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19 Nov 1997 : Column WA79

Written Answers

Wednesday, 19th November 1997.

Immigration Rules: New Concession

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied that all persons, whether homosexual or heterosexual, enjoy the same rights as married persons to nominate others for admission or settlement to the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): No. It is a fundamental principle of the Immigration Rules that someone already settled in the United Kingdom may bring their spouse into the United Kingdom to join them, subject to meeting clear tests as to the genuineness of the marriage and the financial capacity of the couple. The policy which was announced on 10 October, is a concession, outside the Immigration Rules, for those unmarried partners who are legally unable to marry. The criteria to be met by those seeking to benefit from the concession are much more stringent than those applicable to married people under the Immigration Rules.

Albert Memorial Exhibition Centre

Lord Freyberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Albert Memorial Exhibition Centre is closing; and, if so, why.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The exhibition centre is a temporary structure which will need to be removed with other worksite facilities in 1998. As there are few visitors in the first quarter of the year, it will be closed at Christmas. It is hoped that the exhibition may later be re-opened in other premises.

Channel 5 Obligations: Retuning of Videos

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the obligations imposed on Channel 5 with respect to the retuning of video recorders and how far these obligations have been met.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Under the terms of its licence from the Independent Television Commission (ITC), Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd. was required to retune or otherwise modify, without cost to the viewer, video recorders and any other domestic equipment liable to interference from the transmission of Channel 5. The ITC determined that the Channel 5 service could not be broadcast in the areas where equipment was liable to such interference until at least 90 per cent. of the homes at risk from interference had been dealt with. On 13 March, the commission announced that it was satisfied, after independent verification, that Channel 5 had met the 90 per cent. target for the first nine specified

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transmitter areas and could therefore start broadcasting. A further nine transmitter areas were brought into service progressively between July and September, again only after the ITC was satisfied that the 90 per cent. target had been met.

The liability of Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd. to retune or otherwise modify domestic equipment suffering interference from Channel 5 services is limited to three months from the start of transmissions. For the original nine transmitter areas specified by the ITC, Channel 5's obligations have ceased. Channel 5's obligations for the most recent transmitter areas will end on 28 December.

Fish: Landing Sizes

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For each species of fish, what are the old and new landing sizes agreed at the Fisheries Council meeting on 30 October, and which of these new landing sizes may include juvenile fish.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The material requested on present landing sizes and on landing sizes to be applied from 1 January 2000 was placed in the Library of the House on 11 November 1997.

The new regulation increases the size for whiting (27 cms) and sets for the first time sizes for ling (62 cms) and blue ling (70 cms). The size for plaice (22 cms) is reduced, as is megrim (20 cms). Except for megrim, these new sizes are close to or greater than the point at which approximately 50 per cent. of the species concerned have reached maturity, which does in any case vary from area to area. The new size for megrim is a little smaller than strictly desirable but this recognises the fact that it is wasteful to require discarding of fish which are marketable and which in practice are caught as part of a mixture of species.

Common Fisheries Policy: EU Decision

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the recent European Parliament decision that the common fisheries policy is to be run on a non-discriminatory basis by the year 2003.

Lord Donoughue: The resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 5 November did not say that the common fisheries policy should be run on a non-discriminatory basis by the year 2003. It did, however, stress that after the year 2002 exceptions to the principle of free and equal access to Community waters must remain possible on socio-economic, biological and environmental grounds. It also stressed that the waters within 12-mile territorial limits should be for the exclusive use and management of the coastal member state concerned.

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Glasgow to Ayr Road Link

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to announce a start date for the next stage in the upgrading of the A.77 Glasgow to Ayr road to motorway standards.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): Progress on upgrading the A.77 will depend on the outcome of the review of the trunk road programme which is currently being undertaken. We expect to be able to announce the conclusions of the review next summer.

Tolls on Scottish Bridges

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many vehicle drivers (a) have refused to pay tolls; (b) have been successfully prosecuted for the non-payment of tolls; and (c) have had the charges relating to the non-payment of tolls dropped, on each of the Erskine, Forth, Tay and Skye road bridges in 1995 and 1996.

Lord Sewel: No vehicle drivers refused to pay tolls on the Forth and Tay Bridges in 1995 and 1996. On the Erskine Bridge, 180 drivers refused to pay in 1995 and 295 in 1996. None of the drivers was prosecuted as the bridge operator pursues recovery from the individuals.

The information available on the Skye Bridge shows that 164 drivers refused to pay tolls in 1995 (16 October (the date the bridge opened) to 31 December) and 213 drivers in 1996. In the period from opening to 11 November 1997, the Procurator Fiscal pursued 192 complaints of non-payment of tolls in which the accused pleaded guilty or was convicted after trial and did not pursue a further 220 complaints.

Scottish Parliament: Voting Procedures

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What procedures for voting will be used in the proposed Scottish Parliament; and whether there will be public consultation on them.

Lord Sewel: The electoral system proposed for the Scottish Parliament was described in the White Paper Scotland's Parliament (Cm 3658) which was published on 24 July 1997. The Government's proposals as set out in the White Paper received the overwhelming endorsement of people in Scotland at the referendum on 11 September 1997.

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Scottish Parliament: Standing Orders

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the standing orders for the proposed Scottish Parliament will be published, and, if so, when; and whether there will be public consultation on them.

Lord Sewel: These are matters for the Scottish Parliament itself. However, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland announced on Friday 14 November the establishment of a consultative steering group which will take forward consideration of how the Scottish Parliament should operate. The group will include representatives of all the main political parties in Scotland along with the Scottish Constitutional Convention and local government. The group may choose to involve other interests. The group will be charged with reporting to my right honourable friend by the end of 1998. He will then prepare draft standing orders which he will present to the Parliament as a starting point for its deliberations.

The Government believe that this approach, drawing on the views and expertise of political parties and others with an interest in Scotland, will permit the development of draft standing orders which are likely to command widespread acceptance.

Child Protection in Scotland

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider child protection in Scotland to be a subject suited to a Royal Commission.

Lord Sewel: Child protection is a matter which rightly arouses considerable public interest and concern but the Government do not believe that a Royal Commission is appropriate at this particular time. The law in relation to children has recently been greatly strengthened by the introduction of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The Act makes provision for a range of orders, each suited to particular circumstances, but all with the aim of protecting children. We will be monitoring the use which is made of these orders. Other measures, such as those provided for in the Sex Offenders Act 1997, have been introduced to improve child protection and the Kent report on arrangements for protecting children cared for away from home will be published shortly.

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