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Written Answers

Volume 622: debated on Monday 19 February 2001

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Written Answers

Monday, 19th February 2001.

Independent Football Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:What steps they are taking to consult representatives of football supporters in the appointment of the chairman and members of the Independent Football Commission. [HL593]

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport wrote to the Football Supporters' Association and National Federation of Football Supporters' Clubs last year asking them to draw the IFC chairman post to the attention of those they thought would be good candidates for the post. The Government have made clear that the process of appointing the chairman is to be conducted in an open and transparent manner according to the standards that would apply to a public appointment. Therefore the consideration of applications once received, following open advertisement, is a matter for the Independent Public Appointments Advisory Panel.

Nigerian State Funds: Requests To Freeze

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why and how authorities in Jersey have been able to freeze funds alleged to have been wrongfully removed from Nigerian state accounts; and why they and city institutions have been unable to do so here, despite requests from Nigeria. [HL672]

It is my understanding of the matter that the authorities in Jersey have not yet frozen funds related to the Abacha affair, but that the financial institutions there are aware of the sanctions—on the fronts of constructive trusteeship, regulatory law and criminal law—which attach to any transfer of funds which transpire to have been the proceeds of crime, and may therefore have taken precautionary steps for their own protection.In respect of the request to freeze funds in the United Kingdom, the position remains that we await further information from the Nigerian authorities before we can take the action sought. We are actively pursuing the solicitors acting for the Nigerian Government to secure the information needed, and repeat our willingness to assist the Nigerian authorities whenever it is possible to do so, according to United Kingdom law. It is my understanding that the Jersey authorities are in the same position.

National Asylum Support Service

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will list by number and title the National Asylum Support Service Policy Bulletins which are currently applicable. [HL690]

A list of the current National Asylum Support Service (NASS) Policy Bulletins is shown by number and title in the table below.

NASS Policy BulletinsSubject
Policy Bulletin 1Supercal
Policy Bulletin 2Sharing
Policy Bulletin 3Supercal
Policy Bulletin 4Threshold Table
Policy Bulletin 5Backdating Vouchers
Policy Bulletin 6Asylum Process Overview
Policy Bulletin 7Failure to travel [Superseded—Deleted]
Policy Bulletin 8Initial Consideration in Allocation
Policy Bulletin 9Asylum Support Adjudications
Policy Bulletin 10Social Security Benefits, Homelessness assistance and Local Authority Support
Policy Bulletin 11Mixed Households
Policy Bulletin 12Refusals
Policy Bulletin 13Judicial Review [Superseded Deleted]
Policy Bulletin 14Failure to travel [Superseded—Deleted]
Policy Bulletin 15NASS Roll-out
Policy Bulletin 16Kent Disbenefited Cases
Policy Bulletin 17Failure to Travel
Policy Bulletin 18Racial Harassment
Policy Bulletin 19Medical Foundation
Policy Bulletin 20Voucher breakdown
Policy Bulletin 21Medical Foundation (Emergency Accommodation)
Policy Bulletin 22Discontinuation
Policy Bulletin 23Appeals Process
Policy Bulletin 24Subs only
Policy Bulletin 25Failure to travel (addendum)
Policy Bulletin 26Oakington
Policy Bulletin 27Disbenefited cases
Policy Bulletin 28Travel
Policy Bulletin 29Transition at Age 18 (Amended 9/2/01)
Policy Bulletin 30Human Rights 1998
Policy Bulletin 31Dispersal Guidelines (Amended 9/2/01)
Policy Bulletin 32Cancelling Accommodation
Policy Bulletin 33Age Disputes
Policy Bulletin 34Additional Single Payments
Policy Bulletin 35Acid record not found
Policy Bulletin 36Emergency Accommodation Monitoring
Policy Bulletin 37Maternity Payment
Policy Bulletin 38Grace Periods
Policy Bulletin 39Support rate change
Policy Bulletin 40Supercal updated
Policy Bulletin 41Dealing with representations in respect of an asylum claim
Policy Bulletin 42Initial Accommodation [Withdrawn]
Policy Bulletin 43HC2 Certificates
Policy Bulletin 44Referring Files to other Sections
Policy Bulletin 45Initial Accommodation
Policy Bulletin 46Northern Ireland
Policy Bulletin 47Judicial Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many asylum seekers have died while being supported by the National Asylum Support Service; and what were the causes of death. [HL691]

