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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): An Order in Council (The Consular Fees Order 1994) was made on 2 November which provides for increases of around 50 per cent. in certain consular fees with effect from 24 November 1994. Passport (save for emergency passports) and visa fees are not included. It is government policy that the cost of consular services should be borne by the users as far as possible.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): We have today placed copies of the Department of Environment's publication Houses in Multiple Occupation--A Consultation Paper on the Case for Licensing in the Library. It has also been circulated to all local authorities in England and to other interested parties. Additional copies can be obtained from the department.
We share the widespread concern about the poor conditions and fire risks in some houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). However, we have an open mind about whether licensing of all HMOs is the most effective way forward, and before contemplating legislation we need to consider the cost implications for both landlords and tenants and be convinced that licensing is both essential and practical. Alternatives to full scale licensing, including the tightening of existing fire safety regulations for HMOs, are also considered in the consultation paper.
The issue of hotels in resort areas catering mainly for benefit recipients is covered largely as a separate issue in the paper. They are already subject to additional planning controls but it is for consideration whether these powers should be replaced by an HMO licensing system which would also cover these hostels.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced the outcome of the review into the operation of the prison home leave and temporary release schemes last Friday. Details of our decisions and copies of the report of the prison service working group have been placed in the Library of the House.
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