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Military Training Assistance: Review

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The review of the FCO's UK Military Training Assistance Scheme (UKMTAS) was launched as part of our comprehensive spending review. The Foreign Secretary has concluded that for 1998-99, UKMTAS will be replaced by a new programme called Assistance to Support Stability with In-Service Training (ASSIST), and that we will set up a specific Human Rights Project Fund.

The ASSIST programme will be worth £11.15 million in 1998-99. The criteria will be:

The creation of the new Human Rights Project Fund is the first time the FCO has set aside dedicated funds for human rights.

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The new fund will enable our embassies and high commissions to give practical help to promote human rights through governments and non-governmental organisations.

Priority areas will include: children's rights, including work to tackle child sexual abuse; rule of law co-operation, e.g. training for judges and lawyers, prison reform; support for national human rights institutions and NGOs; media, e.g. training of journalists.

The fund is made up of £2.25 million from overseas military training budgets (UKMTAS), together with an additional £2.75 million available through savings elsewhere.

UN: Rights of the Child Convention

Lord Thomas of Macclesfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will review the reservation registered by the Conservative Government regarding the United Kingdom's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, with particular reference to nationality, immigration, asylum and detention and the practical effects of the reservation since 1991.[HL1078]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): We do not intend to review the reservation. We take the view that the United Kingdom's immigration and nationality law is entirely consistent with the thrust of the convention, but believe it is necessary to retain this reservation, which makes it clear that nothing in the convention is to be interpreted as affecting the operation of our immigration and nationality legislation.

Hunting: Legislation

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they will not provide additional parliamentary time to enable the Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill to complete its remaining stages in the House of Commons; and[HL1053]

    Whether they have given or plan to give instructions to parliamentary counsel to ensure that any future legislation on criminal justice will be drafted in such a way as to prevent any amendment to outlaw fox hunting and other blood sports from being in order.[HL1055]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government have always made clear that there was no question of making time available for any Private Member's Bill in this session. It would be wrong to treat the Wild Mammals

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(Hunting with Dogs) Bill differently from any other Private Member's Bill. No instructions have been given to parliamentary counsel about future legislation on criminal justice. We would not want Government legislation to meet manifesto commitments to be delayed.

Phyllis Bowman v the United Kingdom

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House the evidence submitted by Mrs. Phyllis Bowman and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Phyllis Bowman v the United Kingdom[HL1065]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: A full summary of the case is already available in the Library, but I understand that it has been the practice to place such papers in the past, if requested, and I am content to do so. My officials have written to Mrs. Bowman's legal advisers to tell them of our intention.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Phyllis Bowman v the United Kingdom, they will refer to the Court of Appeal the two previous convictions of Mrs. Phyllis Bowman; and, if not, why not.[HL1066]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government have no plans to do so. Mrs. Bowman was convicted in accordance with the legislation and there are no grounds for referring the case to the Court of Appeal.

Prison Service: Standing Order 16 Facilities

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the provision to a prison inmate of a pencil, writing paper and access to Archbold constitutes adequate legal facilities as defined by Home Office Standing Order 16 of April 1991 dealing with litigants in person; and, if not, what facilities they would consider adequate.[HL1059]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Under Prison Service Standing Order 16-7, a prisoner who refuses to seek or is unable to obtain professional advice and wishes instead to initiate and/or conduct legal proceedings in person should be given the necessary facilities to do so. The range and extent of such facilities will vary according to the circumstances of each case and the governor has discretion as to what may be allowed. If the noble Lord has information about a particular case, I shall be glad to investigate it for him.

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Weapons Stolen from the Police

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many weapons were stolen from, or unaccounted for by, the British Police in:

    (a) England;

    (b) Wales;

    (c) Scotland;

    (d) Northern Ireland,

    in each of the past 10 years.[HL996]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The information requested is not readily available for England and Wales or Scotland, and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. In relation to Northern Ireland, 86 weapons were stolen from the police or were unaccounted for by them in the years 1988-1998. Numbers, broken down by year, are as follows:

    1988 9

    1989 13

    1990 13

    1991 14

    1992 3

    1993 5

    1994 14

    1995 6

    1996 6

    1997 2

    1998 (to date) 1.

Kosovo: Asylum Refusals

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the recommendation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that ethnic Albanians not qualifying for asylum should not be deported to Kosovo; and, if so, whether they will seek to achieve general agreement in western Europe on this point.[HL1046]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In the United Kingdom, all claims for asylum are considered individually on their merits within the terms of the 1951 United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees and its 1967 protocol, taking into account the latest information and advice on the country situation from a range of sources, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Where an application for asylum is refused, consideration is given to granting leave to remain exceptionally outside the immigration rules on humanitarian grounds. We have not recently returned to Kosovo any ethnic Albanians who have been refused asylum here.

There was detailed discussion on the situation in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, at the January meeting of the Centre for Information, Discussion and Exchange on Asylum held under the

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United Kingdom's Presidency of the European Union. UNHCR was represented at that meeting and had the opportunity to explain the conditions prevailing in Kosovo at the time. UNHCR's latest advice on the situation in Kosovo, dated 9 March, has been made available to all governments. It is for individual governments to determine applications for asylum in accordance with their international obligations, in particular the 1951 United Nations convention and its 1967 protocol which are common to all member states of the European Union.

Pronto!: Access

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their view of the likely relative tendency to encourage under-age gambling of Pronto! compared with the National Lottery, scratch cards and slot machines, given that Pronto! has an age limit of 18 and is to be situated mainly in licensed premises.[HL1063]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The statutory minimum age for playing lotteries, including on-line games and scratchcards, is 16. This is also the minimum age for playing the National Lottery. Apart from access to the £10 all-cash amusement-with-prizes machines in amusement arcades, there is no minimum age limit for gaming machines in places open to the public. However, prizes are limited to a maximum of £10. Under the law, any person over the age of 14 may enter the bar of a public house. Recent research published by Oflot suggested 8 per cent. of under 16s played fruit machines in pubs.

The promoters of Pronto!, an on-line lottery, have chosen to set their own age limit at 18 and to site their terminals mainly in licensed premises. This has no effect on the statutory position, and the promoters could at any time choose to relax their self-imposed constraint. In consulting on the draft Lotteries (Frequent Draws) Bill, the Government's main concern has been the risk to players of any age from rapid, repetitive games in premises not licensed for gambling.

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