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Written Answers

Volume 623: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2001

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Written Answers

Tuesday, 20th March 2000.

Un Office Of High Commissioner For Human Rights: Funding

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the funding of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by the United Nations' regular budget and by voluntary contributions respectively, in each of the years 1995 to 2000. [HL1005]

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

The allocation to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) from the United Nations regular budget is made on a biennial basis. The OHCHR have only recorded annual allocation figures since 1998. The following data have been supplied to us by the OHCHR.The level of OHCHR funding from the UN regular budget since 1994 has been:

US$
1994–199542,195,900
1996–199746,354,300
199821,300,600
199922,076,400
200021,299,700
The level of voluntary contributions to the OHCHR since 1995 has been:

US$
199515,043,117
199624,971,066
199724,590,363
199834,441,516
199926,870,647
200043,829,835

European Security And Defence Policy And Nato

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 26 February (

WA 105)

(a) Whether the United Kingdom is free to disassociate itself from the "suggestion" contained in the Appendix to Annex VII of the French Presidency Report on the European Security and Defence Policy, and if so, whether it will do so; and

(b) Whether NATO and/or the United States will have a veto on proposed European Security and Defence Policy activities. [HL1058)

(a) Her Majesty's Government support the suggestions in the Appendix to Annex VII of the Presidency report to Nice concerning the implementation of "Berlin Plus" arrangements. These suggestions are the EU's initial contribution to further work in NATO and the EU. We look forward to further discussions of these arrangements, in which the UK will play an active role.(b) EU member states would decide to launch an EU-led operation. This would happen following consultation with NATO. The EU would act only where NATO as a whole is not engaged. In practice, this means that the EU will act only when NATO has decided not to.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 26 February (

WA 105):

(a) What are the "Berlin Plus arrangements"; and

(b) Whether NATO agreed to make "lift" and intelligence available for European Security and Defence Policy activities at the European Union's request; and

(c) When they expect the "detailed arrangements" to be worked out by the European Union and NATO, and whether these will be submitted to Parliament for approval. [HL1059]

(a) "Berlin Plus" refers to the arrangements proposed by NATO at the 1999 Washington Summit for the EU to have access to the collective assets and capabilities of the Alliance for EU-led operations. These arrangements build on the similar arrangements for the WEU to use NATO assets and capabilities which were agreed in 1996 at NATO's Berlin Summit.(b) NATO will take case-by-case decisions on which assets to make available to the EU.(c) We hope to conclude the arrangements for implementing "Berlin Plus" in the course of this year. EU Council decisions concerning the EU/NATO agreements will be submitted for parliamentary scrutiny in the normal way.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 26 February (

WA 105), whether the United Kingdom will be free of its own accord:

(a) To avoid participation in any European Union-led operation; and

(b) To withdraw from any operation once it is under way. [HL1060]

The commitment of national resources to, and their withdrawal from, an EU-led operation is a sovereign decision for the nation concerned.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 26 February (

WA 105), what are the "elements of the remanent consultation arrangements" which have now been agreed by the European Union and NATO. [HL1061]

The EU proposals on EU-NATO permanent arrangements for consultation and co-operation (Annex VII to the Nice Presidency Report) together with the proposals in paragraph 31 of the NATO Foreign Ministers' communiqué in December 2000 constitute the elements of the permanent consultation arrangements. This was agreed in an exchange of letters between the NATO Secretary-General and the Chairman of the Council of the European Union. I have put a copy of this exchange in the Library of the House.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 26 February (

WA 105), whether they will set out the elements of the permanent consultation arrangements agreed by the European Union and NATO for the European Union-led operations within the arrangements agreed at the recent Nice Conference. [HL1074]

The EU proposals on EU-NATO permanent arrangements for consultation and co-operation (Annex II to the Nice Presidency Report) together with the proposals in paragraph 31 of the NATO Foreign Ministers' communiqué in December 2000 constitute the elements of the permanent consultation arrangements. This was agreed in an exchange of letters between the NATO Secretary-General and the Chairman of the Council of the European Union. I have put a copy of this exchange in the Library of the House.

