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Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

Mr. Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will announce his response to the consultation exercise on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. [151098]

Mr. Straw: I will shortly be announcing details of a wide-ranging package of improvements to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, based on the outcome of the public consultation exercise that we launched in 1999. This package has been drawn up in the light of careful analysis of all the responses to the exercise, and in consultation with Scottish Ministers. Details will be placed in the Library.

Airwave Radio System

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what concerns were raised by Lancashire constabulary regarding health and safety matters in relation to its pilot of the Airwave radio system; and if he will make a statement; [150571]

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Mr. Straw: Health and safety considerations have been of paramount importance in the development of Airwave, a system which should in itself contribute to a safe and effective working environment for the police. The system has been designed to enable the use of terminals which comply with guidelines issued by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) on exposure to electro-magnetic fields.

The Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, which reported in May 2000, included in its report reference to the possible effects of radio frequency emissions at or near a modulation of 16Hz on the release of calcium from brain tissue. This may be of significance in relation to Airwave given that it uses the Terrestrial Trunk Radio System (TETRA) which modulates at 17.6Hz. No obvious health risks were suggested although the report concluded that as a precautionary measure, amplitude modulation around 16Hz should be avoided, if possible, in future developments in signal coding. The first, core parts of the TETRA standard were adopted as European Telecommunications Standards on 12 January 1996.

The best advice I have received is that no obvious health risks have been identified; in these circumstances and in the light of the benefits that Airwave will bring to the police service, I have concluded that its roll-out should continue according to the planned timetable. However, I have also agreed that the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency and the NRPB should conduct a review of the relevant science.

In addition I understand that the Lancashire Police Federation has raised with senior officials in Lancashire concerns about the possible harmful effects of pulsed radio waves at 17.6Hz. These concerns arose following media reports. I have also received a letter from the Police Federation at the national level about the safety implications if Airwave radios are required to be switched off in circumstances where interference might be at issue.

Police radio terminals (hand-held radios and radios installed in vehicles), when transmitting, are capable of interfering with sensitive equipment in hospitals. This is not a new problem and is not an issue confined to police radios. Guidance was issued in 1997 restricting the use of public radios in hospitals (Home Office Communications Advisory Panel Guidance Note HGN(P)33).

Police radio terminals are used at airports with the normal operational precautions. This means that, when close to any sensitive equipment (eg the Instrument Landing System at the end of a runway) or near hazardous areas (eg for re-fuelling), police officers currently refrain from making calls. When using Airwave (TETRA) radios, which can transmit autonomously to keep in contact with the network, officers would have to switch them off in such circumstances. Guidance is being prepared in Lancashire on the use of TETRA radio terminals in airports. Work is also being carried out to develop a

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transmit-inhibit mode of operation for TETRA terminals so that they will transmit only when calls are being made, as is the case with current police radios.

Police radio terminals can also interfere with traffic law enforcement devices (TLEDs). Guidance was issued in 1989 (Home Office circular 39/1989) advising that radios should not be used close to breath testing equipment. Further operational guidance will be prepared in the light of research currently being carried out into the susceptibility of TLEDs to frequency interference from a TETRA or GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) terminal.

The Home Office is writing to Chief Constables (copied to the Police Federation) advising them of the action being taken in relation to interference and health issues. Copies of that letter will be placed in the Library.


Hon. Member for Leicester, East

Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the occasions upon which the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), met in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office individuals and organisations over issues not related to his ministerial duties, and the names of those persons and bodies and the purposes for which the meetings were held. [149803]

Mr. Vaz: Very occasionally, and because of parliamentary or ministerial commitments, meetings scheduled to be held outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have had to be transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at short notice. No other official resources are involved, nor are central records kept of such meetings.


Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Government will make representations to the UN Sanctions Committee for the early release of (a) food-testing equipment and (b) equipment to combat cancer, which is being held from entry into Iraq. [147375]

Mr. Wilson: The UK works consistently in the UN Sanctions Committee to facilitate the export to Iraq of humanitarian goods such as those described by the hon. Member. We will continue to do so.

