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Written Answers

Volume 590: debated on Thursday 18 June 1998

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Written Answers

Thursday, 18th June 1998.

Harassment

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many prosecutions have been brought under Section 154 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which deals with intentional harassment; what was the outcome; how many of these involved cases of racial harassment; and what was the outcome of those cases. [HL2195]

Information on the number of prosecutions by result for the offence of "Causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress" under Section 154 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is given in the table.The data held centrally on the Home Office Court Proceedings database do not identify whether any of the cases involved racial harassment.

Number of prosecutions under Section 1541 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 by result, England and Wales, 1995–1996
19951996
Total Prosecutions100516
Total Convictions40295
Total sentenced40295
Type of sentence given
Discharge1064
Fine23152
Average fine£118£146
Community sentence544
Immediate custody128
Average custodial sentence (months)2.02.7
Other17
1 Came into force on 3 February 1995.

Khat

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 1 April (

WA 37–38), what representations they have received this year urging a ban on the sale of khat. [HL2213]

We have received one representation so far this year urging that controls on khat should be introduced under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. We have also received one to the contrary.

Political Parties: Registration

Political Parties: Registration

asked Her Majesty's Government:What are their plans to register political parties for elections in 1999; and what fee they intend to charge for registration. [HL2220]

The Registration of Political Parties Bill was introduced in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on 13 May 1998. It provides for a register of political parties to be established. Parties will be able to register in time for elections in May 1999 to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales, and in June 1999 to the European Parliament. We have made no final decisions on the level of fees, but it is expected that the fee for initial registration will be about £100.

Prison Enterprise Service: Internal Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the name of the company which won the Prison Enterprise Service contract for the provision of internal services; what was the amount of the successful tender; and, if another bidder for this contract offered the service at a lower figure, why their bid was not successful. [HL2167]

The Prison Enterprise Service, now known as the Prison Enterprise and Supply Group, which is part of the Regimes Directorate of the Prison Service, has not let a contract for the provision of "internal services".

Export Promotion

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will examine their arrangements for export promotion. [HL2359]

My right honourable friends the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade, with the approval of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, have asked the Secretary to the Cabinet to lead a review with the following terms of reference:

  • To examine the arrangements for providing official support and promotion for exports (other than defence goods and services) and investment abroad, having regard to the importance of continuing close interaction between business and the DTI on all aspects of business performance, and maintaining the close integration of all aspects of support by diplomatic posts for the full range of British interests overseas, and to make recommendations to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the President of the Board of Trade.

Sir Richard Wilson will be assisted by a panel whose members are:

  • Sir Ronald Hampel (Chairman ICI plc)
  • Mr. David John (Chairman, BOC plc)
  • Mr. Eric Peacock (Chief Executive, Hertfordshire Business Link)
  • Mr. Martin Henry (Chairman of Lastolite Ltd.)
  • Mr. John Shepherd (Deputy Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
  • Mr. Tom Harris (Director-General of Export Promotion, Department of Trade and Industry)
  • Mr. Harry Bush (Enterprise and Growth Unit, HM Treasury)

Sir Richard expects to report by the autumn.

Raf Feltwell

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have access to all data collected at RAF Feltwell. [HL2227]

All data collected by the station are made available to Her Majesty's Government.

Gulf Veterans: Cia Documents

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the United States Central Intelligence Agency is holding up to 1.5 million documents relating to operations during the Gulf War which may explain the cause of illness suffered by Gulf veterans; and, if so, whether they have asked for access to these documents in order to assist with the diagnosis and treatment of ill United Kingdom Gulf veterans. [HL1823]

The Ministry of Defence is aware that earlier this year the US Central Intelligence Agency made available to the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses at the Department of Defense a large number of documents relating to the Gulf conflict, which they are now in the process of analysing. As part of our continuous close co-operation with the US authorities, we will monitor the results of this analysis in order to ensure that our handling of British Gulf veterans' health concerns benefits from any available US information or experience.

