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Written Answers
23 January 2001
Volume 621

Written Answers

Tuesday, 23rd January 2001.

Civil Society Challenge Fund

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Which non-governmental organisations in the United Kingdom received support for international development projects under the pound-for-pound scheme in the last financial year; at what cost; and whether that scheme has now been concluded. [HL188]

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In the fiscal year 1999/2000 a total of £35.2 million was provided to UK NGOs through the Joint Funding Scheme. A list of these organisations can be found in Statistics on International Development: 1995/1996–1999/2000, which is available in the Library of the House.The Civil Society Challenge Fund (CSCF) was launched in October 1999 to replace the Joint Funding Scheme, which will be phased out by 2004 when current commitments cease. The CSCF is open to any non-profitmaking organisation or network, which shares DFID's focus on poverty reductions and is designed to help build a stronger civil society in developing countries that enables the voices of the poor to be heard. As with the Joint Funding Scheme, the CSCF is based on matched funding.

River Danube: Clearance

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the European Union-funded programme for clearing obstructions in the River Danube has yet let its main contracts; and, if not, when it is expected to do so. [HL360]

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A Project Director was appointed by the Danube Commission on 16 October 2000. He is currently finalising the terms of reference for the architect. Awarding of contracts will occur during the first quarter of 2001. A tender for a bathymetric survey will be published this month. It is expected that work will begin during March.

Blundeston Prison And Hollesley Bay Ycc: Possible Evacuation

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether staff at Blundeston Prison or Hollesley Bay Youth Correction Centre received any instructions to prepare for a possible evacuation at some time between 25 and 30 December 1980; and if so, why these instructions were issued. [HL319]

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We can find no record of any such instructions.

Lawfully Held Firearms And Public Safety

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will provide details of all cases since the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 came into effect in which the possession of lawfully authorised Section 1 firearms of a type usually called long-barrelled revolvers has resulted in any identifiable danger to public safety. [HL293]

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This information is not recorded centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. The number of lawfully authorised weapons of this kind is comparatively small at present and the Government are not aware of any cases involving the misuse of such weapons after 1997. However, the Government understand that in the 1980s there were cases in which long barrelled smooth-bore revolvers were sawn off and used in serious crime.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will provide details of all cases arising in the past five years in which rifles of 50 calibre or greater which are held on firearm certificates have been a cause for any concern about public safety. [HL294]

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This information is not recorded centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. The number of lawfully authorised weapons of this kind in current use is small at present and the Government are not aware of any cases involving the misuse of any such weapons which are lawfully held. However, we are aware of concerns about the misuse of weapons of this type by terrorists in Northern Ireland.

Dogs Kept In High Rise Tower Blocks

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they think that the keeping of dogs in high rise tower blocks of flats is cruel; and if so, whether they have plans to prevent it. [HL398]

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The law places the responsibility for taking care of animals on their owners or keepers, who may not cause them harm, intentionally or through neglect. Under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal.Since the mistreatment of animals can take many forms, the 1911 Act has been widely drawn to apply to any situation of unnecessary suffering. Any person or organisation may initiate criminal proceedings under these Acts where there is reason to believe that unnecessary suffering has been caused, or may report the matter to the police, who will decide whether or not to institute a prosecution.There are no plans to amend the 1911 Act to make it an offence to keep a dog in a high rise tower block of flats.

National Air Traffic Services Ltd: Regulatory Regime

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have received advice from the Economic Regulation Group of the Civil Aviation Authority on the economic regulatory regime for the public/private partnership for National Air Traffic Services Ltd. [HL456]

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The monopoly services provided by the National Air Traffic Services Ltd public/private partnership will be subject to price regulation by the RPI-X method, which is the standard model for monopoly regulation in the United Kingdom. The charge cap, or "X" factor, will be set for a period of five years and will, for the first five-year period only, be set by the Government.We received advice from the CAA in August which set out how it proposed to approach the economic regulation of NATS and recommended that the "X" factor for NATS' UK monopoly services be set at 5 per cent per year for each of the first five years. We have considered this advice carefully, alongside representations from NATS and the projections of bidders as the sale process developed, and have decided to set charge capping at 2.2 per cent for 2001, 3.0 per cent for 2002, 4.0 per cent for 2003, and 5.0 per cent for each of 2004 and 2005. There will thus be a progressive tightening across the initial years following the introduction of the PPP.Furthermore, since delays are a major concern to airlines, we have decided that the charge cap should include a delay term, so that the "X" factor will automatically tighten, thereby reducing NATS' revenues, if delays increase beyond their present level. We are setting the maximum delay term at £2 million per year for 2001–02, and £5.7 million per year for 2003–05.The CAA's advice on the charge cap was based on a well-considered and comprehensive analysis of NATS' operational and investment plans and the potential for efficiency savings. And we are satisfied that the advice fully reflected the Government's, and the CAA's, commitment to giving the highest priority to safety.In reaching our decision, we have been concerned to achieve a smooth transition to the PPP, which we believe will be encouraged by such price control in its first few years. This will better enable NATS' management to focus on getting the change and investment programmes right during the early years of the PPP, including the commissioning of the Swanwick Centre, the development of the new Scottish Centre, and further investment in the capacity wanted by airlines.NATS' management accept that efficiency gains of the level required to meet the charge cap we are setting, whilst challenging, are achievable without detriment to NATS operations.

