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Written Answers

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1993

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Written Answers

Tuesday, 27th July 1993

Magistrates' Courts Committees: Amalgamations

asked Her Majesty's Government:What conclusions they have reached about the amalgamation of magistrates' courts committees outside Greater London.

The White Paper A New Framework for Local Justice, published in February 1992, announced our intention of reducing the number of magistrates' courts committee areas from the present 105 to 50-60 in due course. In the light of extensive consultation with magistrates' courts committees and others in the magistrates' courts service, I have concluded that the following magistrates' courts committees outside Greater London should be amalgamated:Manchester City, Tameside, Oldham and Stockport;Trafford, Salford, Wigan, Bury, Rochdale and Bolton;Knowsley, Liverpool, St. Helens, Sefton and Wirral;Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull;Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton;Newcastle Upon Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland;Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland;Leeds and Wakefield;Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees;Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham;Avon and Somerset;Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire;Hereford and Worcester and Shropshire;Hampshire and the Isle of Wight;Devon and Cornwall;Warwickshire and Staffordshire.In Wales, the new magistrates' courts committee areas will cover the following unitary authority areas:Anglesey, Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire, Aberconwy and Colwyn, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham;Powys, Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire;Swansea, West Glamorgan and Bridgend;Vale of Glamorgan, Glamorgan Valleys and Cardiff;

Heads of the Valleys, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Newport and Monmouthshire.

These amalgamations can be brought into effect only by an order made by the Lord Chancellor. At present such an order can be made only on the application of the local magistrates. Legislation will be introduced at the earliest opportunity to enable me to make such an order. Before making any order amalgamating magistrates' courts committees area, I will take into account the views of those affected. No order will be made without an opportunity for those locally to make representations. I will therefore require local consultation to have taken place, and views reported to me, when considering whether an order should be made.

All other committee areas outside London should remain organised as they are at present. I will announce my decisions about the future organisation of the magistrates' courts service in London separately.

Serious Fraud Office: Secondees

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is the case, as reported in the

Independent on 3rd July, that within the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) "parent firms confirm prior to a secondment that secondees (from accountancy and law firms to the SFO) will advise the SFO of any potential conflicts of interest": what are the grounds for this assumption of trustworthiness; and whether no other vetting of "secondees" takes place before secondment takes place.

The Serious Fraud Office has a policy of appointing at Assistant Director level a small number of senior accountants seconded by leading accountancy firms. Prior to such an appointment the parent firm will be asked to confirm that its secondee will advise the SFO of any potential conflict of interest. One of the conditions of the terms of appointment is that the secondee will disclose to the SFO all possible conflicts of interest as they arise. This accords with professional practice. No lawyers have been seconded to the SFO by law firms. All potential secondees, in addition to being interviewed, are required to complete the same forms as other applicants for Civil Service posts. These include a character inquiry form which is used as part of the vetting process.

Legal Aid: Divorce Proceedings Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:What percentage of the total cost of Legal Aid is taken up by divorce proceedings and whether this percentage is rising.

The percentage of total net legal aid expenditure in respect of proceedings ancillary to divorce and defended divorce proceedings (excluding Green Form legal advice and assistance) in the last three years for which information is available is as follows:

1989-9012·4 per cent.£70 million
1990-9112·5 per cent.£85 million
1991-9212·7 per cent.£115 million
Legal aid is not normally available for undefended divorce proceedings. Green Form advice is however available. It is not possible to give separate net figures for individual categories of Green Form expenditure. Gross Green Form expenditure on divorce proceedings (including judicial separation) in 1989-90, 1990-91 and 1991-92 was £22 million, £24 million and £28 million respectively. This accounted for 33-3 per cent., 33.3 per cent. and 28 per cent. of total gross expenditure on Green Form.

Cycling: Facilities

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many officials of the Department of Transport are employed in the planning of the development of cycling as a means of transport and how many are employed in the planning of the building of roads.

The Department of Transport is directly responsible for the trunk road programme, and as part of that provides facilities for cyclists where appropriate. Its role towards cycling on local roads is to encourage local authorities to make suitable provision for cycling, including through the new package approach. We support this role through experimental studies into ways of making cycling safer and more convenient, and general guidance and technical advice to local authorities.

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to be able to announce their new package of measures for the encouragement of the greater and safer use of cycles in towns.

Responsibility for taking measures to make cycling safer and more attractive on roads in towns rests primarily with local highway authorities. The new package approach the Department of Transport is introducing will provide a new stimulus to local authority initiatives on cycling. We will continue to promote the safety of cycling as part of its wider safety objectives, as illustrated by its campaign this year to encourage the wearing of cycle safety helmets. We will also continue to conduct experimental studies into measures to make cycling safer and more convenient and to provide guidance and technical advice to local authorities.

Railways: Pension Provisions

To ask Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Transport, the British Rail Pension Trustee Company and the British Railways Board, on British Rail pensions after privatisation ("the Memorandum of Understanding") is contractually binding; if not, whether they will put it into a form which is contractually binding; and whether they will incorporate it into the Railways Bill.

The parties to the Memorandum of Understanding are fully committed to it. We are considering whether further amendments are required to the pensions provisions of the Railways Bill.

asked Her Majesty's Government:In what circumstances they envisage that there might be "future deficiencies" in the closed fund provided for by the Memorandum of Understanding.

Such deficiencies would arise if the joint actuaries to the scheme advised that, in their opinion, the assets of the scheme would be unable to meet its future liabilities. There could be a variety of reasons why a deficiency might arise, including poorer investment returns than anticipated when benefits had been set.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why, under the Memorandum of Understanding, British Rail pensioners should benefit from only 40 per cent. of the closed fund, when at present (subject to the agreement of the Employer) they can benefit from 100 per cent.