Raf New Training Aircraft

asked Her Majesty's Government:What progress has been made on the Private Finance Initiative Project to replace the Bulldog training aircraft. [HL2360]

Bombardier Services has been selected as the preferred bidder for the Royal Air Force's planned Light Aircraft flying task contract. The contractor will supply Grob 115D aircraft. The aircraft will be owned and maintained by the contractor, who wil provide flying hours and support services to the University Air Squadrons and the Air Cadet Air Experience Flights at 13 locations across the UK.The planned contract will provide the RAF with a modern aircraft that is ideally suited to the training role it is required to perform. The aircraft is quieter and significantly cheaper to run than the ageing Bulldog aircraft which it will replace.The choice of aircraft was narrowed down to the Grob 115D and the Firefly M260. The Grob 115D better meets our particular requirements for the University Air Squadron and Air Cadet tasks and in particular its cockpit size and ergonomics offer a better teaching environment. Moreover, the Grob is quieter and operating costs are significantly less than the Firefly. Taking all factors into account, it offers better value for money on this occasion.Subject to final negotiations, the contract is expected to result in savings in excess of £30 million over its 10-year life, compared with the cost of running-on the Bulldog. It is also cheaper than our assessment of the cost of a conventional procurement of a new aircraft fleet.The service is to be procured in line with the Private Finance Initiative, demonstrating the Government's strong resolve to achieve value for money in defence support. Appropriate risks will rest with the contractor and the contract will contain suitable incentives to ensure that the RAF receives a high quality service.

Varroa Mite

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans or provisions they have made, or intend to make, for the introduction of a compensation scheme for beekeepers whose apiaries have been subject to attack from the varroa mite. [HL2185]

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

The Government take the threat to beekeeping from varroa very seriously and, this year, are spending around £1.5 million on a range of measures to tackle this problem. The emphasis is on training and education to help beekeepers become more self-reliant. We consider this to be the best use of the available resources.

Beekeeping: Eu Support

asked Her Majesty's Government:What financial assistance they have received or expect to receive from the European Commission to support beekeeping in (a) England, (b) Wales and (c) Scotland and (d) Northern Ireland. [HL2186]

The UK allocation of EU funds for year one of the scheme established under Council Regulation 1221/97 to improve the production and marketing of honey is 680,000 ecu (around £474,000). No payments will be received until after the end of the period to which the expenditure relates.Of this amount, 514,148 ecu (£358,391) relates to work in England, 95,676 ecu (£66,692) in Wales, 64,872 ecu (£45,220) in Scotland and 5,304 ecu (£3,697) in Northern Ireland. These figures reflect contributions to the UK national honey programme.

Avebury And Stonehenge World Heritage Site

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why the area of the World Heritage Site encompassing Stonehenge and Avebury has not been designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area. [HL2223]

When Environmentally Sensitive Areas were designated, other areas were given higher priority for the available funds. The Government have no plans at present to create new Environmentally Sensitive Areas.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why Avebury World Heritage Site is not specifically targeted as a Countryside Stewardship Priority Area. [HL2224]

The Avebury and Stonehenge World Heritage Site became a priority area under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for the 1998 application round.

House Of Lords: Parked Cars

asked the Chairman of Committees:Further to his Written Answer on 1 June (

WA 12), whether he will take steps to ensure that the engines of all cars not under the control of the Government Car and Despatch Agency are switched off when parked in the areas allocated to the House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster. [HL2138]

Cancer Charities

asked Her Majesty's Government:Which charities are involved in raising monies for cancer treatments and cures including research; and which are financially assisted by government departments. [HL2197]

The Government consider it vitally important to collaborate with cancer charities which play a key role in the overall organisation of research into the prevention, treatment and cure of cancer. A list of medical research cancer charities involved in raising monies and which are financially assisted by government departments is at Annex A.The Department of Health also has a grant-aid scheme which contributes to the running costs of a large number of voluntary organisations under Section 64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968. This scheme provides help for projects of potential national significance which take forward the department's policy objectives and priorities. Similar schemes are also run by the other United Kingdom health departments where, in addition to the above mentioned Act, grants to strengthen health promotion and disease prevention in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are available under Section 97 of the National Health Service Act 1977, Section 16B of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 and Article 71 of the Health and Personal Social Services NI Order 1972 respectively. A list of cancer charities is at Annex B. This list is not inclusive, as all Welsh health authorities contract with non-statutory organisations to provide cancer services.ANNEX ARESEARCH CHARITIES