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether an investigation is taking place into the management, structure, efficiency or performance of the National Asylum Support Service; and, if so, who is undertaking it; what are its terms of reference; who has commissioned it; and to whom and when is a report to be delivered. [HL689]

The National Asylum Support Service has been working with a consultant from INEX Consulting commissioned through the S-CAT framework. The terms of reference were to:Determine where workflow and document management techniques could bring benefits. Possibly propose changes to the current processes (though s/he should be aware of restrictions which legal and audit requirements, such as the separation of duties, place upon the possible alternatives).A draft report was received on 15th February and is under consideration.An interim evaluation of the National Asylum Support Service has been undertaken by external consultants. Following competitive tender, Deloitte Touche were commissioned by the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate to carry out an interim evaluation of NASS. Deloitte Touche terms of reference were to:

  • monitor and report on the efficiency and effectiveness with which the new asylum support arrangements are being implemented and operated;
  • make recommendations for improvement where necessary.

The report was delivered to NASS management in October 2000.

Asylum Seekers: Detention At Oakington Reception Centre

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many asylum seekers have been detained in Oakington since it was opened for that purpose; and, since those merely seeking asylum in the United Kingdom are not imprisoned, what were the further reasons given for their detention there. [HL692]

As of 2 February, 3,583 principal asylum seekers have been referred to Oakington Reception Centre in Cambridgeshire since its opening on 20 March 2000. Applicants are detained at Oakington if it appears to the immigration officer that their application is capable of being dealt with quickly and there are no other factors which make the application unsuitable for consideration at Oakington.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the consultation exercise on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (HL865)

The Government will shortly be inviting Parliament to approve a wide-ranging package of improvements to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. The scheme provides payment to those who have been the victim of a crime of violence or who have been injured in trying to apprehend criminals or prevent crime in England, Wales and Scotland.The introduction of the statutory scheme in 1996 broke the link with the common law damages basis of assessing compensation used under the earlier, non-statutory scheme. Compensation is now determined on the basis of a tariff (scale) of awards for injuries of comparable severity. Additional compensation for loss of earnings or earning capacity and the costs of care are payable to victims more seriously affected by their injuries.In 1999 the Government published a consultation paper

Compensating Victims of Violent Crime: Possible Changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. The paper sought views on how the scheme might be improved in the interests of victims of violent crime. It was sent to individuals and organisations with a particular interest in the scheme, to the media, and to members of the public on request. Those responding included victims' organisations, academics, trades unions, the legal profession, police, charities and individual victims.

The Government made it clear in the consultation paper that any changes to the scheme would have to be made within the existing legislative framework. In the light of the responses to the consultation paper, and of the outcome of the Spending Review 2000, the Government have carried out a thorough review of the scheme and have drawn up a wide-ranging package of improvements.

The Great Britain Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is already one of the most generous and comprehensive in the world. The improvements that the Government are now proposing will mean that many victims of violent crime, especially those more seriously injured, will receive even more compensation for their injuries, and that all victims will find the scheme clearer and easier to use.

Outline details of the changes proposed are as follows:

Uprating the tariff levels:

Some respondents to the consultation exercise argued that the value of the tariff awards had been eroded since the tariff scheme's inception in 1996. However, an across the board reflation of all tariff bands would be very expensive, and the Government do not consider that this is either necessary or would make best use of the available resources. Awards at the top end and bottom end of the tariff do not, in the main, differ too significantly from the level of damages typically awarded by a court. It is in the middle bands where any divergence is more noticeable. The Government accordingly propose to uplift tariff bands 7 to 23 inclusive by 10 per cent. This will significantly increase the compensation payable to many more seriously injured victims.

Increased Awards for Sexual Assault and Child Abuse:

The view was widespread amongst respondents to the consultation exercise that compensation for rape and child abuse was too low. The Government have looked carefully at this very complex area, and are proposing that there should be a significant increase in awards for rape and sexual assault and for serious sexual and/or physical abuse of children. For example, the minimum award for rape would be increased by almost 50 per cent (from £7,000 to £11,000), and the maximum payable for serious physical child abuse would more than double. All the injury descriptions relating to physical and sexual abuse have been carefully reviewed and the relevant sections of the tariff re-ordered for greater clarity. The Government also propose additional payments of compensation for victims infected with HIV/Aids.