East Timorese Refugees

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are discussing with the Government of Indonesia the return home of those of the 65,000 East Timorese still in camps in West Timor who wish to do so; and what progress has been made in securing their return. [HL1120]

We raise the situation in West Timor with the Indonesian authorities and with UN officials at every appropriate opportunity.We remain concerned about the situation in the camps in West Timor and urge the Government of Indonesia to comply fully with the UN Security Council Resolution 1319 to disarm and disband the militia and speed up the repatriation of those refugees wishing to return to East Timor and resettle those wishing to remain in Indonesia.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the United Nations Administration in East Timor has reported that attacks by armed militias based in West Timor are continuing; and, if so, what measures are being taken to prevent them. [HL1137]

Sergio Vieira de Mello, Head of the UN operation in East Timor (UNTAET), told Mr Battle on 6th March that the situation in West Timor has improved considerably since the appointment of General William da Costa as Regional Commander. Da Costa is determined to resolve the refugee situation and has instructed the TNI to take a tougher line with armed militia. UNTAET will continue to work with the Indonesian authorities to speed up the return of refugees in time for them to register to vote for the East Timor elections.

Treaty Of Pelindaba: Ratification Of Protocols I And Ii

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the United Kingdom intends to ratify its signature of Protocols 1 and 2 to the African Nuclear Weapon's Free Zone Treaty (the Treaty of Pelindaba). [HL1211]

The Foreign Secretary signed the UK's Instrument of Ratification of Protocols I and II to the Treaty of Pelindaba on 27th February 2001. The Instrument has been sent to our Embassy in Addis Ababa for deposit with the Organisation of African Unity. I will arrange for a copy of the Instrument, together with the Declaration made on deposit of the Instrument to be placed in the Library of the House.

Learning Disability Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:What strategies they have in place to improve services for people with learning disabilities. [HL1293]

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

We are today publishing Valuing People: A New Strategy For Learning Disability for the 21st Century, which sets out cross-government proposals for improving the life chances of people with learning disabilities. This is the first White Paper on learning disability for 30 years and sets out an ambitious and challenging programme of action for improving services for a particularly vulnerable and socially excluded group in our society. Copies have been placed in the Library.

civil rights, independence, choice, and inclusion. Valuing People takes a life-long approach, beginning with an integrated approach to services for disabled children and their families and then providing new opportunities for a full and purposeful adult life. It has cross-government backing and its proposals are intended to result in improvements in education, social services, health, employment, housing, and support for people with learning disabilities and their families and carers.We are establishing a new Learning Disability Development Fund of up to £50 million a year to support the proposals for adults in the White Paper. Up to £30 million a year of this will be revenue funding and £20 million capital. The fund will be introduced from April 2002 and will be targeted on the priorities set out in the White Paper. We are also setting up an Implementation Support Fund of £2.3 million a year for three years from April 2001 to provide central support for key aspects of the White Paper. Priorities for the Implementation Fund, which includes £300,000 a year from the Home Office Active Community budget, includes developing independent advocacy services and establishing a National Learning Disability Information Centre and Helpline in partnership with Mencap.We will be setting up a Learning Disability Task Force to take forward the implementation of the White Paper and an Implementation Support Team to promote good practice and share practical experience.We are also publishing an accessible version of the White Paper;

Nothing About Us Without Us, a report from the Learning Disability Service Users Advisory Group: Learning Difficulties and Ethnicity, a report commissioned from the Centre for Research in Primary Care, University of Leeds; and Family Matters, Counting Families In, a report on the particular needs of family carers. Copies will be placed in the Library.

We should like to pay particular tribute to the people with learning disabilities who helped us develop Valuing People. This is the first occasion on which people with learning disabilities have taken part in developing government policy; their contribution has been invaluable and has helped us understand the problems they and their families face every day.

