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Written Answers

Volume 590: debated on Wednesday 17 June 1998

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Written Answers

Wednesday, 17th June 1998.

Local Authority Nuclear Free Committees

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will list for the last two years for which the information is available those Scottish local authorities with a nuclear free committee or sub-committee; how much each committee costs; and how much each local authority has given to the Nuclear Free Local Authorities organisation. [HL2202]

Information on committees of local authorities, or the causes to which they choose to donate money, is not held centrally.

Marine Science And Technology: Inter-Agency Committee

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have considered the future role of the Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology. [HL2304]

The Government have recently reviewed the role and effectiveness of the Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology (IACMST) and concluded that it is effective in performing its main function of ensuring that co-ordination takes place across government on marine science and technology issues. IACMST will therefore continue for the next three years, with a further review of its future taking place at that point.In response to the more detailed findings of the review, IACMST will increase its focus on international marine activities and on science and technology relating to marine vessels and structures, alongside its traditional emphasis on the marine environment and oceanography. IACMST will also produce a guide for business on responsibilities for marine science and technology within departments and agencies; will continue to work closely with the Marine Foresight Panel; and will begin a review of individual members' strategies for marine science and technology.Copies of a report setting out the review's conclusions in more detail are available in the Library of the House. This report also mentions some of the main activities currently being undertaken by IACMST, including its co-ordination of a wide range of UK events to mark 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean.

Department Of Health: Public Appointments

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they intend to publish details of the public appointments made by the Department of Health; and whether that department has kept its commitment to increase the involvement of members of the local community on NHS boards. [HL2268]

A report with details of all public appointments made to bodies sponsored by the Department of Health is published today. It contains details of 3,794 individuals appointed to 586 bodies at 1 March 1998. It relates to chairs and non-executives in National Health Service trust and health authority boards, members of Executive Non-Department Public Bodies (NDPBs) and for the first time, contains details of those who serve on the 41 Advisory NDPBs which give specialist technical and professional advice to the department.Of those people named in the report, around 1,000 have been appointed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health since 1 May 1997, predominantly to NHS trusts and Executive NDPBs.All these appointments have been made on merit to the exacting procedures laid down by the Commissioner for Public Appointments, which ensure an open and transparent process and encourage people from all walks of life to come forward.We have honoured the Government's commitment to increase the local accountability of NHS boards, by publicly advertising posts and by seeking nominations from local authorities and Members of Parliament. We have appointed people who live within the local community wherever possible and have substantially increased the participation of women and people from ethnic minorities. In the year to 1 May 1998, 36 per cent. of chairs, and 52 per cent. of non-executives appointed were women and 9 per cent. of appointees were drawn from the ethnic minority population.We have significantly changed the make-up of NHS trust boards to reflect the abolition of the internal market and the new local partnership which we expect NHS trusts to develop. Of those people appointed since 1 May 1997, over 30 per cent.—the largest single group—are NHS users, carers or voluntary workers.We intend to maintain this progress and are currently in the process of appointing around 300 people to serve on health authority boards. When completed, details of these new appointments will be placed in the Library and published on the Internet. Copies of the Department of Health Public Appointments Annual Report 1998 are available in the Library.

Alcohol "Tsar"

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will appoint an "alcohol tsar" similar to the drugs tsar. [HL2241]

Alcohol Misuse

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they agree with the article by Duncan Campbell in

The Guardian (G2 Supplement, Page 2, 8 June), that the damage caused by alcohol is greater than that caused by all other drugs. [HL2240]

The Government recognise the harm that can be caused by alcohol misuse. That is why, in the Green Paper, Our Healthier Nation, we said that we would be developing a new alcohol strategy. We intend to produce a coherent strategy which reinforces our messages about sensible drinking and provides an effective framework for action to tackle alcohol misuse in all its forms.