Increasing awards for serious multiple injuries:

Compensation for victims who suffer serious multiple injuries is calculated by formula. Under the present scheme, victims receive 100 per cent of the tariff award for the most serious (highest value) injury, 10 per cent of the award for the second, and 5 per cent for the third. Many respondents to the consultation exercise thought this formula left more seriously injured victims under-compensated, despite the formula being developed on the basis of practice in the civil courts. The Government share that concern, and propose to increase the formula to 100 per cent, 30 per cent, 15 per cent.

Extending eligibility for fatal awards to partners of the same sex:

Under the current arrangements, only parents, children, spouses or long-term heterosexual partners of homicide victims can qualify for a fatal award under the tariff. The Government believe that there are no grounds for continuing to exclude long-term homosexual or lesbian partners from this aspect of the scheme, an issue that was highlighted following the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho in 1999. The Government will be recommending that Parliament makes the appropriate change to the scheme.

Other detailed changes:

Having thoroughly reviewed the scheme, and in the light of the advice of the bodies charged with its administration, the Government are proposing to refine many of the injury descriptions and make presentational changes to the layout of the tariff of awards to make it simpler for victims to understand. The Government also propose making a number of minor, textual changes to the scheme itself to remove possible ambiguities and provide greater clarity where experience has suggested this would be helpful.

The proposed changes to the scheme would cost some £20 million in a full year. The Government believe that the proposed package of changes will greatly improve the scheme for the benefit of victims of violent crime, and that the wide-ranging changes proposed would make the most effective use of the resources available.

The Government will shortly be laying a draft of the scheme incorporating the proposed changes before Parliament, and inviting approval by the affirmative resolution procedure. If such approval is forthcoming in time, it is proposed that the changes would come into force on 1 April 2001, and apply to all applications lodged on or after that date.

Overseas Electors: Rolling Registration

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether an overseas elector, as defined in Schedule 2 to the Representation of the People Act 2000, has the right by completion of an Overseas Elector's Declaration Form and acceptance by the appropriate registration officer to be enrolled on a United Kingdom rolling register in time to vote in a parliamentary election, with effect from 16 February 2001; and [HL693]What pubicity will be made available to ensure that anyone covered by Schedule 2 to the Representation of the People Act 2000 is aware of it and has sufficient time to act accordingly; and [HL694]Whether overseas voters will be entitled to vote in any referendum after 16 February 2001. [HL695]

The ability of an overseas elector to vote in a Parliamentary election will depend upon the date of the election and the date on which the Overseas Electors Declaration is made. Overseas voters will be included on the register to the same deadlines as any other applicant under "rolling-registration.I understand that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has circulated to all posts information about the legislative changes relating to overseas electors and has asked them to publicise this information amongst the expatriate community as appropriate. Revised explanatory information and an Overseas Electors Declaration form will be available in due course.The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 does not deal with the question of who is entitled to vote in any national or regional referendum to which Part VII of the Act applies. The normal practice has been for the legislation providing for a particular referendum to specify the persons entitled to vote.In the case of a referendum held under Part II of the Local Government Act 2000, Section 45(4) of that Act provides that for any such referendum the electorate would comprise those persons entitled to vote at local government elections in the area of the authority conducting the referendum. Overseas voters are not entitled to vote in local government elections.

Police Recruit Training: Re-Coursing

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether there has been any change in the extent of "back classing" of police recruits undertaking the 18-week initial training course at Hendon. [HL730]

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has told me that back-classing, or re-coursing, of students has always been an option available to trainers during the Foundation Training Course and will continue to be used.It is normally considered in the case of officers who suffer illness, injury or a welfare problem (such as illness in the family) who may have missed parts of the course or have found it difficult to keep up with their colleagues. Re-coursing may also be an appropriate option for recruits who have demonstrated the potential to become competent officers but who need to spend longer addressing certain areas of skill or knowledge.I understand that between 3 per cent and 6 per cent of recruits are re-coursed each year for the reasons given above.