Flooding: Environment Agency Report

asked Her Majesty's Government:If they will publish the Environment Agency's report on the serious flooding in the autumn and winter 2000. [HL1294]

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

We are today publishing this report, copies of which are being placed in the House Libraries, copies of the regional reports will be placed in the Libraries by 30 March. We welcome publication of this report, which I commissioned the Environment Agency to produce in partnership with the other bodies responsible for responding to the flooding, particularly local authorities and the emergency services.The report shows that since last October we have seen the worst flooding for half a century, following the wettest autumn on record. Thankfully no loss of life was directly associated with the floods, though 10,000 properties suffered flooding—some repeatedly—and we again extend the Government's sympathies to all those who were affected.We endorse the key finding that the agency, and those responsible for the emergency response, performed well. We are particularly pleased to note that the seamless and integrated service of flood forecasting, warning and response for which we called after the Easter 1998 floods was delivered in most if not all areas. We are also pleased to note that in a number of localities the emergency response arrangements benefited from exercises conducted last summer between the Environment Agency, local authorities and the emergency services. The new flood warning codes, introduced by the agency within weeks of the floods, also worked well.We want to thank the agency, and all of the other organisations and individuals involved, for their efforts in response to the flooding. This involved many hours of long, hard work, rapid decisions which needed to be made, and also individual acts of bravery, for which the country must express its gratitude. The effects of the flooding would almost certainly have been much worse were it not for their efforts.Nevertheless, the report identifies some further lessons to be learned, the key ones being:The flood warning arrangements worked well but there are some detailed lessons for further improvement. We have asked the agency to provide me with their proposals for implementing changes by September 2001. Also, the report notes some deficiencies in the weather forecasts received by the agency. A review will be taken forward by the Environment Agency in conjunction with the Met Office, to report by September 2001.There is a need for the current Home Office review of local authority emergency planning arrangements to take account of the lessons learned from the floods.There remains some confusion in the minds of the public about responsiblity for measures to prevent flooding, and for responding to it. The key to sound action is planning, partnership and provision of information. Through the Ministry's High Level Targets operating authorities are required to provide policy statements which will indicate flood risk locally and how it will be managed, and to describe local partnerships. Such statements are due to be completed soon. These statements will provide information on "assumed" responsiblity which will provide a useful basis for determining if further action on attribution is necessary in specific instances and developing a sound local partnership. Provision of a "one stop shop" may then be possible by local agreement.We have a High Level Target in place for the Environment Agency to organise a programme of local and regional emergency exercises and should also conduct a national emergency exercise during the course of 2001. While local and regional exercises should continue, we have accepted the agency's recommendation that it is unnecessary to conduct a national exercise this year. We shall consider with the agency the timetable for a future national exercise.We need to determine the appropriate level of investment in flood and coastal defence. Substantial increases were made in the Comprehensive Spending Review and the 2000 Spending Review. An additional £51 million was announced in November, and we have also put together an £11.6 million package to fund the exceptional costs of the Environment Agency in responding to the flooding and in undertaking emergency repairs. However, we recognise that we need to be ready to consider whether further expenditure may be justified. We have already instituted additional research to identify in broad terms what future investment may be required so that this can be considered in future spending reviews. Other developments such as strategic catchment studies should assist in the future production of more realistic needs-based expenditure programmes.We have established a series of High Level Targets to ensure government policy for flood and coastal defence is delivered by the operating authorities and others. One group of targets requires the Environment Agency to establish a database of flood and coastal defences and to record information on their condition, based on inspections undertaken by the operating authorities. The database is an important development, for which MAFF is currently contributing towards the cost; we will consider whether additional funding is needed. It is also necessary to ensure that inspections of defences are completed by the operating authorities accurately and to time. We are asking the Environment Agency to report on this, as part of the report on the inspections and assessment of flood risk required under the High Level Targets.The Environment Agency's report raises questions about the process for making investment decisions. I have asked the agency to provide me with supporting evidence by September 2001 and will consider with it, and the other operating authorities, whether changes are required. This issue will be relevant to the review, already under way, of the priority scoring arrangements for consideration of MAFF financial support for flood and coastal defence schemes.

