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Written Answers

Volume 621: debated on Thursday 8 February 2001

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Written Answers

Thursday, 8th February 2001.

Self-Assessment Tax Returns: Electronic Filing

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many self-assessment tax returns for the current year were filed electronically up to and including 31 January 2001; and how this compares with the Inland Revenue's target for electronic filing. [HL561]

Three hundred and twenty-four thousand, two hundred and ninety-six self-assessment tax returns for the current year were filed electronically up to and including 31 January. The Inland Revenue has not set a target for take-up of electronic filing services.

Written Answers: Reference To Published Documents

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton of 29 January (

WA 30), whether the Answers given by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on the same date ( WA 32 and 33) complied with the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, in that they did not provide the factual information requested. [HL636]

My answers explained where the noble Lord could obtain the information he was seeking about European Commission grants and employment in manufacturing industry. The practice of referring to source documents which are in the public domain has been followed by successive governments for many years.

Speaker's Committee: Minister For Local Government And The Regions

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will appoint a Minister with responsibilities in relation to local government to the Speaker's Committee established under Section 2 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. [HL685]

In accordance with Section 2(3) of the Act, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has appointed my right honourable friend the Minister for Local Government and the Regions (Hilary Armstrong) as a member of the Speaker's Committee.

State Pension Cost Forecasts

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the estimated aggregate annual cost in today's money of providing the basic state pension in (a) the current year; (b) 15 years from now; and (c) 35 years from now, assuming the current pension is maintained in real terms. [HL540]

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

Long-term estimates of expenditure on the basic state pension are published in table 15.1 of the Government Actuary's Department's quiquennial review National Insurance Fund: Long Term Financial Estimates, Cm 4406. A copy is available in the Library.

State Pension: Current Liability

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the estimated present value of the Government's liability to pay the basic state pension to the existing working and retired population (including those receiving credits) during their lifetimes; and what discount rate is applied in these calculations. [HL541]

The precise information requested is not readily available. The latest estimates of the present value of the liability for state pensions including the basic state pension are published in the Inland Revenue Statistics 2000 in table 13.4. A copy is available in the Library. The real discount rate applied to this calculation is 3 per cent consistent with the latest quinquennial review.

Postal Services Commission: Social And Environmental Guidance

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they will be laying the Government's proposed social and environmental guidance to the Postal Services Commission. [HL684]

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

I have today laid in the Library of each House the draft social and environmental guidance which the Secretary of State proposes to issue to the Postal Services Commission in accordance with Section 43 of the Postal Services Act 2000. A consultation on the draft guidance was carried out in accordance with Section 43(3) of the Act. The consultation closed on 31 January and six responses were received, for which the Government are grateful. They contained a number of useful suggestions which have been taken into account in refining the draft guidance.The process of giving statutory social and environmental guidance has been developed to provide a means of ensuring that regulators take due account of the Government's social and environmental policies in carrying out their statutory functions. Regulators have a statutory duty to have regard to the guidance.

Northern Ireland: Ruc And Prison Service Officers' Pensions

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they anticipate making arrangements for the widows of Royal Ulster Constabulary officers and Northern Ireland Prison Service officers killed by terrorists to enjoy the same rights to retain their pensions as are accorded to widows of Armed Services personnel. [HL466]

There are no plans to introduce changes of this nature to either the RUC Pension Scheme or Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (Northern Ireland), which provides pension benefits for staff in the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

Northern Ireland: Illegal Arms Prosecutions

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many prosecutions there have been in Northern Ireland since 1995 in connection with the seizure or importation of illegal arms. [HL213]

There is no specific offence for the seizure or importation of illegal arms. There are a number of offences that relate specifically to firearms.The manner in which information on arms finds is collated centrally precludes associating prosecutions with specific finds. As a result the information in the form requested is not readily available.

Northern Ireland: Arms Decommissioning By Ira

asked Her Majesty's Government:Which items were decommissioned by the IRA over the last five years. [HL491]

We have received no reports from any source, including the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, of the decommissioning of any items belonging to the IRA over the last five years.

Northern Ireland: Terrorist Incidents

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many terrorist incidents have taken place in Northern Ireland in the last five years. [HL492]

The attached tables show the number of terrorist incidents recorded by the Royal Ulster Constabulary over the last five years, together with the casualties as a result of paramilitary style assaults and shootings.

