations in Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust is 105.

"Living Wills"

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consultation they propose on legislation giving validity to "living wills"; and with whom; and [HL732]

    What plans they have for legislation giving validity to "living wills".[HL731]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government sought views on advance statements (sometimes known as "living wills") about healthcare in the 1997 public consultation document, Who Decides? Making Decisions on behalf of Mentally Incapacitated Adults.

In the Lord Chancellor's policy statement, Making Decisions--the Government's proposals for making decisions on behalf of mentally incapacitated adults, the Government stated that they had proposed not to legislate on advance statements at the present time.

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