Also under way is a review of the current funding arrangements for flood and coastal defence. We shall ensure that relevant recommendations in the report are considered by the Review Steering Group.

The agency has also undertaken to carry forward further reviews and studies, which we anticipate receiving with interest.

My right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister was right when, on 31 October [ Hansard, col. 607 et seq], he referred to the effects of the earlier violent storm as a "wake-up call". We can certainly expect climate change to mean that events of this type will occur more frequently in future. Another inevitable fact is that governments—past, present and future—cannot prevent all flooding; but where it is sensible and sustainable to do so, we can take further action to reduce the risk.

We can also take action to ensure that as a nation we are prepared to deal with the effects of severe weather, including but not limited to flooding, and that our key national infrastructure can withstand these effects. This is a matter on which we are working closely with local authorities and other key players through the Central Local Partnership.

In summary, if it had not been for the effective response of the agency and others, the flooding would have had much more serious effects than it did. There are still lessons to be learned, but we have all come a long way since the flooding three years ago.

National Taxing Team: Untaxed Claims

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the percentage of claims for the Criminal Defence Crown Court fees made to the National Taxing Team in Maidstone which in January 2001 remained untaxed after three months of becoming ready to tax. [HL1099]

At the end of January, 35 per cent of the outstanding claims at the National Taxing Team in Maidstone remained untaxed after three months of being ready to tax.

European Development Fund: Disbursement Rate

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is now the average disbursement time for European Union aid from the European Development Fund; what improvement in the rate of disbursement in comparison to the average of the past five years this represents; whether they are satisfied with the current situation; and, if not, what action they are taking with other European Union member states to ensure an acceptable standard. [HL1073]

There are no published figures for the disbursement time of the European Development Fund. However, at the beginning of 2000, of the total commitments of 6.8 billion euros which had been made from the EDF and were awaiting payment, approximately 1.3 billion euros were either over five years old or had been inactive for at least two years. This was a clear indication of slow disbursement. As part of the present reform process, the Commission is making a significant effort during this year to clear this backlog of commitments. In addition, changes to Commission management procedures and to the EC's Financial Regulation have been proposed which would require commitments entered into in external programmes to be paid within three years. The UK has pressed hard for these changes, which, if adopted, would bring a significant improvement in the EC's disbursement rates.

House Of Lords: Modes Of Address

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether Ministers are expected to adhere to the guidance in para 4.39 of the

Companion (Appellations) on the correct ways of referring to other Members of the House. [HL513]

The rules are the same for Ministers as for other Members. However, the rules are sometimes complex and it should be recognised that Members of the House, including Ministers, may inadvertently err from the proper forms without intending to offend.

Public Libraries: Internet Access

asked Her Majesty's Government:How they respond to the decision to ban all Internet access in Glasgow's libraries because of the discovery that children have been downloading adult content; and what implications this has for their target of providing universal access to the Internet by 2005. [HL1075]

The responsibility for public libraries in Scotland lies with the local authorities and it is therefore a matter for Glasgow City Council to consider what action is required. It is understood that Glasgow City Council has already taken steps to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect children from inappropriate material and Internet access has been resumed. The Government have made a commitment to all public libraries in the UK being online by the end of 2002 and resources of £120 million are being made available through the New Opportunities Fund to fund this. It will he for local authorities as library authorities to ensure that all necessary protections and safeguards are in place as they implement these plans.

Sudanese Nationals Working In Uk Engineering And Power Industries

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many personnel funded or sponsored (or both) by the Government of Sudan are working or studying in (a) the engineering industry, and (b) power-related industries in the United Kingdom; and whether there are any implications for national security. [HL862]

Information about personnel funded or sponsored by the Government of Sudan is not available. Since 1 January 1995, some 50 work permits have been granted to employers for Sudanese nationals to be employed or undertake work experience in the enginering or power-related industries. There are also 226 full-time and 85 part-time students from the Sudan currently studying in UK higher education institutions. All overseas nationals resident in the UK are expected to obey UK law.

