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Written Answers

Volume 620: debated on Wednesday 20 December 2000

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Written Answers

Wednesday, 20th December 2000.

Consolidated Fund Bill

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether a statement has been made under the Human Rights Act 1998 in connection with the Consolidated Fund Bill. [HL227]

I have made a statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Consolidated Fund Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the statement has been placed in the Library of the House.

Criminal Proceedings: Acceptance Of Pleas By Prosecution

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the Attorney General's guidelines on the acceptance of pleas by the prosecution in criminal proceedings will be published. [HL57]

I will be publishing my guidelines on the acceptance of pleas by the prosecution in criminal proceedings, which are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament. These documents can also be found on the website for the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers at

Health Food Products: Eu Labelling Proposals

asked Her Majesty's Government:What steps they are taking to promote within Europe initiatives to improve labelling information for consumers of health food products; and whether they expect such initiatives to permit more accurate and comprehensive information about the contribution of some of these products to the promotion of well-being and the reduction of the risk of ill-health; and [HL131]Whether they expect the work of the Food Standards Agency in reviewing food labelling to lead to proposals that allow consumers to have access to accurate and comprehensive information about the contribution of some food products to the reduction of the risk of ill-health. [HL132]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health
(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath)

The Food Standards Agency is pressing the European Commission to include disease risk reduction claims in its proposals for legislation on health claims, and to introduce an effective and practical system at European Union level for the verification and approval of such claims.

Medical Toxicology Unit: Organophosphate Poisoning Cases

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many patients who attended the Medical Toxicology Unit (formerly the National Poisons Unit) were diagnosed by their clinicians as suffering from:

  • (a) acute organophosphate poisoning; or
  • (b) chronic organophosphate poisoning
  • for each year since 1990. [HL69]

    The Medical Toxicology Outpatient Clinic does not maintain a separate database which would allow easy identification of specific sub-groups of patients and their diagnosis. This would be done through research projects which require approval according to trust procedures, including ethical approval. Appropriate funding would be required for such research projects.

    Surveillance of sheep dip exposures 23 September to 3 November 1991—final report October 1992 received Ethics Committee approval; by whom the study was funded; and what subsequent research on organophosphate poisoning, including a questionnaire survey, has been conducted by Medical Toxicology Unit (formerly the National Poisons Unit) staff or researchers employed by them. [HL70]

    Ethics approval was not required for the pilot study Surveillance of sheep dip exposures 23 September to 3 November 1991. The study was funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.Subsequent to this study, the following research on organophosphate poisoning has been conducted by the Medical Toxicology Unit (MTU) staff:A retrospective survey of organophosphorus insecticide poisoning in South Asia (in 1999–2000) in collaboration with World Health Organisation Regional Office for South East Asia (SEARO) and the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) Geneva. A member of the staff of the Medical Toxicology Unit was sent to Nepal, Sri Lanka and India for this study, which was a survey of teaching, district and peripheral hospitals for two months. The report is available at SEARO/IPCS/Guys Hospital.Ongoing development of a hypothesis on the toxicity of organophosphorus intoxication and

    the publication of a book

    Organophosphates and Health, which is a multinational author production, has been completed with one of the editors and several contributors being from the MTU. The book is intended to be on the shelves by March 2001.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether any research conducted by the Medical Toxicology Unit (formerly the National Poisons Unit) into the effects of exposure to organophosphates subsequent to

    Surveillance of sheep dip exposures 23 September to 3 November 1991—Final Report October 1992 Murray et al, had Ethics Committee approval; if so, when, by whom the work was funded; whether the results of any such work have been published; if so, in which publications; and, if not, whether they will make the results available. [HL90]

    Subsequent to the study Surveillance of sheep dip exposures 23 September to 3 November 1991, the following research on organophosphate poisoning has been conducted by the Medical Toxicology Unit staff (MTU) staff:A retrospective survey of organophosphorus insecticide poisoning in South Asia (in 1999–2000) in collaboration with World Health Organisation Regional Office for South East Asia (SEARO) and the International programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) Geneva. A member of the staff of the Medical Toxicology Unit was sent to Nepal, Sri Lanka and India for this study, which was a survey of teaching, district and peripheral hospitals for two months. The report is available at SEARO/IPCS/Guys Hospital.Ongoing development of a hypothesis on the toxicity of organophosphorus intoxication and the publication of a book

    Organophosphates and Health, which is a multinational author production, has been completed with one of the editors and several contributors being from the MTU. The book is intended to be on the shelves by March 2001.

