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Written Answers

Volume 569: debated on Tuesday 27 February 1996

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Written Answers

Tuesday, 27th February 1996.

Un Electoral Assistance Division: Uk Staff

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will list the names and qualifications of the five United Kingdom personnel appointed to the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division; the places from which they will operate, and the dates they will he present in the country.

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

There are no British citizens at present appointed to the permanent staff of the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division in New York. We understand one British citizen is employed there temporarily. The Electoral Assistance Division has also employed a British citizen as a consultant to monitor the elections in Sierra Leone on 26th February.

European Commission:Members' Allegiance

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the reply given by Lord Inglewood on 19th February (HL Deb., col. 857), whether European Commissioners are expected to put the interests of the European Communities before those of the nation which nominated them, or vice versa.

Pursuant to Article 157(2) of the treaty establishing the European Community, members of the Commission make a solemn declaration that they will perform their duties in complete independence, in the general interest of the Communities.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the reply given by Lord Inglewood on 19th February (HL Deb., col. 857), whether European Commissioners swear an oath of office, and if so what are its terms, and whether it has precedence over the oath of a Privy Counsellor.

European Commissioners make a solemn declaration before the European Court of Justice. They undertake:

  • to perform their duties in complete independence, in the general interest of the Communities;
  • in carrying out their duties, neither to seek nor to take instructions from any government or body;
  • to refrain from any action incompatible with their duties;
  • to respect, both during and after their term of office, the obligations arising therefrom, and in

particular the duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits.

The declaration is compatible with the oath of a Privy Counsellor.

Turkey: Incidents In Sivas Province

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will seek information about military operations in Sivas province, Turkey, in which some 300 villages mainly inhabited by Alevi Turks are alleged to have been blockaded and 500 persons detained.

Yes. Our Embassy in Ankara will call on members of the Turkish parliamentary commission set up to investigate these incidents. It will also seek additional information from the delegation of MPs which recently visited the region.

Turkey: Mr Abdulmelik Firat

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will ask the Government of Turkey to release to hospital Mr. Abdulmelik Firat, formerly MP for Erzurum, currently imprisoned in Bayrampasha prison, Istanbul. in view of his need for constant medical attention.

We are aware of the case of Mr. Abdulmelik Firat. We understand he is receiving medical attention in prison while his case proceeds.

Gambling: Consultation Paper

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they will he issuing the consultation paper on relaxation of the restrictions on casinos, bingo clubs and advertising of commercial gambling.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has published today a consultation paper which constitutes a comprehensive review of the law on casinos, licensed bingo clubs and the advertising of commercial gambling, and which restates principles for the regulation of gambling. It proposes a number of relaxations in the law.Subject to this consultation, my right honourable friend proposes to bring forward orders under Section 1 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 to implement the changes. The paper constitutes formal consultation on some of the proposals for the purpose of Section 3(1) of the 1994 Act. Other proposals will need to he the subject of further detailed consultation before implementation. Comments on the proposals are requested by the end of May 1996.The main proposals on casinos are as follows:Secondary legislation to allow casinos in 13 new locations. The additional areas proposed are:

  • Croydon
  • Folkestone
  • Morecambe
  • Redbridge
  • Weymouth
  • Dartford
  • Hastings
  • Oxford
  • Slough
  • Gloucester
  • Ipswich
  • Peterborough
  • Swindon

A reduction in the 48-hour waiting time for membership of a casino to 24-hours, together with provision for postal applications and group membership.

A new regime for gaming machines, with increased numbers and higher stakes and payouts.

An extension to liquor licensing hours.

Advertising of the location of casinos in directories and guides.

Payment by debit card.

The proposals on bingo are:

An end to the requirement that bingo establishments operate as members' clubs with a 24-hour waiting period for membership.

Abolition of the demand criterion for the granting of licenses.

Removal of restrictions on added prize money and on frequency and prizes in multiple bingo (the National Game).

Payment by debit card.

Extension of bingo licences from one year to three years.

Removal of the remaining restrictions on print advertising.

The Government are minded to allow broadcast advertising of bingo subject to the response to the consultation document.

The document also proposes the removal of the ban on the on-site print advertising of gaming machines and the print advertising (but not broadcast advertising) of betting offices.

These measures represent a balanced package of reform which aims to provide new opportunities for the industry and the consumer while maintaining the effective regulation of gaming.

The timetable for the implementation of changes arising from this document will depend on a number of factors, including the response to the consultation and the availability of additional resources for the Gaming Board of Great Britain and the courts.

Pet Animals: European Convention

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the policy of the United Kingdom in respect of accession to the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.

The Government remain firmly committed to adopting reasonable measures to improve the treatment of animals, but they are not at present convinced that accession to the Pet Animals Convention would add significantly to the protection which domestic animals already enjoy under existing United Kingdom law. The Government will review the position again at the end of the decade.

Personal Data: Protection

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in the light of the decision of the House of Lords in

R v Brown, 9th February 1996, they intend to introduce an amendment to Section 5 (2) (b) of the Data Protection Act 1984 so as to make it an offence to recall personal data from a database on to a computer screen and to read the information so displayed; and

Whether they consider that the decision of the House of Lords in R v Brown, 9th February 1996, will make it necessary to amend the Data Protection Act 1984 to comply with the obligations imposed by the European Community Directive on Data Protection, in accordance with the directive stated purpose of protecting an individual's right to privacy with respect to the processing of personal data.

The judgment in R v Brown was narrow in scope. Although it makes clear that an individual employee cannot he prosecuted under the Data Protection Act for browsing computerised personal data, it does not deal with the Act's controls over subsequent improper use of such data.The Government will consider the implications of the judgment in developing proposals for implementing the EC Data Protection Directive—on which they hope shortly to issue a consultation document.

