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Written Answers

Volume 571: debated on Monday 29 April 1996

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Written Answers

Monday, 29th April 1996.

Contempt Of Court Act 1981: Interpretation

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer given by the Lord Chancellor on 3rd April 1996 (

WA 47), whether they consider that English courts are obliged to interpret the relevant provisions of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 in accordance with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 27th March 1996 in the case of Goodwin v. United Kingdom.

If Section 10 or Section 14 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 falls to be interpreted in future litigation by an English court, it will be for that court to decide what weight to attach to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the circumstances of the litigation.

Millennium Exhibition Site: Funding

asked Her Majesty's Government:What contributions have been promised toward the cost of the millennium site in Greenwich and by whom; andWhat will be the cost of clearing the pollution of the millennium site at Greenwich caused by the operations of the former gasworks, and how much of that cost will be met by the former owners.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage
(Lord Inglewood)

This is a matter for the Millennium Commission. I have therefore asked the Chairman of the Millennium Commission to write to the noble Lord and place copies of her reply in the Libraries of the House.

Northern Ireland Policing: Community Consultation

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will deposit in the Libraries of Parliament copies of the evidence received from the public in the Community Consultation on the Future of Policing in Northern Ireland, together with any comments or views subsequently expressed by the Secretary of State, chief constable or police authority, and if not, why not.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office
(Baroness Denton of Wakefield)

The Police Authority for Northern Ireland is a statutory body established under the Police Act (Northern Ireland) 1970. A copy of its Community Consultation Report has been placed in the Libraries of Parliament, as have the press releases issued by the Minister of State just prior to publication and by the RUC on the day of publication. The Government have written to the chairman of the police authority to begin dialogue on how the conclusions and proposals in the report should be taken forward.I understand that the evidence on which the police authority's report is based is threefold; letters and submissions, seminars and a public opinion survey. The letters and submissions as well as the seminars were carried out on an "in confidence" basis and it would not be appropriate to place further details of these in the Libraries. All the tables compiled from the public opinion survey are contained in Appendix 6 to the report.

Foreign Affairs Council And Igc Ministerial Meeting, 22Nd April

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council and the IGC Ministerial meeting on 22nd April.

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

My right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and my honourable friend David Davis attended these meetings, where the outcome was as follows:The A items listed in document 6507/96, which will be placed in the Libraries of the House as soon as it is available, were approved except item 6 on Former Yugoslavia, which became a B item for substantive discussion.The Council took note of resolutions in EP documents 5779/96 (PE-RE 24) and 6210/96 (PE/RE 27). Copies of these documents will be deposited in the Libraries of the House as soon as they are available.The Council agreed conclusions on Former Yugoslavia; the critical dialogue with Iran; and the US "Helms/Burton" legislation on trade with Cuba.A declaration on the latest developments in Lebanon and conclusions on the situation in Niger were agreed. The Council also expressed its sympathy for the families of the victims of the terrorist attack in Cairo on 18th April.The Council discussed the MEDA regulation on aid to countries in the Mediterranean. While no agreement was reached at this Council, the Presidency expressed hope for agreement during the next Council, scheduled for 13th May. Ministers also discussed Former Yugoslavia; and Slovenia.

The Council discussed the continuing export ban on British beef products. The Secretary of State underlined the urgent need for progress towards lifting the ban.

In the margins of the Council, Partnership and Co-operation Agreements were signed with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

The sixth EU/Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) Joint Council and Ministerial meeting also took place, followed by a dinner. Ministers discussed the prospects for a free trade agreement and agreed to set up a joint EU/GCC Working Group on regional security in the Gulf.

The second Ministerial session of the IGC also took place on 22nd April. Ministers considered a range of issues, under the broad heading of "the citizen and the Union" on the basis of eight questions in a Presidency note (doc no Conf 3843/95) which has been placed in the Library of the House. The issues included: the workings of the Justice and Home Affairs pillar; EU citizenship; fundamental rights; the employment and environment provisions of the Treaty; subsidiarity; and transparency.

