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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Since December 1994, 61 prisoners have requested either a permanent or temporary transfer to Northern Ireland; 20 of these requests have been granted; seven requests have been refused and
Baroness Blatch: Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons by the Republic of Ireland came into force on 1 November. Forty-nine prisoners have since requested repatriation there. To date none has been determined.
Baroness Blatch: The Government's decision to transfer Recruitment and Assessment Services (RAS) to the private sector was announced on 23 November by the former Parliamentary Secretary in the other place, Mr. Horam. Freed from the constraints it faces operating within the pubic sector, RAS will be better able to improve services to existing customers and to pursue business opportunities in wider markets. Privatisation therefore offers the best way to secure the long-term interests of both staff and customers, as well as the taxpayer.
How much money will be saved by denying entitlement to the mobility component to people with learning disability: (a) in National Health Service hospitals, and (b) in National Health Service community homes; and
Whether they will list the reasons identified for less than full use of the mobility component for the benefit of some hospital in-patients; and
What research was undertaken before the change of policy on payments of the mobility allowance mobility component to people in National Health Service residential care.
The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The Government propose to align the arrangements for payment of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance to people in hospital more closely with those for similar benefits, where payment is suspended after a period of hospital in-patient treatment. There is no information held about the number of people with learning disabilities likely to be affected by this proposal but overall savings have been estimated at £40 million per year. There are no plans to extend this proposal to people in non-National Health Service (NHS) residential care.
In making this proposal, Ministers took account of information about the use to which hospital in-patients put their mobility component. This was obtained through discussions between officials and NHS staff held at a number of trusts throughout the country, responsible for a wide range of patient groups. This demonstrated that, whilst in hospital; most patient needs are met by the NHS; patients admitted for acute treatment have very limited mobility needs; patients in longer term care may have some scope for independent mobility (dependent on the severity and nature of their disability) but a large part of the benefit payment tends to be used to buy personal items, such as distinctive bedding, televisions and clothes, or left to accrue in bank accounts.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Neither NATO nor any contingent in the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) will arm and train Bosnian Government forces. President Clinton has confirmed in writing to Congress that, in order to assure the impartiality of IFOR, providing arms and training to the Federation forces will not be done by either IFOR or US forces.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have carefully considered indicative offers for the ownership of the Natural Resources Institute received by the closing date of 16 October. The Government's objective is a transfer of ownership which will continue to provide a centre of multidisciplinary expertise on the sustainable management of renewable natural resources for ODA and other customers, gives staff a fair future, and represents value for money for the taxpayer. I have
First, and most important, Britain stands by its commitment to the people of Gibraltar, enshrined in the 1969 constitution. The Government will not enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.
Secondly, we continue to recognise the validity of the Treaty of Utrecht, which established British title to Gibraltar. Article X of the treaty gave Spain the right of "first refusal" if Gibraltar ceased to be British. Any constitutional change would have to be compatible with the Treaty of Utrecht and sustainable in practice. Independence would only be an option for Gibraltar if Spain agreed.
Thirdly, Spain is Gibraltar's immediate neighbour. The Government recognise the importance of negotiations with Spain, including through the Brussels Process, to overcome the existing differences over Gibraltar. Our ultimate goal is to achieve a lasting solution which is acceptable to all parties and mutually beneficial.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Copies of Dame Elizabeth Anson's 1994 report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. We welcome the report, which confirms Dame Elizabeth's satisfaction with the decisions taken by the Entry Clearance Officers in the overwhelming majority of the cases she monitored. We will consider carefully Dame Elizabeth's recommendations, some of which are already being implemented.
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