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28 Jun 1996 : Column WA79

Written Answers

Friday, 28th June 1996.

Enforcement of Regulations: Model Appeal Mechanism

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in developing a model for appeals against enforcement action.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): A new model mechanism for appeals against enforcement action has been set out in Statutory Instrument No. 1678, which was laid before Parliament today.

This new model will provide for a speedier and cheaper way for resolving disputes on enforcement of regulations. At the same time it incorporates procedures that will ensure that every opportunity is made available to business to resolve disputes informally without having to resort to the appeal process.

The model has been developed through wide consultation with the business and regulatory community, drawing on best practice from existing appeal procedures.

Features of the model include:

    rights to make representation before formal action is taken (unless urgent action is necessary);

    provision for an appeal tribunal to be set up by the Minister responsible for the legislation, to resolve disputes that cannot be resolved informally;

    time limits for each stage of the appeal process;

    appeals to be considered on their merits by the tribunal;

    to assist with an effective and efficient resolution of disputes, pre-hearing reviews will be encouraged;

    where appropriate, the decision of the tribunal can be based on written submissions only, avoiding the time and costs of oral hearings.

Each tribunal will be made up of a legally qualified Chairman assigned from a panel appointed by the Lord Chancellor in England and Wales and the Lord Advocate in Scotland; a member who is expert in the field; and a member representing business. Each tribunal will be supported by a registrar to provide for active case management.

The model is designed to apply across a wide range of policy areas. The rights to make representations at an early stage have already been implemented by the

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Environment Agency and for Health and Safety legislation. They will shortly be applied to food safety and building regulations, and later in the year to fire safety and consumer affairs.

Consular Functions: European Convention

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention to sign the 1967 European Convention on Consular Functions; and if not, why not.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Her Majesty's Government have no present intention of signing this convention. Consular functions are satisfactorily covered by our bilateral conventions with Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden and by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

WEU Meetings: UK Representation

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many meetings of, or organised by, the Western European Union have been attended by Ministers or officials of:

    (i) The Foreign and Commonwealth Office;

    (ii) The Ministry of Defence; and

    (iii) The Department of Trade and Industry.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Either the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Ministry of Defence or (and this is usual) both government departments, work on the basis of sending officials to all meetings of the Western European Union. We are unaware of any meetings which they have missed. Ministers attend WEU ministerial meetings as well as sessions of the WEU Assembly and its Presidential Committee during a British Presidency of the WEU. Officials and Ministers from the Department of Trade do not attend meetings of the Western European Union.

The Gambia

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking in the Commonwealth to ensure the speedy restoration of democracy and human rights in The Gambia.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: A Commonwealth Ministerial Mission visited The Gambia from 12th-13th June to review progress on human rights and the transition to democracy. At its meeting on 24th-25th June, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) urged the Gambian regime to lift the ban on political activity and encouraged Commonwealth countries to provide electoral support.

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Montserrat Eruption

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the humanitarian and economic short and long-term challenges generated by the eruption of the Goufriere Hills volcano in Montserrat; what is their evaluation of the emerging shelter programme and its administration; and what are the lessons to be drawn from the crisis.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The challenges of maintaining life on Montserrat for those who do not wish to leave are varied, numerous and in many ways unique. The emergency shelter programme is typical of areas where we and the Government of Montserrat are tackling simultaneously short and long-term needs. It is too soon to evaluate formally the overall experience but lessons learned are continuously being fed back into further activities.

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