Equal Employment And Occupational Treatment Directive

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will list those Directives agreed under Article 13 of the Treaty of European Union, and any Acts of Parliament amended by those Directives, that require the defendants in a civil action to prove their innocence of the charges of discrimination brought against them. [HL885]

The Directive establishing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of race or ethnic origin (2000/43/EC) and the Directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (2000/78/EC) agreed under Article 13 of the Treaty of the European Union both include provisions relating to the burden of proof in cases (other than criminal proceedings) of alleged discrimination. These provisions do not mean that defendants will be required "to prove their innocence" in such cases. Instead they stipulate that, where a claimant is able to prove facts from which the Court or tribunal can properly infer that discrimination has occcured, it will be for the defendants to show that their actions did not contravene the law. This is a shift rather than a reversal of the burden of proof and largley represents what already happens in practice in the UK in sex and race discrimination cases, following the judgment from the House of Lords in Zafar v Glasgow City Council (1998 IRLR 36). The Directive requires this approach to be formalised as a rule of law in the Race Relations Act 1976 and in the new legislation needed to give effect to Directive 2000/78/EC.

Free-To-Air Digital Tv Channels

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Department for Culture, Media and Sport accepts that the Government's own targets for analogue switchover could be advanced through additional free-to-air digital channels from public service broadcasters. [HL1159]

The Government's estimated timescale for digital switchover is 2006–2010 and the conditions that need to be met before the analogue signal will be switched off were announced in September 1999. One of the conditions is that 95 per cent of the population must have access to digital television before switchover is completed. As set out in my Answer to another Question from the noble Lord, we believe that the provision of high quality free-to-air digital services could affect the take-up of digital television, and therefore the speed at which this condition is met.

Bbc Digital Television Service

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many meetings the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has had with representatives from commercial broadcasting organisations to consider and hear representations in connection with the consultation for new BBC digital services. [HL1160]

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has had two such meetings.

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will make a decision regarding the BBC's proposed digital channels; and whether the Secretary of State is either obliged to, or is intending to, take account of any other political, commercial, or media considerations before reaching a final decision. [HL1161]

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will reach a decision as soon as he has considered all the evidence. The issues he will take into account are set out in the department's guidelines for assessing BBC public service proposals which were published on 10 January. Copies were placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Resort Regeneration

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is their response to the English Tourist Council's report into the promotion of traditional

English tourist resorts as expressed in the recent report entitled

Sea Changes.[HL1166]

The Government welcome the English Tourism Council's (ETC) report on resort regeneration, Sea Changes—Creating World Class Resorts in England, which was published on 27 February. We will discuss with the ETC how best their recommendations for action by key national, regional and local organisations, can be taken forward.

Duty-Free Sales

asked Her Majesty's Government:What has been the effect on consumers, tourists and the tourism industry of the 1999 cessation of duty-free sales in the European Union and in the United Kingdom in particular. [HL1167]

I am not aware that any substantive analysis or assessment has been made on the effect on consumers, tourists and the tourism industry following the cessation of duty-free sales in the European Union in July 1999. However, there is currently no direct evidence to suggest that the abolition of duty free sales has had an unfavourable impact on the tourism industry.

Trafficking In Persons

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will respond to the recommendations made in the report

Stopping Traffic: Exploring the extent of and responses to, Trafficking of Women for sexual exploitation in the UK by Liz Kelly and Linda Regan, published as Police Research Series Paper 125 by the Home Office. [HL867]

