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Written Answers

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 21 March 1996

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Written Answers

Thursday, 21st March 1996.

Dunblane: Inquiry

asked Her Majesty's Government:On what basis the inquiry into the Dunblane shootings will be established and what will be its terms of reference.

The inquiry will be established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. This procedure, which was followed in the case of the Aberfan inquiry, will enable evidence to be taken on oath, as Lord Cullen wishes, and will attract the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland proposes that the inquiry's terms of reference should be:"To inquire into the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the events at Dunblane Primary School on Wednesday 13th March 1996, which resulted in the deaths of 18 people; to consider the issues arising therefrom; to make such interim and final recommendations as may seem appropriate; and to report as soon as practicable."It is important that adequate preparation time is allowed as this will enable the inquiry itself to be shorter and more focused. My right honourable friend anticipates that, after initial procedure, the inquiry will begin to take evidence in public in June with a view to reporting by about the end of September.Meanwhile work will be carried forward within Government to review relevant aspects of firearms legislation, school security and the supervision of adults working with children so that we will be in a position to respond promptly to recommendations from the Inquiry.

Nitrate In Vegetables: Ec Legislation

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to Lord Lucas's Written Answer of 8th March (H.L. Deb. col.

W4 40), what are the proposals which the United Kingdom has agreed to support in the European Commission's document VI/3080/93 Rev 7, and what will be the effect of these proposals on the British lettuce growers.

The European Commission's document VI/3080/93 Rev 7 is the latest version of a European Commission proposal to introduce limits for nitrate in lettuce and spinach. Earlier versions of this proposal were considered unacceptable because the proposed limits were unachievable in the UK owing to our climate. However, the main provisions of the most recent draft are more realistic and achievable, with limits of 3,500 mg/kg and 4,500 mg/kg for glasshouse-grown lettuce in summer and winter respectively, and 2,500 mg/kg for lettuce grown outdoors during the summer. It also allows member states to take advantage of a derogation which exempts crops produced for the domestic market from these limits for a transitional period. The main effect of this proposal will be to encourage all British lettuce growers to follow good agricultural practice.

Agriculture Council, 18Th-19Th March

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 18th and 19th March.

My honourable friend the Minister of State represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels on 18th-19th March 1996.The Council had before it three proposals relating to beef hormones, which together re-enacted the ban on growth promoting hormones and the import of meat treated with such hormones; introduced rules on the use of so-called beta-agonists; and strengthened controls on the illegal use of these substances. On behalf of the UK, my honourable friend the Minister of State argued against enacting these proposals in view of the imminent negotiations in the World Trade Organisation framework between the European Union on the one hand, and the United States and other complainants on the other. However all other member states were able to agree. He indicated our intention to vote against the measures when formally adopted for the reasons which he had stated in the Council.The Agriculture Commissioner introduced a proposal to amend the Council regulation on the common organisation of the market in bananas, principally to increase the tariff quota to provide for the market requirements of the new member states of the EU, but also to introduce other changes. My honourable friend the Minister of State made clear the UK's willingness to remedy operational deficiencies in the present banana regime, but not to accept fundamental changes to the regime to the detriment of ACP banana producers. Work will now begin on this proposal at technical level.The Presidency and Commission conducted bilateral meetings with member states on the proposals for reform of the common organisation of the market in fruit and vegetables and in products processed from fruit and vegetables. My honourable friend the Minister of State made clear the importance which the UK attaches to reform of these regimes. He stressed the need for measures to reduce dependence on intervention, to allow specialist producer groups to flourish. and to prevent market arrangements of an anti-competitive nature. The Presidency indicated that these proposals would be discussed further at the Council in April in the light of conclusions drawn from bilateral contacts.Finally the Commissioner indicated, in response to UK questioning, that work was underway at technical level on the proposal to improve the welfare of calves used for veal production, and expressed the Commission's hope that this would proceed as quickly as possible.

Former Yugoslavia: Uk Army Reservists

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have to replace those members of the Territorial Army and Army Reserve who were called out last December and February to support the UK's contribution to the NATO implementation force in former Yugoslavia.

Work has commenced to trawl for suitably qualified volunteers from the Army Reserve and Territorial Army who are willing to be called out for service in former Yugoslavia, and also to identify those reservists currently called out who are prepared to extend their period of service.

Operation Granby: Chemical Warfare Agents

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether detection equipment in service at the time of Operation Granby was capable of identifying the presence of Soviet V gas (Substance 33).

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is possible that Iraq had stocks of Soviet V-gas, also known as Substance 33, at the time of Operation Granby.

The United Nations Special Commission has not so far reported that Iraq has, or ever has had, stocks of the Soviet V-gas, Substance 33.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is possible that members of HM armed forces serving in Operation Granby may have been affected by solid particles of chemical warfare agents absorbed by toxic combustion products resulting from incomplete combustion of the agents either before or during the operation.

There is no evidence that chemical or biological weapons were used during Operation Granby.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether protective clothing including gas mask filters used by members of HM Armed Forces during Operation Granby was collected and sampled for the presence of chemical warfare agents including Soviet V-gas (Substance 33): and, if so, with what results.