Disability Benefits Forum

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans there are to set up a forum to discuss sickness and disability benefits, as outlined in the Green Paper,

New Ambitions for our country: a new contract for welfare. [HL2303]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security
(Baroness Hollis of Heigham)

The Government are pleased to announce the first meeting of the Disability Benefits Forum took place today. This is an important step forward to ensure a proper dialogue between government and disability organisations.The terms of reference of the forum are: To consider possible options for changes in the gateways to benefits for long-term sick and disabled people and carers, and how to ensure that help is directed to those who need it.The forum will bring together representatives of disabled people and experts in disability issues to conduct an open and detailed dialogue with the Government.The members of the forum are:

Peter Adeane:National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux
David Behan:Local Government Association
Ian Bruce:Royal National Institute for the Blind and co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium
Jane Campbell:National Centre for Independent Living
Alison Cobb:MIND
Nicole Davoud:Independent disability consultant
Marilyn Howard:Independent disability consultant
Professor R. Grahame:Chairman of the Disability Living Allowance Advisory Board
Jill Harrison:Carers National Association
Rachel Hurst:Rights Now!
Brian Lamb:SCOPE
Margaret Lavery:RADAR
Carol Lee:People First
Colin Low:National Federation of the Blind of the UK

Brian McGinnis:MENCAP
Dr. Lotte Newman:Former President of the Royal College of General Practitioners
Lorna Reith:Disability Alliance
Roy Sainsbury:University of York—Social Policy Research Unit
James Strachan:RNID
Pauline Thompson:Disablement Income Group
Richard Wood:British Council of Organisations of Disabled People and co-chair of the Disability Benefits Forum

Fish Quotas

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they intend to proceed with the introduction of fixed quota allocations for fish. [HL2267]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Lord Donoughue)

From 1 January 1999, the annual allocation of fish quotas to producer organisations, the non sector and other groups will be linked to fishing activity (catches) that took place in the reference period 1994 to 1996. These arrangements, referred to as fixed quota allocations (FQAs), will apply to all quota stocks caught in domestic waters except for North Sea herring taken as a by-catch in industrial fishing, and to certain stocks taken in external waters. The fisheries departments are writing to the owners of over 10m vessels, producer organisations and other interests to advise them of the new arrangements.A consultative paper setting out proposals for the introduction of fixed quota allocations for domestic waters was issued by the fisheries departments last November and was sent to the owners of some 2,300 fishing vessels over 10m, as well as producer organisations and other interests. Almost 300 replies have been received. Although the majority of those commenting were not in favour of the change, there was strong support for a system of fixed quota allocations from producer organisations, which together, represent some two-thirds of the over 10m fleet and catch more than 90 per cent. of the UK's quota. After careful consideration of all the arguments, we have come to the view that there would be significant benefits to be gained from moving to fixed quota allocations, although we would wish to review such a system in 3 years' time in the light of the experience gained.Producer organisations will have a key role to play during the introduction of fixed quota allocations. There is apprehension among fishermen that moving to a fixed quota allocation system may disadvantage those whose fishing activities were curtailed during the reference period 1994 to 1996. The arrangements that are being introduced will provide scope for POs, acting with their members, to undertake internal adjustments to take account of anomalies that may have arisen in the reference period. Separate arrangements are also being made to cater for those fishermen who belong to the non sector.

Concern was expressed during the consultation exercise that fixed quota allocations would pave the way to the introduction of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) and, separately, could lead to increased pressure on non quota stocks. On the first point the Government have no plans to introduce ITQs and no such action would be taken without full and proper consultation with the industry. On the second point the fisheries departments will be monitoring the impact of fixed quota allocations and, if necessary, action to safeguard the position of non-quota stocks will be considered. In this context, and given more general concern over growing pressure on scallop stocks, we shall be consulting the fishing industry and other interests about proposals to limit future access to the scallop fisheries.

The proposals would involve the introduction of new licensing arrangements with effect from 1 January 1999. From that date, in the case of vessels over 10m in length, permission to fish for scallops would be granted only to vessels which met the qualifying criteria at 31 May 1998. These criteria may include both a track record of scallop landings prior to that date and the use of appropriate fishing gear during the corresponding period. No activity in the scallop fishery after 31 May 1998 would be taken into account. The arrangements for fishing by under 10m vessels would not be affected by the proposed licensing changes, although they will continue to be required to comply with the technical conservation rules applying to scallop fisheries. These rules are under separate review.