Fixed Penalty System: Extension

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they expect the workload on the police to be increased or to be decreased by current proposals to extend the range of offences subject to fixed penalty notices. [HL731]

Extending the fixed penalty system to offences associated with disorderly behaviour will provide the police with an immediate and swift response to a range of minor offending. The scheme will provide the police with an additional

Millions of ECU€ millions
1993199419951996199719981999
Spain420.7422.71,105.21,112.01,018.21,063.974.7
Greece148.1157.690.5244.7573.2476.7247.6
Ireland67.687.0133.689.1212.0236.4190.4
Portugal94.0248.3369.224.8518.0669.6331.8

means of dealing with these offenders: all existing options will remain open. Although we expect there to be a net saving of police time, the precise effect on police workload will depend upon the operation of the scheme in practice. If penalty notices are issued to offenders who would otherwise have been charged, there will be a saving in police paperwork and time attending court. Issuing notices to offenders who were previously moved on or informally warned would clearly bring additional offending within the criminal justice system, with the extra demands on time that that entails.

Terrorism Act 2000: Proscribed Organisations

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is their intention to proscribe the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) under the Terrorism Act 2000. [HL675]

I confirmed, by means of a Written Answer on 15 February, that the Terrorism Act 2000 will be brought into force on 19 February. After the Act has come into force, the Secretary of State will in due course lay a draft order recommending to Parliament which organisations should be added to Schedule 2 of the Act, which lists proscribed terrorist organisations. That draft order will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and will accordingly only come into effect, on a specified date, following debate and approval by both Houses.

European Cohesion Fund: Beneficiary States

asked Her Majesty's Government:Which countries have benefited from the European Cohesion Fund; how much they received in each year; and whether they are still in receipt of these funds. [HL725]

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

During the last programming period 1993–99, four member states benefited from the European Cohesion Fund: Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. These countries continue to receive Cohesion Funding during the current programming period 2000–06. However, in 2003 their eligibility will be reviewed in the light of updated GNP levels.Payments received by member states 1993–99.

In March 1999 the Berlin European Council decided to allocate the Cohesion Fund a budget of€18 billion for the period 2000–06, with the following indicative allocation (in€ millions at 1999 prices):

Year

Amount

20002,615
20012,615
20022,615
20032,615
20042,515
20052,515
20062,510

Resources are to be distributed among the four recipient countries in accordance with the following bands:

  • Spain: 61–63.5%
  • Greece: 16–18%
  • Portugal: 16–18%
  • Ireland: 2–6%

Un Conference Against Racism

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have established a national committee to prepare for the United Nations conference on racism to be held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001. [HL673]

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

The Government have not formed a national committee to prepare for the UN World Conference Against Racism. The Government are instead holding regular consultations with nongovernmental and community organisations from throughout the UK. These contacts began in 1999. A further series of government-funded consultation meetings begins on 1 March and will include events in seven UK cities. These activities will continue up to and after the Durban Conference.

Mr Sirdar Tanis And Mr Ebubekir Deniz

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is their response to the "Urgent Action" notice from Amnesty International, on behalf of Mr Sirdar Tanis and Mr Ebubekir Deniz, arrested in Silopi on 25 January and since believed to have disappeared; and whether they will raise this matter with the government of Turkey. [HL701]

We are very concerned about the apparent disappearance of Mr Tanis and Mr Deniz. The British Ambassador in Ankara raised our concerns at a senior level on 13 February.

European Security And Defence Policy

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 26 January (

WA 25), whether the French Presidency Report to the Nice Council on the European Strategic and Defence Policy is the same thing as the new European Strategic and Defence Policy; and, if not, what are the differences between the two. [HL719]

There is no single document which sets out the EU's Common European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). ESDP has been developed in a succession of European Council decisions on the basis of the relevant EU Presidency Reports, the latest Report being that to the Nice European Council.

