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2 Mar 2002 : Column WA103

Written Answers

Thursday 2nd March 1995

Guinness Case: Disclosure of Evidence Investigation

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether, contrary to Baroness Blatch's reply of 30 January 1995 (WA 102), the investigation by the Metropolitan Police Complaints Bureau into the conduct of certain police officers involved in the second Guinness trial involved in the non-disclosure of evidence has, in practice, not been completed pending consideration by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch: I understand that the investigation has been completed so far as other matters are concerned, but that the part of the investigation dealing with the non-disclosure of evidence has been deferred until the conclusion of proceedings in the Court of Appeal. I regret that my earlier reply did not make this distinction clear.

Frontier Controls

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether the Prime Minister's undertaking to block any attempt by the European Union or any of its institutions to diminish the control on the movement of people currently exercised by the United Kingdom at its frontiers includes a willingness to amend Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 to make any such attempt unenforceable under United Kingdom law; and if not, why not.

Baroness Blatch: No. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that we will take whatever action is necessary to maintain our frontier controls. However, that action does not include amendment of Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, which would not have the effect suggested.

Coach Standardisation: Draft Directive

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether, and if so how, the forthcoming European Community directive on coach standardisation will affect the future of double deck vehicles and those who build them; and what is the expected timescale for the issue of the directive.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): A draft directive has not yet been formally proposed by the European Commission and, once proposed, will then be subject to negotiation. It is not, therefore, possible at

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present to speculate on what its effect will be. A draft is likely to be tabled this year and the negotiations may take some considerable time.

The Government will continue to seek to ensure that the needs of the industry are safeguarded.

GEST Grants: Take-up by Schools

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government: Further to the answer by Lord Lucas on 14 February (col. WA 29–30), how many local education authorities have indicated that they are in a position to take up School Effectiveness and Vocational Qualification Grants.

Lord Lucas: Each of the 109 local education authorities (LEAs) in England has indicated to the Department for Education that they will take up the GEST grant for School Effectiveness.

The Vocational Qualifications in Schools grant is in two parts, covering Introduction and Supply Cover. For Introduction, all LEAs were offered an allocation, which all but one LEA have accepted. For Supply Cover, 50 LEAs qualified for an allocation and all 50 have accepted their allocations.

Each of the eight LEAs in Wales has been advised of the level of expenditure approved within the Welsh GEST programme for 1995–96. To date, no LEA in Wales has indicated that it is unable to take up its allocation.

Human Rights Convention and Scots Law

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider, in the light of the decisions of the Court of Session in Kaur v Lord Advocate 1981 SLT 322 and Moore v Secretary of State for Scotland 1985 SLT 38, that the European Convention on Human Rights has the same status in the law of Scotland as in the laws of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State, Scottish Officer (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): Yes. The decisions in the cases of Kaur and Moore were to the effect that the rights conferred by the convention were not directly enforceable by the Scottish courts because the convention was not part of the domestic law of Scotland. It is thought that a similar view would be arrived at by the courts in any other part of the United Kingdom.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to introduce legislation to overrule the decisions of the Court of Session in Kaur v Lord Advocate 1981 SLT 322 and Moore v Secretary of State for Scotland 1985 SLT 38, that, in the absence of legislation, the European Convention on Human Rights plays no part in Scots law; and, if not, why not.

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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: No. The decisions in Kaur and Moore reflect the well known constitutional principle that an international treaty or convention to which the United Kingdom is a party does not form part of the domestic law of any part of the United Kingdom, unless and until Parliament has legislated to give effect to it. This principle was affirmed by the House of Lords in R v Home Secretary, ex parte Brind 1991 1 AC 696 per Lord Bridge at p.747.

Gypsy and Traveller Children

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What observations the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child made, at its January 1995 meeting, on the situation of gypsy and traveller children in England and Wales.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The concluding observations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child record that, "the situation of Gypsy and Traveller children is of concern to the Committee, especially with regard to their access to basic services and the provision of caravan sites".

Gypsies and other travellers are entitled to the same range of health services as the rest of the population. The Department of Health is funding 34 primary health care schemes for homeless people designed to ensure that they have access to the services they require. Doctors and other health professionals visit places where homeless people congregate. Some of the schemes specifically identify travellers as among those they help; two are designed partly or solely to provide services for this group.