A separate consultation exercise on the application of fixed quota allocations to external waters stocks at North Norway, Svalbard and Greenland met with unanimous support. Fisheries departments therefore intend to introduce fixed quota allocations for these fisheries on 1 January 1999 as part of the process of applying fixed quota allocations more generally. Detailed aspects will be explained in a forthcoming consultative letter on proposals for the future licensing of fishing opportunities in external waters.

Biodiversity Convention: Conference

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the conference of the Parties to the Biodiversity Convention Meeting in Bratislava. [HL2305]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
(Baroness Hayman)

The Fourth Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity was held in Bratislava from 4 to 15 May. The United Kingdom led active participation by the European Union, which helped to ensure that many of our objectives for this meeting, as agreed at the March Environment Council, were achieved.A range of further work was agreed on measures to safeguard biodiversity in inland water, forest, agriculture, and coastal and marine ecosystems. Arrangements were agreed for the conclusion of the negotiation of a biosafety protocol to the convention by early next year, and to hold an intersessional working group to consider further the implementation of the convention's provisions on traditional knowledge. The meeting commissioned further work to analyse the first round of national reports from parties, and the preparation of guidance on the nature and timing of the next round. Attention will also be given intersessionally to access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing.The UK laid particular emphasis on the need to improve the operations of the convention and the conference of the parties, and, while some progress was made on this in Bratislava, further consideration will take place at an intersessional meeting next year. The UK will continue to press for improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the convention's operations, in order to maximise delivery of the convention's objectives.

Medway Secure Training Centre

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Answer by the Lord Williams of Mostyn on 27 April (H.L. Deb., cols. 9–11), how many boy and girl inmates there are at the Medway Secure Training Centre. [HL2177]

As of Monday 15 June, there was a total of nine trainees at Medway Secure Training Centre, comprising seven boys and two girls.

Firearms Licensing: Home Office Circulars

  • (a) list all Home Office circulars issued since 1968 concerning the administration of the current Firearms Acts to date, with an explanation why some of the circulars that are issued on different topics and dates in the same year are given the same reference number; and
  • (b) list all such circulars that are issued with the same reference number, giving dates. [HL2184]
  • Home Office circulars to the police, including those on firearms matters, are numbered for reference sequentially within each year of issue. A list of all such circulars to chief officers of police on firearms licensing matters from 1968 to the present is set out below:

    196812/68Criminal Justice Act 1967
    21/68Amnesty and Appeal for Surrender
    59/68Part V of the Criminal Justice Act 1967
    155/68Firearms Act 1968
    208/68The Transfer of Functions (Prohibited Weapons) Order 1968
    258/68The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1968
    196932/69The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969
    181/69The Firearms Rules 1969

    255/69Firearms Act 1968 Memorandum of Guidance (Revised)
    1970288/69The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1970
    1971–1974No circulars issued on firearms licensing
    197581/75The Firearms (Removal to Northern Ireland) Order 1975
    104/75The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1975
    105/75The Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order 1975:
    Application under the Firearms Act 1968
    1976148/75The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1976
    202/76The Firearms (Variation of Fees) (No. 2) Order 1976
    197784/77The Firearms (Removal to Northern Ireland) Order 1975
    197840/78The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1978
    197925/79The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1979
    67/79Firearms Fees
    198054/80The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1980
    1981No circulars on firearms licensing issued
    198211/82Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
    86/82Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
    198383/83I. Firearms (Certificates Granted in Great Britain and Air Weapons lawfully held in Great Britain) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1981
    II. Firearms (Removal to Northern Ireland) Order 1975
    91/83Firearms Act 1982
    92/83Firearms Act 1982
    198418/84Electric Shock Batons and Similar Devices
    47/84Working Party to Review the Administration of the Firearms Act 1968
    198529/85Working Party to Review the Administration of the Firearms Act 1968:
    I. Territorial Condition
    II. Provision of Zeroing Rifles
    198659/86The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1986
    198746/87I. The Crossbows Act 1987
    II. Territorial Conditions on Firearm Certificates
    198831/88Firearms Amnesty: Appeal for Surrender of Guns
    19892/189The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988
    45/89The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988
    75/89The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988: Visitors Permit Scheme: Removal of Firearms to Northern Ireland
    199025/90Approval of Rifle and Pistol Clubs under Section 15 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988: New Criteria
    40/90The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1990
    19916/91The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988: Removal of Firearms to Northern Ireland
    94/91Administration of the Firearms Licensing System
    199295/92The Firearms Acts (Amendment) Regulations 1992
    199327/93The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) (Amendment) Regulations Act 1993
    199437/94The Firearms (Amendment) Regulations 1994
    64/94The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1994
    The Firearms (Period of Certificates) Order 1994
    The Firearms (Amendment) Rules 1994
    1995–1996No circulars on firearms licensing issued
    199732/97The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997
    68/97The Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997
    1998No circulars on firearms licensing issued to date.

