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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Public Enquiry Office (PEO) at Lunar House has experienced an increase in callers over the past 12 months of over 20 per cent., which equates to a total of between 850 and over 1,000 callers each day.
The PEO has the accommodation and staffing resources to consider applications for between 650 and 700 callers each day. As a result, a large number of callers cannot get their cases completed on the day of their visit. This also makes it impractical to offer queuing priority to those whose cases cannot be completed on the day of their visit. However, every caller who visits the PEO receives advice on their application and the opportunity to leave their application to be dealt with by post. Alternative facilities are being developed for the quick handling of postal enquiries with the aim of freeing the service to those callers who need it urgently.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Through the introduction of team working, additional staff resources from five other groups are now available to assist the processing of applications for further leave to remain by business people and investors. This has already resulted in the delays being reduced from eight months to a current maximum of four months. The position is expected to improve over the coming months. Where it is not possible to resolve an application before a business person needs to travel, a travel extension of three months may be granted if the application is valid and in-time. Work permit holders, whose permission to work has been extended, may have their passports stamped at ports on production of the relevant documentary evidence.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: There has been no significant effect on the processing of applications arising from the closure of the limited facilities at Norwich and Harwich. The large increase in callers to the Lunar House Public Enquiry Office--far in excess of the small number of callers who used to use Norwich and Harwich--has necessitated changes aimed at preserving as far as possible the service given to personal callers. A representative may only present one application for a client and the number of representatives dealt with in any day has to be restricted depending on the number of personal callers. Alternative postal services involving "fast track" decision taking are being developed to compensate for restrictions on both representatives and personal callers.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Under the terms of the Casework Programme contract, progress towards full implementation is in six phases. Work is currently proceeding on the fourth of these phases (design and development of the supporting infrastructure), which is planned to be completed by 31 October. Implementation begins in the fifth phase (system acceptance and pilot review) and is expected to have reached an intermediate stage in the Croydon offices by 30 April next year: this will mark the end of the fifth phase. The final phase, during which implementation in Croydon will be completed and the availability of the system will be extended to the Nationality Directorate in Liverpool and certain other Immigration and Nationality Directorate and Immigration Service locations, is planned to end on 31 October next year.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The following departments are involved in the review of the detailed criteria used in considering licence applications to export conventional arms:
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The threat to transport operations change and are kept under constant review by government agencies. Security systems are being designed into the new facilities at Paddington to ensure, as far as possible, that any risks which are likely to arise can be adequately managed. My department, the operator, the British Transport Police and Railtrack are all involved in the development of the security system and it will be our objective to establish a system where all parties are content. As usual the cost of assessing threat and risk falls to government; the cost of installing and running the system will fall to the operator.
Baroness Hayman: The Government is committed to improving bus services in London and has recently set tough new quality of service targets for London Transport Buses. How they manage their operations in order to meet their financial and quality targets is a matter for them.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): Fisheries Ministers met UK industry representatives on 15 July 1997 for high level talks on the future of the fishing industry. We shall consult fishermen's organisations more widely on reform of the common fisheries policy in due course.
Lord Sewel: To receive the full rate of planting grant under the Woodland Grant Scheme, the Forestry Commission will usually expect applicants to plant at least 2,250 trees per hectare. For broadleaved trees, a density of 1,100 trees per hectare may be acceptable in certain circumstances.
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