We reiterated the positions that the UK representative had already set out in the two preceding Working Party sessions on 1st/2nd and 15th/16th April, in particular that intergovernmental co-operation was the appropriate model for Justice and Home Affairs and that, in general, this was working well; that businesses, not new Treaty provisions on employment, created jobs; that neither strengthening the concept of EU citizenship, nor writing fundamental rights into the Treaty which were already protected in national laws would be likely to bring Europe closer to the citizen; and that subsidiarity should be further entrenched in the Treaty.

The Ministerial session was preceded by an exchange of views with the European Parliament President and two representatives of the European Parliament.

Diplomatic Missions: Parking Fines

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish figures recording the number of parking fines incurred by diplomatic missions in London during 1995.

During 1995, the London diplomatic missions incurred a total of 1,586 unpaid parking fines, which is less than half the 1994 figure of 3,613. In February this year the Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote to all diplomatic missions to give them an opportunity to pay off all outstanding parking tickets, or appeal to have the ticket cancelled. Since then payments totalling £11,600 have been received. The biggest offender is the Nigerian mission, which has appeared at or near the top of the list for the third year running. The attached table shows only missions which have 11 or more fines outstanding.

Unpaid Parking Fines

Position

Diplomatic Mission

1995

1994

1Nigeria117118
2India8379
3Ghana6676
4Sudan4556
5Malaysia3237
6Philippines3119
7Romania2730
8Burma267
9Lesotho2214
9Oman2263
9Pakistan2261
12Egypt2050
12Greece2032
12Qatar20353
12Thailand2032
16Algeria1924
16Bangladesh1949
18Uganda1824
19Turkey1727
20Cyprus1629
20Jordan1652
22Iran1512
22Russian Federation1531
22Zimbabwe1521
25Tanzania1428
25Albania141
25USA1422
28Azerbaijan135
28Cameroon1320
30Israel1233
30Poland1235
32Brazil1110
32Ivory Coast1140
32Hungary1149
32Zaire1118
8591,557

Aea: Detection Of Clandestine Nuclear Activities

asked Her Majesty's Government:What initiatives the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was referring to when he recently said that "we are currently supporting a number of initiatives intended to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime". (House of Commons,

Hansard, col. 280), including the International Atomic Energy Authority's "ability to detect clandestine nuclear activities", and whether "clandestine nuclear activities" cover those allegedly being carried out in Israel.

The measures envisaged to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency's capability to detect undeclared nuclear activities emphasise greater agency access to and analysis of information on states' nuclear-related activities. Advanced technical measures, including the use of environmental sampling techniques and unattended monitoring equipment, are also to be used.

The full range of these proposals is still under consideration in the board of governors. It is not yet decided to what extent they will apply in states such as Israel which do not have full-scope safeguards agreements with the agency.

Serious Offences By Holders Of Diplomatic Immunity

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many serious offences were allegedly committed in 1995 by persons entitled to diplomatic immunity; and how many foreign diplomats or members of their families were withdrawn from their posts in Britain in the past year as a result of alleged offences.

Twenty-eight alleged serious offences by persons entitled to diplomatic immunity were drawn to the attention of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1995. "Serious offences" are defined in accordance with the Report to the Foreign Affairs Committee, The Abuse of Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges (1985), as offences which fall into the category which in certain circumstances attract a maximum penalty of 6 months' imprisonment or more: the majority involved drinking and driving and shoplifting.Five diplomats or members of their families were withdrawn at our request from post in Britain as a result of alleged offences, compared with six the previous year.

Meat Inspection And Hygiene Controls: Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they conducted a survey of the effectiveness of measures of inspection at slaughterhouses before deciding to establish the National Meat Hygiene Service; and, if so, whether they publish the results of that survey.

