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29 Apr 1998 : Column WA27

Written Answers

Wednesday, 29th April 1998.

Argentina: Arms Embargo Exception

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any new exceptions to the embargo on Argentina.[HL1683]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have recently granted an exception to the embargo to allow the sale of a further 110 NBC suits and 110 pairs of boots for use by the Argentine contingent of the UN task force in Kuwait. This is an exception but not a change to the embargo.

Children and Armed Conflict

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the present state of negotiations in the United Nations towards an amendment of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to raise the minimum age for recruitment and participation in armed conflict from fifteen to eighteen years; and which governments oppose the amendment.[HL1527]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Nations Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict was unable to reach agreement on the text of the draft protocol at its fourth session from 2 to 10 February 1998. The particular views expressed by delegations in the discussions are set out in the report of the working group, published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

On 22 April 1998 the UN Commission on Human Rights decided by consensus to encourage the Chairman of the Working Group to conduct broad informal consultations with the aim of promoting an early agreement on the protocol and to produce a report on the consultations by the end of 1998, including, if possible, recommendations on the best way for the formal negotiations to proceed. The Commission has requested the working group to meet in early 1999 to consider the chairman's report and to report to the 55th session of the Commission on Human Rights. The commission has also reaffirmed the aim of finalising the draft optional protocol by the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November 1999.

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Children in Front Seats of Cars

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which countries in Europe have a law which (a) prohibits and (b) restricts children under 14 years of age from riding in the front seat of a motor vehicle, together with the relevant penalty in each country.[HL1554]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Government are not aware of any EU member state which prohibits or restricts the riding by children in a front seat except in cases where no suitable seat belt or child restraint is available. Comprehensive information about non-EU countries is not available, but it is known that in the Czech Republic, children under 12 years are not permitted to occupy front seats.

All EU member states have legislation which complies with Council Directive 91/671/EEC requiring the use of safety belts in the front and rear seats of cars and front seats of other motor vehicles of less than 3.5 tonnes. With some exceptions, children under 12 years of age and less than 150 cm tall must use a restraint system appropriate for that child, save that for children aged 3 and over member states may in their own territory provide the alternative of restraint by an adult belt. Older children, like adults, must also use adult belts where available.

Trunk Roads: Advertisement Control

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which sections of trunk road in England and Wales are located on the edge of industrial estates and which they therefore believe can be edged with advertising hoardings without contravening the Planning Policy Note on Advertisement Control.[HL1627]

Baroness Hayman: There is no information readily available to identify the trunk roads in England and Wales that are located on the edge of industrial estates. Responsibility for advertisement control in England and Wales rests with local planning authorities who may exercise their power only in the interests of "amenity" and "public safety" in accordance with the advice in Planning Policy Guidance Note 19 and that contained in the department's Circular 5/92.

Thorne and Hatfield Moors: Peat Extraction

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that continuation of peat extraction at Thorne and Hatfield Moors for a further 27 years, as allowed under the existing planning consents, will reduce or improve the moors' chances of successful rehabilitation to active raised bog, which is a priority under the European Habitats Directive.[HL1550]

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Baroness Hayman: Peat extraction at Thorne and Hatfield Moors is taking place under the terms of a legally binding arrangement with English Nature, who acquired the land from the peat operators in 1994. This arrangement ensures that extraction is limited to areas which have been damaged in the past by previous extraction, agricultural drainage, or commercial forestry, and will cease when the minimum level of 0.5 metres of unworked peat is reached. Active secondary bog can be developed on the worked areas provided tthere is sufficient residual peat and this can be saturated with water.

Extraction at Thorne Moors is now very close to the minimum level of 0.5 metres. At Hatfield Moors, even if removal of peat continues under the terms of the planning permission and arrangement referred to above, we envisage that successful rehabilitation to active raised bog could be achieved in the long term.