The Government have noted the recommendations of the report Stopping Traffic. The Home Office is currently doing work on a number of fronts to tackle the problem of trafficking. The Home Office published a review of sexual offences, Setting the Boundaries, in July 2000, which recommends to the Government that a specific offence of trafficking for sexual exploitation be established—these recommendations have been the subject of consultation until the beginning of March. The Government are also currently negotiating a European Union Framework Decision on Trafficking in Human Beings, which would require harmonisation of member states' laws on trafficking. In parallel with this, the Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children for Sexual Purposes, which supplements the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime, calls upon participating states to criminalise the trafficking of persons. The Government have strongly supported efforts to introduce an agreed international instrument which addresses this particularly offensive trade in human beings, and signed the Convention and its Protocols in November 2000.A multi-agency task force has been established to improve the response to people smuggling and trafficking. Aims of this task force include ensuring that good intelligence is developed which leads to effective operational deployment against those organising trafficking, and creating a central database of information. There will be liaison with Europol and European partners.The Immigration Service (IS) is also increasing its commitment to the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) by deploying additional staff at its headquarters within its Organised Immigration Crime Section (OICS) and its International Section and at its regional offices. In co-operation with NCIS, IS is expanding the number of Immigration Liaison Officers stationed abroad initially with new posts in central Europe and the Balkans. These officers will work with European Union colleagues and local law enforcement agencies to target trafficking and smuggling routes and the racketeers organising them.We are also considering what needs to be done to create the circumstances in which a non-governmental organisation could be formed which would provide support and advice to the victims of trafficking.

Mr Phillip Wilson (Stephen Darren Boch)

asked Her Majesty's Government:What information the Metropolitan Police have about the name and date of birth given on arrest by the person who was convicted at Bow Street Magistrates Court on 4 February 1970 under the name "Phillip Wilson (aka Stephen Darren Boch)". [HL11361]

It is not the practice to disclose personal information of such a nature without the consent of the subject, unless there is a clear public interest ground for doing so.

Asylum Seekers: Appeal Conditions

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will ensure that asylum seekers who inform the Immigration Service of their intention to appeal against removal from the United Kingdom on human rights grounds under Section 65 of the Immigration Appeal Act 1999 are permitted to remain in the United Kingdom pending the determination of their appeal. [HL1153]

There is a right of appeal under Section 65 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 against a decision relating to entitlement to leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, which is exercisable if that decision was taken on or after 2 October 2000, when that section came into force.

The right of appeal is normally suspensive. That is to say, anyone who has made an appeal cannot be removed while the appeal is pending.

However, the right of appeal is not triggered until an allegation is made that the decision breaches the person's human rights. Once the appeal right has been triggered, there is a 10 working day period for lodging the appeal and the person will not be removed during that period unless he or she agrees to depart voluntarily.

A statement indicating a possible intention to make an allegation or to appeal at some point in the future is not sufficient to trigger an appeal and therefore does not prevent removal.

People appealing against immigration decisions made before 2 October 2000 cannot benefit from Section 65 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, which is not retrospective. We have given assurances that such people, if they have human rights concerns, may make a separate human rights claim and will have an opportunity to appeal.

We wish to make it clear that we will not provide an opportunity for an appeal on human rights grounds where the human rights issue has been fully considered at an earlier appeal or by the courts or where the human rights claim is based solely on facts which the adjudicator at an earlier appeal or the Immigration Appeal Tribunal or higher court has not accepted. We expect claims by those who wish to benefit from an independent review of their case from a human rights perspective to give some clear indication of how their human rights arguments could result in a different decision. Alternatively, they may of course present a claim based on relevant evidence or circumstances which have arisen since the earlier appeal was dismissed.

Human Rights Convention: Protection Of Atheists And Agnostics

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will ensure that any legislative measure they introduce forbidding religious discrimination also forbids discrimination on the ground of lack of religious belief. [HL1154]

Under Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998, the Minister in charge of a Bill must give his or her view about the compatibility of the Bill's provisions with the Convention rights. The case law of the European Court on Human Rights has established that Article 9 of the Convention protects atheists and agnostics.

Asylum Applications: "Safe Countries"

Whether they have prescribed a list of safe countries of origin to be used by the members of the Immigration Service in determining applications for asylum; and, if so, whether they will publish the list. [HL1181]

There is no list of safe countries of origin used in determining applications for asylum. Each asylum claim is considered on its individual merits.The former "white list" of designated countries was abolished on 2 October 2000, when Part IV of, and Schedule 4 to, the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 came into force. This was part of a wider package of far-reaching reforms to the appeal process in the 1999 Act.

