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14 May 2002 : Column WA25

Written Answers

Tuesday, 14th May 2002.

Overseas Territories: European Convention on Human Rights

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

    Further to the Written Answers by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 17 January 2002 (WA 171) and 7 February 2001 (WA 110), when they will be in a position to extend the self-governing Overseas Territories Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the abolition of the death penalty. [HL4072]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonweath Office (Baroness Amos): The Government expect to be in a position to extend the Sixth Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights to the Overseas Territories when capital punishment for treason and piracy has been abolished in the Turks and Caicos Islands, which is expected to be later this year.

Immigration Control: Migrant Workers

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they propose that the United Kingdom should ratify the United Nations Convention of 1990 on the rights of all migrant workers and their families; and, if not, which articles they consider unacceptable. [HL3190]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): The Government have no plans at present to sign and ratify the covention. We consider we have already struck the right balance between the need for immigration control and the protection of the interests and rights of migrant workers and their families in the United Kingdom. The rights of migrant workers and their families are protected in United Kingdom legislation, including the Human Rights Act 1998, and the United Kingdom's existing commitments under international law.

The convention in its totality applies to migrant workers and members of their families during the entire migration process, including their entry into the United Kingdom. We consider that the pre-entry and on-entry scope of the convention could undermine the United Kingdom's system of frontier controls were the UK to ratify the convention.

Prisons: Child-centred Visits

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the prisons in which "child-centred visits" are now available for prisoners who are parents, giving the category of the prison in each case.[HL4028]

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Lord Rooker: Provision of extended visits for children and families is at the discretion of individual governors, who take into account a number of factors, including the availability of staffing and other resources. However, over the last 10 years an increasing number of establishments offer such visits, which take place over a longer period than routine social visits and in more relaxed surroundings, using existing recreational facilities. Greater emphasis is placed on the needs of the child and I am pleased that there is a growing appreciation of the benefits which may be gained from visits of this kind. Information on which establishments offer such facilities is not collated centrally by the Prison Service. Rebo

Asylum Procedures: EU Common Standards

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made with other European Union governments on agreeing common standards for the handling of asylum applications.[HL4064]

Lord Rooker: To date, the European Union (EU) governments have been working to reach agreement on instruments designed to meet the Treaty of Amsterdam commitment for member states to adopt measures designed to establish minimum standards for asylum procedures and policies across the EU. The deadline for this is May 2004. At the Tampere European Council in October 1999, member states agreed to look beyond the minimum standards established by 2004 towards the creation of a common European asylum system. After a slow start there is now increasing momentum on the first stage of the process to establish minimum standards. The United Kingdom has participated actively in this process and has opted in to all the measures to date.

The following measures have been adopted to date: Council regulation establishing the EURODAC electronic fingerprinting database (adopted 11 December 2001); and Council directive on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in event of mass influx (adopted 20 July 2001).

At the Justice and Home Affairs Council held in Luxembourg on 25 and 26 April a general agreement was reached on the text of the directive establishing minimum standards on reception conditions for asylum seekers. Final adoption is anticipated in the coming months.

Three other measures remain under discussion: the proposed regulation to replace the Dublin convention (Dublin II); the proposal for a Council directive on minimum standards on procedures for member states for granting and withdrawing refugee status; and the proposal on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals and stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection. Rebo

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Criminal Records Bureau: Registered Bodies

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 23 April (WA 19–20), which national governing bodies of sport have registered with the Criminal Records Bureau; and which have registered as umbrella bodies, indicating in each case whether they are performing "open" and "closed" functions.[HL4131]

Lord Rooker: Since they have not all given their specific consent, it would not be appropriate to publish a list of all the bodies registered with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) for the purpose of countersigning applications for standard and enhanced disclosures.

Up to 8 May, some 27 national governing bodies of sport had been registered with the CRB. Of these, 10 have agreed to act as umbrella bodies and have consented to having their details made available. Those who are offering an "open" service (ie have agreed to countersign applications on behalf of others outside their own sector or circle) include the British Orienteering Federation Ltd, Professional Anglers' Association and the Swimming Teachers' Association. Those who are offering a "closed" service include the Badminton Association of England, the British Amateur Gymnastics Association, the British Canoe Union, the English Hockey Association, the Football Association of Wales, the Lawn Tennis Association and the Royal Yachting Association. Rebo

Older People: Physical Activity

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 24 April (WA 37–39), what action is being undertaken by the Home Office, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions in relation to the promotion of physical activity among older people; and what funding the departments have each allocated for this purpose.[HL4132]

Lord Rooker: The Government are committed to improving the position of older people in our society. This is an issue that is relevant not only to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) but also to others across government, including the Home Office and the Department for Education and Skills.

The Government's strategy is co-ordinated by a Cabinet sub-committee of Ministers from several departments, chaired by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions. The strategy consists of five main

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strands: encouraging and enabling active ageing, promoting age diversity, tackling pensioner poverty for today's and future pensioners, maintaining and supporting independence in later life and working in partnership with older people to provide better services focused on the needs of individuals.

DWP is also aware that increasingly older people want to remain active longer through work. The Government are committed to helping people of all ages back to work. The range of back to work programmes includes New Deal 50 plus, New Deal 25 plus and New Deal for Disabled People. These programmes have helped to ensure that the employment rate for people aged 50 to state pension age has increased each year for the last four years.

New Deal 50 plus is a voluntary programme and was launched in April 2000. The programme provides active help and advice for individuals who have been out of work and dependent on benefits for six months or more. Through a personal adviser it offers an income top-up of £60 per week for people returning to full-time work (£40 a week for part-time work) and an in work training grant. In its first two years of national operation, New Deal 50 plus has already helped nearly 67,000 people off benefits and back into work.

Through our Age Positive campaign we are also promoting to employers the business benefits of recruiting, training and retaining older workers.

The Department for Education and Skills is exploring physical activity as part of its development programme, which explores innovative ways of engaging older people in learning. Two projects are currently running, the first to develop a programme for senior peer mentors, costing £22,700, which will enable older people to encourage increased levels of physical activity among their peers; the second, costing £15,300, to develop a programme to engage older people in sports based volunteering in their communities. Rebo

The Home Office, through funding of the Experience Corps Company of £19.9 million over three years, is encouraging older people to be active in their community, mainly through voluntary work. This may involve volunteering activity that encourages people to be physically active, but this is not specifically targeted.

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