Urban Task Force

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress had been made towards implementing the commitment in the White Paper Planning for the Communities of the Future (com 3885), to establish a task force to examine the use of recycled land for housing.[HL1692]

Baroness Hayman: We are pleased to announce that the membership of the Urban Task Force, to be chaired by Lord Rogers of Riverside, has now been finalised. The task force is: Lord Rogers Chairman


    Richard Burdett (Director, City Policy, London School of Economics) Tony Burton (Assistant Director (Policy), CPRE) Alan Cherry (Chairman, Countryside Properties plc)


    Martin Crookston (Director, Llewellyn Davis)


    Anthony Dunnett (Chief Executive, English Partnerships)


    Peter Hall (Bartlett Professor of Planning, University College London)


    Stuart Lipton (Chief Executive, Stanhope Property Developers)


    David Lunts (Chief Executive, Urban Villages Forum)


    Anthony Mayer (Chief Executive, Housing Corporation)


    Anne Power (Head of Housing, London School of Economics)


    Sir Crispin Tickell (Government Panel on Sustainable Development)

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    Wendy Thompson (Chief Executive, London Borough of Newham)


    Lorna Walker (Director, Ove Arup)

This membership ensures a wide range of knowledge and experience relevant to the work of the Urban Task Force. The task force will act as a forum for developing best practice innovation on housing on previously developed land, especially in urban areas. It will also act as a sounding board for work on the assessment of available, previously developed land.

Government Defeats in the House of Lords

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what occasions during this parliamentary session an amendment to a Bill has been carried against government advice in the House of Lords; and whether that amendment was (a) accepted or (b) rejected by the House of Commons.[HL1557]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): I gave the noble Lord this information for the first part of this session in a Written Answer on 27 February 1998 (WA 121). Since that date, the following government defeats on amendments have occurred in the House.

DateStage of BillDecision reached
02.03.98Teaching and Higher Education Bill--ReportThe Commons are still considering this bill
02.03.98Teaching and Higher Education Bill--ReportThe Commons are still considering this bill
05.03.98Competition Bill--Third ReadingThe Commons are still considering this bill
10.03.98Teaching and Higher Education Bill--Third ReadingThe Commons are still considering this bill
23.03.98Bank of England Bill--ReportOverturned
24.03.98Data Protection Bill--Third ReadingThe Commons are still considering this bill
31.03.98Crime and Disorder Bill--Third ReadingThe Commons are still considering this bill

Forensic Science Service Agency: Targets

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What targets have been set for the Forensic Science Service Agency for 1998-99.[HL1691]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): We expect the Forensic Science Service (FSS) to continue to improve its efficiency and effectiveness during 1998-99.

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The financial targets for 1998-99 are to recover full economic costs; to achieve a unit cost efficiency improvement over the three years ending 1998-99 of 9 per cent.; to meet 90 per cent. of delivery dates agreed with customers; to maintain accreditation to the National Measurement and Accreditation Service and the International Organisation for Standardisation 9001 standards; and to audit customer satisfaction through a biennial external survey.

The FSS is looking to increase output by 32 per cent. over the next two years to improve further its service to the criminal justice system. This will mean the creation of around 300 jobs.

The FSS will also continue its pioneering research programme. Over the last two years, around £6 million has been invested in new developments, mainly in DNA services.

School Standards and Framework Bill

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have provided to the House about the School Standards and Framework Bill.[HL 1682]

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The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): We have placed the following documents in the Library and the Printed Paper Office to inform debate during the passage of the School Standards and Framework Bill:


    Notes on Clauses;


    outline regulations and guidance on reducing infant class sizes;


    a draft of the code of practice on relationships between LEAs and schools;


    a consultation paper on parent governor representatives on education committees;


    draft guidance on education development plans;


    a note on education action zones;


    bidding guidance for education action zones;


    a note on school organisation committees;


    a note on the role of the adjudicator in respect of school organisation and admissions;


    a note on local management of schools and financial delegation;


    a note on grammar school admissions and parental ballots; and


    guidance on early years development plans and early years partnerships.

We intend to make available to the House further information in the weeks ahead.

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