No such tests were conducted, since there is no evidence that chemical or biological weapons were used during Operation Granby.

asked Her Majesty's Government:What are the known chronic health effects of low levels of exposure to modern chemical warfare agents.

There are no known chronic health effects arising from exposure to low levels of chemical warfare nerve agents.

Chemical Warfare Agents: Detection

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether Her Majesty's Armed Forces are provided with equipment capable of detecting absorbed particles of chemical warfare agents also known as "dusty agents".

Recruitment And Assessment Services: Staff Transfers

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether any officials of Recruitment and Assessment Services (RAS) have applied for transfer to other posts in the Civil Service since 1st January 1996; what were their grades; and how many applications for transfer are outstanding.

Seven officials of Recruitment and Assessment Services (RAS) have applied for transfer to other posts in the Civil Service since 1st January 1996. Their grades are: Three Administrative Officers; One Executive Officer; One Personal Secretary; One Senior Personal Secretary; and One Grade 7.Transfer dates for two staff have been agreed, two applications have not been pressed and two applications are outstanding.

Former Yugoslavia: Us Forces And Nato

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the United States has discussed with NATO allies the activities of its non-NATO forces in the Mediterranean area and in and around ex-Yugoslavia; and if not whether they will take steps to ensure that these forces and their activities in this area are discussed with the United States European allies, in accordance with the confidence expressed by the Government in the United States preparedness to act with the rest of the allies through NATO in the conduct of crisis management operations' (Paragraph 9, United Kingdom Memorandum of UK Approach to the Treatment of European Defence Issues at the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference).

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

The US discusses with NATO allies the activities of its forces which have a bearing on NATO operations.

Bosniac-Croat Federation Armed Forces: Funding

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they intend to contribute to the 800 million dollar fund for arming and training the Bosnian Government's armed forces in Turkey and elsewhere, now being raised by the United States (which is contributing $100 million) among the Islamic states, and whether this project to set up a heavily armed Muslim state is being discussed in NATO, and if not, given the out-of-area responsibilities NATO is now undertaking in the Balkans, whether they will urgently start such discussions.

We do not intend to contribute to the fund for training and equipping the Bosniac-Croat Federation armed forces. The train and equip programme will be entirely separate from the Bosnian Implementation Force (IFOR) and is not a matter for NATO.

Arctic Organisations Uk Participation

asked Her Majesty's Government:Of which Arctic organisations they are a member or an observer.

The United Kingdom is a state observer to the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) and the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) and its associated working groups. The United Kingdom is also a member of the Arctic Ocean Science Board (AOSB) and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC).

Factortame: Judgment

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they consider that their proposal to introduce the principle that a Member State should only be liable for damages in cases of serious and manifest breach of its obligations (

"A Partnership of Nations", paragraph 37) is inconsistent with the decision of the European Court of Justice of 5th March 1996 in Factortame Limited (No. 4); and, if so, whether they will indicate in what respect they seek to overrule or to limit the effects of the judgment.

The Government is still examining the ECJ's recent judgment in Factortame and considering its relationship to the proposal described in A Partnership of Nations.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Answer by Lord Lucas (

Hansard, 7th March 1996, col. WA 31), whether they continue to agree that the decisions of the European Court of Justice of 5th March 1996 in Factortame Limited (No. 4) that the government is liable to pay compensation for damage suffered as a direct result of a serious breach of Community law declares an important principle from which the people of this country can benefit greatly.

The principle of liability in damages for a serious and manifest breach of Community law can play an important part in ensuring that member states comply with their Community law obligations, particularly in the single market. The limitation of the scope of damages to cases of serious and manifest breach of Community law is welcome.


asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether their proposal to entrench subsidiarity further into the Treaty of European Union, referred to in

A Partnership of Nations, would mean that the European Court of Justice will decide upon the interpretation and application of the principle of subsidiarity; and, if not, which European institution would decide whether the principle of subsidiarity had been breached.

The principle of subsidiarity is written into the European Community Treaty in Article 3b. The European Court of Justice is the final arbiter for the EC Treaty, and subsidiarity is therefore justiciable. The UK proposal to entrench subsidiarty further into the treaty is intended both to clarify the application of the principle by all institutions, and to guide future interpretation of the principle by the ECJ.

European Court Of Justice: Interpretations

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Statement made by Baroness Chalker of Wallasey on 12 March 1996 (H.L. Deb., col. 758), whether they will give examples of cases in which "the ECJ's interpretations some times seem to go beyond what governments intended when laws were framed".

Examples of cases where the ECJ appears to have interpreted the treaties or Community legislation in a way which develops the law include:

C294/83 Les Verts and C70/88 EP v. Council. (Court allows EP to be challenged and to challenge under Article 173)

C12/81 Garland v. BREL and C262/80 Barber. (Court expands the definition of "pay" in Article 119)

C152/84 Marshall and C137/94 Richardson. (Court rules that retirement age and exemption from prescription charges cannot be linked to state pension age)

C392/92 Schmidt. (Court rules that the transfer of a single employee is caught by the Acquired Rights Directive).

