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13 May 1998 : Column WA123

Written Answers

Wednesday, 13th May 1998.

Asylum Seekers: Country Assessments

Lord Kirkhill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to make public the country assessments prepared in respect of those countries from which the majority of asylum-seekers to the United Kingdom come.[HL1909]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Country assessments are being produced by the Country Information and Policy Unit within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate on the 35 main asylum producing countries in the United Kingdom. The assessments will be completed over the next few weeks and will be made publicly available on the Home Office Internet site. Copies of the assessments will be placed in the Library as they become available. The assessments are all sourced to information obtained from independent external sources and from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. A bibliography of sources used is included in each assessment.

Assessments are being prepared in respect of the following countries:









    Cote d'Ivoire


    Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire)


    Former Republic of Yugoslavia














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    Sierra Leone


    Sri Lanka






It is intended to revise and update the assessments periodically; approximately every six months, depending on reported circumstances in the country concerned.

Royal Automobile Club

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will take steps to ensure that the sale of a "Royal" title will not take place as a result of a decision of some members of the Royal Automobile Club.[HL1763]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: There is nothing in current legislation to prevent the sale of company names. If part of the Royal Automobile Club were sold to new owners, there would be no requirement for approval to be sought for continued use of the name, although the existing and new companies would be prevented under Section 26(1)(c) of the Companies Act 1985 from registering under the same corporate title. If the name were amended in any way, the company would need to apply to the Home Office for a letter of non-objection to use of the new name. Consideration would be given to any application in accordance with the normal criteria.

Surveillance Satellites

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 13 February 1997 (WA 30) in which he stated that the European Space Agency (ESA) Convention "states that its activities shall be for exclusively peaceful purposes", whether the ESA could not, therefore, take part in the development of surveillance satellites like those deployed by the United States and Russia, and whether, therefore, these latter breach Article 1 of the Space Treaty; and, if not, why should the ESA not take part in the development of surveillance satellites like those deployed by the United States and Russia, and currently being developed by Israel.[HL1723]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The deployment of US and Russian surveillance satellites is a matter for those nations. Article 1 of the Outer Space Treaty sets out the right of all states to explore and use outer space in accordance with international law. It requires such exploration and use to be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries, mandates free access to all areas of celestial bodies and freedom of scientific investigation, and requires states to encourage and facilitate international

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co-operation in such scientific investigation. Nothing in Article 1 confines such use to non-military activities. If European Space Agency nations believe it would be appropriate for ESA to participate in the development of surveillance satellites, within the constraints of ESA's convention, there would appear to be no barrier to ESA conducting a dialogue with relevant nations concerning possible participation in their programmes.

Habitats Directive: Guidance

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to expand on previous guidance on the application of Articles 6(3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive to sites which have been submitted to the European Commission as candidate special areas of conservation under the Habitats Directive and classified as Special Protection Areas under the Birds Directive.[HL1910]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We have restated our commitment to carrying out our legal obligations to implement the EU Habitats and Wild Birds Directives and, as part of that process, to contribute to the Natura 2000 network by designating Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and to provide further guidance to competent authorities on the application of Articles 6(3) and 6(4). We have given a clearer policy lead to local planning authorities on how issues should be resolved where obligations to review extant planning permissions arise under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 and guiding principles for all competent authorities on what might constitute overriding public interest.

A paper setting out the Government's outline position has been placed in the Library.

Thaumasite: Expert Group

Lord Grenfell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, further to the Written Answer given by Baroness Hayman on 1 April (WA44-45), they will

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    announce the composition of the expert group on thaumasite.[HL1911]

Baroness Hayman: We are pleased to announce that the Expert Group on Thaumasite, to be chaired by Professor Leslie Clark, President elect of the Institution of Structural Engineers, will comprise the following members:

Professor Leslie ClarkChairman
Dr. Philip NixonThe Building Research Establishment
Dr. Peter RoberyThe Institution of Civil Engineers
John HaynesThe National House-Building Council
Dr. Bill PriceThe Association of Consulting Engineers
Neil DuttonThe Council of Mortgage Lenders and The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
Dr. Don HobbsThe British Cement Association
Chris CurtisThe Quarry Products Association
John PatchThe Federation of Piling Specialists and Association of Specialist Underpinning Contractors
Terry RochesterConstruction Clients' Forum
Roy ThurgoodThe Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
David SlaterThe Concrete Society
Chris JudgeSecretariat

Millennium Dome: Spiritual Content

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will state, in more detail than they have so far found possible, what form the spiritual experience associated with the Millennium Dome will take.[HL1587]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) is discussing the detailed content and presentation of the Spirit zone within the Millennium Dome with the Lambeth Consultation Group, which comprises representations of the Churches and other faiths. The Lambeth Group has produced a document setting out the spiritual values which it wishes to see enshrined in the Millennium Experience at Greenwich. I have placed copies in the Libraries of the House. The NMEC is giving this urgent consideration, while also taking the advice of expert witnesses from the Churches and other faiths.

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