    Home Office records from 1968 onwards do not record any circular on firearms matters having the same number as any other circular for that year. Copies of Home Office circulars to the police are routinely placed in the Library.

    Criminal Cases Review Commission

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What assets were transferred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission on 1 April. [HL2341]

    The Criminal Cases Review Commission has been notified that certain Crown assets have been transferred to it, effective from 1 April 1998. The transfer will be free of charge. The assets comprise:

    AssetsEstimated Value
    Furniture and miscellaneous items of office equipment£87,000
    Information Technology and communications equipment£496,000
    Total£583,000

    Sierra Leone: Asylum Seekers

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the situation regarding asylum seekers from Sierra Leone. [HL2342]

    My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr. Mike O'Brien) announced on 1 July that he had made a declaration under the Social Security (Persons from Abroad) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 1996 that Sierra Leone had undergone such an upheaval that we would not seek to enforce the return of refused asylum seekers to that country for the time being.Since that time, the situation in the country has been carefully monitored, together with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. More information has become available since the liberation of Freetown by ECOMOG troops in February this year. The democratically elected President returned to the country in March and announced his new broad-based government. Although there is fighting in the east, the rest of the country appears secure.The information received about conditions in Sierra Leone enables us to make an informed assessment of the merits of asylum applications made prior to the upheaval, and subsequently, in accordance with our international obligations. If an applicant is able to demonstrate that his fear of persecution is well-founded then asylum will be granted. In other cases, if there are clear compelling humanitarian reasons not to require a person to return, exceptional leave to enter or remain will be granted. If asylum or exceptional treatment is not merited, the normal course will be to expect applicants to return to Sierra Leone. We will continue to monitor developments in the region.

    Perjury And Perverting The Course Of Justice: Prosecutions

    asked Her Majesty's Government:On how many occasions in the past two years have (a) a party and (b) a witness in actions for defamation been prosecuted for perjury or obstructing the course of justice or similar offences arising from the giving of evidence or in a sworn statement; and [HL2181]On how many occasions in the past few years have:

  • (a) a person convicted of an offence; and
  • (b) a witness to an alibi which by their verdict the jury have rejected been prosecuted for an offence of perjury or obstructing the course of justice or similar offence arising from giving evidence or in a sworn statement. [HL2182]
  • The three separate court databases for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland do not identify cases to the detail required. However, limited information on the number of cases for offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice is given in the tables.

    Table A: Number of defendants prosecuted for perjury and perverting the course of justice offences, England and Wales, 1995–1996
    Offence description19951996
    Perjury and false statements (also false declarations and representations made punishable by any statute)232247
    Attempting to pervert the course of justice (attempting to pervert the course of public justice—fabrication of false evidence, cause person to be wrongly convicted, interference with witness)2,8862,924
    Table B: Persons proceeded against for perjury and subornation, or for general attempts to defeat/pervert the ends/course of justice, Scotland, 1995–1996
    Offence description19951996
    Perjury and subornation
    False representation915
    Perjury58
    Subornation of perjury02
    Total1425
    General attempts to defeat/pervert the ends/course of justice
    Attempts to defeat the ends of justice142193
    Attempts to pervert the course of justice1,1451,315
    Defeat the ends of justice2310
    Pervert the course of justice11418
    Public mischief2936
    Total1,4531,572
    Table C: Specific perjury offence prosecutions in Northern Ireland, 1995–1997
    Offence description199519961997
    Perjury by a witness230
    Perverting the course of justice131114