Under the rules of the British Rail pension scheme, in normal circumstances employees pay 40 per cent. of the total contributions to the scheme, the employer paying the remaining 60 per cent. This division has been the basis for previous allocations of surplus.

asked Her Majesty's Government:What protection the Memorandum of Understanding gives to existing, deferred and future pensioners in the present British Rail pension scheme, particularly in respect of Retail Prices Index-plus benefits.

The arrangements are set out in the Memorandum of Understanding itself. The principal protection is that the Government will provide an absolute solvency guarantee for retail prices index-linked payments from the fund (in line with provisions of the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 and the Social Security Act 1975) of pensions already in payment and those which have been deferred as at the target date of 1st October 1994. In addition the Memorandum of Understanding provides protection for those who leave British Rail employment after the closed fund is set up.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Memorandum of Understanding has been presented to the Occupational Pensions Board for consideration.

We have made the Occupational Pensions Board aware of the proposals. We shall consult them during the drafting of subsequent documents.

Whether the Government Director provided for by the Memorandum of Understanding will be a trustee acting in the interests of beneficiaries.

We are taking advice on this point. But pension scheme trustees are in any event required to act in the interests of all persons with an interest in the scheme, including the guarantor.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why, under the Memorandum of Understanding the government director should "decide on the investment of the special reserve" rather than any surpluses going back into the general fund, and why he or she should have a veto over the distribution of any surplus.

The purpose of these provisions is to protect the interests of the taxpayer now that we have agreed to provide a solvency guarantee for the closed fund. The special reserve is to be held as a buffer against any future deficiencies; since we would meet any such deficiencies, it is appropriate for the government director to decide how the reserve should be invested.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why, under the Memorandum of Understanding, the Secretary of State has the power to veto any change in contribution rates and any benefit increases over increases in the Retail Prices Index.

This provision is to protect the interests of the taxpayer. Without it, the Government's commitment to safeguarding the relevant pension entitlements would not be protected from the financial consequences of unreasonable reductions in contributions or increases in benefits.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Trustee Board has considered the arrangements contained in the Memorandum of Understanding and, if so, whether a copy of its resolution will be placed in the Library.

This is a matter for the board of directors of the British Rail Pension Trustee Company Limited.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the beneficiaries of the existing British Rail pension scheme have been consulted about the arrangements contained in the Memorandum of Understanding.

This is a matter for the trustees of the British Rail Pension Scheme.

Vehicle Inspectorate: Annual Report

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the Vehicle Inspectorate Executive Agency Annual Report will be published.

The inspectorate's annual report has been published, copies will be placed in the Library.

Railtrack: Finance

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will ensure that the proposed creation of Railtrack in April 1994 and the introduction of a new track charging regime will not result in additional financial burdens falling on metropolitan local authorities.

We have given a commitment to the metropolitan local authorities that, if the restructuring of the railway industry results in higher charges in 1994-95 for the service levels that they currently support, measures will be taken, including, if necessary, the payment of special grants, to ensure that these changes do not result in an additional financial burden falling on them in 1994-95. We will be discussing the position for future years with the metropolitan local authorities.

Railway Lines: Noise Regulations

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the proposed noise insulation regulations for new railway lines will be issued for consultation.

A consultation document about the draft regulations and associated technical memorandum will be issued shortly and copies will be placed in the Library. The consultation period will extend until mid-November.

Bus Users: Information Provision

asked Her Majesty's Government:What studies are underway in the Department of Transport on the provision of information for bus users.

The Transport Research Laboratory is conducting a research project for the Department of Transport to examine gaps in the current provision of information for bus users, the types of information passengers value most highly, and the extent to which cost-effective information provision can increase bus patronage. The project will include surveys in four selected study areas. The research should he completed next spring.

Train Operators: Concessionary Fares

asked Her Majesty's Government:What provision they are making to require franchised train operators to participate in the concessionary fares scheme administered by passenger transport authorities, passenger transport executives and other local authorities in their respective areas.

The way such schemes work is by ensuring that the operator of the services suffers no net loss as a result of participating in the scheme.

We therefore expect that passenger railway service operators will be willing to participate on a voluntary basis following privatisation, as British Rail does now.

Nevertheless, under the new clause added to the Railways Bill at Committee stage in respect of fares and discount schemes, every franchise agreement will include a provision requiring the franchise operator to participate in, charge fares in accordance with, and otherwise comply with the requirements of discount fares schemes approved by the franchising director. We also intend to instruct the franchising director to include a provision in franchise agreements which will enable the franchising director to require franchisees to take part in local authority concessionary fares schemes, provided that there is no net cost to the franchisee or the franchising director. It would thus be possible for a local authority which wanted a franchisee to join its scheme to request the franchising director to invoke this provision in the franchise agreement.

It would also be possible for the PTAs/PTEs to seek to include a provision in the franchising agreements to which they are a party requiring the franchisee to join in their concessionary fares schemes.

Coastal Netting Stations: Scotland

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many coastal netting stations in (a) the Moray Firth area and (b) other parts of Scotland, are owned and leased out by the Crown Estate Commissioners, and over what range of years have these leases yet to run.

Four netting stations are leased out in the Moray Firth area; the leases are due to expire between November 1994 and November 1996. In the remainder of Scotland 62 stations are on lease; these have expiry dates between November 1993 and November 1998.

Salmon And Sea Trout Netting: Crown Estate Commissioners' Staff

asked Her Majesty's Government:In the year ending 31st March 1993, how many persons were employed by the Crown Estate Commissioners (a) full-time and (b) part-time in connection with the commercial netting of salmon and sea trout.

Four staff are employed full-time, and six on a seasonal basis.

Government Policy

asked Her Majesty's Government:Pursuant to their Answer of 30th June whether there is a difference between a statement by a Minister which represents government policy and one which is consistent with government policy.

The Earl of Caithness: The expression "represents government policy" might be reserved for comprehensive explanations of specific policy, while the expression "consistent with government policy" could cover more general remarks.

Rpi Weightings

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will give the weightings in the main components of the basket of items which have composed the Retail Prices Index for 1960, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985 and 1990 together with the current composition of the RPI basket.