    None of these activities required Ethics Committee approval.

    Nhs Complaints System: Elderly Complainants

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the National Health Service complaints system, as now administered, is dealing satisfactorily with the complaints of older people; how long on average those people have to wait for clear outcomes; and what action they are taking to ensure that the complaints of older people are dealt with more quickly. [HL102]

    The Government expect all complaints, from whatever age group they originate, to be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible, with the prime aim of resolving any problems and satisfying the concerns of the complainant. An independent United Kingdom-wide evaluation of the complaints procedure is now in its final stages and due to submit findings to Ministers in early 2001. The NHS Plan made it clear that we will act on the results of the evaluation and reform the complaints procedure to make it more independent and responsive to patients, and this would, of course, include older people. The plan also sets out ways in which we will strengthen patient involvement in the National Health Service across the board through the creation of patients' fora, and the Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service, which will help patients raise concerns and have them dealt with quickly. In addition, regular surveys of patients' experience, both locally and nationally, will help to ensure that patients of all ages are placed at the centre of the NHS.Information on the average length of time people have to wait for a reponse is not available.

    Hm Prison, Blantyre House

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Why in a Written Answer on 22 May (

    WA 61) Lord Bassam of Brighton stated that damage to a total value of £500 had been caused in a search of HM Prison Blantyre House on 5 and 6 May, when the Prison Service's internal report on the raid asserts that damage to the value of £6,100 at full commercial rates had been caused and when in guidance to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee the Director General of the Prison Service stated that repairing the damage from their own materials costs the service about £2,500. [HL203]

    The figure of £500 given, both in a Written Answer on 22 May (WA 61), and in oral evidence before the Home Affairs Committee on 16 May, represented an estimate of the direct cost to the establishment of the repairs. The Director General wrote to the Home Affairs Committee on 20 June to explain that, if account were taken of the value of the door frames and other materials provided by the Prison Service workshops, that the cost of repairing the damage would be a revised estimate of £2,585. In the event, the cost of the repairs amounted to £2,242.20. This information was passed to the Home Affairs Committee on 28 September, and in its final report (Cmd. 904) the committee noted, at paragraph 101 (c): "It is not unreasonable that the cost of the damage was not known on 16 May". The figure of £6,100 includes labour costs, and was provided as an estimate of the commercially equivalent costs, to provide a benchmarking assurance.

    M-O-O-T Operating System

    asked Her Majesty's Government:How, in the context of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, they respond to the scheduled launch of the m-o-o-t operating system in July 2001. [HL140]

    It would not be appropriate to comment on the proposed m-o-o-t operating system.

    Council Of Europe Draft Cybercrime Convention

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What assessment, if any, they have made of whether the draft Council of Europe Cybercrime Treaty is fully consistent with the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [HL143]

    The Government have taken due regard of the requirements of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights throughout the negotiations on the draft Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention. The preamble to the Convention makes it clear that the Contracting Parties to the Convention must ensure a proper balance between the interests of law enforcement and respect for fundamental human rights, as enshrined in both the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the 1966 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Government believe that this balance has been achieved.

    Communications Data: Mandatory Retention

    asked Her Majesty's Government:How they intend to respond to the submission entitled

    Looking to the Future made to the Home Office by the National Criminal Intelligence Service. [HL145]

    The Government are considering the arguments of the National Criminal Intelligence Service about the mandatory retention of communications data. We have no plans to introduce legislation in the near future. The issue needs to be examined in the context of detailed consultation with all relevant interests and a consideration of current European practice.

    Abnormal Loads: Mobile Phones

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 22 November (

    WA 74), whether the

    authorisation of Special Types (General Order) 1979 either:

  • (a) requires mobile phones to be available to the crew of a vehicle carrying an abnormal load; or
  • (b) enables the police to require one to be available. [HL126]
  • The Motor Vehicles (Authorisation of Special Types) General Order 1979 makes no provision for either (a) or (b).

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 22 November (

    WA 74), whether the Association of Chief Police Officers has issued guidelines recommending the use of either two-way radios or mobile phones as the normal means of communication between the police and the abnormal load's "second man"; and if so, when. [HL127]

    No such guidelines have been issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

    Statutory Notifications: Police Powers

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the police have legal right to make charges or to take profit in relation to the receipt of statutory notifications. [HL149]

    I am not aware of any such police powers. If the noble Earl is able to provide further details about his particular concerns, I would be happy to consider them.

