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Prison-based Housing Advice Services

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Prison Service does not maintain a central record of all the establishments where housing advice is available in advance of release. From the available information those establishments include Birmingham, Brinsford, Buckley Hall, Bullingdon, Bullwood Hall, Cardiff, Doncaster, Drake Hall, Feltham, Forest Bank, Garth, Glen Parva, Haverigg, Hewell Grange, High Down, Highpoint, Hindley, Holloway, Holme House, Kirkham, Lancaster Castle, Lancaster Farms, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Low Newton, Manchester, New Hall, Norwich, Onley, Pentonville, Portland, Preston, Risley, Stafford, Standford Hill, Stoke Heath, Styal, Thorn Cross, Wandsworth, Wealstun, Winchester, The Wolds and Wymott.

The Prison Service's Custody to Work initiative, with an additional £14.5 million a year from April 2003, is geared towards increasing the number of prisoners getting jobs or training or education places after release, and the number with stable accommodation. We expect some of this investment to be used to extend the housing advice services available in prison, including those provided by non-governmental organisations experienced in this work.

The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders has recently produced for the Prison Service guidance on the provision of prison-based housing advice services based on existing examples of good practice.

Suspensions of Police Officers above the Rank of Inspector

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The West Midlands Police inform me that Detective Chief Superintendent Ellie Baker was suspended on 4 November 2002 following a complaint by a member of the public, which is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Service under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority. The West Midlands Police further inform me that at this time it is difficult to predict how long the investigation will take to complete. A decision on whether Detective Chief Superintendent Ellie Baker will face disciplinary or other proceedings will be made at the conclusion of that investigation.

Information concerning the number of officers above the rank of inspector suspended in England and Wales and the amount of salary and other emoluments paid to them is not held centrally and it could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Asylum Seekers: Induction Centres

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they propose to advertise to affected communities the creation of new induction centres for asylum seekers; and over what period.[HL1350]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): As part of the competitive tendering exercise to procure accommodation to support an induction centre for asylum seekers making their claims in London and the South East, the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) wrote to relevant local authorities. At the time details of the bids were commercially sensitive and this precluded wider consultation with the public. However, we are undertaking a full, independent review of NASS operations and business procedures, including procurement processes in order to determine, among other things, what improvements can be made to make consultation consistent with the need to preserve commercial confidences.

Gambling

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether licensed betting offices and adult gaming centres will operate under the same levels of regulation.[HL1287]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): Under our plans for reform of the gambling laws the same principles of regulation will apply to betting offices and adult gaming centres. In both cases the operators of those venues will need to pass a thorough "fit and proper" test to obtain the necessary licences from the new Gambling Commission, and both will require individual premises licences from the relevant local authorities.

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Development Education

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their current definition of "development education"; how many government departments are involved; and what funding has been provided in England over the past three years.[HL1288]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Through development education we aim to develop pupils' knowledge and understanding of global issues, including the political, economic, environmental and social implications; and their effects on individuals, communities and societies. They will also develop the skills and attitudes to contribute to sustainable development. Pupils study international development issues as part of both the citizenship curriculum—now statutory in secondary schools—and within geography. Primary pupils learn about living in a diverse world through citizenship, and about less economically developed countries through geography as part of studying water, settlements and environmental issues.

The DfES made about £2 million available to fund organisations to produce resource materials to support schools. For example, we worked with the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Development Education Association (DEA) to produce a guide Developing a Global Dimension in the school curriculum. Detailed guidance produced by the QCA, sent to all secondary schools, includes a unit—"Debating a global issue"—which encourages pupils to develop international understanding. In addition, DfID is ensuring that teachers have effective local support to enable them to incorporate the global dimension into both the curriculum and the wider life of schools. DfID also supports, through its Development Awareness Fund, a number of projects which promote and demonstrate the value in education terms of the inclusion of the global dimension.