If the hon. Member, or any other hon. Member, is aware of any specific examples of such goods on hold by any member of the Sanctions Committee, we are prepared to look into the matter and, where appropriate, make representations bilaterally and in the Sanctions Committee.

The UK only places holds on goods where there is insufficient information about the goods or their intended end-use or because the goods have military as well as civilian applications. The hold is lifted as soon as we receive the information required to reassure us that the goods will not be used for purposes prohibited by Security Council resolutions.

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I am anxious further to refine this process in any way which is consistent with UN Security Council resolutions and also the humanitarian interests of the Iraqi people.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will provide details of the current contracts on hold in respect of permitted supplies to Iraq; and for what reason 26 per cent. of goods under agreed oil spares contracts to Iraq have so far been received. [150195]

Mr. Wilson: The UN Sanctions Committee has approved 82 per cent. of the contracts submitted for the export of goods to Iraq under the UN oil for food programme. The UK puts on hold only about 2 per cent. of all contracts submitted to it for approval and then usually only on a temporary basis until concerns about the nature or end-use of the goods have been met. Details of all oil for food contracts are available on the UN website at

The UN continues to streamline its procedures to accelerate the export of goods to Iraq. The Sanctions Committee has therefore agreed lists of items, including oil spare parts, which no longer need to be referred to the UN for approval. At the same time Iraq continues to hamper the UN's efforts. Delays in the issue of letters of credit by the Central Bank of Iraq, for example, have prevented the delivery at one time of up to $1.1 billion worth of goods already approved by the UN.

MOX Fuel

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what requests have been received from the United States nuclear authorities in respect of the construction of lead test assemblies of mixed oxide nuclear fuel in British fabrication plants. [149761]

Mr. Wilson: As part of its agreement with Russia to dispose of TN 34 of plutonium declared surplus to its military requirements, the US has undertaken to immobilise TN 25.5 through irradiation in a reactor.

We have not received any request from the US to construct "lead test assemblies" for this programme in UK fabrication plants.


Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make a statement on the prospects for the reunification of Korea; [149906]

Mr. Battle: The UK welcomed the signing by President Kim Dae-Jung and Chairman Kim Jong Il of a joint declaration on reunification, family reunions, economic co-operation and future dialogue when they met in Pyongyang in June last year.

North-south dialogue on implementing the joint declaration has continued to develop since the summit. So far there have been four rounds of ministerial level talks and five rounds of military contacts. Land mine clearance operations are under way and a road and rail link across the demilitarised zone is being rebuilt. Three rounds of

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talks between the Red Cross societies on both sides have resulted in two rounds of separated family visits with a further round scheduled for the end of February. Commercial links have continued to develop in a number of sectors, including the signature of investment protection and double taxation agreements. Both the ROK and DPRK have continued to express their commitment to further reconciliation and to eventual reunification.

It was in support of these positive developments that the UK established diplomatic relations with the DPRK in December. However, long-term improvement of north- south relations also depends on the eventual resolution of issues such as human rights, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation, and the development and exports of missiles. Establishing diplomatic relations with the DPRK should provide a more effective channel for pressing UK concerns on these issues.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the prospects for a reduction of North Korean exports of arms. [150282]

Mr. Wilson: We are concerned by North Korea's past record of exporting arms, especially ballistic missile systems and their related technology. We were encouraged by talks held last year between the DPRK and the US. In the context of those talks, the DPRK said they would be willing to stop exporting missiles if they could be compensated for the loss of foreign earnings.

We have raised our concerns on this issue during our discussions on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UK and the DPRK. We will continue to use our diplomatic relations with the DPRK to reinforce the need for them to stop destabilising arms exports. We have also drawn the DPRK's attention to the draft international code of conduct against ballistic missile proliferation.

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