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Public Entertainments Licences (Drug Misuse) Act 1997

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Consultations on Home Office guidelines to local authorities on implementing the powers contained in this Act will be completed shortly. The final version of the guidelines will be published and the new powers then brought into effect as soon as possible in the New Year.

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Prison Ship: Facilities

Lord Robertson of Oakridge asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied that the prison ship HMP Weare is able to provide adequate facilities for work, exercise and recreation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Although there are no workshops on the Weare as yet, various cleaning and maintenance jobs are available to prisoners and the facility is equipped with two gymnasiums and two exercise yards.

Prisoners at the Weare spend 11 hours a day outside their cells. For half of this time, either work or education classes are available. Physical exercise or recreational activities are available to prisoners for the rest of the day.

Foreign Nationals in UK Prisons

Lord Robertson of Oakridge asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many nationals of countries other than the United Kingdom are held, according to the most recent figures, in United Kingdom prisons; and how this figure compares with those of a year earlier.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The latest available information is for 30 September 1997. On that date there were 5,233 foreign nationals in Prison Service establishments in England and Wales. This compares with 4,768 on 30 September 1996. For both years foreign nationals formed 8.4 per cent. of the total prison population. These figures include those for whom no nationality was recorded (537 on 30 September 1997 and 405 on 30 September 1996).

Information on the prison population by nationality is published in Prison Statistics, England and Wales (Table 9.2 of the 1996 edition, col. 3732), a copy of which is in the Library. Information for Scotland and Northern Ireland is available from the respective Secretaries of State.

Mr. Reginald Buckland

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what date they adopted the view referred to in the Written Answer concerning Mr. Reginald Buckland given by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 5 November (WA 294) "that conditions cannot be varied on application and that no right of appeal existed".

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Our doubts whether conditions imposed by a chief constable can be varied on application and whether a right of appeal exists arose in 1994 when considering a particular recommendation of the Firearms Consultative Committee in its Fourth Report (1992/93). The recommendation (paragraph 4.11) concerned changing

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existing guidance relating to the imposition of territorial conditions on firearm certificates, but our particular concern was in relation to Section 29 of the Firearms Act 1968. The matter was also raised in 1995 in correspondence with the British Shooting Sports Council and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.

Firearm Certificate Variation: Appeals

The Earl of Lytton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, further to the Answer given by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 30 October 1997 (WA 255) they will reconsider their reply in relation to variations to certificates and appeals under the Firearms Act 1968, sections 29(1) and (2) and clarify:

    (a) whether as a matter of policy they consider there to be a distinction to be made between "variation of a firearms certificate" as a generic term and the "variation of a condition" only, and if so why; or

    (b) whether the "variation of a condition" in a certificate varies the certificate as a whole, and if not, why not, and in either case

    (c) whether they distinguish between the general right of a firearms dealer to appeal against both conditions and certificates under Section 36(3) and the intention to give a right of appeal to holders of firearms certificates against the "certificate" under Section 29(2); and if so on what grounds.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Further to my Answer on 30 October (WA 255), the Crown Court in the case of Reginald Buckland v Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire distinguished between "variation of a firearms certificate" and the "variation of a condition". It is for the court to interpret the law, rather than the Executive, and on this issue the court is clear. There would be little point in the Executive adopting a policy on this issue that was contrary to the law. The appellant in this case was the holder of a firearm certificate, not a registered firearms dealer, and the case has no bearing upon the existing rights of appeal for dealers.

Abortion: International Comparisons

Lord Steel of Aikwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish a table of statistics for the latest available year showing the national rates of medical termination of pregnancy in each member state of the European Union, and in the United States of America.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Office for National Statistics. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

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Letter to Lord Steel of Aikwood from the Director of the Office for National Statistics, Dr. T. Holt.

I have been asked to reply, as Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to your recent question on rates of medical termination in the European Union and United States of America.

The ONS, by arrangement with the Department of Health, produces statistics relating to legally induced abortions within England and Wales. Figures for 1996, the latest year for which data are available, show that the overall abortion rate for women resident in England and Wales was 13.0 abortions per 1,000 women aged 14-49, based on the mid-1995 population estimate.

Legally induced abortion numbers and population by sex and age for each member state of the European Union and the United States of America are published in the United Nations publication Demographic Yearbook 1995, 47th issue, the relevant pages of which have been placed in the Library of the House. However, it is unclear whether the number of abortions are for residents only or residents and non-residents combined. Therefore it does not seem practical to calculate the rates using the population estimates published for residents of these countries, and it is impossible to make a comparison between the rates for different countries.

Breast Cancer Screening: Quality Assurance

Lord Ironside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they have taken to implement European quality assurance recommendations for breast cancer screening, which were defined at European level in 1992 by high level experts, according to the statement in paragraph 80 on page 36 of COM (94) 83 final proposing the 1995-99 Action Plan to combat cancer, published by the European Commission on 29 March 1994.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): There is no requirement to implement the European quality assurance recommendations for breast cancer screening as these are for guidance only. The United Kingdom experience in mammography made a strong contribution to the development of the European guidelines, as we were the first country within the European Community to launch a nationwide breast screening programme based on computerised call and recall, and the programme had clear quality standards built into it from the start. These are at least as comprehensive as the European recommendations.

However, we are not complacent. The recent report on breast cancer services in Exeter and quality assurance in breast screening identified serious shortcomings in the current lead purchasing arrangement for quality assurance. This Government are determined to put things right, and we have ordered reform of the organisation of cancer screening, including the transfer of responsibility and resources for quality assurance to National Health Service Regional Offices. They will have explicit responsibility for ensuring that any problems with

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screening services are picked up and dealt with rapidly, and, in the last resort, they will be able to close down units which fail to meet national standards.

Pet Quarantine Laws

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the statement on 4 November 1997 by Lord Donoughue that any changes to the pet quarantine laws appear likely to be embodied in European Law (H.L. Deb., col. 1315), whether any such change would be adopted by unanimity of member states or by qualified majority.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The voting procedure would depend on the article of the Treaty of Rome under which the legislation was to be made, but would be likely to be by qualified majority.

Animal By-Products Legislation Review

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their current review of animal by-products legislation will allow the practice of gralloching deer on the hill to continue, together with other normal pest control and sporting activities which involve animal by-products; or whether it may forbid any of these activities, and if so which ones, and why.

Lord Donoughue: Decisions on the scope of any new animal by-products legislation resulting from the review will not be taken until all the comments received in response to the consultation have been fully considered. Further consultation will then take place on draft legislation.

Miners' Claims against British Coal

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the number of claimants who have incurred injuries and diseases in respect of their employment in the mining industry whose cases have not so far been settled.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): British Coal currently have some 29,000 outstanding claims. The vast majority of these relate to diseases, principally Vibration White Finger (VWF) and Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease (COAD). Some 270 claims relate to injuries incurred from accidents.

Of the total some 24,000 claims cannot be settled until the conclusion of ongoing litigation. Again, the vast majority of these claims relate to VWF and COAD, with only 167 relating to accidents.

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