    Armenian Massacre 1915–16: Commemoration

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will include the Armenian massacre of 1915–16 in the commemorations proposed for the Holocaust Memorial day to be observed on 27 January 2001; and if not, why not. [HL114]

    My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mike O'Brien) set out the Government's position in reply to a question in another place on 30 November.Holocaust Memorial Day is focused on learning the lessons of the Holocaust and other more recent atrocities that raise similar issues. We took a conscious decision to focus on events around the Holocaust and thereafter, although we did examine requests to consider the atrocities and other events that preceded the Holocaust. Examples include the Crusades, slavery, colonialism, the victims of Stalin and the Boer War. It is always difficult to draw a line and wherever it is drawn it runs the risk of being misinterpreted.

    A particular focus on events around the period 1939–45 and thereafter should not be seen as failing to acknowledge, sympathise and respect the concerns about prior events.

    The massacres of Armenians in 1915–16 were an appalling tragedy condemned by the government of the day and now. We understand the strength of feeling about this terrible period and extend our sympathies to the descendants of the victims.

    The Government's decision to give a particular focus to Holocaust Memorial Day does not prevent recollection by the Armenian community of these appalling events. Others may also seek to highlight other atrocities.

    Salmon And Freshwater Fisheries Review

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will report progress on the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review. [HL229]

    The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
    (Baroness Hayman)

    In April 1998 the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales formed a small independent group to review existing policies and legislation in England and Wales concerning the management and conservation of salmon, trout, eels and freshwater fish. The Review Group submitted its report in February 2000, and the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review was published in March. Interested individuals and organisations were then invited to comment on the review.Over 700 individuals and organisations sent in comments, and these have been taken into account in deciding the Government's response to the review. The great majority strongly supported the review's recommendations and conclusions, although concern was expressed about some individual recommendations—in particular, one relating to the coarse fish close season on rivers.The Government intend to respond to all the 195 recommendations in the review in relation to England, and this detailed response will be placed in the Library of the House and sent to all honourable Members who have expressed an interest in the review, after the recess. The National Assembly for Wales will be responding separately. In the meantime, I would like to outline the key elements of our response.The Government welcome the review, which they consider to be a major contribution to the development of modern policies on salmon and freshwater fisheries. They endorse the review's recommendations on the rationale for government involvement in the conservation and management of salmon and freshwater fish and accept the great majority of the review's recommendations relating to salmon and freshwater fisheries legislation. When parliamentary time permits the Government intend to introduce proposals for new salmon and freshwater fisheries legislation to implement the agreed changes.The review recommends a substantial increase in grant-in-aid to fund the Environment Agency's fisheries function. The Government have considered this recommendation with particular care. They note that pressures on the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food budget made it necessary to reduce grant-in-aid in England by £1.5 million in 2001–02; grant-in-aid paid to the agency by the Ministry next year will therefore fall to £3.2 million.The Government have, however, now decided, in the light of the review's recommendation, to increase grant-in-aid in England by £3 million a year for the years 2002–03 and 2003–04; this will mean that grant-in-aid for each of these years will be set at £6.2 million—an increase of 30 per cent on the level of grant-in-aid in the current year. It will be for the Environment Agency to decide how these additional funds should be spent, but the Government have identified two priority areas: conserving and restoring salmon stocks and improving controls over unauthorised transfers of coarse and non-native fish.Salmon stocks in England are currently at historic low levels and the agency will use the extra funds to further the implementation of the Salmon Action Plans on all 47 main salmon rivers in England, with the aim of increasing the number of rivers in which salmon stocks meet the conservation limit.Coarse fish imported illegally from outside the UK and unauthorised fish transfers can spread fish diseases to wild stocks; unauthorised introduction into waters in England of non-native fish species also poses a threat to native species and to biodiversity. The agency will aim to secure a significant reduction in the number of unauthorised transfers of fish.In allocating additional grant-in-aid to the Environment Agency, the Government accept the review's conclusion that the Environment Agency's fisheries functions continue to be funded from both grant-in-aid and rod and net licence income. They also endorse the Review Group's view that the agency's work on coarse fish and on trout should benefit from grant-in-aid, in particular when new work is being undertaken; it expects the agency to devote around one third of the £3 million increase in grant-in-aid to work on coarse fish.As the Review Group points out, government spending on salmon and freshwater fisheries is not restricted to Environment Agency grant-in-aid; these fisheries also benefit substantially from other forms of government expenditure. Projects for habitat improvement and to develop salmon and freshwater fisheries are, for example, eligible for assistance under agri-environment schemes and the England Rural Development Programme. The Environment Agency and Sport England are continuing to liaise closely to identify any specific projects where two organisations can collaborate together.The review recommends that the existing phase-out of mixed stock salmon net fisheries should be accelerated by offering compensation to netsmen to encourage them to leave these fisheries on a voluntary basis as soon as possible. It also recommends that the Government should provide substantial pump-priming funds to launch the necessary compensation arrangements.The Government welcome the review's endorsement of their policy on mixed stock fisheries. They agree that it would be desirable to speed up the current phase-out, on a voluntary basis, and have decided to contribute to the cost involved. They will contribute a maximum of £750,000 for this purpose, payable in the years 2002–03 and 2003–04. However, the Government share the Review Group's view that those who benefit from the phasing-out of mixed stock fisheries, particularly riparian owners and anglers in both England and Scotland, should contribute a major share of the cost. The Government's contribution to the costs of a compensation scheme will, therefore, be conditional on private interests raising a matching sum.The Government will discuss the details of the proposed compensation scheme with interested parties. They propose that the scheme should initially focus on the largest mixed stock fishery, the North East salmon drift net fishery.The review contains a number of recommendations on angling close seasons; these attracted more comments than any other changes proposed by the Review Group. A substantial majority of these expressed opposition to the recommendation that the coarse fish close season should be abolished on rivers. The Government endorse the general approach on close seasons proposed by the Review Group, and have already, in line with the group's recommendations, confirmed by-laws lifting the close season in most canals. As to the coarse fish close season on rivers, the Government agree with the Environment Agency's view that any change to the coarse fish close season on rivers should be based on science, that at present there is inadequate information on rivers and that no decision on lifting the close season should be considered until further evidence is available.The review makes recommendations on a variety of other matters that can affect the conservation of fish in freshwater, including agriculture, forestry, water abstraction, land drainage and flood defence, and predation, most of which the Government have accepted.A number of the recommendations in the review relate to the duties of the Environment Agency. The Government note that the agency is currently subject to a Financial, Management and Policy Review. This will be a comprehensive review that will ask fundamental questions on the purpose, functions and organisation of the agency. In these circumstances, the Government have not yet reached a decision on the recommendations in question; they will determine their response to them in the light of the outcome of the FMPR.