Foreign And Commonwealth Office: Expenditure Limits

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether there are any proposals to amend the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Departmental Expenditure limit/running cost limit for 2000–01. [HL762]

Subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate for Class VII Vote 1, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Departmental. Expenditure Limit for 2001–01 will be increased by £42,289,000 from £1,210,333,000 to £1,252,622,000 and the running cost limit has been increased by £1,797,000 from £531,982,000 to £533,779,000. This is the net effect of:

  • (i) a transfer of £16,000 to the Ministry of Defence (Class VI, Vote 2), in respect of our final contribution to the grant-in-aid to the Atlantic Council of the UK;
  • (ii) an increase of £5,441,000 in respect of an adjustment for overseas price movements;
  • (iii) a transfer of £ 1,920,000 to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 2) for drugs assistance programmes;
  • (iv) a transfer of £880,000 to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 2) for revisions to charging regime;
  • (v) an increase in both running costs and appropriations-in-aid of £1,248,000 in respect of increased receipts from OGDs;
  • (vi) a transfer of £32,000 from BBC monitoring service to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 2);
  • (vii) an increase in both running costs and appropriations-in-aid of £5,300,000 to reflect an increase in our VAT recovery forecast;
  • (viii) a decrease of £5,500,000 in both capital expenditure and A-in-A for FCO Estates Rationalisation;
  • (xi) a PES transfer of £1,500,000 to the MoD representing the FCO's contribution to the enhanced package for the Sierra Leone Army;
  • (x) a PES transfer of £168,000 from the war pensions agency to cover the costs of medical examinations for overseas pensioners;
  • (ix) additional provision of £39,808,000 on Section B for UK contributions to United Nations Missions in the former Yugoslavia (includes UK Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) and the former Soviet Union, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Iraq), United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission, United Nations Mission for the Referendum on Western Sahara, United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor, United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, United Nations Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, European Community Monitoring Mission and Western European Union Police Mission in Albania. This is partially offset by an increase of £344,000 in appropriations-in-aid in respect of non-baseline peacekeeping and by £10,761,000 from Section E, General VAT Refunds;
  • (xii) the supplementary estimate is also required to note an increase in Section C, to reflect PES transfers of £46,000 to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 2) and £52,000 to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 1);
  • (xiii) the supplementary estimate is also required to note an increase of £1,998,000 of Section D, in respect of an adjustment for overseas price movement for the British Council.
  • Motorways And Trunk Roads: Litter Clearance

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What are the maximum periods between collections of litter from trunk roads and motorways in England, as laid down for litter clearance contractors employed by the Highways Agency. [HL648]

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

    The Highways Agency is responsible for clearing litter from motorways and a small number of special roads. Contractors employed by the Highways Agency are required to clear litter to cleanliness standards established in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. There is no maximum period between litter collections specified in the Act.For all other trunk roads, this cleanliness duty lies with the local district and borough councils.

    M11 And A12 Roadworks

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Why the Highways Agency has allowed major roadworks to be carried out simultaneously on the A.12 trunk road at Brentwood and the M.11 motorway; and what steps they intend to take to prevent the recurrence of the congestion which has resulted. [HL649]

    The works referred to are on the A.12 Brentwood Bypass and the M.11 between Junction 8 and to a point where the motorway crosses the A.1060 near Little Hallingbury. These are the latest in a series of major maintenance schemes on these roads.Although both routes have been regularly maintained in the past, this has largely been on the basis of localised and emergency repair works. As a result of our Comprehensive Spending and Trunk Road Reviews, we have now made road maintenance a priority and, with the extra and guaranteed funding, the Highways Agency has been able to tackle the backlog of essential maintenance with a concerted programme of major works on both these roads.The Highways Agency very carefully considers the impact that such schemes will have on users of the trunk road and motorway network. Its aim is to keep disruption and inconvenience to a minimum and to make sure that, wherever possible, major roadworks on existing routes are no more than 2.5 miles long and at least 6 miles apart. The agency also has targets to keep 95 per cent of lanes on the motorway and trunk road network as a whole free of roadworks at all times and to keep 93 per cent of lanes on each motorway and trunk road free of roadworks.Wherever possible, the agency tries to leave an alternative strategic route unaffected. Although the M.11 and A.12 cannot be considered as direct alternatives to each other, the current works were originally planned not to coincide on these vital routes to and from East Anglia. However, major schemes such as these require considerable time in preparation and unforeseen circumstances can delay the start of works, as has happened in the case of the A.12.After careful consideration, the agency decided that the works could not be postponed on either route until the other had been completed. It concluded that the overall effect on the network of working on both the A.12 and M.11 simultaneously would not be severe if the schemes were carefully planned. The experience of earlier phases in the major maintenance programme and the evidence to date on the current works have shown this to be the case.The agency has taken extensive steps to limit the severity of any disruption. Work on both schemes is being carried out 24 hours a day to ensure that they are completed as quickly as possible. At peak times the work is organised so that as many lanes as possible are open to traffic. The agency has also extensively publicised the schemes to encourage people to consider using alternative routes or public transport.