Comprehensive Performance Assessment

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to ensure that sustainable development is assessed within local authorities' comprehensive performance assessment; and[HL1341]

    Whether any of the environmental services performance indicators in the comprehensive performance assessment are designed to encourage the protection and enhancement of the natural environment; and, if so, which ones; and[HL1342]

    Whether the comprehensive performance assessment gives sufficient weight to councils with excellent sustainable development practice; and[HL1343]

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    Whether a local authority is appraised on its delivery of quality of life (as defined by the Audit Commission) in the comprehensive performance assessment; and, if not, why not.[HL1344]

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: The Audit Commission is responsible for developing the CPA framework and applying it to local government. In doing so, it is concerned to ensure that the principles of sustainable development and the factors that contribute to a good local quality of life are built into both the way in which individual services are assessed and the way in which authorities' corporate performance is rated.

With county and unitary authorities, some service assessments, for example waste services, based on specific performance indicators and inspection results, appear to have reflected these principles reasonably well. Further work is needed in other areas ahead of the next round of CPAs for these authorities. For all of them, the corporate assessment included judgments about the way in which sustainable development principles underpinned council activity, although specific scores were not given for this.

In the case of CPA for district councils, it is also proposed to include a specific assessment of performance in securing a high quality local environment: trials are currently continuing among West Sussex district councils to test the approach.

The Audit Commission is also currently piloting a set of quality of life performance indicators with volunteer local authorities. If these measures prove reliable and useful to local authorities, they may be considered for inclusion in both the best value performance indicator set and in inspection standards, in future years.

Comptroller and Auditor-General: Audit and Access Powers

Baroness Billingham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they propose to grant new statutory powers to the Comptroller and Auditor-General.[HL1515]

Lord Mc Intosh of Haringey: The Government set out their policy on audit and access powers for the Comptroller and Auditor-General (C&AG) in our response, published on 13 March 2002 (Cm 5456), to Lord Sharman's report Audit and Accountability in Central Government. The Government stated their intention to make two orders under the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000 (GRAA). The orders have been laid before Parliament today, following the completion of a consultation process seeking the views of those bodies and individuals affected by the orders. The orders reflect the outcome of the consultation exercise.

The first order provides for the C&AG to become the statutory auditor of those non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) that are currently audited by

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private firms or where the C&AG is currently appointed by agreement (other than companies). The order includes a schedule listing the bodies affected and sets out the legislation that is being amended and the amendments to be made. The Government accepted Lord Sharman's recommendation that the C&AG would take over the audit responsibility as existing contracts with auditors expire. NDPBs which are also companies and which need to be audited by a Companies Act auditor are not included in this order. Further legislative changes will be needed to remove statutory barriers that currently mean that the C&AG cannot carry out Companies Act audits.

The second order provides the C&AG with statutory access rights, for the purpose of his audit of government accounts and the accounts of NDPBs, to bodies and individuals in receipt of grant, registered social landlords, train operating companies and bodies contracted or subcontracted to provide goods and/or services to government and NDPBs, and to Entrust (the regulator of the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme) where the existing non-statutory access will be made statutory under the terms of the Government's response to Lord Sharman's report.

A regulatory impact assessment (RIA) setting out the impact the orders are expected to have on bodies and individuals potentially affected by them has been deposited today in the Libraries of both Houses. The RIA notes that the impact of the orders is not expected to be significant, with the overall cost of the new arrangements expected to be broadly the same as if the current arrangements had continued. It acknowledges that the new arrangements may not be completely without cost in each individual case. However, the RIA concludes that, in the light of assurances given by the C&AG, the Government are satisfied that on balance the advantages and disadvantages of these arrangements add up to a clear and continuing net gain for Parliament and the public.

It is the Government's further intention that the C&AG should have access on a non-statutory basis for his value for money (VFM) examinations to the same bodies as are designated under the order in respect of his financial audit functions. Access to such bodies would not be for the purpose of conducting a VFM examination of the bodies themselves; the access would be exercised solely in connection with VFM examinations of public sector bodies. The Government will provide this access through conditions on the award of grants, conditions in contracts and other agreements as appropriate.


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