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Whether any infrastructural audit has been untaken of accommodation available to facilitate their proposals for a re-structured seven council local government arrangement in Northern Ireland; and, if so, when the results of that audit will be made available; and [HL5383]
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): The issue of accommodation/location of council buildings was not a consideration in the Review of Public Administration. However, it is expected that councils will need to utilise most of the existing accommodation in order to provide effective service delivery through their council areas.
Estate decisions are and will remain the responsibility of councils. The estate sub-group of the Local Government Taskforce will consider the issues arising from making these decisions and will consider how these might be addressed.
Which representations from corporate bodies influenced their decision to change to a seven council local government arrangement in Northern Ireland; and whether there is any working link between these bodies and local government. [HL5386]
Lord Rooker: In reaching final decisions on the future model for local government in Northern Ireland, Ministers took into account the full range of evidence gathered over the course of the Review of Public Administration including: research into the distribution of the property wealth base, population, socio and economic issues, and local identity consideration of equality, social need, population spread and where people live and work focus groups, omnibus surveys and responses to the consultation.
How many suspicious activity reports were made to the National Criminal Intelligence Service under the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations 2003 in the calendar year 2005 and in each of the most recent three months for which records are available. [HL5454]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The final number of reports made to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, under the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations 2003 for 2005 was 194,730. For the first quarter for 2006 the number was 53,906.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The National Criminal Intelligence Service ceased to exist on 1 April 2006 when the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) was launched. Around 1,200 NCIS staff joined SOCA, together with staff from the National Crime Squad, HM Revenue and Customs and immigration officers, bringing together a total of around 4,300 people who are employed by SOCA. None of these SOCA officers will be engaged in following up suspicions of tax evasion as this is a matter for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.
Whether they will recommend that primary care trusts should form commissioning groups with a view to (a) providing a higher level of implant rates and a uniform rate across the United Kingdom; and (b) setting targets for implants. [HL5144]
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): Cochlear implant treatment will be advised by clinicians and agreed with patients and their families; funding approval will be given by primary care trusts or, where collectively commissioned, by local specialised commissioning groups. Currently 12 (out of 26) local specialised commissioning groups collectively commission cochlear implant services, of which 10 have a financial risk sharing arrangement.
Although the Department of Health is responsible for setting overall policy in respect of National Health Service services, individual commissioners have a significant degree of flexibility to manage and direct their own resources in accordance with local priorities and the needs of the communities to which they are accountable.
Although there are no current plans to review the management of cochlear implant treatment, a review of commissioning arrangements for specialised services, of which cochlear implant treatment is one, is underway and due to report to Ministers in the near future. It will make recommendations on ways to strengthen and ensure more consistent primary care trust collaborative commissioning behaviour across the country.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): The Police Service of Northern Ireland resources are allocated in line with the operational needs of all current investigations. For this reason the number of officers tasked to any investigation can fluctuate.
Whether there was an overpayment of £3,100 by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to the Ardoyne Nationalist Festival in 2004; and, if so, what were the circumstances in which the overpayment was made. [HL5281]
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): Yes, an overpayment of £3,100 was made in 2004 between the Department for Social Development and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. In June 2004, funding of up to £70,080 was allocated to the Ardoyne Festival. However, the detailed business information identified the actual shortfall as £66,980. The full amount of £70,080 was subsequently paid in error.
Whether any Minister, special adviser or official has travelled on the Royal train since 1997; and on each occasion (a) what was the purpose of the journey; (b) what were the starting point and destination; (c) what was the estimated cost of the journey; and (d) whether a member of the Royal Family was present during the journey. [HL5224]
Lord Davies of Oldham: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions on 19 April 2000 (Official Report, col. 490W). The position has not changed.
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