    Hedgerow And Field Boundary Work: Grant

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the grant for the provision or maintenance of hedgerows or other field boundaries will be paid under the Countryside Stewardship Regulations where such features are required to be provided and maintained as a condition of the possession of the fields concerned under the terms of pre-1840 enclosure awards. [HL135]

    The Government considered carefully, in the light of the Flamborough judgment in 1996, whether payments made under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for hedgerows and other field boundaries should continue to be paid where such features were subject to the pre-1840 inclosure awards. The Government do not have powers to intervene or enforce these matters. In addition, any work carried out in observance of this legislation may not necessarily be of the standard required by the scheme. The Government therefore took the view that payments for hedgerow and other field boundary work under the scheme should continue in view of the substantial benefits they offer to the English countryside.

    Spongiform Encephalopathies: Prophylactic Drug Research

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are aware of any therapeutic or prophylactic effects of the drugs heparin sulphate, dextran sulphate, pentosan polysulphate and dapsone in spongiform encephalopathies; and whether they will fund investigations of their role for the treatment of animals suffering from BSE and other spongiform encephalopathies. [HL93]

    The Government are aware of the work taking place on the prophylactic and potential therapeutic effects of these drugs. The Department of Health is currently funding research to investigate pentosan polysulphate as a potential prophylactic agent against the transmission of vCJD by blood products. Studies on the effectiveness of these drugs in preventing experimental TSEs in mice have taken place and we are exploring the possibility of a research proposal to further these studies in sheep together with the Food Standards Agency.