Details of the current composition and weights of the RPI were published in the April 1993 edition of the Central Statistical Office's business Monitor M M23 Retail Prices Index. Historical weights for 1960, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985 and 1990 can be found in the CSO publication Retail Prices 1914-1990. Copies of these publications are available in the Library.

Inheritance Tax: Exemptions

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether exemptions from inheritance tax granted before 1976 pass to the new owner of the exempted items on the death of the pre-1976 owner and, if so, whether the new owner is obliged to allow public access to those items.

Conditional exemption may be claimed on the death of the owner of a work of art exempted on a previous occasion before 1976. If conditional exemption is sought and granted the new owner will have to preserve the object, keep it in the UK and provide reasonable public access to it. The old exemption will then lapse. If conditional exemption is not granted on the death of the pre-1976 owner, inheritance tax will be chargeable in the normal way. In addition, if the original exemption was given under the estate duty rules, any undertakings given for the estate duty exemption will either remain in force or, where undertakings were given after 5th August 1965, will have to be renewed. A subsequent sale of the object or failure to observe or, where appropriate, renew any old undertakings will lead to an estate duty charge.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether agreements allowing public access to items exempt from Inheritance Tax apply to items exempted before 1976.

Reasonable access for members of the public is required for all works of art granted conditional exemption on a transfer made after 6th April 1976. Where the last chargeable transfer of the work of art was between 29th July 1950 and 6th April 1976, the owner has to provide access only to researchers. For earlier transfers, there is no right of access to researchers or to the public.

Social Security Benefit (Expenditure)

asked Her Majesty's Government:How the projection of future benefit expenditure in

The Growth of Social Security would have been affected if present day unemployment were calculated by methods in use in 1979.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security
(Lord Henley)

The information is not available.

National Lottery: Licence Tendering

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will indicate the timetable for the process of tendering for the licence to run the national lottery.

The National Lottery etc. Bill has now been read a third time in this House and the only stage remaining is consideration of Lords amendments in another place. Its passage is therefore virtually completed, and we expect the National Lottery etc. Bill to receive Royal Assent in the autumn. The director general will be appointed and the invitation to tender will he issued shortly thereafter. It is therefore intended that urgent work on the preparation of the invitation to tender, and on the selection process for the national lottery operator, should now be set in hand, in consultation with the regulatory Adviser whom we expect to appoint shortly. Parliamentary approval to this new service will be sought in a Winter Supplementary Estimate for the Office of the National Lottery Vote (Class XI, Vote 8), the main Estimate for which was presented to Parliament on 17th June. Pending that approval and Royal Assent to the National Lottery etc. Bill, urgent expenditure estimated at £200,000 will be met b repayable advances from the Contingencies Fund. The fact that the National Lottery etc. Bill has completed virtually all of its Parliamentary stages is a material factor in the decision to seek recourse to the Contingencies Fund.

Science And Technology Expenditure: Value For Money

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the timescale over which the Government's specific policies are designed to get maximum value for money from our annual public expenditure of some £6 billion on science and technology (Paragraph 1.18 of Cm 2250).

The Government's commitment to securing maximum value for money from its expenditure on science and technology is and will remain central to its policies.

Science, Engineering And Technology

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why they have decided, given the "widely perceived contrast between our excellence in science and technology and our relative weakness in exploiting them to economic advantage", that "steps should be taken which …will help" to bring "that strength in science and engineering …into closer …contact with those responsible for industrial and commercial decisions", rather than to bring the latter into closer contact with the former, White Paper on Science Policy (paragraphs 1.13 and 1.16 of Cm 2250).

The White Paper on Science, Engineering and Technology aims to bring the science and engineering base—of which the Government is the main funder—into closer contact with industry (paragraph 1.16). But it also encourages interaction between industry and all providers of science and technology, as is made clear in the Industry Department mission statements which the White Paper contains (page 9).

Gibraltar: Airport Agreement

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is their reaction to the recent judgment by the European Court of Justice confirming Gibraltar's suspension from an EC air services directive.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

The judgment has no implications for our title over Gibraltar or for the status of the 1987 Airport Agreement. We continue to believe that implementation of the agreement, updated as necessary to reflect subsequent directives, would be in the best interests of Gibraltar. It would in particular remove Gibraltar's suspension from EC air liberalisation measures.

Westminster Foundation For Democracy

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the annual report of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy will be available.

Copies of the foundation's first annual report were placed in the Libraries of the House today. In its first 13 months, with funding of £1·2 million, the foundation supported about 140 projects in 32 countries, ranging from the provision of an adviser to the President of Albania to the training of Russian ex-army officers as social workers. The average cost of each project was £13,500. We welcome the diversity of the foundation's projects, and its commitment to continuous improvement in the already high degree of their cost-effectiveness.

Foreign Affairs Council, 19Th-20Th July

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will report on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council held on 19th-20th July 1993.

My right honour-able friends the Foreign Secretary, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Heathcoat-Amory, and the Minister for Trade attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 19th July.In a debate in open session on the presidency's programme, EC colleagues echoed our emphasis on the need to pursue the Edinburgh and Copenhagen initiatives to increase growth, jobs and competitive-ness.The council adopted six new regulations governing the structural funds. Agreement was also reached on financial allocations for member states' Objective 1 regions. The UK will receive 2·43 becu for the period 1994–99 for its Objective 1 regions (Northern Ireland, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and Merseyside).The council discussed the Commission's draft directive to extend the franchise for European Parliamentary elections. Several member states, including the UK, criticised the draft for being too detailed. The presidency recommended a light directive for the 1994 elections. A revised text will be considered by the October FAC.The presidency updated the council on their discussions with the European Parliament on a new inter-institutional agreement on budget discipline to implement the Edinburgh financial perspective.Over lunch, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, briefed Ministers on the latest situation on the ground in ex-Yugoslavia, and on the co-chairmen's continued efforts to identify proposals for a settlement that all three parties could accept.Ministers agreed that the presidency should visit the region as soon as possible in July to underline the EC's support for the co-chairmen. Serbia would be told that their present position remained unacceptable and that sanctions would be maintained, Croatia would be warned that the EC was seriously considering withdrawing Croatia's preferential EC trade access and the Moslems would be encouraged to negotiate. Ministers emphasised the importance of the rigorous implementation of sanctions and the maintenance of humanitarian aid.Ministers set preparations in hand for consideration of the French proposal for a stability pact with central and eastern Europe. They also briefly discussed recent events in Somalia.The commission presented their opinions on the applications of Malta and Cyprus to join the Community. The council welcomed the Commission's positive messages on Maltese and Cypriot eligibility and European vocation, and asked COREPER to examine the opinions so as to enable the FAC to take a position on the Commission's recommendations at its next meeting in October.