House Of Lords Smoking Policy

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asked the Chairman of Committees:Why staff smoking policy in the House of Lords is distinct from the rules on smoking applicable to members of the House. [HL364]

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As employees of the Clerk of the Parliaments, the staff of the House are subject to various terms and conditions set out in their contracts of employment, and the Staff Handbook, which provides a smoking policy agreed by the House of Lords Whitley Committee. Smoking policy for Members of the House, who are not employees, is a matter for the House itself on the recommendation of the Offices Committee and its Sub-Committees.

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asked the Chairman of Committees:Whether the Library and Computers Sub-Committee has undertaken a study of the effects of smoking on books stored in the Library; and, if not, whether it will do so. [HL365]

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The Library and Computers Sub-Committee has not undertaken such a study; the Sub-Committee will consider the question of smoking in the Library at its next meeting.

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asked the Chairman of Committees:Further to his Written Answer on 21 December (

WA77), whether the Library and Computers Sub-Committee will apply to members the same restrictions on smoking that apply to staff of the House; and, if not, why not. [HL366]

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The Library and Computers Sub-Committee will consider this proposal at its next meeting.

Uk Current Account And Reserve Asset Levels 1990–2000

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the United Kingdom's surplus or deficit on its current account, and on its balance of payments; what was the total value of its currency reserves in each year since 1990; and what is the estimated outcome for the year 2000. [HL330]

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The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter to Lord Shore of Stepney from the National Statistician and Registrar General for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics, Mr Len Cook, dated 23 January 2001.

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent question on the United Kingdom's current account balance and the total value of currency reserve assets for each year since 1990, including an estimate for 2000 (HL330).

The latest estimates for the UK current account balances are shown in the following table:

Year Jan-Dec

£ million

1990-19,513
1991-8,374
1992-10,082
1993-10,618
1994-1,458
1995-3,745
1996-600
19976,623
1998-80
19999,882

Sources:

Table 1.2 UK Balance of Payments Pink Book 2000.

Table A UK Balance of Payments First Release.

The latest estimates for the UK reserve assets levels are shown in the following table:

Year at Dec 31

£ billion

199022.5
199126.0
199228.3
199329.7
199430.7
199531.8
199627.3
199722.8
199823.1
199924.5

Sources:

Table 8.9 UK Balance of Payments Pink Book 2000.

Table K UK Balance of Payments First Release.

Estimates for the year 2000 are not available until 26 March 2001, when the UK Balance of Payments First Release for the fourth quarter of 2000 will be published.

Emu: Conditions For Stage 3 Participation

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 15 January (

WA 105–106), whether the provisions of Article 121 of the European Communities Treaties are the "necessary conditions" for judging whether existing member states as well as candidate countries should participate in Stage 3 of Economic and Monetary Union. [HL380]

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I refer the noble Lord to Article 121 of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

Sterling-Deutschmark Exchange Rate 1996–2001

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the exchange rate between the pound sterling and the deutschmark on 1 January in each year since 1996. [HL383]

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The sterling-deutschmark exchange rate (expressed as the number of deutschmark per pound sterling) was as follows:

  • 1 January 1996: 2.233
  • 1 January 1997: 2.638
  • 1 January 1998: 2.960
  • 1 January 1999: 2.772
  • 3 January 2000: 3.124 (no data for 1 January)
  • 1 January 2001: 3.105.

Treasure Annual Report

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asked Her Majesty's Government:When they will publish the Treasure Annual Report 1998–99. [HL457]

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The annual report covering the operation of the 1996 Treasure Act for the period from 24 September 1998 to 31 December 1999 was laid before Parliament earlier today.The report is being launched tomorrow morning.