    Small And Medium Abattoirs: Assistance

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the source of the £8.7 million, mentioned in the Rural White Paper (page 92), intended to assist small and medium abattoirs; upon what basis this sum was determined; and how it is intended to be distributed. [HL156]

    The £8.7 million (which will be the subject of a PES transfer to the Food Standards Agency) was found from MAFF's funds plus contributions from the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales. It will be used, subject to consultation with the relevant interests, to change the basis on which meat inspection charges are levied as recommended by the task force chaired by Colin Maclean. The FSA will propose that abattoirs and cutting plants should pay the lower of:

    • the standard headage/throughput charges set out in the EU Charges Directive (85/73/EEC, as amended); or
    • actual inspection costs charged at MHS hourly rates—subject to a minimum charge of 45 per cent of the standard headage/throughput charges mentioned above.
    The FSA has agreed that the sum of £8.7 million, supplemented by a contribution from its own budgets, will be sufficient to enable the agency to cover the shortfall in its receipts which will result from the introduction of the change.

    Students' Financial Support

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What financial support will be available to students in England and Wales in the academic year 2001–02. [HL228]

    The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment
    (Baroness Blackstone)

    The level of support available to students in 2001–02 will be 2.4 per cent higher than for 2000–01, in line with forecast price increases. I am today placing a memorandum in the Library giving details of the new loan, grant and fee rates for 2001–02. These rates will be incorporated in the Education (Student Support) Regulations, which cover support for eligible students under the current arrangements, and in the Education (Mandatory Awards) Regulations and Education (Student Loans) Amendment Regulations, which cover the small number of students who are still eligible for support under the previous arrangements. These regulations will all be laid before Parliament in due course.

    Ramc Site, Millbank: Preferred Purchaser

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Who will be the preferred purchaser for the former Royal Army Medical Corps site on Millbank. [HL250]

    After detailed consideration of all the bids received, and consultation within government, we have selected the London Institute as the preferred purchaser for the site.We believe that this decision provides an opportunity to establish a major arts educational institution alongside an art gallery of international standing. This will allow a synergy to develop which will benefit the creative industries as well as having other educational advantages.

    Nato Member States: Defence Expenditure Increases

    asked Her Majesty's Government:In which 11 European member states of NATO defence spending will rise in real terms next year, as reported in the Statement on European defence co-operation (H.L. Deb., 22 November, col. 855); and what will be the rises for each state. [HL11]

    For 2001, defence expenditure is expected to increase in real terms in the following European NATO countries. The countries are Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the UK. NATO receives detailed figures for defence expenditure from its member countries. However, in order to respect the confidentiality of nations these figures are not published.

    Sierra Leone Army Training

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What progress has been made on the training being provided for the Sierra Leone Army. [HL199]

    The training is going well, and trainees completed the fourth Short Term Training Team course on 15 December. Soldiers from 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles have now deployed to run the next course, taking over from 1st Prince of Wales Own Regiment. They will be deploying with additional trainers to conduct the continuation and refresher training that we announced in October.In addition, we are making preparations for the short-term deployment of a surgical team to Sierra Leone to cover the possibility of a gap in medical cover due to the roulement of UN troops. We would hope to be able to continue to draw on the medical facilities provided by UNAMSIL, for whose support we are most grateful, but it is essential to ensure that emergency cover is in place. The team will be withdrawn as soon as possible once alternative arrangements are available.Together, these deployments will mean an increase in UK forces on the ground in Sierra Leone to between 550 and 600.

    Chinook Helicopter Zd576

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Concerning the crash of the Chinook helicopter ZD576 on 2 June 1994, whether they accept the statement by witness 15, Squadron Leader North, that the third crew member, Master Air Loadmaster Forbes, was the most professional crewman he had flown or served with and that his attention to detail and spatial awareness led one to believe that he held a navigator's brevet. [HL72]

    We have no reason to doubt that this was Squadron Leader North's honestly held opinion.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they accept that on 2 June 1994 the third crewman, Master Air Loadmaster Forbes, could have been in the jump seat or standing behind the pilots on the flight to the Mull of Kintyre. [HL73]

    From the positions of the casualties relative to the wreckage, we cannot be certain where the two rear crewmen were at impact. However, it is possible that one of the rear crewmen was either sitting in the jump seat or standing behind the pilots.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 27 July (

    WA 70–71), if the Chinook helicopter ZD576 were overflying the Mull of Kintyre on a direct course to Inverness, what is the highest mountain which it would have had to overfly on this route; and whether the air temperature at the necessary safe flying height would be too low to meet icing restrictions. [HL103]

    A direct course from the Mull of Kintyre to Inverness would traverse the Grampian Highlands and the highest point would be approximately 3,700 feet. The precautionary icing restrictions on the Chinook Mk2 at the time of the Mull accident would have prevented any overflight of the Grampians at safety altitude. However they would not have prevented a flight over the Mull of Kintyre to the second waypoint at Corran.