The council briefly discussed a draft regulation on the control of exports of certain dual-use goods and technologies, and asked COREPER to prepare for further discussion in October.

The Commission reported on the GATT Uruguay Round negotiations. The council welcomed the progress at the Tokyo Summit and the resumption of multilateral negotiations in Geneva. At French request, the presidency will examine the possibility of a joint council of foreign affairs and agriculture ministers in September to consider the agricultural aspects of the negotiations. The council also discussed the anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed by the US on imports of EC steel. The Commission will determine what further action should be taken in the light of the International Trade Commission's findings which will be announced today.

The council agreed to the conclusion of an EC trade and co-operation agreement, financial protocol and transport agreement with Slovenia.

The council adopted measures to implement decisions of the 21st-22nd June Copenhagen European Council accelerating trade access to Community markets for the central European associate countries (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia). The council also adopted a new regulation to extend the provision of EC technical assistance (TACIS) to the former Soviet Union until the end of 1995.

The council discussed a Commission proposal to increase Stabex expenditure for 1993, a proposal which the UK could not accept. The council asked COREPER to consider the issue further.

The presidency and the Commission reported to the council on the 7th-9th July G7 Summit in Tokyo, and on the 6th July EC/Japan summit.

An EC/Tunisia co-operation council was held in the margins, and Ministers discussed European political co-operation issues, including events in the former Yugoslavia, with the Tunisian Foreign Minister over dinner.

No formal votes were taken.

Overseas Development: Aid

asked Her Majesty's Government:How far they have been able to take into account the outcome of the 1992 Earth Summit conference on development and the environment in their overseas development priorities during the last year and in their forward plans for overseas development expenditure.

The primary conclusion of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was the need for national and global sustainable development. Agenda 21, adopted by UNCED, set out what that should entail. Promotion of sustainable development in order to reduce poverty is the overarching purpose of our aid programme to developing countries, the aims and objectives of which are set out in the FCO/ODA Departmental Report for 1993 (Cm. 2202) laid before Parliament on 10th February. All these objectives are fully consistent with Agenda 21. We intend to retain sustainable development and poverty reduction as the overarching purpose of our aid programme, and to continue to ensure that our priorities remain entirely consistent with the aims of Agenda 21.

Humanitarian Relief: Cost Monitoring

asked Her Majesty's Government:What analysis they have made of the costs of humanitarian relief operations and their protection in crises resulting from internal conflict within nation states; and what conclusions they have drawn for their future policy towards the role of the United Nations in conflict resolution, pre-emptive planning and peacekeeping, particularly where issues of sovereignty are involved.

We monitor costs on an ongoing basis for each humanitarian operation in which the United Kingdom is involved. Provision of humanitarian relief is a primary function of the UN. The United Nations efforts to prevent or contain conflicts have obvious cost benefits in provision of humanitarian relief. We and other member states are looking at ways in which the United Nations capacity for peacekeeping and preventive diplomacy can be improved. The United Nations humanitarian operations aim to alleviate suffering whether caused by conflict within states or between states.

Southern Iraq: Refugees

asked Her Majesty's Government:What recent information they have concerning the draining of the marshes in southern Iraq, the poisoning of water supplies, attacks on the civilian population by artillery and helicopters and new movements of refugees towards the Iranian frontier; and whether the United Nations Security Council will be considering these matters.

We have received reports about the Iraqi regime's continuing repression of the civilian population who live in the marshes of southern Iraq. We have also received reports of movements of people to the area bordering Iran. It is difficult to assess the numbers involved. We are monitoring the situation. We are funding, with Emma Nicholsons' Amar Appeal, a study by Exeter University on the impact of draining the marshes. We have also agreed to fund Iraqi Civilian Aid (a British NGO) to deliver emergency supplies for the displaced people on the Iranian border. The UN Security Council considers the policies and practices of the Iraqi regime under UN Security Council Resolution 688 at every given opportunity; most recently at the UN Security Council sanctions review meeting on 21st July.

Occupied Territories: Co-Operation Agreement

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are working to extend the benefit of the European Community/Israel co-operation agreement to the Occupied Territories; and if this proves impossible within a reasonable time, whether they will seek the suspension of the agreement until Israel ceases to restrict the export of fruit and vegetables from Gaza and the West Bank.

Extension of the EC/Israel co-operation agreement to the Occupied Territories would imply recognition of Israeli sovereignty over them. There are separate arrangements for EC co-operation with the Occupied Territories. The Israeli Government say that the closure of the Occupied Territories does not involve barriers to the movement of goods, subject to security considerations. We and our EC partners have, however, underlined to Israel our concerns about the economic and social consequences of the closure.

Russia: Religious Freedom

asked Her Majesty's Government:What reports they have received of the intention of the Russian Parliament to amend the 1990 Religious Freedom Act as to prohibit independent activity of foreign religious organisations and workers; and whether they will call the attention of the Russian Government to the fact that such a prohibition would violate Articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Russian Supreme Soviet passed an amendment to the 1990 Law on Freedom of Religion on 14th July. The amendment cannot come into force without President Yeltsin's signature. We have told the Russians that we consider the amendment a retrograde step, and have raised our concerns at a senior level with the Russian authorities. We have also drawn the attention of the Russian Government to their international commitments in relation to religious freedom and the free passage of information.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are taking steps to encourage President Yeltsin to veto the new amendment to the 1990 Law on the Freedom of Religion recently passed by the Russian Parliament.