Security Situation Statistics
Terrorist Incidents from 1995 to 2000
199519961997199819992000
Deaths9152255718
Shooting Incidents50125225211125302
Bombing Incidents (Explosions & Defusings)22593243100135

Note:

1. Includes all deaths due to the security situation.

2. The following types of incidents are included under shootings:

Shots fired by terrorists

Shots fired by the security forces

Paramilitary-style attacks involving shootings

Shots heard (and later confirmed)

Other violent incidents where shots are fired (e.g. armed robbery).

3. Incidents involving hoax devices, petrol bombings or incendiaries are excluded under bombing incidents.

4. 2000 Statistics are provisional and may be subject to minor change.

Casualties as a Result of Paramilitary Style Assaults

By Loyalist

By Republican

199576141
1996130172
19977878
19988955
19999044
20007454

Casualties as a Result of Paramilitary Style Shootings

By Loyalist

By Republican

19953
1996213
19974626
19983438
19994726
20008650

Note:

1. 2000 figures are provisional and may be subject to minor adjustment.

2. Figures for shooting incidents include incidents involving casualties of paramilitary style shootings.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission: Recommendations

asked Her Majesty's Government:What recommendations the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has made to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in accordance with Sections 69(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. [HL507]

To date no recommendations have been made to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission with regard to Section 69(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. We expect to receive its recommendations within the specified timescale of two years since the commission's establishment in March 1999.

Ms Inez Mccormack

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is appropriate for Inez McCormack to be a member of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in the light of her speech to a labour movement conference on 27 February 1982 (as reported in

Republican News of 4 March 1982). [HL531]

All appointments to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission were made on merit, and with due regard for the Secretary of State's duty under s.68(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to ensure that the commissioners, as a group, are representative of the community of Northern Ireland.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether any members of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission gave advice to the Government of the Irish Republic about the composition of that country's Human Rights Commission; and, if so, what status that advice had. [HL532].

I understand that the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission wrote to the Taoiseach on the subject of the Irish Human Rights Commission, but the status of this advice is a matter for the Irish Government. I am aware that Ms Inez McCormack was invited by the Irish Government to sit, in a personal capacity, on the Whitaker Selection Committee for the Irish Human Rights Commission.

Factortame Litigation: Settlement

asked Her Majesty's Government:What progress has been made in meeting the claims arising from the ruling over the

Factortame case brought by owners of flag of convenience vessels. [HL658]

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

Settlement has now been reached with all the applicants involved in the Factortame litigation. Under the terms of the settlement the total sum of damages paid is £55 million, including interest of some £26 million. This includes the earlier settlement of £10 million reached in 2000 but excludes the legal costs of the applicants, liability for which was accepted as part of the settlement agreements but which have yet to be assessed. The claims submitted by the applicants totalled £285 million before interest.

Zimbabwe: Uk Funding

asked Her Majesty's Government:In light of reports suggesting that President Mugabe has deployed a further 6,000 troops to Congo in the aftermath of Laurent Kabila's death, whether the current levels of Department for International Development funding of Zimbabwe are appropriate. [HL566]

The UK Government strongly support the implementation of the Lusaka agreement and are concerned about Zimbabwean activity in the DRC. We will do all we can to persuade all the parties to implement the ceasefire and withdrawal agreements made at Lusaka.The British development programme to Zimbabwe is focused on helping the poor, who are suffering from the double impact of economic collapse and HIV/AIDS. Forty per cent of our planned spending this year is on HIV/AIDS prevention, and we are also helping with rural livelihoods and water and sanitation. Cutting this assistance would hurt the poor and accelerate the spread of HIV but would have no effect on the scale of Zimbabwean involvement in the DRC.

Turkey: Alleged Mistreatment Of Prisoners

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will ask the Council of Europe to investigate recent events in Turkish prisons, in particular (a) the number of deaths caused by state action; (b) allegations of torture and violent force-feeding and (c) the banning of Tayad, the Prisoners' Relatives Association. [HL478]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited Turkey on 10–15 January in order to investigate the allegations of mistreatment of prisoners during the recent operations. We welcome the visit and the delegation's stated intention to maintain a dialogue with the Turkish authorities.