    I believe these measures have reduced the levels of inconvenience to the public a great deal and the agency will continue to use them to limit levels of congestion during future major maintenance works on these and other routes.

    Habitats Directive And Planning Permission

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What action they are taking to ensure the protection of fragile habitats of endangered species following the recent criticism by the European Commission of the degree of commitment to the European Union Habitats Directive in the record of planning permission granted in Britain. [HL751]

    The Government are committed to protecting endangered species and habitats—it is a key part of our sustainable development agenda. This was demonstrated by the new measures introduced through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. Penalties for killing protected species have been increased and a new offence of recklessly damaging or destroying any structure or place occupied by these animals has been introduced. Increased protection was also given to Sites of Special Scientific Interest.The regulations which implement the EC Habitats Directive in the United Kingdom clearly state that licences to damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of a protected species as a result of development can only be issued if there is no satisfactory alternative; that the action authorised will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status and for imperative reasons of overriding public interest.

    Vehicle Number Plates

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What are the existing European Union regulations that determine the design, location and content of vehicle registration plates; and whether new regulations are due to come into effect later this year. [HL660]

    The design and content of number plates generally are dealt with by member states' domestic legislation. New UK regulations on the display of vehicle number plates are due to be laid before Parliament shortly to take effect later this year. These will update the existing regulations and introduce a new mandatory character font, British Standard, registration format and allow the voluntary use of the Euro-symbol.Two Directives (70/222/EEC and 93/94/EEC, as amended by 99/26/EC) affect the location of rear vehicle registration plates. Council Regulation (EC) No. 2.411/98, which provides for the recognition of distinguishing signs on number plates as an alternative to the requirements of the 1968 Vienna Convention, regulates the design of the distinguishing signs, including the optional use of the Euro-symbol. for use on number plates.

    London Underground: Performance Indicators

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether in the performance indicators set for London Underground they will include indicators on the new escalators on the Jubilee Line which are frequently out of action. [HL681]

    The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
    (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston)

    The 10-Year Plan includes a target to cut journey times on London Under ground services by increasing capacity and reducing delays. The plan states that specific targets will be agreed with the mayor after the Public Private Partnership has been established. Detailed performance indicators will be a matter for the mayor.

    Bus Fare Concessions For Elderly And Disabled People

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether arrangements for introducing half-fare concession on buses for elderly and disabled people under the Transport Act 2000 are satisfactory. [HL863]

    Yes. From 1 April, the additional benefits to disabled people will be reflected in the London Freedom Pass, which otherwise already exceeds the necessary standard. Outside London, all local authorities are preparing to meet the statutory requirement for at least half-fare reductions for elderly and disabled people by 1 June. In addition, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has announced his intention, as soon as parliamentary time allows, to equalise eligibility for travel concessions for men in England and Wales at the pension age for women. Legislation in Scotland would be a matter for the Scottish Parliament. This would extend the benefits of cheaper travel to a million men who are currently excluded from travel concessions.

    Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

    asked Her Majesty's Government:On which dates during 2000 the Northern Ireland Commission of Human Rights met; and when during that year and in what form the minutes of such meetings were made public. [HL489]

    During 2000 the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission met on the following dates:

    • 17 January
    • 14 February
    • 13 March
    • 10 April
    • 15 May
    • 12 June
    • 18 July
    • 14 August
    • 11 September 9 October
    • 13 November
    • 11 December
    The minutes of all commission meetings are posted on their website at www.nihrc.org shortly after they have been agreed. Hard copies are available from the commission on request.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:On which topics they have consulted the Northern Ireland Commission of Human Rights; and on what dates. [HL490]

    Her Majesty's Government have formally consulted the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on the following occasions:

    DateSubject
    June 1999 and March 2000Criminal Justice Review
    March 2000Document on the future of the Juvenile Justice Centre Estate
    October 2000Ongoing review of prisons legislation
    October 2000Draft Code of Practice: s.99 of Terrorism Act 2000
    November 2000Proposal for a Draft Financial Investigations (Northern Ireland) Order 2001
    November 2000Draft Code of Practice: Video Recording with Sound
    December 2000Draft of the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether members of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission were involved in canvassing the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic to ensure that only members of the Roman Catholic faith are permitted to hold school teaching posts in church schools throughout Ireland; if so, who; and whether such activities would be appropriate for a human rights commissioner. [HL506]

    The appropriateness of commissioners' activities, within the context of the commission's own code of conduct, is a matter for the commission itself. The Chief Commissioner has been asked to write to the noble Lord. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library.

    Disqualifications Act 2000: Irish Government Support

    asked Her Majesty's Government:On which dates the Government of the Irish Republic indicated its support for the Disqualifications Act 2000. [HL508]

    I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave on 21 December (Hansard, col. WA 87).

    Ruc Widows' Compensation Payments: Tax

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will ensure that extra compensation to be paid to Royal Ulster Constabulary widows as a result of a report from Mr John Steele is not subject to any form of tax upon payment. [HL533]

    John Steele's report into the Patten Commission's recommendation for a new police fund was published in November.John Steele proposed the payment of lump sums to pre-25 November 1982 widows whose husbands had been killed as a result of terrorism. This proposal was accepted by the Government and we have been working to implement it by April 2001. As John Steele noted in his report (paragraph 42) there are complicated tax issues to be considered and we are looking at these with the Inland Revenue.

    Northern Ireland Security Policy: South Armagh Watch Towers

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What new factors have been taken into account in assessing the future of the South Armagh watch towers. [HL542]

    The Secretary of State receives regular briefings on security matters from the Chief Constable and his security advisors. We are committed to the normalisation of security arrangements in Northern Ireland as quickly as the threat allows.It remains the position that the future of the South Armagh watch towers will depend on the ongoing assessment of the threat.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Royal Ulster Constabularly, Army and security organisations have agreed that the South Armagh watch towers may be dismantled; and what are their new reasons for dismantling them now when they were opposed to their removal a few months ago. [HL543]

    Historically, South Armagh has been a very dangerous area for the security forces. The towers helped to reduce that risk considerably and it is only when that danger disappears or is reduced to a minimal level that significant movement can be made in this area.We do want to see the removal of all the special security measures in South Armagh in due course. This must however be assessed against the threat posed.Any change to the current security force infrastructure in South Armagh will depend on the ongoing assessment of the threat. We will not take risks with the lives of the people of Northern Ireland and we will take further measures only when it is safe to do so.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they intend to dismantle any of the South Armagh watch towers; and if so, how many. [HL544]

    Security force commanders continually review the situation at these and other installations both to see where changes can be made and to ensure that continuing requirements are justified.The Government's position remains consistent and clear. Any change to the current security force profile in South Armagh will depend on the ongoing assessment of the threat.A specific level of security must be retained and at present this includes the towers in South Armagh.

    Farmers: Suicides

    asked Her Majesty's Government:How many deaths by suicide recorded in the United Kingdom during the past 18 months have been by farmers and others closely associated with agriculture. [HL625]

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

    The number of suicides and deaths in England and Wales from undetermined injury between 1988–1999 (the latest period for which figures are available) is set out in the table shown. Figures for Northern Ireland and Scotland are a matter for the devolved administrations.

    Deaths from suicide and undetermined injury 1988–1999 Men and Women aged 16–74 at the time of their death
    Year of occurrenceFarmers, Horticulturists and Farm ManagersFarm Workers
    19886030
    19894527
    19904927
    19915423
    19924725
    19935028
    19944423
    19954116
    19963629
    19974217
    19985418
    19995119

    Source: ONS.

    Arable Area Payments: Outstanding Claims

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What proportion of Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) payments, by number and by value, has not yet reached the farmers for whom they were intended. [HL637]

    In respect of payments under the Arable Area Payments Scheme for the 2000 harvest, EU Regulations require that payments for crops, other than non-food crops grown on set-aside land, are made by 31 January following harvest. At that date some 3 per cent by number and 1.98 per cent by value of claims remained outstanding. Payments for the majority are expected to be made in the first two weeks of February.