  • Imperial Cancer Research Fund
  • Cancer Research Campaign
  • Leukaemia Research Fund
  • Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
  • Yorkshire Cancer Research Campaign
  • Association For International Cancer Research
  • North of England Cancer Research Campaign
  • Marie Curie Research Institute
  • Tenovus
  • War On Cancer
  • Breakthrough Breast Cancer
  • Breast Cancer Campaign

ANNEX B

CANCER CHARITIES

  • Macmillan Cancer Relief
  • Marie Curie Cancer Care
  • CancerLink
  • National Cancer Alliance
  • Women's Nationwide Cancer Control Campaign
  • CancerBacup
  • Breast Cancer Care
  • Colon Cancer Concern
  • Genesis (breast cancer with genetic cause)
  • Hodgkins Disease and Lymphoma Association
  • Cancer Support Centre (Wandsworth)
  • CHAS (Children's Hospice)
  • Scottish Partnership Agency
  • Tenovus
  • Children's Cancer Care

"Customer"

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they consider the word "customer" is appropriate when referring to patients in the NHS and passengers on public and private transport; and, if not, whether they will instruct government departments and agencies to cease the use of the word in such contexts. [HL2193]

Various terms are used to describe the users of public services, depending on the nature of the service in question. We do not intend to issue central guidance on this point as it is a matter for departments and agencies to consider in the light of their particular circumstances. What is important is that services are designed to meet the user's needs, that they are of a high quality, and that users are consulted on how services might be improved.In the case of the NHS, the Department of Health promotes the term "users", as this encompasses both the patients and patients' carers whom they serve.The Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions and the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF) both favour the term "passengers". But it is left to privatised transport providers to decide which term is most suitable for them.

Interest Rate Rise

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they approve of the increase in interest rates imposed by the Bank of England on 4 June. [HL2163]

The Bank of England raised interest rates by a¼ percentage point on 4 June. The Chancellor said in his Mansion House speech on 11 June that he does not comment on the month-to-month decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee. The Government are satisfied that the new arrangements for monetary policy will deliver long-term price stability, and prevent a return to the cycle of boom and bust.

Pay-Tv: Itc Proposals

asked Her Majesty's Government:What representations have Ministers at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport received from channel providers on the Independent Television Commission's (ITC's) proposals to abolish minimum carriage requirements and tiering obligations in the pay television retail market; how many responses altogether there have been to the ITC's consultation on unbundling in the pay television retail market; and whether they will place copies of these responses in the Library of the House. [HL2170]

Three channel providers have, by various representations, made known to Ministers their concerns about the implications of the Independent Television Commission's (ITC's) proposals on the pay-TV market. The commission has held three consultations during its investigation into channel bundling and I understand that there were 23 respondents to the first; 40 to the second and 33 to the third. In addition, commission officials have held meetings with a substantial number of interested parties. I understand that, as much of the information has been provided to the ITC in strict confidence, the commission has no plans to place the copies of the responses either in its own library or in the Library of the House.

Strategic Communications Unit

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 2 March (

WA 129), how much has the Strategic Communications Unit expended from its inception to date; and [HL1661]

What will be the estimated itemised cost in a full year of the Strategic Communication Unit. [HL1662]

Expenditure for the Strategic Communications Unit was £73,519 for the year 1997–98. It was set up in January 1998. Estimated expenditure for the unit in 1998–99 is expected to be in the region of £500,000. All costs are being met across Whitehall from within existing budgets.

Water Abstraction Licensing

asked Her Majesty's Government:What changes they propose to make to the water abstraction licensing system in England and Wales. [HL2361]

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

Together with the Welsh Office, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has prepared a consultation paper, setting out a wide range of proposals which will ensure that abstraction licensing and related arrangements in England and Wales provide full protection to the water environment while enabling fair and flexible measures for meeting properly managed demand for water resources. We shall place copies in the Library of the House tomorrow morning, coincident with the paper's publication.

