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Written Answers

Monday, 23rd June 2003.

Ulster-Scots Agency

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the decision to cut the budget of the Ulster-Scots Agency in 2003 by 16 per cent represents a concern about the activities, culture, language and identity which it promotes; if so, why; and, if not, why was the budget cut.[HL3276]

The Lord President of the Council (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The activity of the two agencies since 1999 has been considered satisfactory in terms of contributing to fulfilling their statutory functions. As the noble Lord is aware, work is now under way to increase the budget of the North/South Language Body.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure will allow funding from the New Opportunities Fund to be made available to the Ulster-Scots Agency. [HL3324]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The National Lottery is a reserved matter. Overall responsibility for the lottery rests with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The Government set out the overall broad framework and priorities for the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) programmes, through policy directions issued by DCMS, and NOF then develops and delivers suitable programmes. Decisions on the allocation of funds from NOF to individual projects are a matter for NOF and are made independently of government.

North/South Ministerial Council

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What public holidays are observed by the staff of the North/South Ministerial Council in Armagh each year. [HL3327]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Northern Ireland civil servants working in the North/South Ministerial Council in Armagh observe the 12 public and privilege holidays set out in the NICS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook. The public holidays observed by Irish Government civil servants are a matter for the Irish Government.

Affirmative Instruments

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When was the last occasion on which after the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments had reported that an affirmative instrument was based

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    on doubtful or inadequate vires they nevertheless brought the instrument before the House in an unamended form; and how many such occasions there have been since 1 January 1990. [HL3357]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: This information is not held and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Bail

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking to reduce the numbers of prisoners held on remand pending trial, in particular those not charged with violent crimes.[HL2843]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The issue of bail is for the courts to decide following clearly set out procedures. The statutory structure is provided primarily by the Bail Act 1976 which creates a presumption to bail for all defendants involved in criminal proceedings. The Government believe that bail should be withheld in all appropriate cases, but are equally concerned that no one is remanded in custody unless the circumstances demand it.

The Criminal Justice Bill creates a presumption that an adult defendant who is charged with an imprisonable offence will not be granted bail in certain circumstances. These are:


    i. where he has failed without reasonable excuse to surrender to custody in answer to bail for that offence, or


    ii. where the offence appears to have been committed while the defendant was already on bail, or


    iii. where (having tested for a specified class A drug) he refuses to undergo an assessment as to his dependency or propensity to misuse such drugs, or, following an assessment, refused any relevant follow-up action recommended, or


    iv. unless the court is satisfied that there is no significant risk that if released he would fail to surrender, or (as the case may be) commit an offence. The Government consider that any increase in remands in custody as a result of these provisions will be justified in order to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and to protect the public.

For young offenders we are working at reducing the number of unnecessary secure remands. We have introduced bail supervision and support schemes,

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made the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme for juveniles on bail and brought in electronic tagging of 12 to 16 year-olds who may be granted court bail or remanded to local authority accommodation.

Immigration Controls

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans there are to strengthen immigration control to ensure that people coming in to the United Kingdom do so in accordance with the Immigration Rules. [HL3568]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government are firmly committed to maintaining effective immigration controls while at the same time ensuring that genuine passengers are able to pass through our ports with the least possible incovenience.

The number of people arriving at UK airports who are found to be inadmissible is unacceptably high. Certain nationals, who are required to hold a valid visa to enter the UK, may transit this country for up to 24 hours without a visa. This provides a relatively easy and inexpensive way for those who are intent on circumventing our immigration controls to do so. We have identified nationals of 16 countries—Albania, Belarus, Burma, Burundi, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Liberia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Nepal, the Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Vietnam—as posing a particular problem in this respect. Therefore from 00.01 hours on Tuesday 24 June all nationals of those 16 countries/territories wishing to transit the UK will require a visa to do so.

To avoid undue hardship for those who had already made their travel plans, we have agreed to operate a grace period. Until 23.59 hours on 28 June any transit passenger who bought their ticket on or before 23 June will not be refused entry solely on the basis of not holding a valid transit visa. Also, any person on the return leg of a journey they commenced before 23 June and who passed through the UK on the outward leg of their journey will be allowed to transit the UK without the visa.

Tenants: Forfeiture of Property

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, if a tenant has failed to pay a service charge of £1,000, the property on which that service charge is levied regardless of its value, could become forfeit; and, if so, whether they have any plans to change this position.[HL3339]

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The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): Where failure to pay service charges is concerned, regardless of the amount, forefeiture cannot take place until the amount of service charge is agreed or admitted by the tenant, or has been the subject of a determination by a court, leasehold valuation tribunal or arbitral tribunal.

In practice forfeiture rarely occurs. Through the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is strengthening the existing legislative powers so that leaseholders will have to receive written demands for ground rent, service charges and administration charges from the landlord before exorbitant amounts can accrue and forfeiture proceedings commence. It is also intended that service and administration charges will remain outstanding for three years and be over the prescribed sum of £350 before the landlord is allowed to serve a Section 146 notice and thus commence forfeiture proceedings.

Positive Activities for Young People: Funding

Lord Smith of Leigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Ashton of Upholland on 2 June (WA 123), what were the precise weightings that were given to the particular factors to produce the distribution of Positive Activities for Young People funding for Greater Manchester. [HL3200]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The following factors and weightings were used in the funding formula for PAYP: areas that had Summer Plus provision in the previous year were given a 0.10 weighting (this reflects the Behaviour Improvement Areas as Summer Plus was targeted in these areas); areas that had Splash and Splash Extra provision were given a 0.06 weighting; areas previously targeted under Community Cohesion were given a 0.04 weighting; and new Excellence in Cities areas were given a 0.10 weighting. Where more than one factor was relevant for an LEA, the weightings were added to give a cumulative total. These weightings were applied to Greater Manchester in the following way: Bolton 0.16, Bury 0.0, Manchester 0.16, Oldham 0.16, Rochdale 0.16, Salford 0.16, Stockport 0.06, Tameside 0.10, Trafford 0.06, Wigan 0.0.

People on Benefits: Malnutrition

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have on the state of mulnutrition among those on means-tested benefits;

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    and whether the rate among those who have been subject to benefit sanctions is higher or lower than those on means-tested benefits as a whole. [HL3285]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Diet and nutritional status is assessed through a series of surveys; the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys, the Expenditure and Food Survey and the Health Survey for England. These surveys provide no direct evidence on the incidence of malnutrition in those in receipt of income-related benefits or those subject to benefit sanctions.

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Government Economic Services: Salary Costs

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the annual salary cost of the 800 economists employed by the Government Economic Services. [HL3284]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): This information is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.



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