    Awe Plc: Radioactive Discharge Authorisations

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Health and Safety Executive or the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate or the Secretary of State for Health has refused to grant the Atomic Energy Establishment at Aldermaston permits for emissions under the fast-track procedure. [HL124]

    Responsibility for granting radioactive discharge authorisations to AWE plc lies with the Environment Agency. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Secretary of State for Health are currently considering whether to use their statutory powers in relation to the existing radioactive discharge authorisations. The reference to fast-track procedures in this context is not understood.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether plans have been made to re-nationalise the Atomic Energy Establishment at Aldermaston in the event that emission permits cannot be granted. [HL125]

    Contingency plans are in place for implementation should it prove necessary, for whatever reason, to take AWE back into direct MoD management.

    Tucano Aircraft Recovery And Uk Pilot Training Programme

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the situation regarding the recovery programme for the Tucano aircraft and the training of UK military pilots in Australia. [HL171]

    The Tucano recovery programme is proceeding to plan and full training capacity is expected to be available by the end of February 2001. Fifteen students are to complete their basic fast jet flying training in Australia with the Royal Australian Air Force, assisted by three RAF Qualified Flying Instructors. The first group of 10 students started flying training in Australia on 6 November and the arrangement is working well. The remaining five students will start their training on 29 January 2001.

    Local Government Ethical Framework

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What progress has been made towards implementing the new ethical framework for local government established under the Local Government Act 2000. [HL230]

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

    The provisions in the Local Government Act 2000 establishing the new ethical framework have been commenced.Among other things, the provisions will require all relevant authorities to establish standards committees to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by members and co-opted members. We are today publishing a consultation paper setting out how authorities are to go about establishing standards committees and the procedures under which those committees are to operate.Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the House Libraries.

    Hedgerows: Flamborough Judgment

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have considered the general implication of the Flamborough Judgment of 1996 concerning enclosure hedgerows. [HL136]

    The Government have considered the implication of the Flamborough Judgment of 1996. This suggested that obligations under the old enclosure Acts and awards may still be enforceable through the courts. These obligations are enforceable between private persons and are civil disputes. As we have indicated previously, the Government have no powers to intervene or to enforce these matters.

    Train Operators: Eligibility For Compensation

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will authorise compensation to be payable to:

  • (a) Passenger train operators; and
  • (b) Freight train operators
  • for additional costs, loss of revenue, compensation to customers and loss of future business caused by the closures and delays to the rail network since the Hatfield accident. [HL116]

    The terms under which compensation is payable to passenger train operators and freight train operators are set out in their respective Track Access Agreements with Railtrack. Additionally the shadow Strategic Rail Authority contributed to the unprecedented package of compensation payments to passengers agreed by the industry last month.

    Motherwell Derailment, 26 November

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Why, following a minor derailment near Motherwell on 26 November caused by a track defect, the police detained all 400 passengers for five hours, transferring them to taxis for individual formal interviews before allowing them to be transported to their destination by coach; and [HL117]Whether the British Transport Police or the Strathclyde Police were responsible for declaring the minor derailment near Motherwell on 26 November a "scene of crime"; whether every one of the 400 passengers was asked whether they had derailed the train, as reported

    in Rail Magazine on 13 December; and, if so, on whose decision. [HL118]