Illegal Immigrants On Eurostar

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why they have imposed charges of £2,000 on rail freight operators in respect of illegal immigrants hidden on freight trains through the Channel Tunnel from 1 March, but have not imposed similar charges on Eurostar in respect of the nine illegal immigrants hidden under its passenger trains on 2 March. [HL1187]

The civil penalty provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 were extended to the Channel Tunnel rail freight operation from 1 March 2001 in response to the rising numbers using this method to enter the United Kingdom illegally. The provisions are deisgned to ensure that those responsible for the rail freight operation take the necessary precautions to secure freight wagons against this abuse, which has become more widespread following the introduction of the civil penalty for road vehicles in April 2000.The civil penalty provisions do not apply to passenger trains using the Channel Tunnel and there was no power to impose a penalty in the case cited where the persons concerned were concealed in a compartment beneath a Eurostar train.

European Telecommunications Market: Liberalisation

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they consider that the Lisbon European Summit's call for a fully integrated and liberalised telecommunications market within Europe by the end of 2001 will be delivered. [HL1077]

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

The Government consider that four key elements will contribute to the delivery of a fully integrated and liberalised telecommunications market within Europe:

concluding work on the legislative proposals following the European Commission's 1999 communications review. The Government

welcome the fact that, by the end of June, the European Parliament and the Council will have undertaken first readings of the four most important proposals for Directives— Framework, Access, Authorisation and Universal Service & Users' Rights—arising from the 1999 review. It will continue to work to ensure that final agreement is reached as soon as possible on, these proposals as well as on others—on spectrum policy and communications data protection—that are not yet so far advanced in negotiation;

introducing greater competition in local access networks and unbundling the local loop. Fixed wireless access (FWA) offers a competitive alternative to wireline local access networks. The roll-out of FWA systems will be facilitated by harmonised use throughout Europe of the radio frequency bands identified by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPR). Many Community member states have already allocated these bands for FWA and have granted—or are planning to grant—licences to operators. The Government also welcome the Parliament and Council Regulation on unbundled access to the local loop that came into force in January. This provides valuable underpinning for further development and expansion of unbundling throughout the EU. In the UK the first loops have now been unbundled, and BT is accepting orders for co-location of other operators' equipment at all of its exchanges. OFTEL will continue to work with all interested operators to see that unbundling can proceed in accordance with commercial demand. The Government consider that the basis exists for a fully competitive market in higher bandwidth services to develop quickly;

meeting frequency requirements for future mobile communication systems in a timely and efficient manner. The Government welcome the recognition in the Commission's Communication on spectrum management of the value of spectrum as an economic resource and of the need for its effective strategic management. The precise mechanisms for Community involvement in the spectrum management process are being taken forward in negotiations on a proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy in the European Parliament. The Government are playing an active part in these negotiations, with a view to ensuring that Community involvement is truly strategic and does not duplicate the activities of the CEPT; and

ensuring the availability of low-cost, high-speed networks for Internet access. 34 per cent of UK homes and half of UK small businesses now have an Internet connection. Penetration in the UK is behind that in Scandinavia but ahead of the rest of Europe. OFTEL's international benchmarking programme showed that UK residential consumers had the cheapest or nearly the

cheapest prices for off-peak and peak services. Due to swift and early regulatory intervention, the UK is among the front-runners on unmetered Internet access and is one of only seven countries in the OECD to offer unmetered peak access. A number of Internet Service Providers, including BT itself, are already offering services based on a flat-rate wholesale interconnection product mandated by OFTEL. This will lead to an increase in both penetration and usage of Internet access in the UK. Action is also being taken by

OFTEL to ensure that leased lines, providing always-on access, are available on competitive terms to consumers.

The eEurope Action Plan 2002 is taking these actions forward at Community level and is on track. The Government fully expect the Stockholm European Council later this month to reinforce the importance of completing the integration and liberalisation of the telecommunications market and of ensuring rigorous enforcement of the Community regulatory framework based on competition principles.