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima And Chadrel Rinpoche

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will ask the Government of the People's Republic of China to clarify the situation regarding the whereabouts of his Holiness the Dalai Lama's nominee as Panchen Lama.

During the second series of meetings under the EU/China Human Rights Dialogue, which were held in Peking from 21st-24th January, the EU delegation requested information from the Chinese authorities on the whereabouts and health of the Dalai Lama's nominee as Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and the former Abbot of the Tashi Lunpho Monastery, Chadrel Rinpoche.The Chinese authorities said Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was safe and in good health, but were unable to disclose his whereabouts. We are considering with our EU partners what further action to take on this subject.

Secure Accommodation: Expenditure

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the average maintenance cost per child in fully secure accommodation.

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

Local authority expenditure in England specifically on secure accommodation was first collected for 1994–95. It is expected this information will be published in the coming months. Secure accommodation is provided under Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 which does not apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are currently no secure units in Wales.

Us Military Intelligence

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is the case that the United States Administration in 1991 authorised the establishment of commercial businesses as cover for military intelligence gathering; whether they have any evidence that such operations have been established in this country; and, if so, whether they will list the businesses involved.

The first part of the question is not a matter for Her Majesty's Government. US military activities in the UK are covered by the NATO status of forces agreement, which includes a commitment to respect UK law.

Murder And Manslaughter Offences (Young People)

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many young people aged (a) 10 to 16 inclusive and (b) 10 to 17 inclusive were convicted of murder and manslaughter respectively in each year from 1965 to 1995.

Information from 1965 to 1994 (latest available) is given in the table below. Data for 1995 will not be available until the autumn.

Number of persons convicted at all courts for (a) murder and (b) manslaughter by age group 1965–94
England and Wales
—Not available.


Murder offences committed under Common Law, and Offences against the Person Act 1861 Secs 1, 9 & 10; Manslaughter offences committed under Common Law, and Offences against the Person Act 1861 Secs 5, 9, & 10.

Offences Committed By Uk Nationals Overseas: Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, when completed, they will publish the findings of the interdepartmental review concerning the implications of extending the jurisdiction of British courts to enable them to deal with serious offences committed overseas by United Kingdom nationals.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced on 1st February 1996 the establishment of an interdepartmental review to look at the implications for both policy and procedure of any change to the current position on jurisdiction over offences committed by United Kingdom nationals overseas throughout the United Kingdom. The review is expected to take four or five months to complete and my right honourable friend will announce its findings once he has had an opportunity to consider them.

Local Taxes: Debt Enforcement

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in the light of their review of powers to ensure that fines are paid without resort to prison, they will request the enforcement and financial penalties working group to examine arrangements to allow for the payment of outstanding local taxes, such as the community charge and council tax, without resort to imprisonment.

The working group was established to review the enforcement of fines, compensation and costs which are ordered by a court. Local taxes are civil debts collected by local authorities. Their enforcement raises different considerations.

Environmental Protection: Duty Of Care

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have to revise the code of practice on the duty of care.

LEATotal number of schoolsNumber with over 50% access to teaching accommodationPercentage with over 50% access to teaching accommodation
Corporation of London100

Following public consultation, my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment, for Wales and for Scotland have today issued a revised duty of care code of practice under Section 34 of Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.The code of practice gives practical guidance to all waste holders on how to discharge their responsibilities under the duty of care. It has been revised in order to take into account changes to waste management legislation since it was first published in 1991 and in order to provide specific guidance to the metal recycling industry.The duty of care applies to any person who produces, imports, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste. It obliges waste holders: to prevent the escape of waste in their control; to transfer it only to someone who is legally authorised to accept it; and to ensure that it is recovered or disposed of lawfully by others.Parties to any waste transfer must complete, sign and keep a transfer note which provides a cradle to grave audit trail of the waste transferred.The code of practice is admissible as evidence in court in prosecutions for breach of the duty of care. Breach of the duty is an offence with a penalty of an unlimited fine if convicted on indictment. As required by Section 34(9) of the 1990 Act, a copy of the revised code of practice is being laid before the House and placed in the Library of the Houses.

Schools: Wheelchair Access

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish the results of the recent "access audit" on mainstream schools.

Nationally, some 46 per cent. of primary and secondary schools have wheelchair access to over 50 per cent. of teaching accommodation. The following table shows the proportion of schools in each local education authority which do so. This information will be useful to local education authorities and schools in assessing where there is a particular need for greater access for disabled pupils. A more detailed analysis of the data collected will be placed in the Library.


Total number of schools

Number with over 50% access to teaching accommodation

Percentage with over 50% access to teaching accommodation

Tower Hamlets893135
Kingston upon Thames451942
Richmond upon Thames47613
Waltham Forest784558
St. Helens784963
Newcastle upon Tyne1004141
North Tyneside804455
South Tyneside694058
Isle of Scilly500


Total number of schools

Number with over 50% access to teaching accommodation

Percentage with over 50% access to teaching accommodation

East Sussex25310040
Hereford and Worcester35723967
Isle of Wight674567
North Yorkshire45022650
West Sussex28717260