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Legal Aid Board

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The terms of reference of the Legal Aid Board are set out at Part II of the Legal Aid Act 1988.

The current membership of the Board is: Sir Tim Chessells (Chairman), Fred Collins, John Crosby, Jean Dunkley, Colin George, Kate Markus, Steve Orchard, Diana Payne, Penelope Pearce, George Pulman, David Sinker and Andrew Thomas. Steve Orchard is also the board's chief executive.

Public Interest Immunity: Consultation

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor: The Government have said that they will give careful and detailed consideration to Sir Richard Scott's recommendations concerning public interest immunity. The Attorney General has invited views on the subject from interested parties by 1st May 1996.

Factortame Judgment

Lord Mountevans asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: The judgment of the European Court of Justice in Case 48/93 was delivered on Tuesday 5th March 1996 and runs to 22 pages. The Court concluded that the principle that member states are

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obliged to make good damage caused to individuals by breaches of Community law attributable to the state is applicable where the national legislature was responsible for the breach in question and where the breach is sufficiently serious. The Court also concluded that it will be for the national courts to decide whether such a breach has occurred and what damages, if any, are payable.

These conclusions and the Court's judgment will be the subject of detailed scrutiny in the weeks ahead.

The judgment is a stage in the action brought by Factortame Ltd. and others in the UK Divisional Court against Her Majesty's Government for damages in respect of the losses incurred during the period they were excluded from the UK Fishing Vessel Register and unable to fish. In considering this action, the UK Divisional Court asked for guidance from the European Court as to whether in principle member states are liable to pay damages for losses arising from measures which were held in breach of treaty obligations. It will be for the Factortame applicants to decide whether and how to proceed with their action for damages before the UK courts.

Fishing Quotas

Lord Mountevans asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they plan to take at the Inter-Governmental Conference to deal with quota hopping.

Lord Lucas: There is an inconsistency underlying the quota regime of the Common Fisheries Policy, in that the quotas allocated to each member state do not always benefit the fishing communities of that member state. This is because the eligibility for quotas and their administration by member states has to take full account of general treaty provisions--for example, on right of establishment and freedom of movement. This has undermined the benefit which the UK fishing industry has been able to secure from the fishing opportunities available to it under the Common Fisheries Policy. We shall be pursuing this. In particular, we shall be exploring at the IGC whether there are treaty changes which could be made which would help to ensure that the fishing opportunities arising from national quotas provide real benefits to the fishing communities of the flag member state.

Large Goods Vehicles: Drivers' Eyesight

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, under the Government's interpretation of European Union regulations, drivers of Large Goods Vehicles (LGV) from other European Union countries will be able to continue to drive LGVs in the United Kingdom, even though their eyesight would debar them from continuing to hold a vocational driving licence in the United Kingdom.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The eyesight standards set in the second EC Directive on driving licences will apply throughout the European Union. Existing standards and entitlements vary as between member states. Drivers from other member states will have to comply with the relevant implementing legislation of their own member state, or, in the case of drivers taking up residence here, of the United Kingdom.

Citizenship Application Fees

The Earl of Lindsey and Abingdon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to revise the fee levels for citizenship applications.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Citizenship fees were last changed in March 1991 and some changes are necessary in order to meet the Government's policy of recovering no more than the cost of processing citizenship applications. New British Nationality (Fees) Regulations 1996 are being laid before Parliament today to introduce the following fee levels with effect from 1st April 1996:

Present feesNew fees
££
Registration (adult or minor)85120
Naturalisation on grounds of marriage to a British citizen135120
All other naturalisations170150

The fees for applications for naturalisation, which represent about 75 per cent. of all applications, have been reduced significantly. At the same time the opportunity has been taken to remove the element of cross-subsidisation between applications for registration and naturalisation which has come to light since fee levels were last revised. This has led to an increase in the fee for applicants for registration.

The existing arrangements for joint applicants will be unchanged: husbands and wives applying together for naturalisation will continue to pay one single fee, as will minor children of the same parent applying together for registration.

The practice of returning a normal amount where an application is subsequently withdrawn or refused has been reviewed. It has become apparent that the difference in the cost of successful and unsuccessful applications is negligible. Unsuccessful applicants who apply on or after 1st April 1996 will therefore pay the full cost of processing their applications and will not receive a refund.