We have raised our concerns about the amendment at a senior level in the president's administration and in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We have told the Russians that we consider the amendment, which has not yet received President Yeltsin's approval, to be a retrograde step. We have drawn attention to Russia's international commitments under the CSCE in relation to religious freedom and the free passage of information.

Former Soviet Union: Uk Contribution To Privatisation And Nuclear Safety

asked Her Majesty's Government:How much they have contributed, are contributing and propose to contribute to the countries of the former Soviet Union towards:

  • (a) privatisation,
  • (b) environmental security (including nuclear), clean up, and regeneration, and the research needed for these last, particularly at Chernobyl and Chelyabinsk.
  • Through the Know-How Fund we have provided £2·612 million for privatisation activities in the former Soviet Union, and £0·693 million on bilateral environmental security projects, including a study of clean up requirements following Chernobyl. We have also contributed £8·25 million to the EBRD-managed nuclear safety account. Privatisation will remain a key component of Know-How Fund activities. We will contribute substantial amounts of both technical assistance and export credits to the G7's $3 billion programme of support for Russian privatisation announced in Tokyo. The European Community's programme includes privatisation and nuclear safety as priority activities. UK contributions cover approximately one sixth of expenditure in these areas.

    Special Areas Of Conservation: Criteria

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What progress is being made towards producing scientific criteria for the selection and designation of special areas for conservation needed to implement the European Community Habitats and Species Directive, and whether they will confirm that the criteria will apply equally to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment
    (Lord Strathclyde)

    The Joint Nature Conservation Committee is co-ordinating the development of the scientific criteria for the identification of sites to be included on the national list leading to selection as special areas of conservation. English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland) are also participating with JNCC in this work, which will apply to all parts of the United Kingdom. We expect to meet the deadline set by the directive for the submission of our national list.

    Climate Change Convention

    asked Her Majesty's Government:When they plan to ratify the Climate Change Convention; whether they accept that this will entail an obligation to return greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000; whether they will undertake to prevent emissions exceeding that level after the year 2000; and whether they will seek to diminish rapidly such emissions to below the 1990 levels.

    The Government has undertaken to ratify the Climate Change Convention, along with our G7 and EC partners, by the end of this year. The convention commits developed country parties to aiming to return emissions of CO2, and other greenhouse gases to their 1990 levels by the year 2000. The Government are drawing up a programme of measures intended to achieve that target. The convention provides for this commitment to be reviewed at the first meeting of its conference of parties, and again before the end of 1998. The Government will consider what further commitments the UK should make for emissions beyond 2000 in the context of those reviews.

    Amusement Centres: Planning

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What control there is in planning law or otherwise over the establishment of computer games arcades, such as the 24,000 square foot SEGA arcade recently opened in Bournemouth and the 10 further ones reported due to open in Britain this year.

    Planning permission is required for the establishment of all new amusement centres. The main considerations in determining planning applications are the type of centre proposed; impact on neighbours (including noise and general disturbance); vehicular and pedestrian movements; location and appearance. The Government's policy on amusement centres is set out in Annex C to Planning Policy Guidance Note 6 Town Centres and Retail Developments, a copy of which has been placed in the Library. In addition to planning controls, premises with amusement-with-prizes machines require a permit from a local authority under the Gaming Act 1968 before they can operate.

    Uk Co2 Programme

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have for completing the UK's CO

    2 , programme.

    In the first half of this year we initiated a wide-ranging debate on the UK's Co, programme. Issues discussed included the type of measures that the Government should take as part of the programme and the role of other organisations and groups outside government. Our view has been that an effective and efficient national CO2 programme requires a partnership approach. In the light of the positive response to the consultation exercise, we have concluded that the UK can create such a partnership.The Government's role is to provide the right fiscal, regulatory and financial framework for the programme and to help disseminate advice and information on the many actions that can be taken to achieve savings. But it is decision-makers in households and businesses throughout the country who will take the actions that will lead to lower emissions. The Government is looking to business groups, trade associations and voluntary and consumer groups to act as channels of information and encouragement to these decision-makers. And the energy industries have an important part to play in promoting the efficient use of energy and in ensuring that energy is produced in economically and environmentally sound ways. Several measures have already been announced. These include those announced in the March Budget to increase the price of energy in the domestic and transport sectors, the establishment of the Energy Saving Trust to provide financial incentives to energy efficiency, and an increase in the objective for renewable energy. These measures together are expected to stimulate savings amounting to two thirds of the target.On Wednesday last week the Minister for Energy announced his proposals for further renewable energy orders under the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation, in pursuit of the new objective for renewable energy. We can announce today a step forward in the trial of Local Energy Advice Centres being conducted by the Energy Saving Trust with finance from the Energy Efficiency Office. The first franchises to run these centres are now being offered to successful applicants, and the centres will be operational by October.We have considered what additional measures should be taken to complete the programme. We have concluded that we should take further action to help business to make energy savings. We will strengthen the Energy Efficiency Office's programmes of advice and information aimed at business and will be discussing with business groups how to obtain the maximum response. We expect that significant additional savings can be achieved in this sector. We recognise that public sector bodies should provide a lead. We will be setting further targets for the Government estate which should take energy use by central government down to well below 80 per cent. of 1990 levels by 2000. The Government are looking to other public sector bodies to adopt similarly stringent targets.We will also continue to provide information and encouragement to households to use energy efficiently. We will increase the resources devoted to this, working with the Energy Saving Trust, to reinforce the impact of the Trust.Concern was expressed during consultations about the prospect of rising transport emissions. We believe that, taking account of the views expressed during consultation, it would be reasonable to work towards further savings from transport by the year 2000 over and above the 1.5 MtC expected to be saved as a result of the fuel duty increases announced in the March Budget. We will be discussing with interested parties how such savings can best be realised. The Government also takes the view that energy should be produced and delivered in a way that keeps CO

    2 ,

    emissions at the lowest cost-effective level consistent with other environmental goals. This is primarily the responsibility of the energy industries. We will be working towards the achievement of 5,000 MW of combined heat and power capacity by the year 2000, an increase of 1,000 MW on the previous target. The framework for the UK's CO2 , programme is now in place. Many organisations have indicated their willingness to participate in the programme. We will be discussing with those organisations the contribution they can make in the light of the further government action announced today, in order for the full programme to be published at the end of the year.