Sickle Cell Anaemia: Ante-Natal Testing

asked Her Majesty's Government:To what extent they are publicising the need for pre-natal testing for sickle cell anaemia.

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

The Department of Health published the report of the Standing Medical Advisory Committee working party on sickle cell, thalassaemia and other haemoglobinopathies in February 1994 and has distributed it widely both within and outside the National Health Service. The report made a number of recommendations about screening for haemoglobinopathies, including antenatal screening. Individual health authorities are responsible for assessing the needs of their resident populations and for purchasing services, including haemoglobinopathy screening, to provide for those needs.Copies of the report are available in the Library.

Scott Report: Ministerial Recipients

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will name the Ministers of the Crown who received a copy of Sir Richard's report before 15th February 1996.

The Ministers of the Crown who received a copy of Sir Richard Scott's report prior to publication were: the Prime Minister, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, the President of the Board of Trade, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Secretary of State for Defence, and the Attorney General.In addition, the Deputy Prime Minster, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State Department of Trade and Industry, the Paymaster General and the Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service had access to the report prior to publication, in accordance with the terms laid down by the Scott Inquiry.

Scott Report: Pre-Publication Access

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will list those persons who had access to the Scott Report prior to its presentation to Parliament, what was the length of time of that access, and on what terms was the access granted.

With regard to the first part of the noble Lord's Question, I refer him to the list of Ministers who had access to the report given in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, today. Additionally, a small number of civil servants also had access to the report prior to publication. The length of such access varied. The terms of access were, in each case, those agreed with the inquiry, and included the signing of an undertaking by all recipients of the report.

Waste Management Licensing (Fees And Charges)

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have to revise the fees and charges for waste management licensing.

My right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment, for Wales and for Scotland have made the Waste Management Licensing (Fees and Charges) Scheme 1996 under Section 41 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, The scheme has been made with the approval of the Treasury and comes into force on 1st April 1996.In line with the "polluter pays" principle, the financial objective of the charging scheme is full recovery of the costs of supervising sites licensed under Section 35 of the 1990 Act: and the cost of considering licence applications. With the aim of fulfilling this objective, the 1996 charging scheme increases subsistence charges by 15 per cent. and application fees by 2.75 per cent.In order to reduce the effect of the introduction of charges on small businesses, we set some of them at 70 per cent. of our assessment of full cost recovery in 1994/95 and 1995/96. The abrupt ending of this transitional provision would have had a disproportionate impact on the businesses affected. We have therefore decided that the transitional provision should he retained for one year longer than was originally intended and should he set at 85 per cent. of our assessment of full cost recovery in 1996/97.As required by Section 41 of the 1990 Act, a copy of the 1996 charging scheme is being laid before the House and placed in the Library of the House.Subsequent charging schemes for waste management licensing will he made under Sections 41 and 42 of the Environment Act 1995 on the basis of proposals submitted by the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and they will reflect the costs incurred by the agencies in their operation of the licensing system.

Landfill Tax And Recycling Credits

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether payments of recycling credits by waste disposal authorities should he increased following the introduction of the landfill tax.

Statutory payments, which are made by waste disposal and waste collection authorities to those who recycle waste, are commonly known as "recycling credits". These payments are made under Section 52 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and associated regulations.Payments of credits are intended to reflect savings in the costs of waste collection and disposal which benefit collection and disposal authorities as a direct result of the activities of recyclers. In particular, disposal credits, which are paid by waste disposal authorities, represent the net saving of expenditure on the disposal of waste which arises because the waste has been recycled.Provisions to introduce the proposed landfill tax are contained in the Finance Bill, which is currently before Parliament. The aim of the new tax is to increase the cost of landfill disposal of waste, reflecting its environmental impact. This will make alternative waste management practices, such as recycling, more economic. The landfill tax supports the objectives set out in our White Paper on waste,

Making Waste Work.

Waste disposal authorities should take their own legal advice if they are in doubt as to their position, as the interpretation of legislation is ultimately a matter for the courts. However, it is the aim of the recycling credits legislation that all expenditure on the disposal of waste should he included in the calculation of disposal credits. The amounts of disposal credits should therefore he increased to reflect the introduction, subject to parliamentary approval, of the landfill tax, where landfill is the most expensive disposal method as defined by the regulations.

Pensions Split On Divorce: Cost Estimate

asked Her Majesty's Government:What would he the loss in tax revenue if pensions could he split between husbands and wives.

The cost would depend on the proportion of the pension that was allocated to the husband or wife. On the assumption that all married couples elected to split their pension incomes equally between husbands and wives (where this would result in a more favourable tax position), it is estimated that the cost in the first year could be up to £600 million at current income levels. This tax cost could be expected to rise as the number of people retiring with private pensions grow and the level of these pensions increases in real terms.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish a table showing the build-up in (a) the estimated tax costs if pensions could he split on divorce; and (b) the savings in the payment of income related benefits that might he expected.

The tax costs and income related benefits savings would build up steadily over time as people whose pensions were split on divorce reached retirement age and benefits became payable. It is expected that the savings on income related benefits would level off at around the year 2020, while tax costs would continue to rise. An indication of the possible growth path is shown in the following table.

£ million
YearTax castsIncome related benefit savings
Notes:1. Estimates are full year costs/savings at constant prices.2. Tax costs include loss in lax revenue and increase in tax relief as a result of additional pension contributions.3. Savings are additional to those arising from changes under the Pensions Act 1995. For example, the savings on income related benefits under the measures in that Act would amount to about £50 million in the year 2020.4. Tax costs are rounded to the nearest £10 million: income related benefit savings are rounded to the nearest £5 million.