Yes. Agriculture and Health Ministers commissioned a report in April 1991 on alternative methods of organising meat inspection and hygiene controls in fresh meat, poultry and game meat plants. The report, entitled Review of Fresh Meat Hygiene Enforcement in Great Britain, was published in June 1991. A copy has been placed in the Library of the House.

Bse Cases

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will give by county the number of cases of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the United Kingdom that were noticed each month since such records were started.

Attached are tables showing the total number of confirmed BSE cases in the United Kingdom since November 1986, as at 12th April 1996.To provide the information in the way requested could only be done at disproportionate cost.

Slaughtered Cattle: Disposal Of Carcases

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will give an assurance that cattle due to be slaughtered in order to control the spread of BSE (amounting to some 250,000 carcases a year), will not be dumped at sea unless positive scientific evidence can be given that the virus will not enter the aquatic food chain.

In his statement of 16th April the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced that the waste material, offals and carcase meat resulting from the over 30 months bovine cull scheme will be treated primarily by rendering with the resultant material to be disposed of by the best practicable environmental option. Dumping at sea of BSE-infected carcases or any other bovine material is not an option under consideration.

Public Service: Reimbursement Of Travel Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many different rates there are for travelling costs for those engaged in public service; and whether in the interests of efficiency or simplicity there are any plans to consolidate them.

Information on the travel arrangements for the public service as a whole is not held centrally. As far as the Civil Service is concerned, departments and agencies are responsible for the management of and expenditure on travel expenses incurred by their own staff in connection with their employment. This flexibility enables departments and agencies to determine the most cost effective and economic means of reimbursing travel costs, and to ensure that it fully meets their individual operational requirements.

Raf Stations: Annual Formal Inspections And Staff Visits

Daily Telegraph of Tuesday, 16th April 1996 concerning the scrapping of annual formal inspections and formal staff visits to RAF stations is true; and if so whether the

intention to ignore Queen's Regulations for the Royal Air Force Section 1 para 52 was formally approved by Ministers and is a consequence of the large number of RAF personnel who have recently been made redundant.

Annual formal inspections and formal staff visits to Royal Air Force stations have not been scrapped. The measures introduced to minimise the burden on RAF personnel during the current drawdown. include provision for the scaling down of annual formal inspections and staff visits between now and March 1997. The continuation and form of annual formal inspections during this period will be a matter for the relevant Air Officer Commanding. There will, however, be no formal station parades and the inspections will be functional rather than ceremonial. Formal staff visits concerned with mandatory requirements, for example, safety, security and accounting, will continue.

Mr Portillo's Visit To Israel

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Secretary of State for Defence visited the Palestinian National Authority, either at Orient House in Jerusalem or elsewhere, during his recent visit to Israel.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, during his recent visit to Israel, the Secretary of State for Defence discussed a possible comprehensive security co-operation agreement between Britain and Israel, or between NATO and Israel, on the lines of that now due for signature later this month between Israel and the United States concerning defence against surface-to-surface missiles and the proliferation of non conventional weapons.

Nuclear Weapon Policy

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will undertake never to fire a nuclear missile against a non-nuclear state.

The United Kingdom has given an assurance that we will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United Kingdom, its dependent territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies or on a state towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear weapon state in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon state.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will undertake not to be the first to fire a nuclear missile with intent to kill.

I refer the noble Lord to my Answer to him of 28th February 1996 (Official Report, col. WA 103).

Passenger Rail Franchise Agreements

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish the franchise agreements for those passenger rail franchises that have recently been awarded by the Franchising Director.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport
(Viscount Goschen)

The Gatwick Express, InterCity East Coast and Midland Main Line franchises commenced operation yesterday, 28th April. Copies of the franchise agreements and ancillary documents have today been placed in the Library. Certain provisions of these documents have been deleted in line with Section 73 of the Railways Act 1993.The Network SouthCentral franchise will commence operation as soon as practicable and a copy of the franchise agreement will be placed in the Library thereafter.