    British Children Sent Overseas: Reunion Discussions

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will consult the governments of Australia and other Commonwealth countries about British children sent overseas between 1945 and 1967; and whether they will facilitate family reunion and identification where this is desired.

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health
    (Baroness Cumberlege)

    The Government are already discussing the matter with the Government of Australia. Organisations such as the Child Migrants Trust and international social services provide a family reunion service and are part funded by the Department of Health.

    Small Shops: Crime Prevention

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What action they propose to take following the recommendations made in the publication

    Violent Crime in Small Shops by Malcolm Hibberd and Joanna Shapland and published by the Police Foundation.

    The Government are keen to encourage the development of new and effective crime prevention strategies in the business community and welcome the contribution which this report makes. The report will be of particular value to the work of the Retail Action Group which is shortly to be set up under the auspices of the new National Board for Crime Prevention.

    Car Crime: Prevention

    asked Her Majesty's Government:How often the advisory committee on car theft has met and when its next meeting will take place.

    The Advisory Committee on Car Crime Prevention has met twice to date—on 20th October 1992 and on 17th March this year. It is intended that it should meet again shortly.

    War Crimes: Investigations

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the total expenditure involved until 30th June 1993 in the police investigations following the passage of the War Crimes Act 1991; what is the number of cases under review; how many police officers and civil staff are currently involved in these inquiries; whether any prosecutions are imminent; and the age of the oldest person whose conduct is being investigated.

    The total expenditure on police investigations up until 30th June 1993 is estimated at £2-65 million. There are currently 67 cases under review. Eighteen staff, including seven civilians, are currently employed on the investigation of war crimes. I cannot anticipate when, or if, sufficient evidence will be available for any prosecutions to be brought. The age of the oldest person whose conduct is being investigated is 87 years.

    Taylor Case: Disclosure To The Defence

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What steps they will take, in the light of the judgment of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) in the case of

    Regina v. Taylor and Taylor, to ensure that police offices in charge of criminal investigations are aware of, and comply with, their obligations in respect of disclosure to the defence.

    Guidance on disclosure was available to the police, in the form of guidelines issued by the Attorney-General in 1981, at the time of their investigations in the Taylor case. Further detailed guidance in the form of a Manual of Guidance was issued to the police in March 1992. This has been supplemented by Home Office circulars issued in December 1992 and June 1993. If followed the guidance should ensure that full disclosure takes place. Failure to disclose relevant information could lead to disciplinary proceedings. An investigation is underway by the Metropolitan Police as a result of the Appeal Court's remarks in the Taylor case.

    Market Testing: High Court Ruling On Ec Directive

    asked her Majesty's Government:Whether, pursuant to their Written Answer of 15th July (H.L. Deb, col.

    WA23) on the High Court's ruling on the European Community Directive on Market Testing, they intend to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

    Responsibility for the subject of this Question has been delegated to the Prison Service and its Director General, Mr. Derek Lewis. The Director General has therefore responded to the Question and his letter is given below.

    Letter from Mr. Derek Lewis, Director General of H.M. Prison Service, to Lord Harris of Greenwich:

    The Earl Ferers has asked me to reply to your recent Question to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, pursuant to their Written Answer of 15th July (H.L. Deb, col. WA23) on the High Court's ruling on the European Community Directive on Market Testing, they intend to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

    A decision whether to pursue the protective notice of appeal lodged with the High Court, by South Manchester College is awaited.

    Wolds Prison: Inspection

    asked Her Majesty's Government:When the Chief Inspector of Prisons carried out his inspection of the Wolds Remand Centre and when his report will be published.

    Responsibility for the subject of this Question has been delegated to the Prison Service and its Director General, Mr. Derek Lewis. The Director General has therefore responded to the Question and his letter is given below.

    Letter from Mr. Derek Lewis, Director General of H.M. Prison Service, to Lord Harris of Greenwich:

    Earl Ferrers has asked me to write to you directly in reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the recent inspection of Wolds prison.

    The inspection took place between 17th-26th May and the ensuing report was submitted to the Home Secretary on 15th July. In line with normal practice, it will be published as soon as its findings have been considered.

    Life Imprisonment: Tariff Disclosure

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are now in a position to add to the Answer given by Lord Ferrers at col. 597 on 20th July 1993 concerning the judgment in the case of

    Regina v. Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Smart, Pegg, Doody and Pierson on 24th June 1993.

