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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The report of the Advisory Group on Openness in the Public Sector was published today. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library and are available on the Home Office website. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will reply to the report when he has consulted ministerial colleagues.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: No. The White Paper made clear that these backlogs would be cleared over a period of time, with a target of completion by April 2001. Applications made in the period between 1 July 1993 and 31 December 1995 are being, and will continue to be, decided according to the criteria in paragraph 8.30 of the White Paper.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Responsibility for the appointment of visiting ministers rests with the governor of each establishment. No changes have been made to the arrangements. Guidance on the recruitment process is given in the Prison Service directory and guide to religious practice, amended in 1992, and in recruitment guidance notes issued in 1994. The guidance states that in appointing a non-Christian visiting minister the governor should initially approach the local place of worship for the faith concerned, and in the case of Buddhist visiting ministers, the Buddhist organisation Angulimala. Additionally, the Prison Service has agreed that two Shia Muslim imams should be appointed as visiting ministers to the small population of Shia Muslims in prison.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Since 1985, records collected for the Home Office Court Proceedings Database (England and Wales) show no defendants proceeded against under the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 for this offence. Records available centrally in Northern Ireland and Scotland also show no proceedings since the introduction of the Act.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): From April 2000, £100 million will be distributed across all local education authorities, funding around 83,000 new free places for three year-olds in the greatest social need.
To allocate funds to each authority, a target participation rate was calculated based on the index of deprivation used for the Sure Start programme. This index was developed from the Government's Index of Local Deprivation, augmented by two additional factors relating to young children. Authorities with the highest deprivation rates were set the highest target participation rate. Funding was then allocated on the basis of the difference between the target participation rate and the existing number of maintained places.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We will carefully consider all the comments we receive about the proposed national standards in Fit for the Future before finalising the standards and the
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Nineteen Primary Care Groups (PCGs) are currently consulting on their proposals to become Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) on 1 April 2000. A further 42 wish to become PCTs from 1 October 2000. We are delighted with this high level of interest in taking real steps to improve health care for local patients.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): On 1 December the Government announced that Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) hygiene inspection charges for the whole of 1999-2000 would be held at the levels set for 1998-1999. This will result in a saving to the meat industry of some £7 million in charges in 1999-2000. The Government have also given a commitment that the rates of MHS hygiene inspection charges in 2000-01 should not rise by more than the level of inflation above the levels charged in 1999-2000.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government's 1997 New Beginnings policy statement set out the way forward for addressing the health concerns of Gulf veterans and included a statement of the MoD's commitment to review specific events in response to Gulf veterans' concerns that they were exposed to chemical weapons during the Gulf conflict. The work reviewing the incident at Khamisiyah in March 1991 has now been completed and my honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces has today published a detailed paper entitled Review of the events concerning 32 Field Hospital and the Release of Nerve Agent Arising from US Demolition of Iraqi Munitions at the Khamisiyah Depot in March 1991. In conjunction with this he has published a detailed paper that provides the background to the UK's chemical warfare defence entitled British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict (1990-91). Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.
As a result of our review of the information on the Khamisiyah incident, we do not believe there is evidence that any UK troops were definitely exposed to Iraqi chemical agents on 10 or 11 March 1991. Although some British troops were located within the computer modelled composite plume footprint, such theoretical exposure would have been at a very low level. We judge that if such an exposure took place it would present no risk to health.
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