Hospitals for Mentally Handicapped: Opposition to Closure

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their answers of 6th and 20th February 1995 (WA3 and WA56), how they judge the strength of local and family opposition to the proposed closure of the following long-stay hospitals for mentally handicapped people:


    Cell Barnes Hospital


    St. Ebbas Hospital


    Turner Village Hospital


    Llanfrechfa Grange Hospital


    Northgate Hospital


    Prudhoe Hospital


    Meanwood Park Hospital


    Ida Darwin Hospital


    Calderstones Hospital


    Leybourne Grange Hospital


    Tilworth Grange Hospital


    Clarefield Hospital

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    and whether Her Majesty's Government consider they are thus sufficiently well informed about the strength of that feeling.

Baroness Cumberlege: As set out in earlier replies, it is for health authorities to consult on proposals to close hospitals, and they should take account of all the views expressed, including those of families and local people, in making their decisions. When proposals are referred to Ministers following local community health council opposition to closure, Ministers consider carefully all issues raised. Ministers have had meetings with Rescare and are aware of their concerns about hospital closures. They are also aware of the results of Rescare's recent survey.

Local Government Reorganisation: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and County Durham

Baroness Seccombe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the latest position on the reorganisation of local government in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and County Durham.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): Bedfordshire: On Bedfordshire, the Secretary of State for the Environment has concluded that the balance of evidence lies in favour of accepting the commission's recommendations for a unitary Luton, but rejecting the recommendations for unitary status elsewhere, so that the remainder of the county will continue as two tier. The Secretary of State is satisfied that this solution best reflects the identities and interests of the local communities concerned and best secures effective and convenient local government.

Although there was unanimous support for an all unitary solution among the districts, the Secretary of State was not persuaded that this is the best solution for the county as a whole. There is a very strong case, which few would challenge, for a unitary Luton, given its size, population density, and former county borough status. However, for the remainder of the county the Secretary of State considered that the balance of the evidence points to retaining the present two-tier structure. The districts of Mid and South Bedfordshire, which would be merged in the commission's proposals, have no particular focus or strong identity. On the issues of service delivery and viability, considerable doubts have been expressed about the fragmentation of county services, and whether the relatively small authorities proposed in the commission's recommended structure could deliver effectively, entailing some risk to local taxpayers. An all unitary solution would also lead to higher transitional costs, as well as greater disruption.

The Secretary of State is accepting the commission's recommendations on other matters, namely police and fire services, land use planning, ceremonial matters and electoral arrangements, with minor modification to take account of the decision on structure.

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Buckinghamshire:

Having weighed all the arguments, the Secretary of State has accepted part of the commission's structural recommendations—namely a unitary authority for Milton Keynes—but rejected the rest, so that the remainder of the county would remain two tier. The Secretary of State is satisfied that this solution best reflects the identities and interests of the local communities concerned and best secures effective and convenient local government.

There is a strong case for a unitary Milton Keynes, which is now also accepted by the County Council. The town has a strong and distinct community identity and is in many ways different from the rest of the county. Its population is already large and we have little doubt that it would be able to provide all local authority services, particularly with further substantial growth expected.

However, it seems to us that the position in the rest of the county is much less clear. Popular opinion is finely balanced and doubts have been expressed about the fragmentation of services. We are also conscious that it is likely that an all unitary solution would give rise to considerably higher transitional costs.

The Secretary of State is accepting the commission recommendations on police and fire services, land use planning, ceremonial matters and electoral arrangements, with minor modification to take account of the decision on structure. He is still considering the commission's recommendations for parishing Aylesbury and High Wycombe. County Durham:

In the case of County Durham, the Secretary of State has decided to accept the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority based on the present borough area of Darlington and that there should be no change to the existing two-tier arrangements in the rest of County Durham. The Secretary of State agrees with the commission that this solution will best reflect the identities and interests of the local communities concerned and best secures effective and convenient local government.

The case for a unitary Darlington is strong. Darlington is based on a former county borough and has a population in excess of 100,000. The commission has identified a strong sense of community identity with the borough council area. Its natural and communications links are with the unitary authorities which are to be established in Cleveland—it shares with Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Stockton a dependence on the infrastructure based on the Tees Port, the A.66—A.1 road connection, the East Coast main line railway and Teesside Airport. Therefore the Secretary of State also proposes to accept the commission's recommendation that Darlington should establish joint structure planning arrangements with the proposed unitary authorities of Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and East Cleveland and Stockton on Tees for the whole of their areas.

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The Secretary of State also proposes to accept the commission's recommendations for the police and fire services, and for electoral arrangements. He is still considering the commission's recommendations for ceremonial arrangements and for parishing in the county.


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