    The current procedures governing the release of persons convicted of murder and sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment are described in statements made in 1983 and 1987 by the then Home Secretaries, the then Member for Richmond (Yorks) and my right honourable friend the Member for Witney respectively. Under those procedures, shortly after a person has received a mandatory life sentence, the Secretary of State invites the judiciary to give their views on the period to be served to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence. The judiciary's views presently comprise the advice of the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice. Their advice is one factor among others which the Secretary of State considers before he sets the date for the first review by the parole board of the case for releasing the prisoner on licence. This review is timed to take place three years before the expiry of the minimum period which the Secretary of State considers necessary to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence or, where that period is 20 years or more, 17 years after sentence.At present, a prisoner is not told the contents of the judicial recommendation, nor the length of the period which the Secretary of State has determined to be the minimum necessary to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence. However, where the period so determined is less than 20 years, the prisoner can deduce its length by adding three years to the date which he is given for his first review; and where it is 20 years, he can deduce its length from the terms of the notice informing him that his first review will take place 17 years after sentence. But where the period is more than 20 years, the prisoner is not able to establish its total length.The House of Lords judgment requires the Home Secretary to inform the prisoner of the recommendations made by the judiciary as to the period necessary to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence and of the substance of any opinions expressed by the judiciary which are relevant to his decision as to the appropriate minimum period to be served to satisfy those requirements. In addition, the Home Secretary is required to afford to the prisoner the opportunity to submit written representations. Although he is not required to adopt the judicial advice, he must give reasons where he or a Minister acting under his authority, decide to depart from it.We propose to give effect to this judgment by informing all persons who are now serving a mandatory life sentence and any persons who may subsequently be so sentenced, as soon as is reasonably practicable, of the substance of the judicial recommendations which were made in their case as to the period to be served by them in order to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence. We are consulting the Lord Chief Justice about the precise way in which this will be done.In addition, we have decided to disclose to both existing and future mandatory life sentence prisoners the Secretary of State's decision, taken after consideration of the judicial advice, on the appropriate period in question.In accordance with the judgment, reasons will be given to the prisoner for any departure from the judicial view.As the judgment makes clear, successive Secretaries of State have been willing to consider any written representations by prisoners as to the minimum period to be served by them to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence. In future, prisoners will be afforded the opportunity to submit such written representations at the beginning of the sentence and before my right honourable friend has formed a view as to the minimum period for retribution and deterrence.We take this opportunity to emphasise that the view which my right honourable friend, or a Minister acting under his authority, takes at the beginning of a mandatory life sentence, of the period necessary to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence is an initial view of the minimum period necessary to satisfy those requirements. It therefore remains possible for my right honourable friend, or a future Secretary of State, exceptionally to revise that view of the minimum period, either by reducing it, or by increasing it where he, or a successor to his office, concludes that, putting aside questions of risk, the minimum requirements of retribution and deterrence will not have been satisfied at the expiry of the period which had previously been determined.Before taking a decision to increase this minimum period, the Secretary of State would inform the prisoner that he was minded to take this action and afford him the opportunity to submit written representations as to why the period should not be increased. Any such representations would then be taken into account before any new decision was made. If it were decided to increase the period in question, the prisoner would be informed of the length of the new period and given the reasons for the increase.Finally, a mandatory life sentence prisoner should not assume that once the minimum period fixed for retribution and deterrence has been satisfied he will necessarily be released if it is considered that he is no longer a risk. In this respect, the position of a prisoner subject to a mandatory life sentence is to be contrasted with that of a prisoner serving a discretionary life sentence. As the then Minister of State, the right honourable Member for Mitcham and Morden, stated in Another Place on 16th July 1991 during debates on the Criminal Justice Bill:

    "In a discretionary case, the decision on release is based purely on whether the offender continues to be a risk to the public. The presumption is that once the period that is appropriate to punishment has passed, the prisoner should be released if it is safe to do so. The nature of the mandatory sentence is different. The element of risk is not the decisive factor in handing down a life sentence. According to the judicial process, the offender has committed a crime of such gravity that he forfeits his liberty to the State for the rest of his days— if necessary, he can be detained for life without the necessity for subsequent judicial intervention. The presumption is, therefore, that the offender should remain in custody until and unless the Home Secretary concludes that the public interest would be better served by the prisoner's release than by his continued detention. In exercising his continued discretion in that respect, the Home Secretary must take account, not just of the question of risk, but of how society as a whole would view the prisoner's release at that juncture. The Home Secretary takes account of the judicial recommendation, but the final decision is his."— (House of Commons Official Report, cols. 311-2).

    We wish to make it clear that, in so far as the judgment of the House of Lords considered that there was an inconsistency between the practice established by the then Home Secretary, the Member for Richmond (Yorks), in 1983 and the above quoted statement by the right honourable Member for Mitcham and Morden, we wholly endorse the latter as a description of the way my right honourable friend currently exercises his discretion to release mandatory life sentence prisoners and intends to do so in future.

    Accordingly, before any such prisoner is released on licence, my right honourable friend will consider not only, (a) whether the period served by the prisoner is adequate to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence and, (b) whether it is safe to release the prisoner, but also (c) the public acceptability of early release. This means that he will only exercise his discretion to release if he is satisfied that to do so will not threaten the maintenance of public confidence in the system of criminal justice.

    Everything that I have said about the practice of the Secretary of State in relation to mandatory life sentence prisoners applies equally to persons who are, or will be, detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure under section 53(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, as well as to persons who have been, or will be, sentenced to custody for life under section 8 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982.

    Forensic Science Service: Annual Report

    asked Her Majesty's Government:When they will lay before Parliament the annual report for the Forensic Science Service and if they will list its financial targets for this year.

    My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today laid before Parliament copies of the Forensic Science Service's annual report and accounts for 1992-93. My right honourable friend the then Home Secretary announced in Another Place on 4th May financial and service level targets for the Forensic Science Service for 1993-94 based on a forecast outturn for 1992-93. On the basis of the audited outturn for 1992-93 the unit cost efficiency target has been revised from 1-6 per cent. to 1-8 per cent. The other performance targets remain the same.

    Prisons: Court Escort Services

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Which prisons provide a regular court escort service; how many prisoners each prison escorts on average each month; and which court each prison serves.

    Responsibility for the subject of this Question has been delegated to the Prison Service and its Director General, Mr. Derek Lewis. The Director General has therefore responded to the Question and his letter is given below.

    Letter from Mr. Derek Lewis, Director General of H.M. Prison Service, to Lord Graham of Edmonton:

    Earl Ferrers has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the escorting of prisoners to and from court.

