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4 Jun 1997 : Column WA39

Written Answers

Wednesday, 4th June 1997.

Written Answers

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether, if so requested by a Peer, they will send the personal copy of a reply to a question for Written Answer to him by e-mail using the Parliamentary Data and Video Network; and, if so, how such a request should be made.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): It is a matter for each individual Department whether they have the means to provide answers to written questions in electronic form instead of on paper. Steps are being taken to determine which departments are in a position to provide answers by e-mail. Once this information is available I will ensure that the House is informed and that the necessary mechanisms are made clear to Peers. I can assure the noble Lord that Her Majesty's Government are committed to using IT for the delivery of government services.

RAF Bentwaters

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the sale of RAF Bentwaters has been completed; if so, to whom it has been sold; what plans there are for its development; and whether they are satisfied with the terms of the sale.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The MoD concluded the sale of the former RAF Bentwaters to Bentwaters Investments Ltd., on 15 May 1997.

The site was sold with the benefit of outline planning permission and a planning agreement which has placed considerable obligations on the new owner. Bentwaters Investments Ltd. are currently discussing the future development of the site with the local authority concerned. The department is satisfied with the terms of the sale.

Defence Expenditure Comparisons

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish in the Official Report a table showing the amount spent per capita of population by each country in Europe on defence.

Lord Gilbert: Our estimates of per capita expenditure on defence by European members of NATO in 1996 are as follows:

US $ (1)
Norway859
France796
Denmark582
UK577
Greece530
Netherlands503
Germany477
Belgium420
Italy415
Luxembourg335
Portugal294
Spain220
Turkey110

(1) At average 1996 market exchange rates.


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It has not been the Government's practice regularly to collect comparable statistics on non-NATO European countries, although much useful information can be found in The Military Balance 1996-97, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Gulf War Illness: Research

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the report in The Times of 30 April 1997 stating that the recipients of a questionnaire distributed by researchers at King's College, London who are investigating Gulf War illness, are being induced to return the questionnaires by the promise of entry into a draw for a £1,000 cash prize, is correct; and whether they consider this practice to be ethical.

Lord Gilbert: The research team headed by Professor Simon Wessely at King's College School of Medicine is carrying out an epidemiological study into the health of Gulf War veterans for the US Department of Defense. This work is being funded and carried out independently of the Ministry of Defence, and the methodology being adopted is a matter for Professor Wessely and his team. I understand that it is Professor Wessely's intention that, on return of completed questionnaires for this study, veterans' names will be entered in a £1,000 prize draw. Although the MoD did not commission this research, we are co-operating with it and are satisfied that appropriate medical ethical clearance for the study has been obtained.

Game Licences

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider game licences to be an economic and effective means of raising revenue; and, if not, whether these licences have another purpose that justifies their continuation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The purpose of the present system of licensing those who kill or deal in game is to assist in the enforcement of the game laws, particularly in respect of the statutory close seasons and prevention of poaching.

The Government will review their effect in achieving those objectives.

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Mr. and Mrs. Robert Oliver Hill

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they authorised the Government of South Africa to have access to the Home Office file on Mr. and Mrs. Robert Oliver Hill; and, if so, on what date was this authority given.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Counsel for the Government of South Africa were given access to the Home Office immigration file on Mr. and Mrs. Hill by the Metropolitan Police on 9 July 1996.

It is the policy of the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate to co-operate fully with any police investigation or criminal prosecution and to disclose information from its files to the police on request. The disclosure of information gathered by the police in the course of an investigation is a matter for the chief officer of the force concerned, subject to the order of a court.

Scrapie

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the number of cases of scrapie which have been confirmed since it became a notifiable disease.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The following table shows the number of cases which have been confirmed as positive since January 1993, when scrapie became a notifiable disease.

Confirmed positive
1993328
1994235
1995254
1996453
1997(2)213

(2) Until end of May.


Cases are greater in each year than those previously reported on 19 February 1997 (House of Commons, Official Report, col. 635) owing to the inclusion of cases from research studies which have not been previously reported.

Alleviation of Poverty

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the recommendation of the Independent Commission on Population and Quality of Life (Caring for the Future; p. 130) that "Each country should produce . . . a national development plan . . . making explicit the strategies to be used on behalf of the poorest and most marginalised groups"; if so, whether they are going to produce such a plan; and, if not, why not.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): There are no plans to produce a development plan as envisaged by the Independent Commission on Population and Quality of Life. However, this department is embarking on a strategic plan to look at the benefit system which in turn will look at the help available to the poorest and most marginalised groups in society. The best path out of poverty is work, where that is appropriate. We will therefore get 250,000 young unemployed off benefit and into work and, by cutting tax for employers who create new jobs, create opportunities for the long-term unemployed.

We will also help single mothers back into work.

DSS Change Programme

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will review the Change Programme in the light of paragraphs 13 to 35 of the annual report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: We will be assessing the department's current programme of changes to ensure that it will provide the improved services, better security and value for money that we want to see in a modernised social security system.

Saunders v United Kingdom: Execution of Judgment

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to fulfil their obligations under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms to give practical effect to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Saunders v United Kingdom (1197 23 EHRR 313).

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): The costs of £75,000 awarded by the European Court of Human Rights to the applicant in Saunders v United Kingdom have been paid. Her Majesty's Government are giving further consideration to the response to be made to the Committee of Ministers, which, under the Convention, is the body charged with supervising the execution of the Court's judgment.

Human Rights: Incorporation of European Convention

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to resolve the present "unsatisfactory position" disclosed by the Lord Chief Justice in his judgment in the Court of Appeal in R v Morrisey and R v Staines (The Times, 1 May 1997) in the light of their decision to incorporate

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    the main provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms into United Kingdom law.

Lord Clinton-Davis: The consideration being given by Her Majesty's Government to their response to the Committee of Ministers in relation to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Saunders v United Kingdom will take account of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R v Morrisey and R v Staines in relation to future cases.

On the separate question of incorporation, the Government are considering the details of the implementation of their decision to incorporate the main provisions of the European Convention for the

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Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms into United Kingdom law.

Medicines Control Agency: Key Business Targets

Lord Winston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will list the key business targets for the Medicines Control Agency for 1997-98.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): I have today placed a copy of the 1997-98 key business targets of the Medicines Control Agency in the Library. I shall, of course, be reviewing the agency's plans and targets for the longer term.



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