The new regulations will also increase from £15 to £20 the fees payable to the Home Office for renouncing citizenship and for supplying copy certificates and other documents. The fee for administering the oath of allegiance which is payable to the person administering the oath will be increased from £3.50 to £5 in order to

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bring it into line with fees for analogous work under the Commissioners for Oath (Fees) Order 1993.

It is expected that the revised fee levels will provide sufficient income to meet the costs of processing applications over the period April 1996 to April 1997.

Prison Ombudsman

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

    Whether they intend to amend the powers of the Prison Ombudsman; and, if so, whether they will state the nature of the proposed amendments and the reasons for making them; and

    Whether they will consult Parliament before amending the powers of the Prison Ombudsman.

Baroness Blatch: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary met the Prison Ombudsman, Sir Peter Woodhead, on 28th February. They agreed to clarify the Ombudsman's terms of reference. The Home Secretary said that the terms of reference cover complaints by prisoners about decisions taken by Prison Service staff. They do not cover decisions made personally by Ministers or advice by Prison Service officials to Ministers. A document setting out the clarification will be issued shortly. I will place a copy in the Library.

Prime Minister's Visit to Far East

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the Prime Minister's recent visit to the Far East.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister attended the inaugural Asia-Europe Summit Meeting in Bangkok on 29th February to 2nd March together with my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. This Summit for the first time brought together the leaders of Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, The Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, China, the 15 member states of the European Union and the President of the European Commission. The Prime Minister welcomed the opportunity it offered to reinforce the relations between Europe and East Asia, politically and economically two of the world's three most important regions.

The informal discussions covered a wide range of political and economic issues. The participants agreed on the need to deepen the political dialogue between Asia and Europe, to increase co-operation over arms control, human resource development, environmental protection and the fight against poverty, drugs, terrorism and other international crime.

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On economic matters, there was common ground over the benefits of strengthening trade and investment flows between Asia and Europe in both directions. The meeting agreed to work for the further liberalisation of trade and for the success of the World Trade Organisation. It also recognised that intensified exchanges of science and technology, especially in sectors such as agriculture, information technology, energy and transport, were important for extending the economic links between the two regions. Finally, there was agreement on the value of closer people-to-people contacts, especially among younger generations.

The meeting set in hand an ambitious programme of follow-up work, including preparations for the first Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Singapore in December, work on improving conditions for the flow of investment between the two regions, the establishment of a business forum and promotion of reform of the United Nations, including the EU initiative on financial reform.

The meeting accepted the United Kingdom's offer to host the second summit, which will be held during our Presidency of the EU in the first half of 1998. This is a clear signal of our commitment to developing relations with Asia and our determination to play a leading role in the evolving relationship between the two regions.

Hong Kong

During his visit to Hong Kong between 2nd and

4th March, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to hear the concerns of a wide range of the Hong Kong community about their future. He was able to reassure them that:

(i) Britain has a long-term commitment to Hong Kong which will last well beyond the transfer of sovereignty on 1st July 1997;

(ii) in the event of a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, we would pursue every avenue open to us and mobilise the international community;

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(iii) holders of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport would not be required to obtain visas for visits to Britain after 30th June 1997;

(iv) we would guarantee admission to Britain for any member of the non-Chinese ethnic minority community with solely British nationality who came under pressure to leave Hong Kong after the transfer of sovereignty;

and

(v) we would support a Private Member's Bill to grant British citizenship to the wives and widows of the ex-servicemen from Hong Kong who fought for Britain in the war.

The Prime Minister also had the opportunity to visit several parts of the territory, including the new airport and the extension to the Convention and Exhibition Centre, where development is being pursued to ensure Hong Kong's continuing success.

Korea

Korea is an important trading partner: our exports increased by 44 per cent. in 1995 to more than

£1.5 billion, and we have attracted more than 40 per cent. of all Korean inward investment in Europe. The prospects for further growth in these areas are good.

The Prime Minister had a meeting with President

Kim Young Sam, their third in twelve months, at which they discussed ways to increase the co-operation between our countries, particularly in trade and investment. He also met the leaders of the major Korean conglomerates. He encouraged them to consider further inward investment here by assuring them of the major benefits of doing so. During his visit, three new Korean investments worth £2.5 million were announced, bringing the number of Korean companies in the UK to 19. Four contracts were signed by British companies for joint ventures valued at £90 million, including a co-operation agreement between BNFL and Hanjung for the building of spent fuel storage casks in a market expected to grow from £35 million to £2 billion.



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