Coalfields Task Force: Report

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they intend to publish the Coalfields Task Force's report. [HL2362]

We warmly welcome the publication today of the Coalfields Task Force's excellent report, Making the Difference: A New Start for England's Coalfield Communities. Copies of the report will be placed in the House Libraries.Last year, we gave a commitment to help regenerate communities devastated by pit closures. We wanted to ensure that every option open to us was explored so that those communities could get the help and support that they need and deserve. That is why we set up the Coalfields Task Force last October, under the chairmanship of Paula Hay-Plumb. We want to thank Paula and her team for their hard work and dedication in producing their excellent report.The task force's report is comprehensive in its approach. It includes many promising practical proposals. We want to ensure that our response is equally comprehensive, and that careful consideration is given to the detail of all the recommendations. We will give our initial response at the conference to be held at Ollerton Miners Welfare, North Nottinghamshire, on Monday 13 July. We will announce a detailed programme of action for the former coalfield communities in the autumn.We all agree that we must redress the decline of our former coalfields communities. Government cannot do this alone. All partners—central and local government, the voluntary and private sectors, and the communities themselves—must make a firm long-term commitment if we are to make the difference.

World Heritage Sites: Agricultural Buildings

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether putting up agricultural buildings within World Heritage Sites requires planning permission. [HL2222]

Planning permission is required for all development, although in England permission is granted by the General Permitted Development Order for certain types of development, including some agricultural buildings. This means that a planning application is not required in such cases although certain details may be the subject of a prior approval application to the local planning authority (LPA). In addition LPAs may remove these permitted development rights by means of a direction under Article 4 of the Order. The Government's Planning Policy Guidance Note 15, Planning and the Historic Environment, advises that inclusion of a site on the World Heritage list is a key material consideration to be taken into account by local planning authorities in determining planning applications. Changes to such sites may also require listed building, scheduled monument or conservation area consent. World Heritage Sites in the rest of the United Kingdom are in developed areas or not in use for agriculture.

Access To The Open Countryside In England And Wales: Consultation Paper

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, for the purposes of the proposals in

Access to the Open Countryside (February 1998), they will exclude mossland which can be horticulturalised. [HL2217]

We will consider the precise types of land to which any new right of access would apply in the light of responses to the consultation paper, Access to the Open Countryside in England & Wales.

asked Her Majesty's Government:How they plan to ensure that farmers will be able to guarantee that their crops are disease-free and that they meet the standards required by food retailers if greater numbers of the public and their dogs are allowed access to farming land under the proposals in

Access to the Open Countryside (February 1998); and [HL2214]

How they will guarantee farmers that agricultural land will not be damaged by the increased access proposed in Access to the Open Countryside (February 1998). [HL2218]

The Government's proposals set out in our consultation paper Access to the Open Countryside in England & Wales specifically exclude agricultural land other than that used for extensive grazing. Our proposals would not, therefore, affect land on which crops are growing. Experience of permitting access to land used for extensive grazing suggests that access is compatible with such use.

asked Her Majesty's Government:How they will guarantee the safety of walkers when they are given greater access to land on which animals are grazing as a result of the proposals in

Access to the Open Countryside (February 1998). [HL2215]

The Government's proposals reflect our view that walkers should bear the primary responsibility for their own safety on affected land. The proposals exclude agricultural land other than that used for extensive grazing. A significant amount of public access already takes place uneventfully on such land. We would expect the proposed codes of practice for walkers, produced by the Countryside Commission and Countryside Council for Wales, to include any necessary guidance on safety.

asked Her Majesty's Government:How, for the purposes of the proposals in

Access to the Open Countryside (February 1998), they will define open downland as opposed to permanent pasture. [HL2216]

The Government have asked the Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales to make recommendations on the identification of land to which a new right of access might apply, and to provide appropriate advice on its definition.