    Forty-three prison service establishments provide a regular escort service to and from the Crown Court. Most of these establishments also deliver prisoners for appearances at magistrates' courts (for example, for remand hearings) but the police convey prisoners from magistrates' courts to establishments. In some cases (in London, Greater Manchester and Lancashire) the police also convey prisoners from establishments to magistrates' courts, the cost of this work being reimbursed by the Prison Service. The attached table gives the Crown Court centres concerned but does not name the large number of committing magistrates' courts. If you would find it helpful to have these names I would be pleased to provide them.

    I am afraid that we do not collect centrally information on the number of prisoners escorted to court each month by Prison Service establishments.

    Establishmen

    Crown court

    Number of committing magistrates' courts

    BedfordCambridge5
    Peterborough3
    Luton8
    BelmarshInner London Sessions4
    Woolwich1
    BirminghamBirmingham2
    Coventry1
    Blakenhurst (private)Warwick7
    Worcester8
    Wolverhampton8*

    * These served by Birmingham until 23 August.

    BrinsfordBirmingham2
    Derby7
    Wolverhampton8
    Shrewsbury6
    Stafford8
    Stoke-on-Trent6
    Worcester8
    Dolgellau9
    Welshpool7
    BristolBristol10
    Devizes9
    Swindon8
    BrixtonSouthwark4
    Central Criminal Court1
    BullingdonOxford11
    Reading7
    Camp HillNewport (Isle of Wight)1
    CanterburyCanterbury7
    CardiffCardiff6
    Newport (Gwent)3
    ChelmsfordChelmsford16
    Southend3
    DorchesterBournemouth6
    Dorchester6
    Taunton7

    Establishment

    Crown court

    Number of committing magistrates' courts

    DurhamDurham6
    Newcastle-upon-Tyne10
    Carlisle9
    ElmleyMaidstone7
    ExeterBarnstaple3
    Truro14
    Exeter11
    Plymouth5
    Fellhamwood Green5
    Kingston-upon-Thames5
    Southwark4
    Knightsbridge4
    Snaresbrook7
    Isleworth4
    Middlesex Guildhall1
    Central Criminal2
    Harrow3
    Inner London Sessions4
    Croydon4
    Guildford9
    13*

    * Youth courts.

    Glen ParvaCoventry1
    Northampton6
    Warwick7
    Peterborough3
    Cambridge5
    GloucesterGloucester7
    Worcester*3
    Hereford3

    * Under 21 years.

    High DownGuildford9
    Croydon4
    HindleyCaernarfon8
    Chester4
    Warrington1
    Mold8
    Knutsford3
    Manchester10
    Bolton5
    HollowayAylesbury6
    Brighton
    Bury St. Edmunds6
    Cambridge5
    Canterbury4
    Chelmsford14
    Chichester6
    Guildford9
    Ipswich6
    Kings Lynn3
    Lewes10
    Central Criminal Court2
    Croydon4
    Harrow3
    Inner London Sessions5
    Norwich10
    Oxford10
    Peterborough3
    Portsmouth6
    Reading6
    St. Albans7
    Isleworth5
    Kingston5
    Knightsbridge3
    Middlesex Guildhall1
    Southwark4
    Luton8

    Establishment

    Crown court

    Number ofcommitting magistrates' courts

    Maidstone10
    Newport1
    Northampton6
    Southampton5
    Southend1
    Winchester4
    Holme HouseTeesside/Middlesborough 9
    York8*

    * Under 21 year olds.

    Lancaster FarmsBarrow2
    Liverpool9
    Burnley4
    Carlisle9
    Lancaster1
    Preston9
    LeedsLeeds9
    Huddersfield1
    Wakefield3
    LewesLewes10
    Chichester6
    Brighton
    LiverpoolCaernarfon8
    Chester4
    Mold8
    Warrington1
    Liverpool9
    Knutsford3
    Bolton5
    Low NewtonCarlisle5
    Durham10
    Newcastle-upon-Tyne
    Teesside
    ManchesterManchester10
    New HallDerby7
    Doncaster1
    Grimsby4
    Huddersfield1
    Kingston12
    Leicester9
    Leeds9
    Lincoln9
    Nottingham5
    Sheffield3
    Stafford9
    York8
    Wakefield3
    NorwichNorwich10
    Kings Lynn3
    Ipswich6
    Bury St. Edmunds6
    PentonvilleWood Green8
    Snaresbrook7
    PrestonBarrow2
    Burnley4
    Lancaster1
    Preston9

    Establishment

    Crown court

    Number ofcommitting magistrates' courts

    PucklechurchExeter9
    Gloucester7
    Haverfordwes3
    Hereford3
    Merthyr Tydfil3
    Newport (Gwent)3
    Plymouth5
    Salisbury1
    Swansea5
    Swindon2
    Truro10
    Taunton4
    Warwick7
    Wolverhampton8
    Worcester8
    ReadingOxford10
    Portsmouth6
    Southampton7
    Swindon6
    Winchester6
    Reading7
    RisleyBarrow2
    Bolton5
    Burnley4
    Caernarfon8
    Chester4
    Dolgellau6
    Knutsford3
    Lancaster4
    Liverpool8
    Manchester9

    Establishment

    Crown court

    Number of committing magistrates' courts

    Mold9
    Shrewsbury6
    Stoke-on-Trent6
    Warrington1
    Welshpool3
    RochesterMaidstone10
    Canterbury4
    ShrewsburyShrewsbury6
    Stoke-on-Trent6
    Welshpool7
    Dolgellau6
    Stafford6
    SwanseaCarmarthen7
    Haverfordwest3
    Merthyr Tydfil5
    Swansea5
    WandsworthKingston5
    Knightsbridge3
    Middlesex Guildhall1
    WinchesterPortsmouth6
    Salisbury2
    Southampton7
    Winchester6
    WoodhillAylesbury6
    Northampton6
    St. Albans7
    Wormwood ScrubsHarrow3
    Isleworth5