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Local Government: Northern Ireland

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: asked Her Majesty's Government:

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.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

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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.

NCIS: Proceeds of Crime

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

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.

NCIS: Tax Evasion

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

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.

NHS: Cochlear Implant Treatment

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

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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 department is supporting the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, which will be working with stakeholders to develop commissioning guidelines for cochlear implants in England.

Northern Bank Robbery

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

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.

As this is an ongoing investigation, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the details of this policing operation at this time.
 
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Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: To date, three persons have been charged with offences connected to the Northern Bank robbery. Their cases have not yet come to trial. The investigation is ongoing.

Northern Ireland: Festivals

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

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.

Arrangements are being made to claw back the overpayment.

Official Travel: Royal Train

Lord Hanningfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

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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