    Although the British Transport Police (BTP) did not classify this accident as a "major incident", any train derailment involving over 400 passengers at night, close to live overhead powerlines, must be treated as a serious situation. When attending any such incident it is not possible for the police immediately to determine the cause of an accident. It is important that the emergency services preserve the integrity of the scene as much as possible until criminal activity can be ruled out by expert technical examination.Passenger safety is the priority in dealing with such incidents. It was not possible to move the carriages still on the track and the train had to be evacuated at the site. A major factor in the handling of this incident by the Railtrack Incident Officer (RIO), the train operator and the British Transport Police (BTP), was that the passengers were in no imminent danger while seated on the train, which had heating and lighting.An evacuation route from the train was identified and prepared, which involved removing fencing, providing lighting and laying down tarpaulin over the undergrowth. It was also necessary to evacuate the train by a single door. However, this allowed for a controlled evacuation of passengers, with their luggage, to take place.The passengers were then transferred by coach to a reception centre where they were informally interviewed by police and staff of the train company. The interviews had a number of purposes. They allowed the train operator's staff to ascertain individual destination requirements for onward journey by taxi, to provide follow-up welfare and compensation advice, and where necessary forward any items of luggage left on the train by passengers. Obtaining personal details is also essential for responding to the great many people who call the police and railway operators after any incident of this nature seeking information about friends and relatives on the train.Passengers were not asked whether they had derailed the train, but when obtaining their details the BTP enquired whether they had seen, heard or felt anything that might assist their investigation into whether any criminal activity, such as vandalism or obstructing the line, was the cause of the accident. This is routine procedure when handling an incident of this nature. The information obtained from passengers also helps to prevent fraudulent claims for compensation that tend to occur when such an incident receives widespread publicity.

    Mersley Farm, Isle Of Wight

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord Whitty on 10 April (

    WA 19–20), whether the Health and Safety Executive has completed its consideration of the feasibility of an epidemiological study into the health of individuals living by or working at Mersley Farm, Isle of Wight; and, if so, whether the results of its consideration have been published. [HL158]

    The feasibility study has not yet been completed. However, since my reply to your previous Question on this subject, HSE have been actively considering the technical and practical issues involved in conducting such a study. The outcome of these deliberations is now contained in a 15-page draft study protocol that has been sent for comment to the medical authorities on the Isle of Wight who would need to be involved in any study. The protocol will be made publicly available once this consultation is complete.

    Gypsy Caravan Numbers

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are asking local authorities to take any steps to improve the accuracy and consistency of their January count of gypsies. [HL159]

    No. My department asks local authorities to supply information on numbers of gypsy caravans on a standard, clearly defined proforma with guidance notes to assist completion. This helps to ensure both consistency and accuracy in returns. In addition, my department carries out validation checks on any marked discrepancies between year on year data. While completion of the proforma is voluntary, it is relevant to point out that the return rate from local authorities has run at over 98 per cent for the last seven years.

    Gypsies And Travellers: Accommodation Research

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What research they are conducting on the availability and condition of sites for gypsies and travellers; whether additional accommodation is needed; and whether, in any such study, they will investigate the possible demand for group housing such as is provided for travellers in the Republic of Ireland. [HL160]

    My department will be commissioning research on this subject early in 2001, asking for a report by the summer of 2002. The research will investigate whether additional accommodation of all kinds, including group housing, is required.

    Least Developed Countries: Duty Free Access For Sensitive Products

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are taking any action to ensure that sensitive products including sugar are excluded from the European Union Trade Commissioner's "Everything But Arms" initiative. [HL34]

    The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry
    (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

    The Government agree with the product coverage proposed by the European Commission under the initiative to improve market access for the world's Least Developed Countries (LDCs). However, we recognise the sensitivity of three products—sugar, rice and bananas—and therefore also support the Commission's proposal to phase in duty free treatment for these three products gradually.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they would support an in-depth analysis conducted by the European Commission of the comprehensive effects of quota free and duty free access and for the outcome to be publicly debated. [HL37]

    The European Commission is already in the process of producing an impact study of its proposal, as requested by member states. If the study is published by the Commission, we would welcome it being publicly debated.

    Community Legal Service Partnerships: Innovation

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans the Lord Chancellor has to encourage innovation in community legal service partnership areas. [HL232]

    In view of the success achieved in developing community legal service partnerships, I have decided to make additional funds available, within the Legal Services Commission's budget, to support innovative initiatives at local level. £15 million over the next three years will be earmarked for a partnership innovation budget. Grants from the budget will be available, on a joint funding basis, for projects which have the support of their local community legal service partnership. My department is today issuing a consultation paper which will enable us to take account of the views of funders and providers of local legal services in finalising the details of the budget.

    Publicly Funded Family Mediation

    asked Her Majesty's Government:When the Legal Services Commission will publish the results of Professor Gwynn Davis's research into publicly funded family mediation implemented under Part 3 of the Family Law Act 1996. [HL233]

    The research report Monitoring Publicly Funded Family Mediation has been published by the Legal Services Commission today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The Government are grateful to Professor Davis for his detailed and helpful report, and we will be considering its implications carefully.