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Privatised Rail Companies: Compulsory Purchase Powers

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): It is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to vest any powers of compulsory purchase of land or property with the privatised passenger rail companies or the rail freight companies by transfer scheme under the Railways Act 1993. That Act does not permit the transfer by scheme of the British Railways Board's powers of compulsory purchase under Section 15 of the Transport Act 1962.

They have the same rights as any other person to apply for an order under Section 1 of the Transport and Works Act 1992.

Public Interest Immunity Claims

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): No comprehensive central record is held by government of cases in which public interest immunity is claimed. On the basis of information at present available, class claims for material including communications between officials, between Ministers and between Ministers and officials on matters of policy, currently referred to as "advice to ministers" class claims, are known to have been made in the following criminal cases (apart from the Matrix Churchill case):

R v Saunders and others (1989).

The Court of Appeal later (1995) held the PII claim was properly made.

R v Natwest Investment Bank Ltd. and others (1991).

The application for disclosure was not pursued so the PII claim was not ruled upon.

R v Cunningham and Morris (1992).

The judge held that the documents fell within a PII class and ordered some to be disclosed.

R v Marks (1992).

The judge held that the documents fell within the PII class and ordered disclosure of most.

R v Smith (1993).

The judge upheld the PII claim and ruled against disclosure.

R v Barrett and Thompson (1993).

The judge upheld the PII claim and ruled against disclosure.

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R v Mitchell and Mitchell (1993).

The defence conceded that the documents fell within a PII class. The judge ordered disclosure.

In addition, PII class claims have been made in a number of criminal cases with respect to regulatory and investigatory material.

Public Interest Immunity: Counsel's Opinions

The Viscount of Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of the opinions of Treasury Counsel on which the Attorney General relies in matters of public interest immunity.

The Lord Chancellor: The opinions to which the noble Viscount refers were both placed in the Library of the House on Thursday 15th February.

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Passport Holders: Visas

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports will require visas to visit the United Kingdom from July 1997.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is announcing in Hong Kong today, holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports will not be required to obtain visas for short visits to Britain after 30th June 1997. We will, of course, keep this arrangement under review, as we do with the visa arrangements we apply in every other part of the world.

Prisoners: 24-Hour Access to Sanitation

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the current position is on the provision of 24-hour access to sanitation for prisoners.

Baroness Blatch: The deadline for providing all prisoners with 24-hour access to sanitation was 29th February. On 29th February over 99 per cent. of prisoners had 24-hour access to sanitation. If every cell without sanitation had been withdrawn from use on that date, there would have been a loss of 267 places in the area between Leeds and Liverpool and this would have increased the likelihood of using police cells in that region. For this reason my right honourable friend the Home Secretary approved the retention of some cells without sanitation until early April when other accommodation opens.

Since the sanitation programme was announced in 1991, over 19,000 places have been provided with sanitation. During this period the prison population has

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increased by approximately 30 per cent. We anticipate that all prisoners will have 24-hour access to sanitation by 12th April 1996. The delay has been caused primarily by the need to include necessary security improvement in the refurbishment programme.

Immigrants and Refugees: Family Reunion Policy

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What importance they attach to the principle of family reunion (a) generally, and (b) in relation to married couples with children already born, when considering (i) immigration cases, (ii) asylum applications (iii) requests by persons granted Exceptional Leave to Remain to bring in close family members.

Baroness Blatch: It is an important part of the Government's policy on immigration to continue to admit the spouses and minor dependent children of refugees and people settled here. The Immigration Rules provide accordingly.

There is no provision in the Rules for family reunion for those who do not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee, but asylum seekers who are allowed to remain exceptionally may apply to be joined by their immediate family after four years.

Immigrants: Family Credit

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will exclude Family Credit from the definition "recourse to public funds" when married couples, with children already in the United Kingdom and under the age of 16, apply to bring in a spouse.

Baroness Blatch: No. Family Credit is included in the definition of public funds in the Immigration Rules because it is one of a number of benefits to which people coming to this country on the understanding that they can be maintained and accommodated without recourse to public funds should not have access.

Sports Events: Broadcasting Rights

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reached any conclusions following the recent consultation process on broadcast sports rights.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): The Government's consultation exercise is now effectively complete. There has been a series of meetings with terrestrial, satellite and cable broadcasters, with regulatory authorities, with sports bodies, and with consumer, viewer and listener organisations. We have had extensive correspondence,

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particularly from the public. We have reviewed the recommendations of the National Heritage Select Committee's 1994 report on television coverage of sport. We have also had very much in mind points made in debate on the Broadcasting Bill.

This consultation exercise has proved useful. It has given all concerned the opportunity to put their case in the knowledge that the matter was under review. And it has allowed the Government to reach a better understanding of the issues, and to decide on a way forward which recognises all the interests involved.

It is clear that the primary public concern relates to listed events and how they might be protected for terrestrial free-to-air television. This issue was raised in our discussion paper. It was the focus of debate at Lords Committee stage and of the amendment which now forms Clause 1 of the Bill.

The Government accept the strength of public and parliamentary concern on this issue and that there is a case for additional protection for listed events. We propose at Third Reading to bring forward an amendment building on Clause 1 of the Bill as amended in Committee to guarantee the availability of live coverage of listed events for terrestrial free-to-air television and to provide for a number of measures to secure the best deal for sports bodies, broadcasters and the public. These include scope for subscription and pay-per-view services to offer alternative or fuller coverage of a listed event, supplementing terrestrial coverage to the benefit of viewers. We shall include a review mechanism to reflect the need for flexibility in the fast-moving broadcasting sector.

In addition, the Government keep the list of listed events under review. One point raised in consultation was that the process of deciding on the list should be made more transparent, and that criteria should be established to act as a reference point for future decisions. The Government think that this is an interesting suggestion and will consider it further.

The Government have also consulted on a separate proposal that broadcasting rights to any sporting event of national or local interest should be "unbundled", so that a broadcaster with exclusive rights will be obliged to license rights to recorded or radio coverage to general reception broadcasting services. The Government are not persuaded of the case for such a control. It would introduce an entirely new concept of very wide scope. It could have damaging financial consequences for sport. And it ignores the widespread availability of highlight and radio coverage, freely negotiated between sports bodies and broadcasters. The Government understand that the ITV Association thinks it preferable that the market should take its course within existing competition rules, and sees advantage in this approach.

The Government understand that the Sports Council advocates a voluntary code of conduct, including an agreement by governing bodies of major spectator sports that viewers and listeners should have the widest possible access to major sporting events. The Government see attractions in this approach and invite the Sports Council to develop it with the governing bodies.

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The Government's approach reflects consultation and discussion and seeks to respond to the primary concerns raised by the public. We have addressed the issue of broadcast sports rights in a practical and flexible way, ensuring a fair balance between all interested parties.

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